Today I want to talk about what it means to be a Saint.
Last week we were in this space for our All Saints Service as we honored the faithful servants who have moved on from this life, and on Wednesday we watched the 6th graders perform a dance for Dia de los Muertos and the Mexican customary celebration of the All Saints holiday. In many faiths, the term Saints references souls who are no longer on this earth. That term saint can have many different meanings depending on the way it is being used. On this campus we are all “Saints” because we are associated with St. Christopher’s as teachers and students.
There was a former teacher at St. Christopher’s who would often talk about the idea of being a 24/7 Saint, meaning living the mission of St. Christophers as a student 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, not just the 8 hours that you are at school each day during the school week. This is an idea that stuck with me and is one that I think about often. This idea of being a 24/7 Saint is really powerful for me. It forces us to think about living our school mission all the time, wherever we are, whoever we are with.
At school, we often talk about the values that we want to instill in you as a St. Christopher’s Saint.
Honor, integrity, sportsmanship, leadership, service, gratitude, and character. These are not values that we expect you to exhibit only while you are at school from 8AM to 4PM. These are life-long values that we want you to learn here, but they should be things you practice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – even well after you graduate from St. Christopher’s. I want to repeat the values I listed before – honor, integrity, sportsmanship, leadership, service, gratitude, and character. Living up to these expectations is not easy, and it is not something that is expected of all students at all schools. It is something unique to a school like St. Christopher’s and something you should be proud of. If you can live by these values you will grow up to be better husbands, employees, servants, and citizens.
I want to share an interesting story I heard yesterday during the Middle and Upper School admissions day. You might have seen a number of perspective families walking the campus on tours yesterday. I was talking with the parent of a boy who is looking at applying for Middle School next year. The parent told me that they were not originally from Richmond and all they knew about St. Christopher’s before moving to town was from the interactions they had with several St. Christopher’s graduates they met while they were in college, probably 20 years ago. Unfortunately, their interactions with those St. Christopher’s alumni had been quite negative. So much so that the parents told me they had decided they would not ever want to send their child to St. Christopher’s.
Imagine that – the impression that these parents had of this school was so poorly impacted by the behavior of a St. Christopher’s graduate that they wouldn’t consider sending their son here. That doesn’t sound like a graduate who was upholding the values that we try to instill in each of you.
Luckily this family decided to give St. Christopher’s another chance and has been very impressed in particular by their interactions with a number of people currently associated with St. Christopher’s. Now they have had their impression of the school changed by the positive actions of several St. Christopher’s community members.
I want you to think about the impression that you leave when you interact with people in the community that are not connected with St. Christopher’s.
When you are at Libbie Market after school with your friends, when you are in a text group or some other online forum, when you are at cotillion, when you are at a movie theater, or when you are playing on an out of school sports team – you represent your school. This carries with it great responsibility. What impression do people take from your actions?
If someone saw you wearing a Saints sweatshirt in these moments would they be impressed by what they saw or heard? Would they want to send their son to St. Christopher’s based on your actions?
Are you the boy that helps to clean up after his friends at a restaurant and thanks to the person taking your order, or do you leave a mess and treat a waiter poorly?
Are you the player that argues with a referee after a call doesn’t go your way or are you the player that goes up and thanks the official or a coach after the game?
Are you the student that steps up and tells others to not use discriminatory or hurtful language in a text chain, or do you join the crowd and try to fit in by adding negative words about a peer or group?
There is little that makes me or your teachers more proud than to get a positive report about a St. Christopher’s student out doing something positive in the community. A great example of this was our 7th-grade guys taking the day on Monday doing a service project to pack boxes for the Ronald McDonald house. What a great way to show the importance of giving back and making a positive impact on the lives of others as Saints.
One night this past summer I happened to be watching a little league all-star baseball game because one of you guys was on the team. The thing I will never forget from watching that game had nothing to do with any stats from the game. At the end of the game, as the team was individually accepting their second-place medals, only one player walked over on his way back to the dugout and shook the hand of each coach and thanked them – it was the player from St. Christopher’s. What an awesome representation of the values we are trying to instill in you each and every day.
Last year in a November chapel I gave a talk about the power of words and we did some follow up activities to think about the way we use our words. 6th graders, you were not here for that but we challenged the Middle School to strive to use their words not to drag others down but to build each other up… to not use phrases that hurt others in person or online.
I want you all to close your eyes.
Think about the last twelve months, or since school started at least and join me in a reflection activity.
How have you used your words during this time period? Have you used words or phrases that have been intended to hurt others? Have your actions consistently met the expectations of the St. Christopher’s community? Have you typed things that could be considered bullying, racially or ethnically insensitive, or have you stood up for a friend in need and been positive in your interactions? Would you be proud of all of the things you have said or posted online being shown on the screen here in chapel?
Now open your eyes.
Living the life of a 24/7 Saint is not easy and nobody can do it all of the time. We all make mistakes. It is important that we are consistently striving to do our best. When we do mess up, we need to be accountable for our mistakes, apologize, and commit to getting better.
I would like to close with a prayer. Please open your prayer books to page 33 and join me in saying The Boy’s Prayer.
O God, give me clean hands, clean thoughts.
Help me to stand for the hard right against the easy wrong.
Save me from habits which do me harm.
Teach me to work and play as fair in Thy sight alone,
as if the whole world were looking on.
Forgive me when I am unkind, and help me to forgive those who are unkind to me.
Keep me ready to help others at some cost to myself,
and so grow more like Thee. For Jesus Christ our Saviours’ sake, Amen.