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Deputy Head reflects on Lent

Patrick Brennan, Deputy Principal - Staff & Student Wellbeing

Patrick Brennan, Deputy Principal - Staff & Student Wellbeing

From the Deputy Head of College, Patrick Brennan

Last week I travelled to Melbourne with all new EREA Deputies, Headmasters and Business Managers as part of my induction as Deputy Head of College at Waverley.  One colleague who is now the Headmaster at CBC Freemantle (with whom I travelled to India and Ireland in 2017) was reflecting on a recent incident that occurred at his school.

Let me clean that up for you

It was Ash Wednesday, and both he and his Deputy wore the ashes on their forehead.

A caring mother of one of their boys came up to him, licked her thumb and said “Principal, you have a smudge on your forehead, just let me clean that up for you”. My colleague at his diplomatic best, explained the significance of the ashes and allowed her to withdraw with dignity. When we spoke about it, we agreed that many of our parents may have made the same faux pas, such is the disconnect with their Parishes and Christian calendar nowadays.

Religion, spirituality and values

At the recent Census, figures about religious association contained some interesting news for me as a Deputy of a Catholic school. Since 1966 the number of people describing themselves as having no religion has gone from an almost invisible line to a solid block. The number of people who ticked the ‘no religion’ box now exceeds both those who identify as Catholic or Anglican. Many observers would say this is little wonder given the scandals that have plagued religious institutions and especially the fact of these coming to light in recent enquiries.

That people do not identify with religion does not, in my opinion, mean they are not spiritual or bound by virtuous ideals and values. I have many agnostic and atheist friends whose attitudes and actions are based on the highest moral and ethical foundation. Although they reject, or are uncertain about God, they have been exposed to a set of values that has formed in them a moral compass as virtuous as the most pious members of society.

My concern is that attempts to form a similar moral compass in today’s youth is complicated by a variety of factors they may not have had to contend with; family break ups, social media, modern ‘look after number 1, win at all costs’ reality shows and the near extinction of ‘family around the dinner table’ situations. From the feedback from parents, there appears to be a nostalgia for old time values and social settings to assist them in their parenting. Perhaps this is the reason you choose Waverley College for your sons.

Ash Wednesday and Lent

The message on Ash Wednesday was that whilst elements of religion have lapsed, the message of religion should not be dismissed universally. Each Sunday at St. Francis of Assisi in Paddington, Father Paul preaches about love, forgiveness, kindness, compassion, peace and, much to my chagrin, humility. I can’t think of too many other forums where the same attitudes and attributes are placed front and center.

Lent is a time for prayer, penance and almsgiving. As we lead up to our most sacred liturgical celebration, please take time to speak to your sons about sacrifice; about going without so as to be in solidarity with the marginalised; about prayer and contemplation (we all need someone’s prayers or thoughts, and there is always someone who we can pray for or provide our best wishes to); about Project Compassion and about your hopes and dreams for his formation.

When the messages from home are in synch with the messages from school, we have the greatest chance of success in forming the most beautiful young man possible.

I reminded Year 5 and Year 7 parents about the importance of a partnership between boy, parents and the College if your sons full potential is to be achieved. As we approach Easter it is important to remember, God messages and good messages are always in perfect harmony.