This week, I attended the funeral of Father Anthony (AV) Smith, SJ, a former teacher here at Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview and the longest serving Principal/Headmaster at Saint Aloysius’ College. The first time I met him, he’d retired from education and was the Pastor at Saint Mary’s parish, North Sydney. We met in the kitchen and he immediately filled up the room with a larger than life presence and his trademark “I gotta tell ya’!” Later, I lived with him here in the Jesuit community after he’d suffered a couple of strokes. His body was diminished, but not his mind or spirit. He was still larger than life, though he was frustrated by the loss of his full capacity for speech due to the strokes. He was still the same generous, pastoral man I’d met years before, but now he was more dependent on those around him to care for him, when he was used to taking care of everyone else.
Reflecting on his life, I was fortunate to see him in a couple of different moments in his journey. Part of any relationship is to see and support the people we care about through the many seasons of their lives: the good times, the bad times… it’s not until we share the sweet and the bitter with someone that we can truly say that we’re friends. We are a community that cares deeply for one another and we support each other through the hard times and the good. That’s one of the things that makes us so unique. Our bonds to one another – whether student or staff, parent or administrator, Old Ignatian or newest boarder – go far beyond the 9 to 5 obligations of a place we all just happen to be part of. We’re family. We’re a pack.
This week’s reflection:
During a trek on the Nepal immersion a couple of years ago, we got up early one morning and went to the summit of Poon Hill to watch the sunrise on the Himalaya. I love this moment when the sun just strikes the peaks and they light up like there’s never been a night, just a light that’s always being revealed. For me, this is the moment that answers why I have to go to the mountains. They’re massive and impressive and stunningly beautiful. And they’re always different, depending on their mood. Which always brings me back. I want to know their moods, their seasons, as well as I know my own. Then maybe I’ll begin to understand them. Who are the people you need to be patient with?