From the Director: Advent 2016

December 9, 2016

From L to R: C.J. Skilling, '17; Fr. Baker, S.J.; Rongel Marcel, '17.

From left to right: C.J. Skilling, ’17; Fr. Baker, S.J.; Rongel Marcil, ’17.

“Silent Night, Holy night.  All is calm, all is bright.”

As I stealthily opened the door to the back of the student center yesterday morning, those are the words I heard as assembly was drawn to a close with this familiar Advent and Christmas song.  The students sang it in a near-whisper, with a perfect, unpracticed harmony.  As someone who saves his singing for the tiles in the shower or for karaoke, Micronesians’ ability to sing so beautifully has always amazed me.  As a good Jesuit friend of mine once said, “There are no coincidences if you’re Catholic,” so it should come as no surprise that Franz Xaver was name of the Austrian composer of the music for the 1818 tune first called Stille Nacht.  I imagine plenty of islanders sung it in its original language during this time of year during the German Period of Micronesian history.

I was struck by the seemingly contradictory nature of that song at that particular time of day yesterday.  It wasn’t nighttime; it was nearly nine o’clock in the morning.  All is not calm when the school day begins here; the campus is instead an exciting flurry of activity and sounds of all kinds.

Things on Mabuchi Hill are indeed holy and bright, though.  I marvel at the holiness of the girls as they sacrifice so much to get to and from school every day.  They have many early mornings and late evenings.  I’m excited by the hopeful disposition of the seniors as they begin the crunch of college applications with the help of Jesuit Volunteer Ms. Samantha Happ.  The seniors are readying themselves for bright futures after graduation and beyond.  I’m called to a greater holiness by my colleagues in education, as they glowingly help one another with all types of tasks—covering a fellow teacher’s absence, exchanging ideas, and collaborating across curricula.  I’m joyful for the help of Nanet Balaod, Inta Welle, and Cristine Denola, who run the business office smoothly, without complaint, and with plenty of laughter for me when I make a mistake, which is often enough.  I beamed with joy when Principal Martin Carl returned to us after attending a meeting in the Washington, D.C. area for principals of Jesuit high schools.  The only person happier was Joan, Martin’s wife, who is also Xavier’s nurse and registrar.  Ranulfo Gaputan is currently overseeing the renovation of two houses as well as the bathroom next to the faculty kitchen.  (If you’ve been here even briefly in the last ten years, you know how desperately that bathroom needed an overhaul.)  Ranulfo and his crew are some of the hardest working craftsmen I’ve ever seen, and they do their work with smiles on their faces, and without the slightest grumble.  They are holy and bright, indeed.

The Incarnation of the Lord is paradoxical, and perhaps on the surface it might seem as contradictory as singing “Silent Night” in the morning to start a school day.  Nativity scenes around the world display our God as a helpless baby born into a foreign occupied Middle East to a simple Jewish couple who was far from wealthy.  At first glance, it doesn’t make much sense.  But that Nativity scene reminds me that God’s ways are not our ways, and my arrogant notions of how God should go about the business of salvation probably needs some further reflection.  The Nativity reminds me that things are not always what they appear to be, and God can surprise us at nearly every turn if, paradoxically, we’re looking for God at work.  It is no secret that life can be hard here, and we sometimes must make due with very little.  At the same time, though, God is so obviously at work at Xavier, and that is a wonderful gift to all who know and love this place.

It is our prayer that the Son of God—love’s pure light—radiantly beam upon you and those you love this Advent and this Christmas.  Please know that you are in our prayers.

As always, thank you for your support of Xavier High School in Micronesia.

For Xavier,

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Rev. Dennis M. Baker, S.J.

 

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