That story might seem far-fetched, and despite Mr. Penerubia’s best efforts, I doubt any of you believe in the Greek Gods, but the idea, in principle, might actually mean something. St. Ignatius was known for signing his letters with the phrase “go forth and set the world on fire,” because he believed that his followers carried with them a unique version of God’s infinite power. The Jesuit way is something special, so are the institutions for which it is responsible, and in our world today, as our political climate becomes ever-more toxic, as we become more divided along lines of race, income, sexuality, and political ideology, and as the injustice of hunger, poverty, criminal justice, and structural oppression becomes ever-more apparent, that fire of God can feel like it’s a rarity…maybe even stolen.
But when I look back over the last four years, from the moment I arrived on Morrissey Boulevard to these last few weeks of senioritis, I can plainly see that BC High is different than the rest of the world. What we have here, what the people in this place and its students especially have built, feels stolen, and it is certainly awash with the fire that Ignatius talked about.
When you leave your ethics class angry, because Mr. Hayes challenged you on your beliefs and pushed you hard, don’t think for a second that he doesn’t do it on purpose. Because when you get home and find yourself googling information for class the next day, that’s something special. When Mr. Frost begins his class with that loud opening monologue, getting you interested no matter how determined you are not to learn that day, that is something special. When Mr. Walsh shows up to class with four cups of tea stacked on top of each other, throws his clogs up on the desk, and teaches you the Constitution by only writing in the board space within arms-reach of his chair, I hope you recognize God at work. When Mr. Holmes quotes long passages from the Odyssey from memory, when Ms. Farrell offers an impeccable explanation of integrals before going off to teach Japanese when Mr. Toto draws upon his infinite arsenal of analogies to better explain Beowulf for you, don’t think for a moment there isn’t something there. Mr. McKiernan sits on the Charles in the pouring rain teaching Freshman how to row a boat, Mr. Argento spends hundreds of hours a year building and maintaining the best Model UN program in the State, Mr. Hughes takes time out of his busy schedule to come to help us clean up the Cafe.
The people who work at this school—from the Campus ministers who put together fantastic retreats to the buildings and grounds crew who will break down these chairs to the administration that hires refugees fleeing foreign conflict—all of them do it for a reason. It’s not about the money, it’s not because the commute is easy (which it is not) or the hours are short (which they’re not), they do it because they want to build young men of integrity, faith, and intellect; They want to be part of your journey. Every single member of the class of 2018, myself included, owes a lot to the people at this school. They wrote our college recs, they gave us extensions when we didn’t deserve it, they taught us much of we know about ourselves and the world. And most importantly, they set us alight, with that stolen fire from God.
And what about us? What about the students, and what about the class of 2018?
Maybe I am a little biased, but the class of 2018, those bums sitting over there, isn’t normal: these guys are high achievers at every level. Find me another class in the country that has multiple All-American Athletes, one of whom throws a 98 MPH fastball. Find me a class that has guys that build robots with artificial intelligence they programmed themselves, find me a class that has the CEO of a national magazine, an all-state wrestling champion, a nationally-ranked rugby team, or state championships in Hockey and Golf. Find all that, plus 5 national merit finalists, a kid who walked across Uzbekistan with his favorite writer, three Olympic-distance triathletes, a guy who climbed Kilimanjaro, and a kid who saved a man’s life. We even have our own soon-to-be multi-platinum rapper. The class of 2018 has volunteered more than 30,000 hours, donated thousands of dollars to the mite box, lead Kairos retreats, and borne witness at funerals for the forgotten. These guys do multivariable calculus, read Shakespeare, and then pack lunches for the homeless afterschool. They are brilliant men with a sense of justice, and they have each other’s backs when they go through hard times. When a classmate was diagnosed with cancer Sophomore year, before each and every one of my classes someone offered a prayer in his name. And when he got back on the basketball court, those same guys screamed his name at the top of their lungs when he scored.
The students at BC High, and more specifically the class of 2018, are special. With the help of the friends they made here and the teachers that taught them, they have done and will continue to do, incredible things. They are positively, without a doubt, alight with God’s fire, somehow stolen from heaven. You won’t find it everywhere, but they found it here – something incredibly powerful and infectious. And with that fire burning inside of them, along with their unshakeable sense of justice, unconquerable will, and indefatigable endurance, these men will set the world on fire as well.
We all have so much to be grateful for, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the support systems on which we all rely. Our parents and coaches, guidance counselors, buddies from back home, grandparents, second cousins and everyone else. I know that if it wasn’t for the support of my incredible parents, my teammates on the rowing team as well as coaches McKiernan and Toto, my grandmother, and even my dog, I wouldn’t have made it this far.
And after we all leave in an hour or so, honking horns and tossing binders in recycling bins, after we all go to college, after we get jobs and even after a few of us find someone to marry, I still will be incredibly grateful for the last four years with you guys, the class of 2018.
These guys made me laugh, and made me cry, they edited my papers and helped me with homework, they bought me lunch when my eagle card was out, they told me I was being an idiot when I needed to hear it, they gave me my best jokes, and my best memories. When I came here four years ago not knowing a single person, they made me feel welcome, and as I finish up here in the next few weeks, I can see that these guys, more than anybody else, made me a better man.
I want to finish with a quick piece of advice for all of the students who will one-day be sitting where these fine gentlemen are. Whether you have one year to go, or three, do your best to cherish your time here. Use the resources we have available, talk to your teachers, disagree with them, spend time with your friends, make new ones, join clubs, try out for sports teams, make friends with Campus ministers, go on Kairos, and don’t forget to spend time with your family. This place is burning hot, you’ll catch fire eventually.
And to the class of 2018, it’s time for us to look forward. We have a new chapter ahead of us, new opportunities to struggle, learn, and grow. And make sure you bring along what this place taught you: the world is waiting, and there is much to do.
Thank you all.