By Father Jean Joseph Brice
Q - Father Brice, since you are just out of school, is there any wisdom you would like to impart to those returning to school this year?
As September looms around, I have to keep reminding myself that there is no going back to school for me this year; it is the very first time ever that I will not have to attend classes. I wish I could say I don’t miss it. I hope teaching two days a week at St. Augustine school in Providence brings as much joy as being a student did.
Be committed and disciplined. A new day is dawned in the life of a student when he recognizes that even if he doesn’t have the highest IQ, a photographic memory or special talented, he can still be seated among the best. With discipline and commitment, studying can be truly enjoyable. In fact, they are the master key that opens all doors. Mastering them makes one a virtuous learner. All right thinking individual urges the cultivation of virtue — “good habit of the mind, by which we live rightly, of which no one can make bad use, which God works in us....” (ST I-II, Q. 55, art 4). Aristotle urged striving for excellence. St. Paul exhorts us to think only about ”whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8). All the saints, all successful historical figures and all meaningful accomplishments have taken discipline and commitment. Choose a specific time to do your studies. Commit to it wholeheartedly. Practice makes perfect. Practice allows us to master a skill until it becomes second nature to us.
Learn to fall in love with learning. Let me make this point through an example. Take Itzhak Perlman, a Jewish composer who won 15 Grammy and four Emmy awards. He is said to be a genius performer and a “god” of music. It is reported that he has practiced daily for nine hours. One day, he put on an extraordinary performance at a concert in Vienna; afterward people came to greet and congratulate him. One member of the audience who was wowed by his performance said to him: “I would give my entire life to be as great as you are.” Perlman responded: “I have.” He has given up everything to follow this one dream. Today, he is on top of the world. How did he get to be so great? He hungered to be good at it.
Do you think the Olympic champions we admire watching on TV get to be so great without being hungry for greatness? Do you think they practiced only when they felt like it? Do you think they ever take the minimalist attitude i.e. “what is the least I can do to be an Olympic champion?” Was it easy for them to wake up every morning, eat the right food, and go to bed at a certain time regularly? When they go out there, did their body always cooperate? Absolutely not! Yet, they keep the faith; they fight the good fight; they push themselves to the maximum of the ability; they invest their heart, mind, and soul to achieve what they believe in. A few years later, they amaze us with their skills and their arts. They are now famous. They won the prize. The prize of a successful school year is not prepared in the spring; it is prepared at the beginning of the school year.
It’s never too late to become hungry for knowledge. Get lost in your studies and you will find joy in them. Be passionate and you can be the next great composer of our future, the next great light of hope for the whole world to see. You are made for greatness so don’t aim low; be hungry for learning and continue to learn until you are satisfied.
“Ask the Newly Ordained” features Fathers Brian Morris, Joseph Brice and Stephen Battey — who respond to questions about the faith from Rhode Island Catholic readers.
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