Principal's Blog - 26 May 2017

24 May 2017

Dear members of the Marcellin College family,

We all know the story of the prodigal son. The story of two brothers. Brothers who grow up together in the loving care of their family. The younger brother decides that he wants to strike out on his own. His father, without argument or hesitation gives the younger son his share of the inheritance. The boy leaves home and squanders his newly found wealth while the older boy remains at home and continues to work for the family business. Eventually the remorseful younger son returns prepared to accept his fate, only to be embraced and celebrated by his father. The older son is justifiably angry at this seeming injustice and refuses to rejoice his brother’s return. Personally I have always tended to side with the older brother. After all, he was the responsible one. He was the one who did the right thing, who did his duty as a good son.

Last week, I attended the annual Victorian Catholic Principal’s Conference where the eminent Dominican theologian Father Timothy Radcliff presented. He preceded to flip my understanding of this foundational story of our shared Christian tradition on its head. He said that as educators in Catholic Schools we should be celebrating the life of the younger son as a person who wanted to live life to the full, whilst the older brother was afraid to live at all.

I am not suggesting for a minute that we should celebrate the younger son’s wasteful actions in squandering his share of the family fortune. However in a broader context we should reflect on how we as school and family provide an environment where our young men can take risks, knowing that it is ok to make mistakes. As with the prodigal son, realizing our mistakes and learning from them is a massive step on the journey to adulthood. A journey to becoming fully human in the image and likeness of God. We can learn too from the father in the story who took the first step in forgiving and embracing his son. In the parable when the father sees his son in the distance, he runs towards him. He takes the first step towards reconciliation even though he knows that his son has done wrong. In modern parlance, he is the adult in the room who demonstrates graciousness and unconditional love in showing forgiveness and compassion towards the young boy before him.

At Marcellin we are a place which celebrates the courage to take risks. Like the father in the story we provide unconditional love and support to our young men as they strike out into uncharted territory, knowing all the while that that the hand of acceptance is there to help pick them up if they fall and which encourages them to try again. The risks I speak of are not reckless or negative ones, but ones which have the possibility of a positive and life affirming outcome.

They can be as simple as providing a classroom environment where boys feel comfortable in putting up their hand to ask a question or embarking on a project where the outcome is uncertain. It could be the risk of trying a new sport, learning a musical instrument, extending the hand of friendship to someone you don’t know, seeking forgiveness, applying for student leadership, joining Remar or Encounter MC, approaching a school counselor or even applying to join a new House! As school and parents we need to provide an atmosphere which encourages these types of risk. We need to be people who take the first step towards supporting those who make mistakes and who genuinely seek forgiveness, reconciliation and reparation.

As Father Timothy tells us, schools as well as families are places to get things wrong as much as they are places to get things right. They are places too which teach us how to learn, to grow and to live life to the full.

Mark Murphy