Over the school holidays, Melbourne’s lockdown restrictions ensured lots of time spent fixing up the house and watching some favourite movies. One that we particularly enjoyed was Black Panther, a 2018 film set in the fictional African country of Wakanda. Chadwick Boseman, who played the role of King T’Challa, was all the more remarkable in the film as it was revealed after his passing just a few weeks ago that, since 2016, he had been living with colon cancer. He continued to work tirelessly, knowing that his time was limited.
In the first Middle School Chapel reflection of the term I shared a few clips of Chadwick speaking at Howard University shortly after Black Panther’s release. Chadwick studied at the University, which was founded over 150 years ago, shortly after the end of the American Civil War. It is named after a Christian Union general who fought in the war and played an important role in helping former slaves to integrate into American society. Chadwick’s talk to graduating students is a great reminder that despite times of self-doubt, frustration and disappointment, we need to refocus with God’s help on courage, love and hope. If you have the time before the busyness of the term takes over, it is well worth watching Chadwick’s full address to students.
As we look to the future with hope, I would like to share this poem, titled My mask by Edward Schmidt.
Holy God, you see me and you hear me. Through my mask, you see if I smile or if I scowl. Through my mask, you hear me if I whisper a brief prayer or mutter a muffled harsh word. My friends don’t see or hear or know; nor do my family; nor my colleagues. But you do. This mask takes away power, the power of clear communication but also the possibility to infect. But it also grants a freedom to be with. My smiles, my thoughts, my mumbles, though, these I know, but they are a greater mystery to others now. But not to you, Lord. You see past my mask, you hear through it, you know. But your mask, Lord, what about your mask? Who can see through your mask? Hear through it? I cannot. I cannot see if you smile or if you scowl. I cannot hear if you whisper an answer to my prayer or brush off my harsh words. I cannot sense if you are pleased with me or if you are waiting for me to do much better. Can we all take off our masks, Lord? Put them away? When the disease that moves us to mask our faces for safety fades away, will our eyes and our ears be stronger, better able to see and to hear the smiles and the frowns, the cries and the whispers of those who fill our lives? Who make our lives worth living? Will we see, Lord, that what we think of as your mask is really also our own, our inability to find you in the rush of our lives, our failure to see you in all the wonders you show us, our incapacity to hear your gentle voice in the tumult that surrounds us. Can we know, Lord, that we put on many masks so we can cope, avoid, pretend, be acceptable? Help us, Lord, to move beyond our masks. You are here for us to see and to hear. Help us. Let us take off our masks.
Finally, for those of us with children returning to our various Carey campuses next week, may the following prayer drawn from the writings of a member of the Jesuit community guide our decision making in the coming days.
Let us pray. Heavenly Father, please hear us when we tell you of our concerns of sending our children and educators back to school. Know that we are striving to make all of the right decisions and need your love and power to help us overcome any difficulties. Please watch over everyone as times and routines are about to change once again. We are reminded by your son Jesus that we can do anything through you, so please help us ensure health and semi-normalcy in the coming months for all who will work and learn within the Carey community. Help us to treat others in ways we would like to be treated, now and forever. Amen.
If I can be of any assistance during the term please do not hesitate to call or email me. Take care and God bless.
Middle School Chaplain