100 Words

Bill Crittenberger"100 Words" serves as a self-framing for me to keep things short and sweet, an homage paid and recognition to an expression I hold near and dear: less is more. Each of these reflection pieces lands quite close to the 100-word mark and provides me an avenue through which to share with you, the O'Connell community, a reflection from week to week on any number of my thoughts, observations, opinions, takeaways, musings etc.—falling within the realm, and in no patterned way whatsoever (trust me), of the prosaic to the lyrical, the informational to the aspirational, the serious to the whimsical, the arcane to the profound, the secular to the spiritual...you get the picture.

My goal and hope is for you to get to know me as I get to know you, the members of the Bishop Denis J. O’Connell community, and all I ask from you is that you take less than a minute each week to read (more or less) 100 words. God’s Peace.


Seniors looking ahead

While I won’t pin myself down by stating that today is my favorite day of the school year, I will note with happy conviction that it is among the small handful of my very favorites—as today is the day in which all of our seniors were called on to wear a t-shirt or sweatshirt to school emblazoned loudly, proudly, and colorfully with the name of the college or university that each will be attending in the fall. Ray! Rah! Seniors! During our mid-morning assembly, the Class of 2022 gathered to hear from a panel of five recent O’Connell grads (ranging in age from 20-26) about what to expect from college and college life—an exchange that went very well, marked as it was by authenticity, candor, mature introspection, and invaluable advice and information. Today, thusly, marked a blissful and meaningful milestone for these soon to be graduates, a day of celebration, recognition, and ownership of where the next four years of their lives will be taking them, and a moment in time here on campus in which these youngsters got the chance to share with their supportive school community where the fruits of their labors and their programmatic predilections have landed them—which rightly and proudly includes a group of nine or so heading to one of the military academies, ROTC, etc. We are delighted for and proud of you, seniors, and in going forth into this exciting new chapter please do so with good zeal, be your wonderful selves, make us proud, and love and serve the Lord. Saint Francis de Sales encourages us, in choosing how to live our lives, to “ask for nothing and refuse nothing”—that is, he implores us to revel serenely in God’s good pleasures, accepting whatever comes our way with open arms and without anxiety or doubt. Yes, truly, all that we are about and hope for is in God’s good and gracious hands. “Refuse nothing” to me means that all of us, children of God, are called on to explore and ultimately embrace the beauty and divine possibility that can only become fully evident to a human being when s/he is mindful of being in God’s presence. To our wonderful seniors I share another de Sales gift about how to live your life fruitfully and with joy: “Be who you are and be that well.” Peace be with you, Class of ‘22. You got this, and you are definitely going places!

Love is all you need

Not much in the human language is more dear, uplifting, or serenity-inducing to our ear than to hear from another, “I love you.” And, yes, while saying these three precious words to someone else should never be done frivolously, nor, too, should an “I love you” be portioned out parsimoniously or, worse yet, not said at all. I suggest in moving forward with our lives that each of us conducts the following self-check exercise: how many times, and to whom, do we say “I love you” over the course of a typical day? Expressing love, and loving, comes in many forms, a particular version of which I utilize when addressing O’Connell’s 1,150 students at our all-school assemblies—as habitually I say to the assembled audience something along the lines of “What’s up, DJO?! You know that I love and care deeply for each of you”—which I do, fully and absolutely. (“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4-8)  To say this regularly and publicly of course then compels me to act upon it, which I endeavor to do all day, every day in guiding my exchanges and encounters with others, our students at the forefront, as action is where the rubber truly hits the road. While on a secular level I feel that you can’t do a whole lot better than to keep two iconic Beatles songs—“Love is all you need” and “Here comes the sun” at the top of your mental playlist, by far the most iconic and infinitely inspiring message of love comes from 1 Corinthians, which, in its exquisite brilliance and profound purity, is often a reading chosen by two people joining together as one in Holy Matrimony: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

Teacher Appreciation Week

This being “Teacher Appreciation Week,” I wish to thank our wonderful Bishop O’Connell faculty members for all the amazing things they do in the instructing, nurturing, guiding, caring for, and believing in our young, observant, and impressionable Knights. Bravo and thank you, my dear teacher colleagues, for yours—in the planting of seeds for tomorrow’s harvest—is God’s work. Today I wish to direct my comments on the art of teaching, for as many different shapes, sizes, and personalities that great teachers come in, the traits that make each of them great are but a few. For starters, the great teacher has an absolute and unwavering belief in his/her students’ growth capacity, as when a mentor believes in and doesn’t put artificial “fixed mindset” boundaries on a young person, anything becomes possible. Another characteristic of the greats is an unquenchable enthusiasm for the possibilities that each new day brings, ever-channeling their inner Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” The exemplary teacher takes the Benedictine Order’s mindset in working with students, “always we begin again,” encouraging the youngster who yesterday had the best day ever to strive to do it over again today, while on the other end of the spectrum, bringing the student who has experienced a miserable day back into the fold, beseeching him/her to shake it off, get back in the saddle, and begin riding again with purpose and confidence. While in the end high quality teachers teach kids and not content, no teacher ever will or should be viewed as top-drawer if his/her passion for and fluency within the subject being taught isn’t lights out. Teaching like many things in life is sales, and if the teacher/salesperson isn’t fired up and knowledgeable about the product, how in the world will the client/student be? And last but not least—and hardly the dreamiest aspect of the job—is work ethic, that is, one’s unyielding commitment to excellence. Nothing worth having in life is ever easy, and teaching at the highest level is really hard work (and, alas, too often thankless). But my oh my is teaching ever satisfying and affirming, and my oh my is it ever essential to society’s wellbeing and our nation’s future. Thank you, Bishop O’Connell teachers: you and your work are invaluable.