I want to write you a letter, a means of communicating I am very fond of. I wrote more than 14,000 letters in the course of my life, using ink and a quill. I daren’t even think of the WhatsApps I might have written had I lived in your 21st century time.
I imagine that at the end of the year you are all tired, looking forward to the holidays, but also happy with the work done, your achievements, all that you have learned together, the growth and development that you have nurtured.
If you were asked to give the most repeated phrase of all that issued from my pen, I am sure that for at least the most senior among you it would have to be: “For the sake of one child, I would have founded the Society of the Sacred Heart.” Now, at the end of the school year, I think it is a good opportunity to explain why I once said that.
I will tell you how it came about that I realised that every child (you know we are all children of our own times), of those that I came to know, totally made up for all the work and difficulties that were involved in setting up so many houses, opening new schools and taking responsibility for so many people and problems. I believe that the deepest desire I had in my life was to be like Jesus in my heart, and through reading and re-reading the Gospel trying to discover how he was, I came to realise how important each person was for him, and how he made every child, man or woman who came in contact with him know their importance and uniqueness, beloved and valued as if they were the centre of the universe. Jesus paid no attention to the appearance or exterior qualities of anyone, rather he found the beauty and goodness within each one. Thus it was that everyone was unique to him, and he was ready to give his life for every single one of them.
By looking at him I came to understand that this way of looking at people turns values on their heads, and puts the person before the laws, things, or other institutions. My dream was to create spaces where the importance of the interior of each person was what counted, and not only what they did or how successful they were.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This feast reminds us that every heart is sacred, because all are one in the Heart of Jesus. The gospel of today is that of the Good Shepherd; this image expresses the faithful love and compassion of God for every single person. God is faithful; God is with us and loves us deeply, always, come what may. Even when we are lost, and perhaps especially when we are weak and vulnerable, God is delighted to “encounter us”, to welcome us and set us free. The security of being loved by God gives us strength to act likewise, so that we in our turn can be pastors to those in our care.
I know that in your school you have many wonderful things going on: English is taught, there is teamwork, playtimes are very enjoyable, you go on a variety of outings, you have lots of colourful spaces (including a little corner that bears my name). All of this is good, in fact, excellent, to the point that many come to visit from other schools.
However, none of this is unusual. These things go on in other schools too. Some, even more so. What should make your school different is the place given to each person, and how they are treated. Each one is the centre, each student is unique. Each family should feel that we dedicate ourselves to them 100%. Each teacher is a point of reference for us to learn from, and a companion who is in need of our support
For this, I want to thank you. I know it is by no means easy, some days can be heavy, there are some families who can be difficult, and some students who are challenging to deal with. When this happens, remember: “for the sake of one child…”
You are also central. For me, each one of you, educator in the school, you are unique. Just for each one of you I would have wanted my sisters to build this school in Valdefierro [and in other parts of the world where we have a Sacred Heart school.]