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September 2023


My dear graduates of Chaminade, Kellenberg Memorial, and St. Martin de Porres Marianist School,


HU-22.  It’s one of my favorites.  I love its haunting but strangely soothing melody.  I am inspired by its challenging and – at the same time – comforting lyrics.


Ok.  I get it.  For those of you who are not Marianists, the designation HU-22 means nothing.  For the brothers and priests at Chaminade and Kellenberg, however, it is simply part of a numbering system in our Community hymnal – a collection of songs and Mass parts not usually found in parishes.  Many of the songs in our Community hymnal are written by Marianists.  HU stands for our most prolific composer, Howard Hughes (the Marianist, not the eccentric multi-millionaire of the previous century).  The HU catalogue includes several other Marianist composers as well.  Our own Bro. Rob Lahey composed HU-22.


“Our Peace and Integrity” is the title of HU-22.  Its refrain runs like this: “Our peace and integrity is the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection, by whom we are saved and delivered.”


I’d like to focus on HU-22 for a couple of reasons.  First, on September 14, the Church celebrates the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.  Often called the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, this feast reminds us that a cross – the Ancient Romans’ brutal and barbaric instrument of torture – has been transformed by Christ into the instrument of our salvation.  The Cross of Christ is now the Tree of Life.  This is indeed a triumph!


The title of HU-22 also appeals to me: “Our Peace and Integrity.”   Peace and integrity are lofty but elusive goals.  A quick glance at the headlines or fifteen minutes of watching the news will tell us this.  Just this morning, before opening up my laptop to write this reflection, I turned on the news, only to be reminded of an unprecedented heat wave in the southwestern United States and across much of Europe.  Climate change is already having a deleterious effect on our lifestyles, and it is doing so faster than we had ever imagined. 


War rages in Ukraine.  North Korea continues its saber-rattling.  At home, Americans seem more divided than ever – about immigration; about abortion; about the results of the 2020 election; and even about a family-entertainment giant named the Walt Disney Company.  As the prophet Jeremiah cried out some 2,500 years ago, “Peace, peace, but there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 6:14)


Wait.  Yes, there is.  But we are looking for it in the wrong places and perhaps even for the wrong kind of peace.  Why do I say this?  Because no matter how dark and desperate the situation around us, we have the assurance of our ultimate peace in the Cross of Christ.  Beaten, bloodied, and crowned with thorns, the crucified Christ nonetheless assures us that the victory is ultimately His – and therefore ultimately a victory for goodness and glory, light and life.  “Oh, grave, where is thy victory?  Oh, death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthians 15)


This Christian perspective – this assurance of the Triumph of the Cross – is by no means easy to maintain, however.  We need strong communities of faith, firm bonds of belonging, to remind us that the power of the Cross is greater than the power of this world.  We need a profound personal relationship with Christ to stand firm against all the things that threaten to pull us away from Him.  And we need prayer to cultivate that relationship with Christ – “to have this mind within us, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)


Then, and only then, will we be able to understand the peace and integrity which is the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ.


This brings me to my final point – depression.  It’s on the rise, and, I might add, alarmingly so.  As you might have guessed by now, I am a “news junkie,” and among the stories discussed on this morning's news was a Washington Post report about the “increasing identity crisis among American males.”  I’ve attended too many wakes and funerals of young graduates who have taken their own lives.  Even in class discussions or on their reflection papers, my senior religion students talk about feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed far more frequently and candidly than they would have done ten years ago.


For those of us who profess the Christian faith, this is our clarion call to bring Christ wherever we go, to bring His good news to all whom we meet.  I think all of us – even the most devout among us – entertain the notion that we can find peace and integrity – if only for a few ecstatic, euphoric moments – without Christ.  But it is NOT so.  It is a dead end.  We all seek peace and integrity.  We long for it.  And we cannot find it without the Cross of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  


Can we do a better job of bringing Christ into the adversity of our lives?  Can we teach our children to do a better job of it?   I think we can.


Funny, isn’t it?  You’d think that we would find peace of mind by eliminating anything stressful in our lives.  Please understand, I’m not advocating that we deliberately add stressors to our already stressful lives.  But eliminating stress altogether?  I think that’s impossible!  It certainly has not been my experience.   


What helps?  Emulating Jesus, “a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53: 3) but also the source of all our joy, all our hope, all our peace, and all our integrity.

It’s not for nothing that the Cross is the central image of Christianity.  It is by no means an easy image to place at the center of our lives, but its triumph is, undoubtedly, the source of our peace and integrity.

On behalf of all my Marianist Brothers,

Bro. Stephen Balletta, S.M.

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