Posted: 20th January 2018

On the morning of the first day of the Mock Exams in Clongowes the Assistant Headmaster, Mr Martin Wallace, addressed the boys at Morning Prayer to encourage them to approach the tests in a positive frame of mind…

Today is the second day of Christian Unity Week and we include in our prayers a desire for unity among Christians. Today is also the first day of the Mock Exams and we pray for Grammar and Rhetoric that they will have the resilience to meet the challenges of the coming week.

Finding God in All Things is at the core of Ignatian Spirituality. God communicates with us by way of all things. All things are messages of love from God. It is so much easier to find God in the pleasant things. Even in the cold mid-winter – the beauty of nature and the expectation of new growth in the spring fills us with a sense of joy and anticipation. Next week, Elements are heading off to Belfast and right now they are looking forward to the exciting adventure with justified expectation and relish. Such events highlight the joy of living and it is easy to have a sense of God’s creation in them.

So the question for Rhetoric and Grammar this morning is this: ‘How do we find God in the Mock Exams and how are they messages of love?’ The Examen is an Ignatian reflective exercise that helps us to find God in our lives and I want to use it loosely to find the answer.

The Mock Exams are a hurdle – an obstacle – a trial – a tribulation – a challenge. They are going to be difficult. You can respond to the task of doing them in a number of ways:

  • you can resent them, which may make you unhappy and probably result in underachievement
  • you can fear them, which may make you unhappy and probably result in underachievement
  • you can regard them as an opportunity to find out where you are on your academic journey

But isn’t there the possibility that finding this out might make you unhappy? What if you perform badly? If you perform badly, you can respond in a number of ways:

  • you can resent your lack of success, which will make you unhappy and unlikely to improve
  • you can fear your parents’ response, which will make you unhappy and unlikely to improve
  • you can decide to improve, which will give you a focus for the future and a sense of purpose.

Being alive to every moment

What I am trying to suggest here is a way of being aware or present to the reality of this and every other moment in your life. Starting the Mocks is a new challenge. Every moment of your life is unique because it happens only once. Being alive to every moment and its possibilities is the way to finding God’s presence.

There is a further level of awareness to this process. Whether you do well or badly doesn’t define you as a person; it does not define your relationship with your parents or with your teachers or with God. Your parents might be annoyed if they find out that you haven’t prepared well – your teachers too – but that doesn’t change the relationship of love or regard that exists between you and those around you. You are loved unconditionally whether you get 625 points – or 5. The Leaving Cert., the Mocks, school: these are significant aspects of your life now, but they are not what define you.

Being aware of your true relationships at times of challenge can be liberating – and when you feel that sense of liberation and understanding and realise that the immediate challenge is not a matter of life and death, but just part of the struggle and that you are not alone in your struggle – that is when you have found God in this moment. You have found God in the Mocks. But do not expect God to learn the Hopkins quotations for you; that’s your job. Approach the Mocks with energy and freedom and say to yourself: God is here with me.

And enjoy the moment.

Mr Martin Wallace, Assistant Headmaster

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