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Headmaster Burke's Address on Anti-Asian Racism

Headmaster Burke delivered the following address during Corporate Chapel on March 29, 2021.

In the name of the Father in whom we live and move and have our being, and of his Son, the way and the truth and the life, and of the Holy Spirit at work in our weakness, I welcome you back home to your School and to Holy Week at St. Sebastian’s.

May we together enter deeply into the Paschal mystery: The suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

This morning, I begin with an end in mind by reciting the last sentence our mission statement:

The ideal St. Sebastian’s graduate will be a moral and just person, a gentleman of courage, honor, and wisdom, a life-long learner who continues to grow in capacity to know, to love, and to serve God and neighbor.

We’re preparing you and one another to be sent and so we repent and consent to cooperate with grace through all we face and forever to grow, to know, to love, and to serve God and neighbor. And, of course, our neighbor is every person, especially the person who needs us most.

Aspirational our mission is. We aspire, we perspire, we conspire, we fan into flames fire of resolution to find a solution to teach, to preach, to reach the victory of the light of goodness over the darkness of evil, the light of beauty, over the darkness of prejudice, the light of truth over the darkness of ignorance, the light of justice over the darkness of injustice, the light of freedom over the darkness of confinement, the light of peace over the darkness of violence, the light of faith, hope, and love over the darkness of denial, despair, and hatred.

And we know who wins in the end. Our Chaplain, Father John, has offered this wonderful prayer: “The Victory is yours, O Lord, may I share in it.”  We know who wins. The choice of whether to be on the winning team is all ours.

But, oh, are we ever being battered by sea of troubles out there!  We cannot focus our attention on all of our challenges at once, but let’s focus on a few and punctuate with a refrain:

The more you know, the more you love.

I’m often asked why the brotherhood is so strong here, why you gentlemen love one other so much, and my answer is:

The more you know, the more you love.

You come to know one another really well because through your Chapel speeches, through your classroom discussions, and through a host of other engagements, you dare to share the essence of who you are.

The more you know, the more you love.

There is no race or ethnicity better or worse than another. We humans are genetically unrepeatable gifts created in the image and likeness of God, and we are made for and we crave the same two things: Love and Freedom – gifts from God, who is love.

Jesus shares in John 8:32: “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

The more you know, the more you love.

White supremacy is a misguided, false, unjust, divisive, and dangerous myth. There is no truth in it.

The more you know, the more you love.

We pray for our enemies. May their hatred and division be transformed to love and unity.

The more you know, the more you love.

We stand in loving solidarity with our sisters and brothers of every race and ethnicity in our School family, in our country, and in our world.

The more you know, the more you love.

Because of baseless, senseless, bitterly cruel verbal and physical attacks upon them, many of our Asian sisters and brothers suffer grave injustice and live in abject fear.

The more you know, the more you love.

My wife and I have been blessed with a beautiful family. Five of our grandchildren and their mothers are of Asian descent. So the pain and humiliation that our Asian sisters and brothers suffer is deeply personal for us, but it would be deeply personal even if beautiful Asian blood were not flowing through the veins of our immediate family, for sisters and brothers all are we: Black, Brown, Asian, White, and all colors, races, and ethnicities.

The more you know, the more you love.

No race is better or worse than another.

As St. John Paul II asserts: There is only one community, and it consists of all people.

The more you know, the more you love.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel asserts: Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy.

Rabbi Heschel also shares: Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred and minimum of reason.

May we let those words sink deep in our pursuit of truth through faith and reason.

And Rabbi Heschel offers this insight on prayer: In prayer we shift the center of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender. God is the center to which all forces tend. He is the source, and we are the flowing of His force, the ebb and flow of His tides.

What great words! Our best selves crave unity as well as love and freedom. We are one and we’re all in this together.

In the words of Massachusetts poet of yesterday, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:
Being all fashioned of this self-same dust
Let us be merciful as well as just.

May we commit ourselves – ever more fully – to love God, work hard, and take good care of one another, especially victims of racism of every color who need us most.

And may we all rise together with the blessings of Passover and Easter.

Thank you.