Setting the world on fire:
Service as the fuel of Wahyanites' life journey
I believe it is safe to say that we all are after a meaningful life. None of us would deny that meaningfulness is at least a prize, if not the prize, that we want to claim in our lives. Meaningfulness may not always bring us happiness but it will allow us to achieve a real sense of satisfaction with our communities or ourselves. What has been introduced to us – Jesuit alumni and Wahyanites – for our philosophy of life since our days at Wah Yan? I would say ‘meaningfulness’ is a weighty value instilled in us through our education. But meaningfulness alone is insufficient as it mainly addresses our self-interest.
Here is a quote from Viktor Frankl extracted from his book ‘Man's Search for Meaning’, which helps us understand how meaningfulness can have a deeper dimension:
“It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.”
What is the task that Jesuit/Wah Yan education has set for our graduates to make the world a better place for all? I believe most of our alumni would know this task, to be ‘Men for and with Others’. ‘For others’ when we come to serve them with our heart and mind. ‘With others’ as we walk with them as their companions, not their masters nor benefactors, and come to know intimately who they are and what they really need, including their plights and struggles. On the one hand, we ourselves are changed. Our own knowledge of self and life will inadvertently be enriched. On the other hand, through our heartfelt companionship with the others, their experience of life will also be affected. In other words, we are reshaping the lives for each other.
The task is better accomplished with appropriate actions. In service, we have the opportunity to light up the hearts of others, even to set their hearts on fire. Service when performed passionately with our heart and mind allows us to do just that. And our lives will become pregnant with meanings, our hearts filled with happiness.
Viktor Frankl has an inspiring articulation of love in the same book. Love expressed in our service is to enable the others to live out and celebrate their potentialities, their excellence.
“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”
I would say that this well reflects God’s desire for every living being God has created out of love. As parents, educators, and true friends, we share an analogous desire. Jesuits have the mission to go to the frontiers, to be a flame that kindles other flames. A fire that lights up and energizes with a prospect of a meaningful life and one’s potentials realized. We want to encourage our students to leave their comfort zone for something better and greater for others, not just themselves. As their seniors, it would be most desirable if we could be their role models by leaving our own comfort zone to serve meaningfully.
Brothers, let this International Conference and Reunion be the start of a new era for the alumni of Wah Yan. Let our lives be enriched with deeper meanings and greater satisfaction as we leave our comfort zones, fuel our lives with services for and with others, and set the world on fire!
Rev Fr. Stephen Chow, S.J.
Supervisor and Chairman of the Incorporated Management Committee
Wah Yan College, Hong Kong
Wah Yan College, Kowloon