FROM THE RECTOR
‘THINGS THAT ARE DESIRED’
To the Salesian College Family,
Max Ehrmann, who lived from 1872 to 1945, is not exactly a household name. In fact, many people throughout the world may have never heard of him.
Let me tell you something about him.
Max’s parents left their home in Bavaria, Germany in the 1840s and emigrated to the United States of America, where they settled in the city of Terre Haute, Indiana. Here Max was born in 1872 and subsequently attended the Terre Haute Fourth District School and the German Methodist Church. He later studied philosophy and law at Harvard University and eventually returned to Indiana where he forged a career as an attorney and businessman.
However, Max will not be remembered for any of these pursuits. Instead, what he will be remembered for is his prolific writing of poetry and prose, which invariably included spiritual themes, moral values and positive lessons for human living. His writings were generally inspiring and uplifting, but none were absolutely spectacular or likely to survive the test of time.
Except one! Except one remarkable piece of literature that was penned over ninety years ago in 1927!
For that one poem went straight to the very heart and soul of our place in the world and our journey through the universe. It dealt with the perennial values of love, compassion, dignity, honesty, humility and positivity. It encouraged the reader to be calm, patient and courageous in coping with the everyday struggle of life. It called for a balanced and integrated approach to human existence.
And it entreated us to be on good terms with other people and to develop strong and lasting relationships with them.
The title of that poem was based on a Latin noun meaning ‘things that are desired or wanted’ for a joyful, peaceful and meaningful life. That Latin word was none other than ‘Desiderata’, and I now present it to you as a help and support during the present Covid lockdown period and as a much-needed antidote to the stress, anxiety and uncertainty caused by the current worldwide pandemic.
Finally, may ‘Desiderata’ bring you a positive experience of hope and optimism in our present challenging circumstances, and always motivate you to ‘Be cheerful’ and ‘Strive to be happy’ no matter what happens in your lives.
GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
By Max Ehrmann © 1927
In the Lord Jesus,
Fr Greg Chambers