Xavier School


This homily was delivered at the Grade 8 Thanksgiving Mass on 20 March 2013.

Grade 8This is my third graduation homily in a row, so I’m in serious danger of boring myself, so I thought I’d start today by playing a little game with all of you. It’s called “Stand if it’s you. Sit if it’s not.” In other words: If the statement applies to you, stand up. If it doesn’t, remain seated.

There are no right or wrong answers. We just want you to be honest. Teachers and parents are required to join this game.

1. I am a hard worker.

2. I am diligent.

3. I finish whatever I begin.

4. Setbacks don’t discourage me.

5. I often set a goal but later choose to pursue a different one.

6. New ideas and projects sometimes distract me from previous ones.

7. I have been obsessed with a certain idea or project for a short time but later lost interest.

8. I have difficulty maintaining my focus on projects that take more than a few months to complete.

Who remained seated most of the time this time?

Grade 81You just took what is called the Grit Scale. It was designed by a doctoral student named Angela Duckworth. Grit is a one-syllable word that means resilience or perseverance. In her study, she found that the one crucial quality that makes people successful is grit. Successful people don’t give up. They push on whatever obstacles they may meet along the way.

If you were standing most of the time during the first part of the test, you probably grit. If you were standing most of the time during the second part of the test, you probably need to develop more grit.

When scientists tested grade school and high school students, they found that while IQ score predicted scores on government achievement tests, but the Grit Scale was a better predictor of actual grades. And why not? Grades require consistent hard work to finish projects and active participation in class. In other words, self-control, character, grit.

Grit becomes even more crucial when we make mistakes and experience failures. In fact, New York Time Magazine came out with an article called “What if the Secret to Success is Failure?

You must have heard of the film “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon,” and most likely, you’ve seen “Hulk.” The Director of these films, including his most recent, “The Life of Pi,” is no stranger to failure.  Ang Lee is a Taiwanese filmmaker whose father was against the idea of a son who will be working in the movies. His dad warned him:  ‘Every year, 50,000 performers compete for 200 available roles on Broadway.”

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But Ang Lee went ahead with his dream anyway. But after he graduated film school, he understood what his father was trying to tell him. For six years, Ang Lee couldn’t get any decent work. He was stuck with helping crews with their equipment or working as an editor’s assistant. At one point he went from production company to production company offering a screenplay that was met with nothing but rejection.

Grade 8xxxAt the age of 30, with a wife and a son, he relied on his wife to support the family financially, and he ended up taking on all the housework like cooking, cleaning, taking care of their son. He felt undignified, to say the least. But then he found out that his in-laws had offered his wife a sum of money to start a business, money that his wife turned down. You see, his wife didn’t think it was a good idea to rush to her husband’s rescue.

And so, Ang Lee had to make an important decision: To keep waiting or to give up his dream of moviemaking? After several sleepless nights, he decided to face reality and give up his dream. He enrolled for a computer course at a community college. He said nothing about this to his wife, but his wife found the class schedule in his bag and the next morning, right before she left for work, she told him, “Ang, don’t forget your dream.”

That statement resuscitated Ang Lee’s dream and his grit. He took the class schedule out of his bag and tore it to pieces. In a few years, he finally obtained funding to shoot his own films, and what’s more, his films began to get international recognition. His wife explained to him, “There are so many people studying computers already, they don’t need an Ang Lee to do that. If you want that golden statue, you have to commit to the dream.’

Grade 8888Today, Ang Lee has won two golden statues for directing: One for “Life of Pi” and in 2006 for “Brokeback Mountain.”. Thanks to his wife’s confidence in him, Ang Lee rediscovered his grit and persevered to become successful. And note how his wife refused to rush to his rescue. She knew it wasn’t a good idea to do so.

And that’s an important reminder to us, teachers and parents. We tend to be overly eager to protect our children from mistakes and failures. We don’t want them to fall at all, but sometimes we end up doing them a disservice when we hover too closely and don’t permit them to learn from their mistakes.

My dear Grade 8 students, as you become fully part of the high school next school year, remember that success does not always easy. There will be hardships and obstacles since like us, you also belong to the human race. One quality, one characteristic, that you must by all means try to develop is grit. To survive in the world and to succeed in life, you need to learn to grit your teeth, persevere, work hard, and not give up.

Our Lord was a man of grit. He did not allow obstacles and problems to get in the way of his mission. He had grit, and we can all learn from him. High School is a good time to develop the grit that you need so much to survive and succeed not only in high school, but also in college and life. This is our prayer for you.

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