Yesterday I walked, under high bright blue sky, leaves slipping away from green into pre-death red flares, in October chill, across the Fordham campus on my way to the New York Botanical Garden. The path from my office to the gate leads by Fordham Preparatory School, and my first time ever walking by yields a scene of bracing beauty, the kind of beauty we rarely acknowledge in our culture: adolescent boys at friendship.
On the green field were hundreds of young men in neckties in the many postures of holiness that tilt young men together toward manhood: guys reclining on the grass reading together, the younger ones milling around in a circle simultaneously eager and reticent in conversation, young men in twos and threes cross-legged, kneeling, standing, talking to each other without cell phones or any visible electronica.
Most arresting were six fellows inventing a series of pretend sports matches together: soccer, football, baseball in succession. Their lack of equipment only enabled the most dramatic dives and hearty shouts. I thought to myself that these are the very rituals that will be what makes of these boys the men who are capable of friendship with one another.
For a Catholic school to have composed this space, to have the history of Catholic education culminate momentarily in these minutes on the green at Fordham Prep on 7 October 2008, may be beyond what these young men will be able to appreciate right now, but to have been able to pass by boys in the delight of becoming capable of adult male friendships felt to me like a sacredly composed place, Fordham Prep having had the wisdom to bring them into the beauty and complexity of physical-spiritual exercises. I appreciate that this happens in countless Catholic schools every day, but that is not the same as appreciating how it happens from place to place, and what it takes to help it happen.
A special word of gratitude today for all who help young men, in those irreplaceable boyhood rituals ranging from holy recklessness to solemnity, become capable of adult male friendship.
New York City