Leadership Voices: A Lenten Message

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This blog post was originally published by Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School on February 14, 2018.

Dear Friends,

Today, as the western Christian world celebrates Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent, we are confronted with one of simplest signs left in our common life: that dark smudge of ash on our forehead.

The very idea of a sign, a thing that is used to signify something else and make it present to us, is a difficult concept.  Signs explain and establish relationship.  We know this when we use words like a subtraction sign or an addition sign.  They are words the point to a new value based on the relationship of what they mediate.
Many of us will observe this Lent by the sign of subtraction – we will choose not to drink or look at social media or eat chocolate or eat meat.  Some of us will observe this Lent by the sign of addition – we will be more diligent in prayer or we will read spiritually edifying books or we will be intentional in giving to the needy.
However, at their root, these are signs of conversion and anticipated transformation.  These signs are to indicate the relationship between who you are now and who you might become. They are signs of a change of heart and a change of mind. We are to fast, to pray, and to do righteous work; visible reminders that call us to examine ourselves and to make amends for the sinful and broken areas of our life, to move beyond self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, and to reconcile those areas of our life where we have not accepted God’s grace.
These are not the only signs of transformation in our lives and that of our communities.  Education, too, is a sign of transformation; it points to a new future different from the past.  That is our goal at Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School: to be a sign of new and flourishing relationships for our students and our community.
With my prayers for a peaceful and productive Lenten season,
Fr. Jon Chalmers
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The Cristo Rey Network Logo

Logo designIt’s kind of fun to recall history! Part of our history is our logo, both the logo of the original school and the one that the Network uses today. Some 15 years ago when we were still organizing the first school, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Pilsen area, we knew we had to come up with some sort of symbol. None of us had ever done that before. One morning Preston Kendall came to school with a drawing, the one still used at the Pilsen school. It is a different type of crucifix, one where the arms of the corpus are really the cross bar of the cross, tilted at a curious angle. We loved it right off the bat. We asked Preston where he got it and he said that his ten-year-old daughter Maeve had come up with it the night before while they were watching television. That was the origin of the logo of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School. It’s a great message to remind people that the King we follow is unique; He was overcome and the forces of evil did Him in. The mission of Cristo Rey is always counter-cultural.

The logo of the Network is simply a detail taken from the crown in the school’s logo. It’s the crown on the head of the King who was crucified. The hope is that the Cristo Rey Network may be worthy of reminding the world how much our King loves us, even to death.

Stepping in to the world of “blog”

People here at the Cristo Rey Network office seem to think I should write a blog. In fact, I am getting quite a bit of pressure to do so. They assure me that there will be people who will read what I write q.e.d. (I knew that Latin education would come in handy some day!) My first reaction is that I am too old to be doing this sort of thing but then I think that if it will help the Cristo Rey mission, why not?

Some have asked why we chose the name Cristo Rey. Obviously it’s Spanish and means Christ the King. (Sometimes people think we are saying Crystal Ray!) We chose it in that language because the original school was meant to serve those who live in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood which is almost exclusively Mexican. (Chicago is the second largest Mexican city outside of Mexico, after Los Angeles, of course.) But most importantly, the concept of Christ the King is tremendously powerful in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Himself a knight for one of the royal Spanish families, in his conversion he took the idea of defending an earthly king and applied it to the King of the Universe. He asked himself why he didn’t spend his life more profitably promoting the Kingdom of God. So that is the idea of the Cristo Rey Network of schools. They are first and foremost to prepare young women and men to be followers of Jesus and to give themselves to the cause of promoting His kingdom. The Network of schools is about taking those God-given talents that are being wasted and giving them a chance to flourish, all for the Kingdom of God!