Mr. Eric Frenette, LPC, NCC
Principal of St. Joseph School
Mr. Frenette's Bio:
- Graduate of St. Joseph School (Class of 1998)
- Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (UConn, 2006)
- Master's Degree in School Counseling (UConn, 2009)
- Master's Certificate in Catholic School Leadership (Creighton, 2017)
- Six years as a Secondary School Counselor
- Began tenure as Principal of SJS in Fall of 2015
- Licensed Professional Counselor in the State of CT
- Nationally Certified Counselor
- Long-time Bristol resident and parishioner of St. Joseph Parish
- Father of two boys (one currently enrolled at SJS)
I read something this Easter season that really stuck with me. It was an excerpt by Alice Camille on Divine Mercy:
“Consider a devoted mother who sees her wandering child caught in a raging fire. She once carried that child under her heart; will she now abandon him to his fate? Is this a time for blame, or self-sacrifice? Quickly, the mother reaches through the flames with both hands to enact a rescue. The mother’s action in no way erases the seriousness of the child’s errant behavior. The fire is real; the peril of wandering into it is acutely suffered. To say the child knew better, and that he deserves what he gets, is not fidelity to justice. It’s a misunderstanding of the nature of love. Both child and mother do pay a price for this willful behavior, and both will retain the scars of this day. Yet, if she had to make the choice a thousand times, each time the mother would put her hands into the fire.”
-Alice Camille from Give Us This Day, April 2019.
This is such an excellent and vivid image of mercy and love in action. If we truly practice what we preach, then this is how we are called to act, every time, no matter the circumstances. To give, no matter the cost, as many times as we have to. I get so confused when I listen to the news and people use ideas of faith to explain how self-interest should be given the priority. Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect. I struggle with putting this philosophy into practice myself. But identifying the problem is the first step in fixing it, right?
We, as a culture, seem to be so quick to rationalize why someone deserves to be short-handed or left to their own demise. Do we truly believe this is how Jesus would act? I mean, the Gospel states very clearly that we are to forgive, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Jesus came to cure the sick, not the healthy. Time and again God shows us a path to live lives truly dedicated to mercy. And yet, like clockwork, we give in to a lack of patience and blame others for their “failures” while being completely blind to our own. How often do we use the “three strike rule” for others but argue “balls and strikes” when it is our turn? Probably more than we’d like to admit.
Jesus calls us all to mercy. From teachers ready to bang their head against their desks for having to make the same packet of work five times for a student who will just “misplace” it on the ride home to the parent who needs to get the ice pack for a head injury after saying “Don’t jump on the bed, you’ll get hurt” for the 100th time to the “political pundit bystander” who is quick to blame everything on the “other people” with no real basis other than opinion. We all have those days when we are frustrated, tired, and ready to let others lie in the beds they’ve made. And that’s ok. But we need to remember that they are still people, deserving of mercy and love. This alone should move us to some kind of action. I just can’t picture Jesus sitting by and saying “Man, that’s annoying. This time, I’m not helping.”
St. Joseph School
A year before I came to St. Joseph School as principal while I was still a school counselor at a public high school, I served as a chaperone for a school April vacation trip to Greece. It was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity as the trip consisted of a cruise through the many islands of the Aegean Sea. While this was my second time to Greece, it was a very different experience as we arrived on the Eastern Orthodox Palm Sunday. So, as we traveled through the many different parts of the country, from urban Athens to rural Rhodes, I observed an entire country preparing for Easter.
Now Easter in Greece is a big deal. Holy Week is a time of preparation, both spiritually and physically. Everywhere we went I saw families preparing large bonfires for the eventual cooking of the Easter lamb. One day in Crete I actually saw a father and son leading the lamb through a field, I’d imagine to a not-so-peaceful ending. Even on the street corners of Athens I saw family members constructing “spits” to eventually roast their Sunday dinners.
At St. John’s Monastery in Patmos (where John wrote the Book of Revelation), the pilgrims and monks were in constant prayer, preparing for the holiest days of the Catholic calendar. Even in Athens, churches were constructing outdoor podiums for their midnight service Sunday morning (I was fortunate to sneak out of my hotel and attend this service even though we had a 6am flight home). In Greece, the air force flies to Jerusalem to get a torch from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (where Christ was crucified) to fly back home to distribute to all churches in the country to then be shared among parishioners attending Easter Mass. After Mass, fireworks explode throughout the streets (at 3am mind you) to celebrate Easter has arrived. The parties carry on through Sunday evening.
It was truly a spiritual experience to see an entire country in such preparation and celebration of Easter. It was even more powerful for me as we had left to fly to Greece on “our” Easter Sunday (a week early that year according to the Roman Catholic calendar) so I was still able to celebrate Easter in a sense. Every year since, I think of this trip as we enter days leading toward Holy Week. As we read in the Gospel that Jesus is led toward the top of Golgotha, I think of that lamb being led by the father and son to his own demise. As I think of the families preparing to feast, I think of what can I do to better prepare for what is coming. And as Easter steps ever closer, I ponder if I’m prepared to show the joy and excitement that I witnessed so very early in the morning in the streets of Athens.
Easter is coming. Are we ready? Are we excited? Well, we should be. It’s all Greek to me.
In Religion class, the 6th graders have just concluded the unit on the Ten Commandments. They now venture into the forty years of wandering the desert that the Hebrew people had to endure before finally entering the Promised Land. This year the timing is perfect as we also venture into the forty days of Lent. We will be “wandering around” our relationship with God and sin as we edge closer to the “Promised Land” of Easter Sunday. This coincidence has given me a different view into one of, in my opinion, most bothersome aspects of the Exodus story.
Every time I read the stories from this part of Hebrew history, I get annoyed at the seeming ignorance of the characters. They constantly doubt God’s influence on their story and continually rise up against Moses. Not even mentioning the plagues and parting of the Red Sea they had recently witnessed in Egypt, God sends them bread from Heaven, water from a rock, a healing snake on a pole and, still, they doubt. I would sit reading those passages like someone watching a suspenseful, horror movie, “Don’t go up the stairs!” “How can you be so stupid!” And yet, I feel this time around, God has humbled me a bit in my apparent sense of superiority.
Through the lens of Lent, I can see that I often act the same way. I am fortunate enough to be able to look by on my life and find many examples of God’s presence peppered throughout. If we can quiet our minds and sit for a few moments in silence, we may be surprised just how often God enters our lives in such clear and profound ways. There may be no whirlwind of fire or burning bushes, but there doesn’t always have to be. God can speak just as loudly through the kind words of stranger, the perfect workings of a well-laid plan, or even the complete and utter defeat of a failed hope. We just need to be centered and humble enough to look for it.
So maybe that is what God is asking me to do this Lent. Maybe I need to thin out the clutter and craziness of my days to find some time to sit and be still. By doing so, maybe I’ll see myself in the doubting Hebrews of the Exodus story. And at the same time, maybe I’ll find how God’s willingness to be a part of my life is just as Biblical as it was during those years in the desert.
St. Joseph School