How you begin and end matters

By Bishop Robert Morneau | For The Compass | August 29, 2018

One of my teachers in college, the very first day of the semester, taught us the BME principle. He proclaimed: “B is for the beginning, M is for the middle, and E is for the ending. Though the middle of a paper or talk provides the substance of your assignment, how you begin and end the assignment is absolutely crucial. Don’t blow it!”

One of the great saints of the church, St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), believed in the importance of beginnings and endings. Many Jesuit students were taught to begin an assignment by writing at the top of the page the letters A.M.D.G and at the end of the work L.D.S. A.M.D.G stood for Ad majorem Dei gloriam (for the greater glory of God) whereas L.D.S. meant Laus Deo semper (praise be to God always). This exercise helped the students to reflect upon why they are doing what they do.

Jesus is always concerned about the glory of his Father. His focus was on the Kingdom and bringing about the reign of God in the world, in the heart of every individual. Jesus was always praying as he began his preaching, healing and teaching ministries. Jesus concluded these ministries by giving praise to the Father.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah: “This people pays me lip service but their heart is far from me” (Mark 7:6). It is in the heart that we discover the motives of our speech and actions. Are we concerned about human tradition or about God’s will? Do we begin our days and our duties with God’s glory and praise in mind (in our heart) or is it all about our self-interest?

In the letter of James we are given a clue of what glorifies our God: “Looking after orphans and widows in their distress and keeping oneself unspotted by the world make for pure worship without stain before our God and Father” (James 1:27). Moses, too, in our first reading, reminds us that we will give evidence that we are wise and intelligent people if we observe God’s decrees. By so doing we give praise and glory to God.

One of the most famous Jesuit poets, Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), demonstrates how to begin and end his poetic craft by stating explicitly the motives of his writing: giving glory and praise to God. If you memorize and pray this poem, “Pied Beauty,” be assured that it will rearrange your interior life:

Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls, finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Bishop Morneau, auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Green Bay Diocese, serves as sacramental minister at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Green Bay.

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