As a graduate, you have committed to living Franciscan virtues and sharing them with your communities. We are not just suggesting your involvement, but mandating your commitment. There’s an allegory comparing the difference between involvement and commitment to preparing bacon and eggs. It concludes the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.
To illustrate what a man committed to Franciscan values looks like, I want you to consider a true Franciscan leader, Mr. Pete Brang. As the last class to graduate on his watch, your exemplary behavior and character are products of that commitment.
You may only know him for inspiring you in AP US History, the agony of a visit to his office, or from serving detention. Some knew him as cross country and track coach, Kairos leader, or driving instructor. There’s the whistle that simultaneously paralyzes 600 students and Foothill Blvd. traffic. More have known him for the support he offered when they struggled with a personal problem, failed to fit in, or needed a father figure.
Before meeting the man with the grammatically incorrect name in my first year, I overheard: “Mr. Brang to the office.” Brang, I thought? Maybe they are testing me to see if I really have an English degree. I learned quickly that having Mr. Brang’s support was essential for survival.
At that time, he was the Dean of Discipline, a title that implied punishment. But, an important connection exists between the secular word “discipline” and the spiritual term “disciple.” Its Latin derivation connotes “teaching, learning, and knowledge.” These are all elements of Mr. Brang’s approach; more have benefited from this wisdom than his lessons on the Constitution, Civil War, or Depression. Those who embraced his discipline became disciples. They discovered what former football coach Bum Phillips advocated: “The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.”
Upon joining the Administration, I observed his ability to make quick decisions, his instincts in influencing different individuals, his belief in “servant leadership,” and his concern for each person on this campus. Most important was his tireless commitment to support every St. Francis activity.
You can find examples of all sixteen Franciscan virtues in Mr. Brang’s career. Integrity, humility, compassion, simplicity, brotherhood, peace and justice, and service are obvious. But it also encompasses things that may not be as evident-important qualities like joy, generosity, faithfulness, hospitality, charity, goodness, prayer, acceptance, and peacemaking. You can include traditional values like toughness, fairness, reliability, loyalty, respect, and dedication. Dealing with Mr. Brang is like going to the dentist. It’s not the association with pain; it’s that you don’t appreciate it until later.
He is a long-distance runner whose marathon career is nearing the finish line. The high expectations he placed on himself and others are reminiscent of the words of another legendary runner, Steve Prefontaine: “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” Allow me to deviate from formal grammar to state: day in and day out, for forty-four years, Pete “Brang” it.
You may not have a career like his, but you can model his commitment. As you leave St. Francis, know that you and your brothers, by your character, are his legacy. Any discipline you have learned was his gift. In moments of crisis, pretend he is watching. Live a life committed to Franciscan virtues. Don’t just do it for St. Francis. Do it for Pete’s sake.