To the Band of Brothers: February 2, 2024

Fr. Willie, S.J. ‘87 | President
When my grandfather passed away his children got together to clean out the house. He and my grandmother had lived in that house for over 50 years. They purchased it back in 1968 when they finally moved the family to Miami after an eight-year exile in Spain. Located in the “plush” neighborhood of Westchester, it was just a stone’s throw away from St. Brendan Catholic Church (where they went to Mass), La Carreta (where they had lunch after Mass), Luria’s (where they shopped, but couldn’t afford to buy anything), and Lindsley Lumber (where they bought things, but couldn’t pronounce the name).

The challenging part for my father and his siblings was determining what to do with 50 years of memories. Some things needed to be kept, others thrown away. After they agreed on who would take what, they called the grandkids and told us we could come to the house and take one or two mementos that would remind us of our grandparents. 

I confess it was difficult for me. I grew up in that house. I was there practically every weekend. My friends knew that house better than my own. Do you know how many heartbroken seasons of Miami Dolphins football I watched in that “Florida” room (it’s the 60s version of a den)? Do you know how many “arroz con pollos” I ate in that dining room? For fifty years that house was the major symbol of stability in my life. My parents and I moved to different houses on three occasions, I changed schools four times, went first to one parish then to another, and even had a couple of different girlfriends. Throughout all of that, my grandparents’ house was the one constant.

As I rummaged through their things, I came across an item I had totally forgotten about. In my grandfather’s home office, hanging on the wood laminated wall just left of his Ace Computer, was a cheaply framed dollar bill. Under the bill, scotch-taped to a white sheet of paper, is a handwritten note that simply reads, “From Willie to Abebi… Love!” Abebi is the nickname we all used for my grandfather. 

I then remembered the story. When I was just eleven years old, I complained to my grandfather that I didn’t get paid at home for doing the chores. He told me my parents were right in not paying for something I had an obligation to do. Then, he proceeded to “hire” me to wash his car for five dollars. My grandparents both agreed, if you raise your children, you can spoil your grandchildren. But if you spoil your children you will need to raise your grandchildren.

Those five single dollar bills were the first money I ever made. I was proud of the accomplishment. Thinking about what I would do with my newly earned wealth, I decided to take the first bill and give it to my grandfather. It was a sign of respect, of love, and of admiration for a man who had given me and the whole family so much and who had provided for me an opportunity to work and make something for myself. I gave back to my grandfather the first of the fruits of my labor.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. The gospel of St. Luke describes how, in fulfillment of the Judaic law, Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem and presented him to the priest to be consecrated (2:22-38). The event took place forty days after the birth (thus February 2nd) because religiously it was determined that it took that long for a woman to be considered “clean” after giving birth. Only after that period of time could a woman enter the Temple. It’s the reason why at one point the feast day was also called the Purification of Mary. 

But why present the child in the first place? Well, first of all, it is a practice that began after Moses. Presenting your first-born was a way for the people of Israel to continuously give glory to God for having liberated His people from slavery in Egypt. You will remember in the book of Exodus the tenth plague sent by God through Moses. It was the dreaded Angel of Death who killed every first-born offspring of man and animal alike unless the blood of a lamb was visible on the doorpost. If the Angel of Death saw the blood, it passed over (thus, Passover) the house. If not… well, no bueno. I know it sounds harsh, but it was the event that finally convinced Pharaoh to let the people go.

Second, it was important to offer the first fruits of anything to God as a way of recognizing His greatness. In the story of Cain and Abel in the book of Genesis (4:1-7), you may recall God accepted Abel’s gift and not Cain’s. Why? Because Abel offered the “firstlings of his flock” while Cain didn’t. God did not accept Cain’s offering because it wasn’t the first of what he produced, giving back to God was not the first thing on his mind. Mary and Joseph, following the Jewish tradition, presented to God in the Temple their first (and only) child. 

Like the dollar I gave my grandfather, the offering of the first fruits of our labor should always be to the Lord who is deserving of all our praise and glory. God is always showering us with His love and graces. It is He who provides for us the ability to make great things happen, to be at a great school, to build great companies, to raise great families, to live happy lives. For this reason we should always present to Him the first and best of what we have and do.

Auspice Maria.
500 SW 127th Avenue, Miami, FL 33184
phone: 305.223.8600 | fax: 305.227.2565 | email:
Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain.  The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline.  In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty.  The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow.  Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.