January is a pretty rough month. February is a close second. Especially when you are a Dean of Students. I don’t care if it’s a public school or a high school seminary, Christmas is over, the fun has ended, school has started, everyone starts getting sick and the weather is lousy. Sacred Heart, the high school seminary where I work, does have the added bonus of having the students live here, so once they get back from Christmas vacation homesickness is added to the list.
You know, they say if you want to make God laugh just tell Him your plans. I doubt that many alumni would have expected to be where they are now back in high school, and I am no exception. It shows when I tell people who knew me back then that I am now a Dean of Students. They always laugh. But, regardless of where we are, most of us run into that February funk, when ordinary life comes back and we look around for something to look forward to.
Now, I am a Dean of Students, but at the Apostolic School (high school seminary) that job is a little different than at other schools. I take care of sophomores through seniors whenever they are not in class, from wake up till bed time. A big part of that is motivation. So right now, I have an epic competition going with all my high school guys where they all have characters and they are on a quest. And the goal? To slay Gloom, the villain.
So what to do when faced with this gloom, the funk of ordinary time? I think part of the problem is how we look at it. It is really easy to fear boredom, to try and escape from any silence or lull in activity with our smart phones. But I think that we can miss a couple hidden treasures that ordinary time presents if we look at it that way. Here are a few I thought of:
Being Present. Christmas is a beautiful time, but there is usually a lot going on. If you are not planning Christmas parties or getting ready for exams, you are usually running around trying to find presents. With so much going on and coming up, it is hard to live in the present moment, and I find that I spend most of it worrying about things coming up or thinking about things that already happened. Ordinary time, with nothing big going on, gives us an opportunity to be present, fully. And since that is the only time we have, the more we learn to live in the present, the more we can enjoy the truly important things, like time with family and friends.
Time. It may just be that, as a Dean, my “off” time is when my guys are in class, so it is sort of a relief when they go back to school. Months like February where not a lot is going on present more time to get those pending things done, but more importantly to reflect and pray. Taking a little time, 10 minutes a day, to put yourself in God’s presence and look at your life will put it in a new perspective. I find that if I carve out 15 minutes to go to the chapel and just sit in Christ’s presence, it brings a peace I cannot find in getting caught up doing things.
Silence. This one is always tough, February or not. Since I always have a jukebox, cinema and library right at my fingertips, not to mention all the other distraction offered by my phone, making time for silence these days is especially tough. But without silence, I find I live a more scattered, superficial life. Only in silence can I truly encounter myself and truly encounter God. So now is the perfect time to start disconnecting from the phone and allowing some silence in. Find a little time, maybe your car ride or right before you go to bed. I made my room a silent zone. Some leave their phone outside when they are eating, even just working on putting the phone down as people talk to you goes a long way. Whatever it is, find a way to detach from the phone a little more and enter that silence.
So, enjoy the beginning of the year! And remember, it doesn’t have to be such a drag. It takes effort, but it will make a world of difference. Count on my prayers!