“The Time Has Grown So Short; The World So Wide”

Recallilarge_news733886_587430ng my own graduation from Archmere Academy makes me reflect on all of the mixed emotions I felt – excitement, happiness, a sense of accomplishment, nervousness, anxiety, and expectations for college and a career. As the school year draws to a close, I expect that many of our seniors have the same thoughts and feelings.

The May issue of The News Journal carried an article by Danielle Paquette of The Washington Post, called “Meet ‘Generation Katniss:’ Born between 1995-2002.” The title references the popular series, “The Hunger Games”, and the heroine, Katniss Everdeen. Specifically discussing young women and their attitudes and feelings, Paquette quotes British economist, Noreena Hertz, who, from her research with young women in the U.S. and Britain, states, “This generation is profoundly anxious.” She goes on to say that our young generation has witnessed international threats of terrorism, domestic job loss, gender pay gaps, distrust of the motives of large corporations, civil unrest, accumulating college debt, high stakes testing, competitive college admissions, and the challenges of educational reform. And they read and view images of all of these things practically in real-time. Is that not enough to contribute to an individual’s anxiety?

So, how do we adults help our teens to cope with the images and messages of the world? What assurances can we give to help them cope with the anxiety and nervousness that they may be experiencing?

My experience of most Archmere students is that they are high achievers and prize academic success. From the Academy’s earliest years, Archmere students have sustained a school culture that supports stretching personal limits of learning, and “setting the bar high.” This achievement culture can be wonderfully creative and supportive, particularly when it is understood that failure is celebrated as much as success, because through failure we also learn something – what not to do, how not to go about tackling the problem, what assumptions made might not be true. In other words, through exploration and experimentation, we may not only solve our initial problem, but we may also broaden our understanding of the topic, recognizing typical pitfalls and red herrings, and, potentially accidentally discovering other revelations tangential to our original quest. If we can incorporate this philosophy into our students’ sense of achievement, I believe that can help reduce greatly students’ anxiety as it relates to their academic career. They should not be expected to walk an academic tightrope, and particularly a tightrope without a safety net! That does not mean that students should not plan or organize or develop a career path based on their passions, interests, and skills. It does mean that sometimes students have to be flexible enough to consider other academic and professional paths that may be quite different from what they and/or their parents had in mind.

As parents, teachers, and adults, I believe that our most important role is to be the guides for our young people, relating to them our own personal journeys, filled with “fork-in-the-road” decisions and choices, and offering them support by truly listening to what they are saying to us, and responding with sincerity and empathy. We also need to be role models – walking the talk. This adult task is not an easy one. When either of my own children call me from college and graduate school and “want to talk”, most of the time I feel good about the opinions I am offering to them about the issue they wanted to discuss. But there are those times when the issues may be more complex, or we may not initially be “on the same page” as they say. After ending the phone call or Skype, I question if I was at my best. Did I say the right thing? Did I offer good advice? In those times of self-questioning I usually have to resort to reflecting on my personal beliefs and values – almost as if I were lining them up on a cloth like silverware ready to be scrutinized and polished. I think about my conversations with my children and ask myself if what I said and how I said reflected my core beliefs and values. And if I realize that I spoke harshly or out of emotion because, as they say, your children “know how to push your buttons,” then I ask myself why did that bother me so much. I usually find the answer in my own upbringing.

My beliefs and values were shaped by my Catholic faith, my family, and my educational experiences – most particularly, Archmere. For me, this exercise produces an internal calm and quiet that allows me to work through especially difficult situations – those that generally make us nervous and anxious.

Paquette concludes her article with optimism, saying that, although this young generation has experienced much to cause anxiety, being so aware of the problems of the world may inspire them to devote their lives to solving them. Quoting Hertz, “This generation celebrates difference, diversity, their own independence . . . they want to create, lead and be heard.”

The last Green Concert of the 2014-2015 series held in the Patio featured our student musicians. Claire Caverly. a graduating senior and a national award-wining soprano, sang “Laurie’s Song” from Aaron Copeland’s “The Tender Land.” It was a beautiful and fitting ending to the Concert and to the school year, perhaps capturing the personal sentiments of Claire and so many seniors who are being graduated not only from Archmere, but from other high schools and universities. This is a hopeful time of year when the talents and optimism of our graduates should sufficiently suppress our anxieties. Laurie says it best in her lyrics,

Once I thought I’d never grow

Tall as this fence.

Time dragged heavy and slow.

But April came and August went

Before I knew just what they meant,

And little by little I grew.

And as I grew, I came to know how fast the time could go.

 

Once I thought I’d never go

Outside this fence.

This space was plenty for me.

But I walked down the road one day,

And just what happened I can’t say.

But little by little it came to be

That line between the earth and sky came beckoning to me.

 

Now the time has grown so short;

The world has grown so wide.

I’ll be graduated soon.

Why am I strange inside?

What makes me think I’d like to try

To go down all those roads

Beyond that line above the earth and ‘neath the sky?

 

Tomorrow when I sit upon the graduation platform stand,

I know my hand will shake when I reach out to take

The paper with the ribboned band.

Now that all the learning’s done,

Oh who knows what will now begin?

Oh it’s so strange, I’m strange inside.

The time has grown so short; the world so wide.

 

To the graduates of the Archmere Class of 2015, congratulations and God-speed. Perhaps when you arrived as Freshmen four years ago you thought the space inside our fence was plenty for you, but now, four years later, you have grown in so many ways and are prepared “to go down all those roads beyond that line above the earth and ‘neath the sky.” Know that you will always be a part of Archmere and Archmere a part of you.

To all of our parents and Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors, thank you for sharing so much of yourselves to make the 2014-15 school year at Archmere so successful. Our students are preparing for AP and final exams – a potentially stressful time. And I know that the year was not without personal challenges, disappointments, and anxious moments, but I hope those times were balanced with successes, accomplishments, and happy celebrations, all contributing to our collective growth in “pietate et scientia.”

Enjoy the beautiful Spring weather and best wishes to all in the last few weeks of school!

“Tis the Month of Our Mother:” Celebrating Mary & Our Mothers

“’Tis the Month of Our Mother” is an older Catholic hymn sung often at this time of year when the Catholic Church traditionally has honored Mary during the month of May. The first lines of the song are:

’Tis the month of our Mother,
The blessed and beautiful days,
When our lips and our spirits,
are glowing with love and with praise.

Refrain:
All Hail! to thee, dear Mary,
the guardian of our way;
To the fairest of Queens,
Be the fairest of seasons, sweet May.

In the refrain, Mary’s “Queenship” in the third line refers to our Catholic Church belief that, when she died, like Jesus, she was assumed body and soul into heaven. Conceived without original sin and the mother of Jesus, she was honored by God by her assumption. Catholics have given her the title of “Queen of Heaven,” a title taken from ancient sky goddesses in the Mediterranean and Near East.

Tomorrow, Archmere celebrates the Ascension into Heaven of Jesus, her Son. Thursday, May 9, is the traditional date, though some dioceses, including Wilmington, have moved the observance to Sunday, May 12, which also happens to be Mother’s Day.

When I attended my Catholic parish grade school from first through eighth grade, I looked forward to participating in the parish May Procession each year. We would sing Marian songs and prayers, and then crown the statue of the Blessed Mother in Church. It was a big event, and as students, we would practice the songs as part of religion class for weeks in advance.

The second grade First Communion Class, dressed in white, led the long procession of students. Two or three of them were selected to be in the May Court of students. These students actually placed the crown of flowers on the statue of Mary.

The procession of students in the school uniform of blue and white, led by altar servers with candles, incense, and processional cross, walked around the block in reverent silence, two-by-two, shortest to tallest, from the school building to the Church. Parents, aunts, uncles, and friends lined the sidewalks to watch the procession pass, then quickly moved into the church through the side doors to watch as the procession entered the Church down the main aisle.

The organ swelled with the strains of the opening hymn to Mary, and the assembly sang robustly the first of several Marian songs throughout the prayer service. When the appropriate time came for the May Crowning ceremony, the eighth grade girls, each carrying one long white gladiola, lined the Church’s center aisle. With their flowers, they formed a series of arches, under which the children from the second grade May Court would pass as they made their way to the altar of Mary adorned with flowers and ferns.

After the event, which ended with Benediction, there were the obligatory family pictures on the Church lawn with family members before heading home. But the May celebrations of Mary did not end. Each school day in May, we were invited to bring flowers from home to place before the May altar that would be set up in our school classroom with a statue of Mary. I remember bringing in azalea clippings, lilacs, and bouquets of a flowering white shrub called, spiraea alpine spring flower, wrapped in aluminum foil. We would recite the Memorare or a decade of the Rosary as part of our daily prayers in May.

Of course, it was easy for me as a child to make the connection between Mother’s Day and the devotions to Mary, our Blessed Mother. My brothers and I revered my mother and appreciated all that she did for us and for our extended family. She, in turn, had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, and would always encourage us to turn to Mary in prayer.

I just read an article in the May 7 edition of The News Journal, entitled “Mothers never really become obsolete,” written by Momspeak Columnist Tracy Grant of The Washington Post. In the article, Grant claims that a mother’s goal is to teach her children life skills so that they can become independent. She comments, however, how hard it is sometimes to “let go” of special moments. Her sons are now 17, and she writes:

And I know, too, that even while I lament their growing independence, this is life as it should be. I’ve decided I’m going to stop looking in their rooms to see unmade beds and feel frustrated. Soon enough, the beds will be made and will stay made for weeks or months.

But Grant concludes the article referencing a text message from her son that ends with “Love you Mom.” She writes, “The feeling that clutches at my chest as I read those words will never become obsolete.”

Grant and I agree that “recognizing a mom’s efforts is not just one Sunday in May; it’s 365 days of the year.” Celebrating motherhood and all that our mothers do for our families seems to be a natural and universal reaction. It is appropriate then, that we recognize the work of our Mothers’ Guild, joined by our Fathers’ Club volunteers this year, on May 15 at a gathering in The Patio.

assumption_murillo

Assumption of The Virgin
Bartolome Esteban Murillo

The very first Mothers’ Guild in 1932 presented to Archmere a reproduction of the 1670 painting, “The Assumption of the Virgin.” Painted by Bartolome Esteban Murillo, it is a symbol of the Norbertine’s devotion to Mary. The painting hangs in the Music Room of The Patio, which served as the school’s first chapel from 1932 until 1970. Since the founding of the Norbertine Community in 1120, many abbeys, priories, and houses dedicated themselves to Mary, each carrying one of her many titles.

Mary, Queen of Heaven, is one of nearly 50 titles found in the Litany of Loreto, a prayer of the Church to the Blessed Mother that dates back to the Middle Ages. It is a title most fitting for this month when we use a crown of flowers and not a queenly crown of gold and precious stones to show our devotion to Mary. In keeping with the Norbertine tradition, it is a title most special to Archmere, exemplified in Murillo’s painting.

As Grant points out, celebrating mothers and motherhood is not just a one-day event. With Mary as a perfect example of all that a mother sacrifices, endures, enjoys, and loves, we are especially grateful for our mothers during this special month of May, but we also know how much we appreciate and love them every day.

For those of us whose mothers are no longer with us, we pray for them and ask them to pray for us. For those of us who may not have known a mother, we pray in gratitude for those who may have taken up the formative tasks of motherhood, acknowledging that we love them just as a child loves his or her mother.

In closing, I share with you the Marian antiphon Regina caeli laetare. The “Queen of Heaven” hymn is recited during the last hour of the Liturgy of the Hours as part of Night Prayer:

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom thou didst merit to bear in your womb, alleluia.
Has risen, as He promised, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

Happy Mother’s Day!