Making the most of each moment.

We are fortunate at John Carroll to have several moments when the air grows a bit more charged with anticipation. 

We of course have move-in day. Freshman, you may remember that day …  the ritual crossing from one youthful stage of life to a new frontier. The promise of freedom — and the offsetting sense of personal accountability.

And later in the year, we celebrate commencement. Seniors, you will become aware of time accelerating as we reach the close of this four-year journey.

Each summer our alumni return to campus to reconnect and strengthen the bonds formed during their time on campus.

This present envelope of time — starting with Thanksgiving, rising to the miracle birth and Christmas, and reaching into the New Year — invites us to open our arms and hearts and embrace the people and beliefs we hold most dear.

I think that our sense of gratitude has been heightened in recent years, through the isolation of the pandemic and all the uncertainty it has stirred.

From darkness and disruption, we have emerged — more attuned to what connects and grounds us, and more aware of the value each connection holds. Let’s not take these days for granted. They punctuate what we have come to know in recent years — we do our best work together and in person, rather than alone and remotely.

The season — the turning of darkness to light —brings hope and joy to the world — across religious and cultural celebrations. Diwali, Dongzhi, Hanukkah, Christmas.

I think often of my parents, who met in England during World War II and would have heard from the likes of Winston Churchill and C.S. Lewis as they celebrated the season and, at the same time, dealt with the steady strain of wartime stress. 

Lewis offered this message to the English people: 

“Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done, or any grace received.”

This place, this idea, this community — John Carroll University — began as someone’s vision in the late 1800s. As we make plans and set resolutions for the coming year, we might remind ourselves that we occupy but a small blip of time in this university’s long continuum. 

None who came before have been spared the pressure and stress of their particular time. Their resilience and determination reinforce the brick-and-mortar that surrounds us.

Rather than retreat in the face of challenge, C.S. Lewis instructed us to lean in and to trust in God regardless of the weight or fury of our concerns. In a letter that Lewis wrote in 1952, he shared:

“As to the ‘state of the world,’  if we have time to hope and fear about it, we certainly have time to pray.”

So that’s my invitation … to myself, and to each of you as we step into the warmth of the Holidays.

Let’s consider prayer as one way to lessen any and all of the burdens that we carry in our hearts. Prayer for guidance. Prayer for a renewal of faith and resolve.

We know that there will be good work, grace, and this amazingly strong and resilient community waiting for us to return in January. 

I value the contribution that each of you makes to the effort. I raise a glass of appreciation and love.  

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.