We have all been working so very hard in keeping our daily routines and our lives as normal as possible over the last eighteen months of the pandemic. Adjusting expectations, routines, and plans seems to be part of the “new normal.” At Archmere, we continue to try to look optimistically for key things that the pandemic has taught us. As you know, we have made adjustments to our day schedule and implemented programs that address the health and wellness of the members of our school community. There is evidence in numbers that anxiety and worry about many things are more prominent among our students and their families than they were in pre-pandemic days. As a community we try to do our best to respond to these issues. While we can structure programs and make plans, one thing that we have learned is that it is difficult to predict all that will happen in the future, and change is an idea that we all have to embrace.
On Friday, September 24, we held our Faculty and Staff Annual Retreat at Daylesford Abbey. During this 900th Jubilee Year of the founding of the Norbertine Community, we invited Tom Kunkel, President Emeritus of Saint Norbert College and author of the book, Man on Fire, a biography of Saint Norbert, to be our guest speaker and retreat leader. Among his comments, he reminded us that Saint Norbert was around forty years old when he founded the Norbertine Community in 1120-1121. By medieval standards, he was an older man, but he was also from nobility, and had the good fortune of not only an excellent education, but a lifestyle in his earlier years that probably contributed to his vitality later in life. By today’s standards, he was born into a family of extreme wealth. Yet, he used his status and his resources for the good of others, divesting himself of his possessions and using his position, experience, and talents to bring about peace and reconciliation to people.
He also adopted the Rule of Saint Augustine for his community, which includes set times throughout the day for communal prayer. As it was explained to us by our other guest speaker on our retreat day, Abbot Richard Antonucci, O.Praem., the four set times for daily prayer – morning, noon, evening, and before bedtime – remind us that each day is a gift from God, and while we may make our plans for the days ahead, they are ultimately in God’s hands. The idea of letting go of our plans is appealing to me, as a response to the unavoidable impact of the pandemic on our lives. You may have heard the expression, “Let go and let God.” It is a helpful mantra these days.
Over the last month, I have been asking students how things are going in general, how they find the new schedule and their particular classes, and in what activities, sports, or clubs they are participating. To a student, you can sense how happy they are to be on campus together, enjoying the experience, and having positive things to say – so far – about the schedule, their classes, and their out-of-class experiences. Will there be (and maybe there already have been) disappointments, setbacks, and some difficult days? Probably so, but it is in how we respond and adapt to these moments by making new plans that allows us to be resilient and grateful.
We know that Saint Norbert faced many challenges over his lifetime. He was discouraged by the treatment of the Pope by Henry V, leaving the royal court in disillusionment after years of service. He was not accepted as the leader of the community of priests at Saint Martin Church in Laon because of his rigorous and austere lifestyle. He preached peace and reconciliation, yet we know of at least three attempts and probably more to assassinate him. He most likely did not envision establishing a religious community in Premontre, France, that would develop into an international movement throughout the world. When he was asked to be the Bishop of Magdeburg, now in modern Germany, he had to leave the community he started in France in the hands of his first follower, Blessed Hugh of Fosse. He saw his work as a Bishop and a person of noble birth to be the intermediary between the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor and to advance the spread of the Catholic faith into new European territories. With each turn in his life, Saint Norbert immersed himself in the work, though it may not have been according to his personal plan. In return, he was highly successful in accomplishing so much in his last, less than twenty years of his life.
If we can embrace the charism of Saint Norbert and think of his life as an example of how we might live ours in this time of change and reflection, I think we will be happier, because we will have accomplished great things that we could not even imagine. Let go and let God.
Continue to be well and be safe,
Michael A. Marinelli, Ed.D. ‘76
Head of School