The Time Between

Late spring and early summer is a time between big events and the laid-back spirit of vacation. In the church calendar, it’s the post-Pentecost season that has the dreary title of Ordinary Time. Happily, the presence of the Holy Spirit in this season is the silent breath of life.

The big events of late spring are anything but ordinary; they include weddings, first communions, confirmations, graduations, and class reunions. Early summer is no less eventful. Among the Ursulines of the Eastern Province, the initiative to forge a single, new province from the four existing geographically distinct provinces of the U.S.A. will take a step forward in July.

But let me single out one of the late spring events that serves as a benchmark and deserves a second look. A forty year anniversary. So long ago that the details may have fallen from recall.

In universities and colleges all over the U.S., the class of 1970 lived through a tumultuous time on college campuses. Students took unprecedented measures to express their dissent over the Vietnam conflict. On some campuses students occupied administration buildings, and the sight of administrators being forced from their offices was shocking. The National Guard in Ohio was brought in at Kent State University, with mortal consequences. For many students commencement was troubled; dark discontent was the mood.

Fast forward to 2010, and the Class of 1970-or some members of that class-¬Ěreturned to be part of the rituals of reunion. The fortieth reunion alumni/ae are in their sixties now, with life experience stored up over the years. Most are grandparents.

I joined one class for its reunion. What joy they expressed in seeing old classmates, updating old friends, and reflecting on the years since they were students. Talk about the upheavals of their final year of college was reflective and judgments measured. In fact, not everyone had attended commencement. And only a small contingent returned for reunion. Few wanted to rake through the remains of their last months before commencement. Their lives have gone on.

For some reason, I want to remember. Not to stir up the anguish of those days. The moral ardor, principled discussions and choices, willingness to dissent from received wisdom, all those qualities are part of the roots from which young lives grew to adulthood, with complexities over a lifetime. As a former teacher and advisor, I shared their life for a time, hoping that I nourished their roots so that they’d grow and flourish as their unique selves. Teaching is such a profound act of hope. I know that my contribution to students’ lives is only one and small in the scheme of things. But how satisfying to see what they become. The reunion for me was great joy.

That’s why I wanted to be part of their reunion: to celebrate their lives-in Ordinary Time.

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