Spring fever made its ugly appearance at Saint John’s last week, and it was especially virulent. Many of us were totally unprepared for the idyllic weather, while the early spring flowers and a dusting of spruce pollen reminded those with allergies that winter’s truce was over. By week’s end I had lost all ambition to do anything. Since I no longer work in the classroom, I at least had the option to run and hide for a day or two. But it still left me deeply sympathetic to the plight of my colleagues and their students. How do they manage to stay in the battle when the urge to do nothing is overwhelming?
In his Rule Saint Benedict makes not a single comment about the beauty of springtime. I can’t imagine that he was oblivious to it, nor was spring absent from the Umbrian landscape where he lived. The fact is, much of Italy is lovely all year long, but the spring blossoms still act as a wake-up call, even at Monte Cassino. Even so, Benedict makes no mention of any of it, save for a passing reference to lengthening days.
Lest we give up on Benedict entirely, it’s important to remember that he does comment on the comings and goings of the seasons, via the liturgical calendar. After the doldrums of Lent, there is an abrupt change of tone with the Easter season. On Holy Saturday morning it’s all lamentations, but by evening he’s flipped on the switch and alleluias pervade the air. Liturgically it’s the equivalent of waking up from a deep slumber, and you run the risk of a serious overdose of joy.
There’s a certain irony that comes with Easter and spring fever, and it hasn’t been lost on me during the past week. Through much of the school year I scarcely glance at the University’s events calendar. There’s always plenty going on, but as much as I would like to take part in some of it, who’s got the time? Now, with a lighter personal schedule, I no longer have the energy or the ambition. This may be what the Bible has in mind when it reads that “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”
But the irony does not stop here. Just when many of us lose the drive to do much of anything, the entries on the events calendar multiply drastically. All of a sudden, there’s way too much good stuff from which to choose, just at the point when you’d like to sit it all out. From out of the wood-work comes an overabundance of senior oboe, organ and voice recitals. There’s way too many honors thesis defenses. And then there are spring sports, like baseball, and events like the Mom Prom, sponsored annually by the campus council of the Knights of Columbus. What’s a person to choose from?
Thankfully, I did not cash it all in and give up on life this last weekend. I’ll admit to skipping the Mom Prom, but I did sit still long enough to take in a concert in the Great Hall, delivered by a visiting high school choir from Bililngs, MT. I also dragged myself to our new baseball park to see Saint John’s best Carleton in the first of a doubleheader. Later I took a long hike, and en route I paid a call on our four new colonies of bees. And I swept by the maple sugar shack, now quiet and closed for the season, after processing 350+ gallons of syrup this spring.
I also caught myself regretting the all-too-quick passage of time. What sparked that was a scan of the various senior thesis defenses coming up in the next few days. Most titles were beyond my skill set, including “The Induced Heart Rate Response to Fish Kairomes in Daphnia Pulex.” But in the case of the latter, it was the name of the author that caught my eye. Four years ago I had interviewed this guy when he came as a high school senior to apply for a Trustee Scholarship. Four years had passed and I’ve not seen him since; but it’s nice to speculate that his experience at Saint John’s has turned out well.
Through the years I’ve reminded myself that if I don’t show up, I don’t get to play the game. I’ve meant that to be an incentive to do my duty and make an appearance, even when I’d rather be somewhere else. But it’s a reminder, too, that good things will still happen, whether I’m there or not. So I may as well make the effort, and I might just reap the reward.
Spring fever is the seductive temptation to skip out on all sorts of things. But it’s also insidious, because it frames life in either/or propositions. Either I sit back and enjoy the beauties of spring, or I put my nose to the grindstone and make the most of every opportunity. But Saint Benedict, ever the believer in moderation and balance, would likely pose the options differently. “Why not just go ahead and do a little of both?” I wish I had thought of that sooner. But it’s never too late.
+On April 17th Abbot John, University President Michael Hemesath and calligrapher Donald Jackson presented the seventh volume of the Apostles Edition of The Saint John’s Bible to Pope Francis in Rome. This completes the delivery of the set that has been contributed to the Vatican Library; and through the years we were privileged to present individual volumes to Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and now Francis.
+On April 14th I gave a presentation to the chaplains of the American Association of the Order of Malta, at a meeting in New York City.
+On April 15th I spoke on The Saint John’s Bible at Concordia University in St. Paul, MN.
+On April 16th and 17th I taught classes in monastic history to the novices of the monastery.
+On April 18th I presided at the Abbey Mass, and you can access Service to the Poor of the Church, via this link.