I had to borrow a book from my brother-in-law’s shelf to have something to read on my flights home after visiting them last week. I found one – Nathaniel’s Nutmeg – about the spice trade in the fifteen and sixteen hundreds, as European powers, through their explorers and merchants, sought contact and commerce with the spice islands of the East Indies.
In order to reach the islands from Europe, at least by way of the Cape of Good Hope in south Africa, one first had to sail south along the coast, then drift westward across the Atlantic Ocean toward Brazil, where one could catch the trade winds that blew east again toward the passage. This portion of the voyage, drifting across the mid-Atlantic from West Africa almost to South America, was known as the doldrums.
The book shed new light on the original meaning of this terrific word I have long known and used, particularly to describe the period after the Christmas season ends, and before Lent begins. We are all recovering from the exuberance and excess of the holy days, and likely the expense as well. Our goals and expectations are more modest; our entertainments fewer and more restrained. The weather itself contributes to our subdued state. It can feel like we are drifting.
But don’t let those gray skies fool you into thinking it is time to hibernate! An amazing amount of work is going on around here right now. Much of it involves our school, as now is the time to get ready for next year, believe it or not. The Finance Council, Mrs. Wood, and I are putting the finishing touches on our budget and tuition schedule for next year. Everything should be ready to announce to our current families by Tuesday evening, so they can begin looking forward to the new year.
Then we “go public” the week after that. Next Sunday, January 30 will be our school Open House, when we invite everyone who is interested to see what a terrific place and program our school is. That kicks off Catholic Schools Week, with a series of events for the students, faculty, families, and prospective families. If you have children that might benefit from a faith-driven, Christ-centered, forward-looking education surrounded and staffed by a community who cares, please, come take a look. And I can’t say this too often – invite and encourage your neighbors and friends, too!
Teaching our children is only one of the ways we go about the business of being Catholic even in the less festive times of the year. We have to remind ourselves first, and then those friends and neighbors, that everything we teach, do, and celebrate is rooted in the dignity of every human person. So while governments and groups are hunkering down to work on programs and policies, we focus our attention and, we hope, theirs, on the goal of every proper policy or program: human life, its sustenance and protection.
So come to Sunday night’s Vigil in the Church to meditate on this mystery and find strength from Him who is the source of life. We and the Friars did this here for the first time last year, and everyone who came raved about it. The rally and concert afterwards are invigorating. Think about showing up at the March for Life Monday afternoon, too. It is a remarkably positive and encouraging way simply to show that we care about life, especially of the most vulnerable ones.
This year, the period after Christmas and before Lent is as long as it ever gets – two full months – because Easter is so late. It can feel like we are drifting, but like the sailors on those amazingly fragile sailing vessels, we have work to do, and we are doing it.