My dear colleagues:
How do you get some refreshment and renewal in the Advent
and Christmas, High Holy Days, Lent and Easter seasons if
you’re one of the people who has to make it happen for all
the others? How do leaders survive these onslaughts of stress,
strain and lack of down-time?
Just before Christmas I set aside an evening to listen to a
performance of some music that I really want to hear, even
if it means buying a ticket! (For a couple of years I found
spiritual and artistic nourishment when attending the late
night performances of Messaien’s La Nativite, which Jonathan
Dimmock performed locally at St Ignatius Catholic Church.
They were very special events for me and a real artistic and
spiritual gift to the community.) In mid Holy Week I try to
attend an evening service of Tenebrae at Grace Cathedral. I
make time to listen to one of the great Passion settings by
Bach, often on CD, during the weeks before Easter.
I also make the habit of seeking spiritual counseling and
make regular, if not frequent visits to the sacrament of
penance (confession). I find that these practices help feed my
soul and help prepare me for the enormous amount of work in
these busy seasons.
Another practice I make is the frequent and meticulous
creation of memoranda on the various happenings at each
of the special services of the season. I have a small liturgical
committee at church and we meet to discuss all that went on,
and these discussions are added to my notes.
I include such facts as how many attended each service; how
many programs were printed and whether we need fewer
or more; who helped, who provided food; what were the
unforeseen struggles; who was late; whether the music choices
fitted the liturgy; what was said afterwards; and many more
areas. For instance, did the Great reeds stay in tune?
This note-taking may seem obsessive and time consuming,
but it has proved a benefit in a number of ways. First, it is
cathartic for me; I can leave the church after the service and
have already unloaded any woes that I may have. It provides a
very useful list for sending notes of gratitude after the season; it provides a great planning tool for the next year. It’s a very simple and effective aide memoire.
It is also easy to overlook such vital life-giving practices as adequate sleep and good food. I make a practice of avoiding all fast and processed food as well as drink. Always.
I encourage you to examine whether you feed your artistic and spiritual sides before the climax of these great seasons; whether you look after your physical selves during the extended working hours and gather with others to celebrate afterwards and make positive notes on what actually happened.
I truly hope that you were able to grow through the spring and are ready to blossom this summer.
Simon C. Berry