When I first joined the St. Michael’s community five years ago, I would take time during the summer days to wander the campus. I needed to find my way through the various courtyards. I wanted to become familiar with the environment that everyone spoke so highly of. What struck me was how peaceful the campus was. That continues to be an appropriate word to describe our unique environment. Yes, it can be noisy with more than 350 students and adults during the day, but the peacefulness remains.
Peacefulness is the virtue we are talking about this closing month of the school year. What a perfect topic as we head toward summer. The world is a very hectic place, and our students lead very busy and often chaotic lives. Our faculty and staff work very hard, often into the late hours of the evening. Stress levels can be high at various times of the year, and the end of the year certainly has its fair share. But at St. Michael’s we have many places that help to restore the soul. On Monday, I asked the students what creates a sense of peacefulness on our campus. Immediately hands went up with lots of ideas: The wetlands with the small waterfall. The many plants and flowers throughout the campus. The courtyards with the fountains. The beautiful chapel that welcomes us to worship. And I had to agree. What a gift it is that our students can come to school in an environment that offers peaceful, tranquil beauty. What a gift to work in such a place.
I invited the students to take time when life is hectic or stressful to pause for just two minutes in a courtyard, by the wetlands, or when they are in chapel. Take just a moment to breathe deeply, observe the beauty, pause, and be still. In that moment, one’s soul can be refreshed, nerves can be calmed, and a sense of peacefulness can be restored.
Often we don’t realize the gifts that we have in this place until we are no longer here. So I shared a story of an alum I recently saw. We ran into each other in St. Michael’s Church one Sunday morning. After we caught up with school and family news, I asked what brought her that day to St. Michael’s, which is not her church home. She said, “I just really wanted to be back in this church. I’ve missed it, and it was such a special place when I was here.” Peacefulness. Sacred places. Places that restore the balance. St. Michael’s is filled with them. How special that we can work, learn, play, and pray in an environment that offers peacefulness on a daily basis. Feel free to slow down. Breathe deeply from time to time, for God is present here.