When I interviewed for the job of Vice-Chancellor at Bethlehem University in 1993, one of the questions was “How do you handle uncertainty?”. I am not sure what I answered at the time, but when I arrived in the Holy Land, I quickly learned that the question was entirely appropriate. Our unofficial motto was: “Bethlehem University: where the normal is impossible.” We understood this motto as a working philosophy, given the uncertainty and instability in the social, religious, educational and political milieu. Amidst that uncertainty, we Brothers were fully committed and at peace. We, of course, did have to learn how to live our daily lives in those circumstances filled with strikes, closures, violence, and constant interruption of what we expect everywhere else as “ordinary” lives. …and we did. Prayer certainly helped. Our Superior General Br. John Johnston said to me before appointing me, that I should not accept or go unless I was deeply spiritual. This was the best and most appropriate advice I have ever had. With a good community of Brothers and friends, we did indeed practice being deeply spiritual. Being in the Holy Land helped, as a spiritual and geographical background. But encountering the daily challenges and surprises required a deep spiritual grounding.
I think the same advice applies to our situation today. We face economic uncertainty worldwide; political stalemate; societies and communities divided on all sorts of issues; and unwillingness to hold real civil dialogue. Many feel that they have lost the normal in their lives, whether in areas of religion, sexuality, economic stability, politics, and many other areas. You name it. These times are unsettling for families and students, who worry about access to and the affordability of higher education.
And being deeply spiritual is a challenge in this multicultural, busy and distracting society. But if we are to be ready to expect the unexpected and the lack of the “normal”, we have to pray and find a deep spiritual foundation. And not lose our sense of humor.