Reflections on a decade of my life: 2020

Another decade opens up for me.  Thank God that he allowed me to see more of this century.  If I were told in 2010 that I would spend my birthday in 2020 at home, I wouldn’t be surprised.  But if I were told in 2010 that on that day, I would be 2.5 years away from priestly ordination, I wouldn’t believe it.  In 2009, I received an undeniable call to the priesthood, but incidents made me think that God was saying not yet.

God needed to send me into Texas, reactivate my faith, insert me into a community of Catholic friends, bring out the whale to discern my vocation better, direct me to the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and grow deeper in my love for the Virgin Mary.  Yes, I suppose that would take 10 years.

Before I lead the walk down memory lane, here are my 2020 goals.

Goals

Looking back at my goals from last year, I see that they are still valid with a few tweaks.

Hang out with someone in my religious community twice a month.  This past fall, Fr. Tom suggested that the theology students randomly pair up with someone for a walk on Friday evenings.  I appreciated those walks as I learned more about the newly professed brothers.  But as winter entered and academics picked up, that was dropped.  Of course, naturally, moments arise when two of us spend more together.  During early in Christmas break, Br. Jorge and I hung out a lot.  But having a basic structure is better than nothing.  This is a a good question for me to ask halfway through the month: Who haven’t I talked to in a long time?

Plan the next day before bed.  I am always reminded the usefulness of this goal when I had grown lazy in planning.  More things were accomplished when I had a schedule.  I reviewed my day planner during my examens (short prayer reflections twice a day).  A brief check-in refocused on priorities and adjusted for interruptions.  This would be a good habit to restart.

(Not a yearlong goal.  But something I wanted to do for my birthday.)

Help Pure in Heart.  For my birthday this year, I’m seeking donations through Facebook to Pure in Heart-America. I’ve chosen this nonprofit because I have known the organization and leaders for the past few years. Their mission can help young people toward happy lives and happy marriages.  If you believe in happy lives and happy marriages, please donate.

Nostalgia

For a 2019 recap, look at my previous entry: My top blog themes for 2019.   What events can I pull out from a decade?  Obviously, my first profession has to be on top.

first profession
Me in my new habit at the Profession of First Vows at St. Clement Eucharistic Shrine in Boston on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017.

The graces from that first profession continue to flower in my life.  However, I can’t avoid the hard knocks along the way to be a better brother to my religious community.  Each day, the Virgin Mary encourages me to be her Oblate for the renewal of the world.  In what way?  She has a better idea than I do.  But novitiate was formative in many ways.

From way, way back, here are the first two entries of this blog when it was known as Jonas’ Essential Matters.  I added to each entry a photo from the time.

arch
Farewell to the West. I go through the arch to the East. Kathleen Shea, née Brett photographed me at the Gateway Arch St. Louis on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014.
  1. Ten reflections from Boston road trip: That was the beginning of my journey toward seminary life.
    Father Greg and Mary
  2. Love a little more: I had my first lesson in fraternal love in a religious community.  I wrote more about Fr. Greg Staab, OMV when he died in 2018.

“These are the best days of my life.”  

That motto ran throughout my 2012-13 fight against rectal cancer.  My primary care physician was surprised to hear me say that.  When the cancer diagnosis had begun to sink in, I felt that my life was over.  But those words welled up in me.  I couldn’t explain why then.  But those days would open me up to say yes to God’s call for me and the flowering of graces in my life.

That attitude toward cancer was captured in my Toastmasters speech in 2013 during my chemo treatments.

I cringed now, seeing this speech.  But it expressed how I was handling the hardships with God-given optimism.  I never talk about my cancer fight these days because I don’t want that to define me.  I am an Oblate of the Virgin Mary who gives everything to Jesus through Mary’s hands.

Conclusion

David, a seminary classmate, said to me before the New Year’s Eve Mass, “Here’s to the Roaring ’20s.”  No matter how we label this decade, I put it all under God’s providential hands.  Yes, there are problems in the world.  We might rant and yell about them.  But do you still trust that God still maintains and provides for His Creation?  How is God asking you to use the talents He gave you for building the Kingdom of God this year?

God bless.

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