Reflections on my birthday: 2016

As I ventured through this decade of my life, I realize that many disregarded ideas in the past have come into fruition. Last year, I mentioned that my sister Anna was right about me heading eastward. Now I see that my mother was on to something.

Eleven years ago, my mother and I took a road trip from Albany, Georgia, to Key West. The conversations on the return drive were heart rendering. I will spare you the details. But one idea stood out. She asked whether I was happy in the newspaper business. I said I was. “I thought you would be a good teacher,” she replied. But teaching never appealed to me. Bureaucracy, large classes and concerns about being too strict were major factors against it.

white board

Yet here I am teaching 6th-grade religious education on Sundays in a parish in Somerville. This past semester of teaching has challenged my teaching partner and me. Being firm in discipline and adjusting to students’ needs were my top challenges. You can read about my misadventures here.  But there is no way to avoid it. Teaching is part of my future duties as a priest. Maybe my mother was on to something after all.

mary's heart
In my childhood church of St. Anthony of Padua, Mary with her heart is surrounded by pictures of the Divine Mercy and Sister Faustina (left) and Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Most powerful moment

The biggest event was a deepening love for the Virgin Mary from my experience on a February retreat in Spencer, Mass. No matter how many times I thought that this love would not reach deeper, I’ve been proven wrong. It’s similar to the discovery that the pond you’ve swum as a kid was connected to a river that flows into the ocean. Every inch of exploration brings endless discoveries and possibilities.

abbey
St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Ma.

Two of the biggest benefits are a stronger love for Jesus and the Eucharist, and more fortitude, tools and self-control against temptations. Of course, some days are better than others. But I definitely have seen steady progress.

I have expanded on this love for Mary in two springtime entries: Marian Consecration and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  Also, National Geographic had Mary on its December 2015 cover.

Goals

I don’t have New Year’s resolutions because I would shift them over to my birthday after weeks of reflection.

The goals from last year were OK. I managed to make progress on them. But they are too general. After reading Matthew Kelly’s book Off Balance  during Christmas break, I saw the need for definite, difficult but doable goals. The book’s assessment questions pinpoint areas that need improving. I have goals gleaned from the book and retained from the start of the school year.

Here are my goals for 2016:

  1. Reduce mistakes during community prayer to twice a week.
  2. Keep food journal on how various foods affect my energy level.
  3. Chat or hang out once a week with someone in my religious community.
  4. Improve collaboration with my religious brothers on the OMV seminarians’ blog and sacristy.
  5. Plan weekly schedule on Sunday evenings.

Let this next year of my life unfold.

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