Wednesday, February 26, 2014


I remember my first day at St. Sebastian.  It was a Tuesday on the feast of St. John the Baptist.  I woke up early in the morning and unlocked the house and welcomed twelve persons from the Parish Finance Council in the door for my first Finance Council meeting.  It was downstairs in the basement around a beautiful old, oak table with carved legs that once served as the dining room table in the convent.  I was nervous of course.  The only members of the council that I had met up to this point had been the president and my business manager.  Most priests with which I had been associated always dreaded Finance Council meetings.  Moaning beginning early in the morning they would let it leak out all during the day like a rusted bucket how much they were going to hate the meeting they were going to that night.
Maybe it was because it was the morning, but I enjoyed the meeting and thought the group was a pretty neat bunch of people.  I remember sitting around the table thinking, “I like these people.  I would like to hang out with them.”  (Truth be told, it took me almost a year to stop dreading Finance Council meetings.  I dreaded them because I had been trained to dread them.  But in the midst of dreading the thought would come, “but you like these people.  What’s the problem?” and the feeling would pass.  Now I know to look forward to them.)

Then it was time for my first morning Mass.  I was impressed that there was an organist and servers and deacon and a nice sized congregation.  The rest of the day was mostly unpacking.  The next day was my first day away (how do you like that!) and I had to return to my former assignment to pick up a few last things and stop at the doctor’s office.  When they asked for my new address I realized I hadn’t the slightest clue and had to call the parish to find out.


Now, everything I just told you is a lie.  Well, it is a lie that I remembered it.  I didn’t.  It was all a whirlwind.  I remember almost nothing about my first days at St. Sebastian.  The reason I can tell you even this much of the story is because I journaled it.  The journal was drug out recently as Fr. Pfeiffer was about to start his first day at his new parish.  “Journal it,” I advised him, “because you are not going to remember it.”  (I don’t think he did.)
That is my advice to guys going through ordination, or people getting married, or any significant event.  When my nephew was taking his first trip abroad I bought him a nice pen and a journal.  “I know you are not going to believe me, but you are not going to remember this.  Please journal on your trip or shortly thereafter.  At least it gives you something to do on the plane.”
Going back to my ordination journal I realized that I had completely forgotten that after the banquet following my first Mass, we had benediction.  And then there were the wonderful memories of the car ride home from the cathedral after ordination with just me and my nephew and the great discussion we had.
God gives us so much joy and so many important things happen to us (interiorly and exteriorly) that absolutely cannot be captured in pictures or video.  In fact, I would say that what is journaled is more important.  Everyone can have a picture of a building or a video of friends skiing down a hill, but there are intimate moments that cannot be captured by electronics.  Awe cannot recorded.  What God is doing in your heart cannot be digitized.  Your thoughts, inspirations, and insights are far too personal. 




MJ said...

When you journal do you journal every day? The reason I ask is because I hate to write. I'm not very good at writing. I have tried journaling and would like to try again. When I try to do it daily I feel like I'm forcing the words, get frustrated and stop writing in my journal at all.

Unknown said...

Very good article Fr. V. I journaled years ago when I was truly struggling. I happened to come across it recently & gave it a look through. It was almost historical how those things were so significant to me then, but now it see them with such a different perspective. It was also so much clearer through my own words what God wanted me to do, but at the time I was blinded by my own pain. I remember thinking 2 months ago when I found my journal that I should start writing in it again. So I am glad that your blog has challenged me to do so. That is why Adams Ale is so important to keep around!! I hope you are well!!

MaryofSharon said...

You are so right! Not only are these journals treasures for the writer. I still have journals that I wrote in my college years, recording all my aspirations and hopes and my doubts and struggles. Very telling and worthy of revisiting from time to time.

But some of these records are even more valuable for those who will come after us. My grandfather was in the Olympics in the summer of 1924 and he kept a diary of all his thoughts and experiences. Every time the Olympics come around, we think of him again. His diary is absolutely fascinating and gives me glimpses into the heritage of not only my physical traits, but of my soul.

For example, here's something he wrote on the steamship on the way to Paris:
"Mass upon the ocean is very inspiring. One needs no urging to realize the vast insignificance of self when compared to the magnificent size of the ocean, and the rest of the Creator's handwork."


"Sunday morning I attended High Mass at the Church of St. Louis in Versailles. The structure is very imposing and large. The ceremony was very solemn and beautiful. A choir composed for the most part of small boys clothed in red habits, white surplices and red skullcaps sang exquisite music, while a beautiful sounding organ accompanied them."


"The grounds and palace of Versailles impressed me so profoundly that I fairly shook with admiration for the artificial beauty that could be seen on every side. I felt as if I was in Paradise. The magnificence of it all forced me to say to myself that I would like to live there in its shadows forever. I don't think man could possibly construct anything more grand than this place."

And of course, there are all the journals and diaries of the saints. What a poverty it would be if we didn't have access to their thoughts and prayers! No Augustine's Confessions and no Therese's Story of a Soul! I hope our current saints-in-the-making are writing now, and I hope it's more than just Facebook statuses and tweets.

Anonymous said...

speaking of lies . . . have you heard the story of the talking dog? . . it's one of the best stories that I have ever heard . . . ask me some time.


Unknown said...

I like this! Though I must say, sometimes one glance at a photo will bring back details of an experience that are worth remembering but seem too trivial at the time to write down. I say, journal and take photos. :-)

Fr. V said...

Every day? If it is striclty a spiritual journal . . .maybe. I know there are people out there who would insist on it. I say journal about once a week - over something yummy to drink or eat. If you write too much (or praddle on because you think you have to) you run the risk of not ever wanting to read it again for having to wade through so much. Do what you enjoy. Sometimes I am every day - sometimes I skip as much as a month.

Yes - pictures often suprise me too Jane!