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.