“Live in the present” is a basic principle of the spiritual life. It is one I have not mastered. “Everything, Everywhere, All at once” better describes my experience. This year, 2023, during which I celebrated 30 years as a priest serves as an excellent example.
On Christmas Day 2022, I turned 66, just as I was about to finish a six-month assignment as a fill-in priest at one of our St. Vincent’s parishes. While doing this I kept VIMS work moving forward, welcomed a new co-worker, Bill, in November, and submitted a request for a transfer to Chicago so I could be closer to DePaul University where I serve as a trustee. One of the luxuries of VIMS work is I can do it from anywhere.
January 2023 found me in Los Angeles helping the pastor of yet another St. Vincent’s parish with planning and re-organizing things. I rather love this kind of work, though, truth be told, I wanted to get away from the first St. Vincent’s. I love being a priest. I love celebrating sacraments. I do not love the culture and rhythms of parish ministry. Consider me a permanent substitute for those who do love parish ministry. I admire them. I’m happy to help. . .and to go home.
Home. . .at Easter, my request finally approved, I moved to Chicago. Well, it was actually on Easter. Very long story short, I pulled into the parking lot of the Vincentian residence in Chicago, next to DePaul’s campus, at 11:30 PM Holy Saturday night and began unpacking. This is not the way most of us celebrate Easter but, back in February, when I was wrapping up things in Los Angeles, I got a call from the superior general of the Vincentians telling me to begin immediately spending half my time in Paris at our motherhouse to keep the renovation project we had started there moving forward, and to speed up the pace. So, part of the reason for the Easter move was that I had spent much of March in Paris getting oriented to this new work while, by the way, continuing to advance the VIMS mission. (See what I mean by everything and everywhere?)
With my 30th anniversary approaching in June, I wondered how to celebrate it. I don’t recall what I finally decided to do as a dear cousin of mine, Phyllis, died that day. I cancelled whatever it was I had planned and got myself to New Jersey. VIMS work came with me and Lindsey and Bill picked up some things I didn’t have time for as I was helping plan a funeral and more. A week later I was back in Paris. My monthly trips there and back continue. (I am writing this on a rainy November day at the Maison Mère.) All of this is made possible thanks to living in the electronic age. Give me an Internet connection and I can keep things moving forward. In 1993, when I was ordained, we had AOL dial-up service. That seems like a lifetime ago.
I never would have imagined the life I live now. I had planned to be a professor of theology in a seminary. That never happened. The steady, quiet world of seminary is a happy memory. While that life appears attractive, this everything, everywhere, all at once life demands the best of me. I’m happy to serve God’s people with the gifts I have been given and to seek and find the very holiness of God in everything, everywhere, and, sometimes, all at once.