Father Daniel Bedel
Priest and Pastor
St. Margaret Mary and St. Patrick Parishes
Exhaustion. I feel it in my bones as I sit to type this reflection. It was a long day. “A long day.” Such an odd phrase. But my experience in ministry is that most people I encounter have “long days.” Long…yes. But apparently not long enough! Oh, how I wish there were 26 hours in the day, but then I’d wish for 28! So much time and so little to do. Wait. Strike that. Reverse it.
For a long time now, I thought I was alone in this sentiment.
"I thought it was the life of the priest that I was feeling — the constant grind of meeting an infinite need with finite resources. But I’m not alone..."
So many feel this weight. So many are exhausted at the end of “long days.” Exhausted with school. Exhausted with work. Exhausted with family, friends, annoyances, boredom, anxiety, worry, doubt, depression, etc. etc. etc. Exhausted with Life.
But exhaustion is not what I’m here to talk about (thankfully). I’m here to talk about the Theme of 2020. Many years have dedicated themes. 2010 was the Year of Priests. 2013 was the Year of Faith. 2016 was the Year of Mercy. But as far as I know, 2020 has remained conveniently un-themed.
Sure, it’s a bit late, (being mid-February as I pen this encyclical), but I am officially making 2020 the Year of Quiet Joy.
Now you may be asking yourself: why a theme? Great question. I have found in my short time upon this globe that every year when I make New Year’s resolutions for myself, I inevitably fail. Usually, because my goals are far too specific and unreasonably difficult. So, rather than resign myself to failure, I’m taking a cue from the Church. When you pick a theme, you’re really saying: “This is something important that I want to be aware of this year. This is something that when given a choice of how to spend my time/energy/life, and I’m going to choose whatever best goes with my theme.”
For example: When I find myself waiting patiently in the car as a train rolls leisurely by, I can either;
A) Get out my phone a scroll through something mind-numbing and pointless;
B) Yell at said train about how late I am and how horribly unfair life is and Dear God why would you allow this to happen to your faithful servant!
C) I can think, “Yes! This is the year of Quiet Joy! I’m going to take advantage of this opportunity to find joy in this silent moment.”
I didn’t plan for that moment. I didn’t take time out of my schedule for that moment. I simply followed my theme.
Second question: why Quiet Joy? Oh, for lots of reasons. I suppose at some level it was inspired by Cardinal Sarah’s book The Power of Silence or the movie Into Great Silence about the lives of Carthusian monks. At another level, I find Quiet Joy fascinating.
"What is Quiet Joy? It’s knowing the secret that God is ultimately in control when all the world seems to be in chaos..."
For me, its smiling at the inherent comedy of life. It’s taking time to notice how amazingly beautiful the color red is. It’s listening to the silence of snowfall and how soft the world can become. It’s simply being in the presence of friends without any expectation of being anything but yourself. It’s being a kid again, and all the noise and horror of life disappears as you wonder at the beauty of God’s Creation. And if His Creation is so beautiful—full of wonder—then what does that say of God?
But simply being Quiet isn’t good enough. “Mindfulness” isn’t good enough. Not on its own. I’ve tried that. You’ve got to go deeper. You have to feel out the ancient things. The things from before time. You have to intuit what is absolutely right. The way things were supposed to be.
Do you ever wonder what it is about the sound of a baby laughing that is so contagious? It’s pure. It’s not motivated by anything except pure joy. Because for that baby, nothing else matters at that moment. All the basic functions of life have been fulfilled (food, water, warmth, shelter, etc.). All that remains is to enjoy the wonder and spontaneity of life. They don’t know why they laugh. Neither do scientists. No one seems to understand why babies laugh. But they do. Because at the very core of our being, we were meant to be joyful. We were meant to smile. We were meant to laugh.
As an adult, we quickly lose that. We become exhausted. We can allow our joy to be taken from us. Quiet is not exhausting. Neither is Joy. Neither is God. These things give life. And I want 2020 to be a year of life! The year of God’s Life flowing through me and into those I serve!
Now it’s your turn. Pick a theme. As I said, 2020 is conveniently un-themed. Will this be the Year of Marian Devotion? The Year of St. Joseph the Worker. The Year of Little Ways. The Year of Wholesomeness. The Year of the Poor. The Year of Standing Up. The Year of Learning.
The Year of Holiness.
God—for some unknown reason—has granted you this year to live. He didn’t have to. But He did. And He did it on purpose. And I am eternally grateful He did.