01 January 2017

On Journals and Journaling: New Year's Wishes and Prayers

 Yesterday I finished filling a journal and prepared to begin a new one. It was strange finishing one book at the end of the year just a day away from the beginning of a new year. These two things don't usually coincide so neatly. Meanwhile, I don't know how others feel about this kind of thing but for me opening a fresh journal is always a bit difficult as I prepare to write the first entry on the first page of a virgin notebook. Moreover, leaving the older journal behind usually feels like leaving a trusted companion behind; my journals are the place where I write, reflect, do the growth work and spiritual direction work needed for appointments with my director and delegate, make notes on significant prayer experiences, keep copies of drawings and cards from friends which mark my journey, etc. Figuratively speaking they can be kind of blood-stained: my latest one sports repairs to the spine, is cobbled together with laminating plastic, clamshell clips, and silicon bands ---and is three times as thick as it was before I started writing in it. To close a journal for the last time (except for those times needed to review bits of it) and pick up a new book is always poignant and just a tiny bit resistance-producing for me. And it is exciting as well.
Every day really is a new beginning and some events as well as some holidays help us realize this. At every moment God calls us by name to begin a life of newness (kainete) with "him". At every moment God offers us a fresh chance to grow and heal and fulfill the potentialities we carry deep within us. As Catholic Christians we celebrate the truth of this reality by spending Advent and Christmas times in a more especially focused way. According to our civic calendars we celebrate this with attention to the New Year and to resolutions and intentions for more focused and responsible living. The pattern each of these sets for us is the pattern of openness to the new, responsiveness to the creative Spirit of God --- obedience, once again, to our deepest selves, our deepest truth and potentials, a pattern of listening and responding deeply to the presence of God within us.
In this way we work with God to compose yet another "journal" record, another chapter in a long journey spent seeking God and the fulfillment of God's will in the realization of our identities as Daughters and Sons of God in Christ. So too do we thus close the cover on an older chapter of our lives and at the same time bring all that we have become into the present moment. In this way we become people who rest in the dynamism of a future which belongs entirely to God --- we come, that is, to rest in the future which IS God.
My prayer on this first day of 2017 is that we each have the courage and feel the excitement of moving into the future even though it may mean letting go of some well-loved "companions" on our journey. May we not hesitate to commit ourselves to filling page after fresh page of our journey with God --- for how ever long we are privileged to do so. And may we each come to see and celebrate the awesome beauty of a "life-journal" whose ink-stained pages are marked, occasionally marred, but, incredibly, are "cobbled together" and most profoundly inspired by the grace of God in ways which are entirely unique and unrepeatable.
My very best wishes to you each and all for a wonderfully grace-filled and fruitful New Year.
Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio
Stillsong Hermitage
Diocese of Oakland
(St. Perpetua's Catholic Community)