2020 started out just like any other year. I’m still settling into my new life in Santa Rosa to some degree and finally, this year, there was a normalcy to it. The year started out with an annual visit to a silly dog and its owners, good friends in Wilsonville, Oregon and then, on to a presbyteral meeting in Benbow, California. January was rounded out with a retreat at a favorite place, the new Clairvaux monastery in Vina and then, the annual Walk for Life in San Francisco. You see? Just a normal month starting out a normal year. NOT!
February saw the beginning of the renovation of the chapel at the Newman Center. The “chapel” was actually a garage of an old house that had not been well taken care of. Mass was offered there every Sunday at 6:00 p.m. I invite you to take a look at the before and after pictures on my blog to truly appreciate the change that has taken place. There were some interruptions along the way, but it became pretty clear that the new school year would see a new chapel that actually looked like a chapel and not a garage! The renovation included a new wall, new floor, new door and fresh paint. The whole room was then reoriented and a new/old renewed altar and statues were brought over from the St. Eugene’s Parish Life Center. The lighting in the room was adjusted as the finishing touch and then, everything shut down. Thank you, COVID-19.
That fateful month of the shutdown was March. Just 10 days before everything came to a halt, two of our seminarians were ordained to the priesthood. The two young priests celebrated their first masses as Solemn High Masses in the Extraordinary Form. The future definitely looks bright! I will always remember their ordination day as a joyful day for, in addition to welcoming these two good men to the priesthood, I received my Decree of Incardination from the Bishop, making me a full member of the Presbyterate of the Diocese of Santa Rosa.
Soon after, all masses were suspended and everyone got used to televised masses and Zoom meetings. This has been the story of life ever since.
In April, I reflected on the fact that my father’s one hundredth birthday had arrived. Except for a blog post, this occasion passed by almost unnoticed. Death is a moment in time, not in eternity. Dad has been gone for more than 40 years, but he is often remembered in sayings that come out of my mouth that are reminiscent of him.
Holy Week and Easter were unusual and quiet with the lockdown. There was still transformation of the church and decorating going on because the masses were being live-streamed. One of the things that kept things normal for me were the Sisters. I still went to the Convent every day to celebrate mass and that included some Holy Week services. Some Triduum services were held in an empty Cathedral, but the best was in the Convent, with a video camera capturing everything.
Easter dinner was a leg of lamb with tons of garlic, as is traditional, but in the evening, after the dishes were done and the bones placed in a big pot for soup, my next stop was the Emergency Room! Watching pots is not that interesting, so I nodded off, fell of my chair and cracked open my head. Five staples later, I was back at home, recuperating. Welcome to the life of the elderly. I have fallen two more times in subsequent months, which has taught me that I need to be more careful.
All of my vacation plans, of course, had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. Technically speaking, I could have still gone to Italy, but would’ve had to have been quarantined for the first two weeks, so that wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I paid a visit to the Northern California Redwoods and the coast of Oregon to see that silly dog and my friends. The vacation ended with a visit to a friend’s cabin in the Klamath National Forest. All of the pictures, of course, are on my blog.
Life at the moment is very restful: Mass at the Convent during the week and mass outside of the Cathedral on Sunday. I have lots of time for reading and praying. It’s my fervent hope, though, that this lockdown ends soon and that we can celebrate mass indoors again, that the Newman Center will re-open and that the students will return to campus.
I have nothing to complain about. My family Thanksgiving was cancelled due to some family illnesses, but I was able to celebrate with the wonderful Sisters and friends. Christmas with the family is in doubt due to the fact that my niece and her family will be moving to the Sacramento area, but the Lord is taking very good care of me, providing a home with lots of good friends in Santa Rosa.
I almost forgot to mention: I ended the year 35 lbs. lighter than I began it. I am in the best health, blood pressure is normal, and I am surviving with three fewer prescriptions.
Some of my favorite songs are from Advent time. They speak of an unspeakable joy awaited; and enrichment celebrated with extravagant joy. Our God has visited His people. My prayer for you in this time is that God continues to fill you with His most wonderful gifts. In Christ and in His Blood, we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God’s favor to us. (Eph. 1:7). Blessed Christmas!