The universe knew what it was doing when I was baptized as an infant at St. Jude’s Parish, the patron saint of lost causes. And it was no accident that I grew up with a convert running youth ministry and a former ER nurse and single mom coordinating religious education. There were no mistakes when my priest would tell me how he changed his entire life when he decided to serve the Lord, turning from a cutthroat business career. My deacon still worked for the IRS when he wasn’t leading prison ministry or praying with parishioners, and that was no error either. There are no accidents in God’s house.
I learned so many beautiful things from these people, with complicated and sometimes broken pasts. Their lives weren’t wrapped in white ribbon and sitting in store windows, and that was okay. They taught me what love is and that it doesn’t have much to do with a box of chocolates or bouquet of flowers. They showed me that hearts are fragile and people are made to be loved – by their God and each other. They proved to me that sometimes you have to sacrifice what you know to find out what’s true. (Including that the lyrics were apparently “in excelsis deo” not “in eggshells three days old,” but that my joy was the truest thing.)
But most importantly, I learned what it means to be made new. Strong Catholics are experts at beginnings. So many of them have turned from another life and the rest have felt the power of Penance and Reconciliation. Catholicism is unique in that we have an amazing opportunity to tell another human, a representative of God, that we aren’t perfect and hear that it’s okay. For me, that’s what I remember on New Year’s. When the world comes alive with millions of resolutions and gym commercials, I remember my home at St. Jude’s with the misfits and the broken being made new every day. I remember that a clock strike isn’t going to change my life (I am not Cinderella.) but that my choices every day could. Mostly, I just remember that I’m human and I’ll still be human tomorrow and the day after that. I remember to celebrate, because new beginnings are always a beautiful thing, but that it’s okay to not be able to change my life overnight. It’s okay to sing the wrong words joyfully or to refuse midnight kisses. There is no shame in a complicated past or an uncertain future. There’s no shame in being human.
My kind priest died a year ago now, but I know his story and his wisdom are still as true as ever. There will be countless opportunities to start fresh and change. All is not lost if midnight doesn’t feel how you think it should. But if you still feel a little lost during the season of bright and shiny newness? That’s what communities are for. Whether that’s a parish who will push you or a group like TWLOHA and their gorgeous campaign, Welcome to Midnight, there are always people who will sit with you while the sun rises.
Cheers to new beginnings, whenever they may come.