Let’s Share a Pint for Auld Lang Syne: Padre Steve Remembers 2010

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
and surely I’ll buy mine !
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Second verse of Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year from Padre Steve

In his book A Tale of two Cities Charles Dickens wrote “that it was the best of times and the worst of times” and I think that for many people the year 2010 matched that description quite well. I know for me it has been a year marked by the recovery of faith and personal achievement muddled with failure and loss, life and death, opportunity and disappointment.  It has been a year of personal growth but not without pain, it has been a year where I began to feel joy again but also the pain of loss with the passing of my dad.  It was a year of transition as I left the church that I had served for 14 years as a Priest and a change of duty assignments with a promotion.  It has been better than the past few years but not without its difficulties. It has been the best of times and the worst of times.

It has been the same for many people that I know, friends and family have had similar experiences this year and for many of them 2010 has been exceptionally painful and fraught with tragedy, suffering and great loss.  Having shared these times with friends I know that there is little that can be said except to sit quietly with them.  Having experienced such times since returning from Iraq I know that it was the people that were there for me that didn’t have the answers that were the most helpful.

2010 was difficult for many around the world due to war, economic crisis and natural disasters.  Close to home over 700 American and other NATO troops were killed fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the war there will certainly continue with casualties likely to rise as the intensity of combat increases. For those that return with injuries that affect them in body, soul and spirit the war does not go away simply because they have returned home.  The past for those of us that have experienced war tends to always remain in the present and cloud our vision of the future.

The English poet Thomas Hood penned this poignant verse which I think encompasses what many have gone through in 2010 but with the hope that 2011 will be kinder to all of us.

And ye, who have met with Adversity’s blast,
And been bow’d to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass’d
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury –
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen.

The passing of the Old Year and beginning of the New Year always is a time of reflection for me looking back as well as looking forward. For those that have experienced a loss in the past year the time can be filled with pain because the hole left in our lives by the loss is not filled. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in “Creation Fall and Temptation” something that means much to me and which I often paraphrase when conducting the funeral or memorial service for a young person.  It is a quote born of wisdom and which recognizes the loss and holds it dear.

“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”

The marking of the New Year and remembrance of the old with our friends and families is important, something that binds us together in ways that are both personal and spiritual.  While for many the coming of the New Year is marked by drunken revelry I think that it is best spent quietly with friends and family if at all possible.  I remember New Year’s Eve of 2008 in Iraq when I celebrated it quietly with Father Jose Bautista after returning from my two week journey to the Syrian Border. We celebrated quietly watching movies and drinking non-alcoholic beer, they only kind that we were allowed to drink.

I found then that the New Year is a time to be human as God intends us to be living in the real world because it is God that wants us to, caring for each other and not avoiding life, but living in its joy and sorrow, triumph and tragedy, love and loss.  As Bonhoeffer wrote: “I’m still discovering, right up to this moment, that it is only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith. I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. In so doing, we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God.”

To live in the moment with those that we love in the real world and to know that God loves the real world, both the good and the bad, not our idea of an ideal human, but real people just as they are. God loves this real world not an ideal world of our imaginations, but the real world. This world and humanity that we are often tempted to shrink back from with pain and hostility is the real world.  It is imperfect and often unjust, but it is the world that we are called to live in that is for God the ground of unfathomable love.

2010 was a difficult year and for me the best of times and the worst of times but it is what it is and maybe 2011 while certain to have its share of sorrow will be better for all of us.  I think some of what I feel can be summed up in the song Happy New Year by Abba.  The song is somewhat melancholy but it is real.

No more champagne and the fireworks are through

Here we are me and you feeling lost and feeling blue

It’s the end of the party and the morning seems so grey

So unlike yesterday now’s the time for us to say…

Happy new year, Happy new year May we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy new year, Happy new year may we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don’t we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Sometimes I see how the brave new world arrives

And I see how it thrives in the ashes of our lives

Oh yes, man is a fool and he thinks he’ll be okay

Dragging on, feet of clay never knowing he’s astray

Keeps on going anyway…

Happy New Year, Happy New Year may we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy new year, Happy new year may we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don’t we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Seems to me now that the dreams we had before

Are all dead, nothing more than confetti on the floor

It’s the end of a decade in another ten years time

Who can say what we’ll find what lies waiting down the line

In the end of eighty-nine…

Happy new year, Happy new year may we all have a vision now and then

Of a world where every neighbor is a friend

Happy new year, Happy new year may we all have our hopes, our will to try

If we don’t we might as well lay down and die

You and I

Abba Happy New Year Video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcLMH8pwusw

As I look to the New Year and remember the old I do pray that 2011 will be better for everyone those here are home and those in harm’s way in combat zones.  As someone once said:  “Here’s a toast to the future, A toast to the past, and a toast to our friends, far and near. May the future be pleasant; The past a bright dream; May our friends remain faithful and dear.”


Padre Steve+


Filed under faith, Loose thoughts and musings

10 responses to “Let’s Share a Pint for Auld Lang Syne: Padre Steve Remembers 2010

  1. John Erickson

    It is a sad truth that our world is always a comparison. We cannot appreciate pleasure without pain, gain without loss, friendship without being truly alone. New Year’s Eve has been a special time of reflection for me, ever since 1988 when I proposed to a truly wonderful lady who has blessed me by being my wife. 2010 has definitely had its’ ups and downs, but the best way to gauge is to load ALL the good onto one pan, and ALL the bad into the other. If your scale tips even slightly toward the good, then celebrate. If not, look forward to better days. My scales this year are definitely in the positive, thanks in large part to you, Padre.
    So may you find your scales well tilted for the better. May the storms of this year become the wind at your back in 2011. May all those you care for, find their way to home, peace and long life. And may you continue to find life’s scales tipped in your favour. Godspeed, Padre, Thank You, and Happy New Year!

  2. padresteve

    Thanks John, Happy New Year and a blessed 2011!

  3. afrankangle

    First time visitor here. Appears to be a place I bookmark to return. Most importantly, Happy 2011 & blessings for the days ahead.

    • John Erickson

      Afrankangle- I notice your Gravatar mentions you live in Ohio. Mind if I ask which part? I’m over by the Coshocton/Millersburg/West Lafayette area, about 2 hours east of Columbus. Just curious, feel free to refuse a location. I understand the desire for privacy. 🙂

      • afrankangle

        John … I’m in the Cincinnati area. Thanks for asking.

      • John Erickson

        Aw rats. Here I was hoping for somebody nearby, with whom I could have an INTELLIGENT conversation in person. Not that the folk around here aren’t nice. Just that, when the concept of a higher education means you actually graduated high school, and a genius means a couple semesters at the local trade school, well…… Don’t mean to sound like an intellectual prude. Trust me, I’ve learned tons more outside school than I ever did in. I just tire of a world where the two hot topics are Ford’s latest pickup and OSU’s standing in the polls. Oh well, I’ll just stick to terrorising you via our VERY patient host. The Padre can vouch for my demented state… 😉

  4. afrankangle

    Being originally from down along the river in SE Ohio, I understand not only what you are saying, but also how you don’t mean any disrespect.

    • John Erickson

      Like I say, the folks around here are …. interesting. Where else can you have a Methodist pastor who is both a former Navy wife AND a former Detroit social worker, tending to a flock that includes, I kid you not, my neighbor “the goat guy”? Seriously, about 3 people in town know his name, but the side of his backyard adjoins the back of mine, and I save gas and effort mowing the lawn by letting one of the goats come graze. Yeah, Chicago has it charms, but how many Chicagoans have a best friend with cloven hooves and horns? (Be nice, no “Chicagoans as devils jokes 😉 ) And everybody just calls him “the goat guy”. Guess it beats the 1,500+ pound Angus that wandered into the yard of our previous place. Complete with collar and ID tags! I guess the owner had a BEEF with dogs. (Rimshot!)

    • John Erickson

      Whoa! Just re-read my reply. And that, boys and girls, is why you should NOT drive or operate heavy machinery while taking cough syrup and Vicodin together. If you want, Afrankangle, I can translate that into English from … um … gibberish? 🙂

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