Who am I?
During my novitiate year, we did several Rochais Sessions which are designed to help us understand ourselves and how we function in relationships. The first session was entitled “Who am I?” I have been pondering that question of late as we deal with the restrictions due to and the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For most of us our identity is intimately tied to our work, to what we do. Our jobs, careers, ministry, etc. often define who we are when we reflect on the question. However, in these days, that is not quite so easy to do. Ministry has changed drastically. As a member of the leadership team for OMI Lacombe Canada Province, for example, a major focus of my ministry was being present in the districts and communities, spending time with the members (vowed Oblates and Associates). That meant that much of my time was spent away from the office and away from Ottawa.
However, I have not left the city since I returned from a meeting in Quebec City on March 16, except for a couple of days away to relax and a day in Montreal for a cousin’s funeral. So without the “work”, the travel entailed with the ministry of leadership I have been feeling a bit at loose ends and that somehow I am not doing what I should be doing. In some ways, I have lost some of the identity that is dependent on my ministry.
Our lives have changed, drastically for some. This is an opportunity to seek answers to the question “Who am I” at a deeper level, going beyond career, ministry and other markers we once used. Given the slower pace and the increased time alone or in small bubbles it is a perfect time to reflect on my identity in relationship with God, with my Oblate community on Nelson Street as well as the broader Oblate community, the community at large and with creation. It is a prime opportunity to reflect on my attitudes toward and responses to the needs of the poor around me, the poor who have become much more visible as jobless and homeless rates increase.
I wouldn’t say that I have had momentous revelations but there have been small insights and new understandings and hopefully some growth along the way. Given the slower pace, I have been focused on spending more time in quiet prayer, reflection on the Word and reading, especially the various writings of Pope Francis. Having had more time to spend gardening, at home and with a friend, as well as spending time outdoors has drawn me into a deeper appreciation of the gifts of creation. While I always enjoyed and appreciated the outdoors, I recognize that I often took that gift for granted and did not cherish and nurture it as I am called to do. The same goes for relationships. It is easy to take friends and community for granted if one is not intentional about nurturing those relationships. Again, no momentous advances, but a growing appreciation and deeper effort at nurturing those relationships. The list could go on, but suffice it to say that the current situation, difficult though it is in so many ways, is a golden opportunity to pause and ask some of the important questions. I pray that I will always be open to the prompting of the Spirit as we continue to live this unique time in our own history.
By Richard Beaudette, OMI