2020 got one heck of a bad rap. Okay, it’s well deserved. But, we’re meant to be a people of thanksgiving, so I’d like to take a moment to focus on what I’m grateful for from this past year — and to actually recognize that there are many things to be grateful for which are unique to 2020 precisely because it was a difficult year.
As St. Paul tells us in one of my favorite scripture passages, “we also celebrate in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
Thus, without further ado, here are five reasons I’m grateful for the year many hail as the worst year ever – 2020:
1. A New Prayer Cenacle
I had been thinking about doing this for eight years. Maybe more. Yes, I had the mom’s group at my church — a wonderful group of ladies I thoroughly enjoy. I found myself longing for something smaller and deeper, however, and I hoped for something that might involve the entire family.
The feeling that I needed to just do it kept mounting, and, together with my dear friend Tina, we finally took the plunge. Our little cenacle started as four moms, praying the Rosary together once a week followed by uplifting, faith-filled conversation that goes well beyond the surface. We added bi-weekly nights together with our families, including dinner, fellowship, and a group Rosary led by the children. We’ve added another mom and her family, and will be adding still another at our next meeting. Hailing from three different parishes, we are six moms, six fathers, and nineteen kids. With two babies on the way!
Aided by a babysitter and Tina’s kid-friendly house and amazing hostessing skills, in the past five months, we’ve shared some of the best discussions I’ve had in my entire life. The deep spirituality of these women leaves my mind spinning. I feel immense gratitude that I can be in the presence of such positive examples, and it was the events of 2020, when prayer became more important than ever, that finally tipped the scales and got it all started.
2. My “One Word” was Nothing Short of Prophetic
Surrender. That was my “one word” for 2020, and boy did it serve me well. Schools shut down and I said, “I’d asked for less chaos in our lives, Lord. This wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but… thank you.” Churches closed, and – while literally bawling my eyes out after receiving the Eucharist for what I knew would be the last time for a while – I said, “You will make good come from this, Lord.” Speaking engagements and personal history projects canceled and I said, “I trust in you to provide, Lord.”
Surrender was exactly what I needed, and the example my family needed. It’s what our Lord asks of each of us. This year He gave us all ample opportunities to practice it — or not. I was incredibly blessed to have the grace of already having the word on my lips, the concept in my mind, the prayer on my heart. Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.
3. The “Pray” Novena App
In a normal year, I probably pray twelve novenas, maybe fifteen, max. Not this year. This year, I discovered the Pray app, and I prayed not fifteen, not twenty, but twenty-seven novenas.
Most noteworthy? Perhaps the Our Lady of Sorrows novena, in which I asked Our Lady to reveal to me my deepest fault (following advice from Fr. Chad Ripperger). On the day I finished the novena, my deepest fault was revealed. It struck to the core and was one of the best spiritual exercises I did for the year. I also prayed a novena to St. Joseph for provision, and got a call from a new client the next day. And, of course, I prayed the Surrender novena several times. It brought me peace and increased surrender each time!
This was all thanks to the Pray app. It provides a wealth of novenas, sends reminders, keeps track of what novenas you’ve prayed and when. Available for both Apple and Android, I loved it so much a sprang for the “canonization partner” upgrade so I’d have access to more novenas. I highly recommend you download it. (And, no, I’m not getting anything in return for my endorsement!)
4. More Time with Family
It doesn’t matter how many kids you have, how helpful your spouse might be, how much you love your job, or what sort of awesome community you’re a part of. Life in the 21st century has a tendency to get off the rails with busy-ness. That’s absolutely how things felt in early March, when I had five kids who often needed to be five different places, a hubby who needs help getting to work, a business to run, a house to clean, groceries to shop for, yadda, yadda, yadda.
And then it all came to a screeching halt. No school. No CYO sports. No meetings. No… anything. Seriously, I looked around and saw my entire family at home day after day, night after night, and I said, Thank you, Lord. While, okay, I admit to absolutely hating trying to support kids during elearning, and oviously not having the Mass was awful, the rest of it was… a breath of fresh air. I intentionally set my work aside, for the most part, and focused on my family. We played games, we took walks, we prayed, we talked. It was lovely, and I’ll forever be grateful for those months in which bonds were forged which will never be broken.
5. The Winnowing Away of that Which is Unimportant
In difficult times, we must choose that which is most important to us. 2020 was a year for such choices. I gave some things up. Time spent that wasn’t aiding in my path to sainthood. Money spent that wasn’t adding to our financial well-being. There’s more winnowing to do, but it’s progress, and I’m grateful for the necessity to have made it.
How about you? What are you most grateful for in 2020? Please share in the comments!