I am finally finished with a pretty intense first semester of classes at Oblate for my second year of Master's work, wrapped up the first half of my 5th year with the friars, and I am now at my parent's house in New Jersey. It has been both a challenging yet joyful semester, one of growth and of hope for me. I survived 5 finals (by God's grace) and am prepping for next semester ahead of me. Some highlights from the past months include welcoming Ian and Mario to our house of formation, the ordination of two of our friars to the priesthood (Frs. Justin and Eric), working with the RCIA process for my ministry, practicing the Sacrament of Baptism both in Spanish and English (wearing the vestments, praying the ritual, and "baptizing" a doll), and lastly finding out that I am going to Costa Rica for the summer and my apostolic year (which is next year) as well as visiting our Mission in Jamaica. So needless to say I have learned a lot about myself and my vocation over the last couple of months.
Now onto my first full day home for Christmas break...It was busy yet blessed. I visited Tony's Hair Salon for the first time in about 5 years. I spent many Saturdays there as a child will my mom got her hair done. It was very nostalgic and a great realization that I have grown up. I was graced to eat lunch with Pokey and Noreen today as they travelled to Noreen's house for a pre-Christmas visit to her family. We ate a pretty swanky diner and simply enjoyed being together. I went to Mass with my mom and then the infamous Ata Family - aka Mom and Son - Christmas Shopping Trip #2 occurred today (yesterday we went to Target). We spent 5 hours in the mall and I loved every minute of it. I don't get bothered by the parking spot hunting, store searching, long-line waiting, or the crowd controlling. I actually enjoy shopping this time of year more than any other time of year.
Why you might wonder? It is one the few times of the year that you get to see people out and about shopping for others - whether they want to or not - or are doing it for the right reasons or not - rather they are spending so that others might have. Call me crazy, for I know that many are shopping under a consumeristic mindset yet, I have to give them the benefit of the doubt that the gift buying is to bring happiness and some type of joy to another fellow human being. It is a wonderful time to buy a person something that they will love and hopefully something that is practical. I also love going home and then wrapping those gifts, what a joy it is to put something up in a box, with wrapping paper, and a bow (if you can find one) and to imagine the excitement on a person's face as he or she opens it on Christmas day. Ahh...priceless. Even if there were no gifts at all, there is great joy of being around those you love and to know that one who is love itself is born in the flesh of our flesh.
Peace be with you and please take a moment each day amidst all of your preparation for Christmas to say "Yes Lord, I want you to come into my life!"
In case you are wondering what a friar would ask his family for Christmas - besides simply being with them and friends - I asked for books to help with preaching, CVS gift cards, and under garments - all will be fruitful for me both spiritually and physically.
Peace be with you!
My name is Nader Ata. I am a Conventual Franciscan Friar of the Our Lady of Angels Province, USA. I am a transitional deacon preparing for Priesthood Ordination in the fall.
Seeking to live with Franciscan Joy each and every day!
*All of photos on this blog were taken by me unless noted otherwise. Please ask permission before using them. Thank You!*
*Also I am not the greatest speller or writer in the world, so please let me know if something is misspelled. Thank you!"