Marking Time: Anniversary Lessons From A Year Of Pope Francis


What anniversaries do you observe? The first anniversary of Pope Francis guides us on time's passing

On March 13, 2014, the press celebrated the one year anniversary of the election of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergolio to become Pope Francis. Interestingly, at the same time, the pope was celebrating this occasion on spiritual retreat away from the eyes of the press. So, what can we learn from the media focus on this anniversary?

The first thing to note is that the press has chosen to focus on the day that Pope Francis was elected and chose to assume a papal name after Saint Francis of Assisi. In reality, this is only one of the days that could be focused on as the beginning of this papacy. While he became pope on the 13th, the inauguration did not take place until the 19th and he was not installed as the Bishop of Rome (one of the key offices of being pope) until April 7th. Beyond these official starts, there were other significant firsts for Francis, especially Holy Week that started shortly after his inauguration on the 24th and during which he significantly shook up the status quo on Maundy Thursday.

So, when you think of marking your own anniversaries, from when do you begin to mark time? People in relationships look to a number of moments to count time from:

  • When you first chatted online
  • When you met
  • When you went on your first date
  • When you had a first kiss
  • When you decided to be in a relationship
  • When you had your first Valentine together
  • When you first went away on a trip together
  • When you met each other's parents
  • When you got engaged
  • When you were married

People also mark time from other significant events such as the conception or birth of a child, the completion of a degree, the formal beginning of a profession (as in an ordination or getting of a first teaching job), the retirement from a lifetime of work or point at which sobriety was last obtained. There are many occasions from which you can mark time and consider anniversaries.

What is important is to determine for yourself what events are important for you to remember the passage of time from. As you do this around shared events in a relationship, it is also important to learn which events are significant markers for your significant other. If your significant other feels that the first time the two of you kissed was the time they knew they loved you and wanted to be with you, this needs to be an event whose anniversaries you remember even if this is of a lot lower significance for you.

It is also important that you have a shared memory of when these important events were. If the two of you were together alone for dinner on a Valentine's Day because other singles you were going to spend the evening with did not show up, was that your first date? Each of you may look at that differently, but understanding your shared memory of the event is important as you move forward.

As you think about marking time following a significant event, there are different ways of marking time. Think about it, have you heard of someone getting really excited because their twenty-third college reunion was coming up? Contrast your answer with when it is their twenty-fifth. Or think about how you marked time when your first child was born. You might have photos or videos capturing what your child was like where their age was measured in minutes or hours.

As you move through the initial excitement, the passage of time shifts to being measured in days, weeks and eventually months. By the time your child celebrates their first birthday, the passage of time moves to fractional years ("my daughter is two and a half"). Not long after starting school, whole years become the norm. This gradual lengthening of the time period of marking time as well as the passage of time between celebrations is common.

However, again when what is being celebrated is a shared experience in a relationship, you need to understand how your significant other views things. If your significant other is mentally celebrating daily anniversaries of your first kiss and you are thinking in terms of monthly, it can appear to that person that you don't care. If it is the other way round, your constant reference to the first kiss could come across as being insecure. This is something about which you want to be sensitive.

Let's come back to Francis. Some say the media attention on this first anniversary is all about wondering whether later anniversaries will not be as significant and his popularity and influence will wane. This is something to think about in your own anniversaries. On the other hand, it seems that Francis is not focused on this public examination.

He is spending this first anniversary on retreat. In the same way, there are times when quiet celebration of anniversaries can be appropriate in your life. Every anniversary does not have to be a major public event. It is possible to mark anniversaries in quiet and simple ways that can be just as meaningful. In fact, sometimes these less fancy and more private celebrations can be more meaningful.

This should give you something to think about. How have you observed anniversaries? What have you marked the passage of time from? In what ways have these been shared experiences? Do you want to change any of these? There are not right answers for what to observe or how to mark time from those events. What is important is that you do what is meaningful for you and for those with whom you have shared significant events. If you do this, then you will experience peace and wholeness as you pass through time.

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