persons, places and things: A matter of priorities


By Barb Arland-Fye

Amazed at his many accomplishments, I asked the subject of an interview how he managed to find time for everything.

“I prioritize,” he said.

His answer lingered in my mind, and confronted me last weekend as I sought to juggle priorities involving faith, family, career and graduate class.

Amidst the juggling, a question resurfaced: was there time to attend a service of Advent lessons and carols that the Davenport Diocese was offering at St. Mary Parish in Riverside?


I had been asked to consider covering the service for The Catholic Messenger. As many as 50 music ministers from throughout the diocese would be there, singing and praying. It would be a get-acquainted session for the first Diocesan Ensemble.

“You’ll get good quotes,” my tipster assured me.

Covering good stories is irresistible, but I had homework and housework to do, and other responsibilities involving my family and The Messenger. St. Mary’s is a 1-1/2-hour drive from my house. Could I afford to “spend” three hours on the road that particular weekend?

After praying about it I began to feel a sense of peace. The Holy Spirit guided me toward a decision through a series of small incidents.

First, after reading reflections from “The Little Blue Book” for Advent and Christmas seasons with my family last Saturday night, I felt a need to devote some time to preparing the way of the Lord.

Second, as I was reading a theology article I realized it was the last one I had to finish before class this coming weekend. I still have homework to do, but the deadline has some wiggle room.

Third, my younger son Patrick, a high school freshman, was caught up with his homework and agreed to accompany me to Riverside — with a bit of motherly persuasion. We don’t get to spend a lot of time together, just the two of us.

So after Patrick finished confirmation class last Sunday, we headed for Riverside.

We arrived in plenty of time and took our seats in the midst of the singers for picture-taking purposes.

After the first song, a traditional German carol titled “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming,” Patrick whispered to me, “I know that song! We’re going to play it at the band concert tomorrow.”

I smiled in thanks to God. Patrick’s appreciation for the first song made him receptive for the Scripture readings, carols and prayers that followed.

The service was beautiful and filled me with a sense of peace and faith, which I need during a time of the year that tends to get overwhelming with priorities.

People made us feel welcome, and Patrick and I left the church feeling positive about the way we had spent our afternoon.

We arrived home in plenty of time to practice a bit of Spanish vocabulary and head to my older son Colin’s apartment to take him out to dinner. That’s one of our Sunday evening priorities — even when my husband Steve can’t accompany us because he is traveling.

“I prioritize,” said the man I interviewed. His simple statement helped me to appreciate the discernment that is necessary for me, a Catholic Christian, in setting priorities.

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