As I mentioned in a previous post I am reading the book Crossing and a few things have come to light. To give a bit more background, at first glance it would appear to be a book about the daily Offices [liturgy of the hours] and although they are a major feature of the book they’re are not the main focus. The focus is on the ‘circle’ of daily prayer as we work through each one of the five main Offices ~ Vigils, Lauds, Midday, Vespers and Compline ~ and the signposts that the meaning and rhythm of these offices can place on the map of our spiritual lives.
This routine circle of prayer is repeated daily in monastic life and also by many Catholics/Christians in secular society. Circles play a huge part in the rhythm of all our lives as we all perform similar things each day, week, month, year. The circles just get bigger depending on the time-frame. It is the same for those following a religious life, monastic or secular. From the tiny daily circle of prayer stretching right out to the huge circle of life and death. There is a certain reliability and comfort to be found in this continuous repetition but also the potential to become complacent, barely noticing or failing to engage fully with each event as it passes us by. It is an example of what Benedictines call Stability; to ‘dedicate oneself to a spiritual practice and stay with it. . . . only if we work at systematically following one path can the path take us anywhere‘ [Crossing pp26-27]. I think my Stability is part of what is lacking.
Vigils is the first Office of the day, usually prayed before dawn and I admit that this is not an office I pray often for that very reason. However, let’s focus less on my lazy prayer life and more on the signposts that Vigils will place of the map of my spiritual life. Vigils heralds the start of a new day, a clean slate as yet unsullied, a new opportunity, the beginning of a journey, a time of great Hope.
My spiritual journey has arrived at a Vigil’s moment, and as Mark Barrett points out, one begins a journey for a various reasons. To get to a new destination, to achieve a new goal or to go in search of something. However, it may just be because we’ve realised that we’re not where we need to be. This is me! I am not where I need to be spiritually speaking. It doesn’t mean I know where I’m going, but I know that I can’t stay here because there is a lack of meaning where I am right now. An emptiness, something missing, lacking. I feel it is really important to acknowledge that I’m in the wrong place spiritually at this point in time. Although this may seem rather negative I think that it’s a very positive place to begin as there can be no progress without accepting and identifying where I truly am right now. You can’t begin a journey if you’ve no idea where the ‘START’ is. Oh and remember to pack a large portion of Hope to keep you sustained on the way.
Sing-a-long people ~ you know you want to..
I’ve been dancing round the kitchen to this and Si has been well and truly sung at .
How gentle is the rain
That falls softly on the meadow,
Birds high up the trees
Serenade the clouds with their melodies
Oh, see there beyond the hill,
The bright colors of the rainbow.
Some magic from above
Made this day for us just to fall in love
Now, I belong to you
From this day until forever,
Just love me tenderly
And I’ll give to you every part of me.
Oh, don’t ever make me cry
Through long lonely nights without us.
Be always true to me,
Keep this day in your heart eternally.
One day we shall return
To this place upon the meadow.
We’ll walk out in the rain,
See the birds above singing once again
Oh, you hold me in your arms,
And say once again you love me,
And if your love is true,
Everything will be just as wonderful.
You’ll hold me in your arms,
And say once again you’ll love me,
And if your love is true,
Everything will be just as wonderful.
I am doing something positive. We have a phrase used in this house when all is descending into chaos and disarray, “Just do SOMETHING,” always said with a wry smile and huge portion of sarcasm. [I am the queen of sarcasm.] So I’m doing just that. I have been to Mass twice this week. No bolts of lightening or old testament manifestations just calm, peaceful and familiar and for now that is enough. It just came into my heart on Tuesday that I should go so I popped along to the 7pm service and again at 9.30am today. People actually spoke to me [which is very rare at my local church] and I felt at home, comfortable.
I have also picked up a book that I bought quite a while back but which I’ve never settled into reading. “Crossing ~ Reclaiming the Landscape of Our Lives” by Mark Barrett OSB, a monk of Worth Abbey, Sussex. Despite having had this book for months it never felt relevant until now and suddenly it’s absolutely relevant. I’m only two chapters in so not much to report except to say that it is a guide to creating a map of our own individual spiritual journeys through linking back to the rythm and meaning of the offcies. It then helps us transpose that into our everyday lives. I’ll share more when I’ve finished it.
Oh and yes, I’m still praying…..constantly. Poor God, his celestial ears must be frazzled. I imagine Him saying, “If that’s Sharon Smith AGAIN, tell her I’m in a meeting.” .
So, positive steps within my faith by Faith…hence the title!!
The weight of the door, the solid swish as it shuts.
The faint residual smell of incense and historically extinguished candles.
Flickering candles, the Paschal ~ beautifully adorned and lofty, sporting it’s flame of Hope.
Neat rows of hymn books, piles of slightly dog-eared mass sheets and crispy, fresh weekly newsletters free to a good home.
Soft greetings, muted voices, genuflecting and bowing indicating the direction of the tabernacle.
Seats chosen and filled.
Silent anticipation, preparation, adoration.
“Ting” heralds the start.
The unified rising of the faithful.
Procession of robes filled with men that for just a moment are not just James and Klaus but Priest or Father and Deacon.
Familiar words delivered by a familiar voice.
The faithful rise and fall like a vertical Mexican wave.
Voices join as one ~ in song ~ in response.
Bells ring to indicate that special transubstantiated moment, rich smoke mists the room and replenishes the smell for the next people through the door.
The whole room moves with fluid, well practised ease towards the altar.
Momentary hesitation, meet the Priest’s gaze, receive, gives thanks, move on.
Kneeling, reflecting, worshipping.
Thanks be to God.
I thought that after the rather revelatory nature of my previous post I should follow-up with a “here’s where I’m at now” type entry. Things have been spiralling downwards for the last year or so for alsorts of small reasons, no one major thing. Culminating with my spending all of Lent in spiritual limbo, in fact attending the Ashing service this year was my last ditch attempt to feel something authentic. I left that service feeling nothing much at all, just empty and despondant having gone with hopes of. . . well of what exactly I’m not sure but with hopes of something tangible, positive. Normally I’m challenged and motivated by the ceremony and meaning behind Ash Wednesday but not this year…..
I came home and just prayed pretty much every spare minute I had for the next few days. I admit I’ve looked into other religions too, even non-Christian based ones but have found similar emotional/spiritual obstacles to the ones I’m dealing with now where I’m at. So no quick fix available then. I shouldn’t be that surprised as nothing worth having comes easy in my experience. I just want a relationship with God that’s not impeded by man-made ‘stuff’….
Ash Wednesday kind of brought the whole situation to a rather desperate head. Subsequently I’ve drifted through Lent, trying different things on for size, researching, praying, trying to work out where God wants me to be. I’ve also looked hard at what I’M thinking and whether I really want to be tethered to a denomination or religious organisation at all. Am I over-thinking things? Am I expecting too much? Due to the last year not feeling ‘right’ spiritually speaking I’ve been slack in my Mass attendance and not as structured with my prayer life as I used to be. Is this a case of putting in very little and expecting the world by return? Any relationship will die if you don’t ‘feed’ it and I’ve given my relationship with God an unintentional case of anorexia by dropping all my regular practices. It could be that I’m just starving myself of God and then wondering why I feel so lost.
This Easter weekend was quite interesting. I’ve always loved Easter and the message of hope it brings with it. The absolute despair followed by such complete joy. Such polarity of emotions. Despite not attending any services [I'd just feel a fraud at the moment] I did go through the motions for Ethan who is enjoying his Catholic faith through school [and home] immensely. We spoke about the meaning of Easter and he asked many questions including about the significance of Easter Eggs which I enjoyed discussing with him. Whilst we were chatting away I suddenly realised how totally ‘Catholic’ I have become, in my thinking and actions. How very ‘at home’ I am with the whole beauty and liturgy of the faith. This was not an spontaneous transformation that hapened with a puff of magical smoke at the moment Fr James placed his hands on my head to receive me into the Chruch. This has been a slow, gradual conversion in every sense of the word. There are some areas of Catholic teaching that I don’t agree with, but then I didn’t agree with them when I became a Catholic in 2009 so that’s no great revelation. I don’t think any denomination is a perfect fit for any of it’s faithful, or at least I suspect it’s rare but that’s usually more to do with the man-made ‘stuff’ I mentioned before and not about God and His teachings.
So I’ve become a self-fulfilling prophecy of my own making. I’ve always said I was a Catholic woman of faith and, almost without noticing, I’ve morphed into one. The thing to consider now is do I actually want that title? If so, do I deserve that title? Is it just cosy and comfy while everything spiritual feels strange and unfamiliar? Is it just all too convenient? More thinking is required and more prayer, more conversations with God . . . He who never leaves my side no matter how far from Him I might stray.
As many of you have noticed I had ‘hidden’ my blog. I didn’t think anyone would notice to be quite honest. However, I have had so many requests to view it privately that I thought I should post something to explain why and make it public again, at least until most of you have had a chance to read this. I am having a bit of a crisis within my faith. Not in my belief in God [my relationship with Him is still as strong as ever], this is more to do with how I can best live out my relationship with Him. I hid the blog because I feel so lost at the moment and felt it was inappropriate to continue posting when I’m not quite sure who I am religiously/denominationally speaking. I have not allowed anyone to view it privately because I wasn’t actually going to post anything further on it for the forseeable so it seemed pointless to give access to something I wasn’t going to add to. I suppose that maybe this post might help others who are struggling with how best to live out their faith as I know I’m not the first and won’t be the last to reach such a crossroads.
Anyhow I hope this goes some way towards explaining the absence of my blog.
Love to all who read and follow xx
Thank you to Jenny at Suscipio for sharing this lovely idea with catholic women the world over. A delightful way to wrap up the week gone, consider the week ahead and to identify and examine areas of challenge and change along the way.
Thanking God for: ~ carrying me through my first week back at work and for answering me immediately when I asked for help. I so didn’t want to feel overwhelmed or a failure ~ thankfully neither happened.
Also for our lovely dog Honey who was spayed this week and despite being in obvious pain and discomfort she is still such a sweetheart and a blessing.
Praying: ~ for friends facing health challenges this week. There are many who need these prayers and I am only too happy to pray them. May God be with them all.
Cooking: ~ has taken a back-seat with the onset of the new/old job. Being so tired and suffering from information overload has reduced my enthusiasm to producing only things requiring a minimum effort. Looking forward to healthier/tastier options in the days to come, and I suspect so are my family
Creating: ~ I am making two prayer shawls ~ both crochet. One is for me and the other one is for my mother-in-law who has been very poorly of late.
Living Liturgically: ~ Well as my last post is testimony I am attempting to make more time to live liturgically. Making space for my Dear Lord, for intimate dialogue and quiet moments of meditation, scripture study and contemplation. It is working as I’m already more aware alot sooner in the day that I have to make these slots of time. I still haven’t made it back to Mass but there are other issues surrounding that which I won’t whinge on about here, suffice to say it’s in hand.
Reading: ~ I always try to have one non-fiction and one fiction text on the go at a time. I have to confess that I’m truly terrible at suddenly starting a new book when I have others unfinished. It’s not a good habit and leads to feelings of never having read anything to the end. Anyhow at the moment my non-fiction book is “Start Your New Life Today” ~ Joyce Meyer. This might seem a strange title for someone who’s been a practising christian for quite a few years but it never hurts to take a fresh look at the basics and remember why you chose this path in the first place. My [historical] fiction book is “Island of Wings” by Karin Altenberg which was a Kindle freebie when I ‘bought’ it. I notice it’s back to full price now.
Listening to: ~ well our tune of choice at the moment is “All Angels ~ Salve Regina”. Simon and I heard this played as background music during a documentary called Amish ~ A Secret Life last year and it just moved us so much I actually bought him the CD for Christmas so we can enjoy it whenever we want to. Beautiful!!
Around the house: ~ I had a jolly good throw out, tidy up and premature spring clean after Christmas so we’re looking pretty tidy. Partly also, I have to admit, in anticipation of returning to work after ten months off on 7th January, predicting correctly that my energy levels would be sapped for a while. Also, this is a small house and I’m a real miminalist so there is never too much clutter, in fact I’m known for being quite ruthless regarding ‘stuff’. No one dares sit still for too long here .
Wearing: ~ Smart work clothes this morning and jeans thereafter with a nice cosy fleece top this evening to psychologically combat the snow-fall we’ve had here in the UK today.
Wandering around the web: ~
Sometimes also ~ Daily Reflections ~ Bible Alive
Also today had to find this for work ~ Features of a News letter/report/paper