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Posts Tagged ‘Benedictine’

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Lent this year was a time of huge change and transition for me.  A time of spiritual growth.  I was so lucky not to be working because this gave me the time and space to indulge in Lent completely.  Sadly, I had a flu type bug over the actual Easter weekend so missed all those beautiful services but you know what,  Lent was such a blessing that nothing could put a dampener on the joy it brought me.

So, coming out of Easter-tide [although, we’re still officially in the season of Easter until Pentecost which falls on Sunday 15th May this year] I’ve been left with my mind heavily focused on prayer.  God seems to be leading me down a prayerful path by opening many doors to prayer filled opportunities.  A Carmelite prayer group has just started at my local church, we’re meeting once a month to spend time in contemplative prayer.  This is challenging but beautiful. 

I’ve also been lucky enough to secure myself a place on a, ‘Week of Guided Prayer’ which is being organised and offered by our local church partnership.  This is such a fantastic opportunity and I feel so blessed.  I get to meet with a Prayer Guide for around half an hour each day for a week, there are no words to express how much I’m looking forward to this.

I’ve just acquired myself a copy of, Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2016 which was suggested to me by the lovely Sister who is the Pastoral Administrator of our parish at the moment.  It’s a book I’ve considered for the last few years but have always used the online version found HERE.   When she suggested it I kind of wasn’t surprised.  God has a way of bringing these things to our attention if we’re refusing to see the obvious.  It’s just the most perfect devotional prayer book for me, very thought provoking and relevant.

With all this focus on prayer I’ve been thinking about exactly what prayer is and what form/s it can take.  It’s a question I’ve been asked a couple of times recently.  I’ve discovered this is a huge subject because prayer can be so many things, it has so many facets.  It’s also unique to each person because we are all so different with myriad needs.  I can’t speak for others so I’ll just describe my own experiences of prayer. 

Whether it be the comforting recital of the Our Father during Mass or a handful of Hail Marys during the week, structured prayers have an important part to play.  They bring me a feeling of peace and familiarity [often taking me back to my childhood] and, no matter how many times I say them, they bring something different each time.  They are a safety net when all else fails and I have no words of my own.  Also praying scripture, particularly the Psalms, can be a wonderful expression of prayer and devotion.  There’s a Psalm for every mood and every situation.

Private intentions and petitions are another important facet.  Praying for the needs of others and ourselves.  I’ve begun to keep a book of people and causes to pray for because otherwise I’m worried I’ll forget.  The list is long….and forever growing. 

There are those arrow prayers that I fire heavenwards throughout the day.  Maybe just, ‘Jesus, help me’ or ‘Bless this person, Lord’.  These are small, but mighty.  Acknowledgements that Jesus is always close, always on hand to guide and encourage.  We just have to reach out to Him.

In our monthly contemplative group, prayer is silence….it’s listening…..it’s being at one with God.  Listening is a very important part of prayer and something that people often forget.  They can be so busy with a ‘shopping list’ of people and personal needs [which are important] that they forget to just listen. . . . to just ‘be still and know that I am God’. [Psalm 46:10]  Remember, prayer is a two-way street, God also has things He would like to say to us, to ask of us.  ‘Listen with the ear of you heart.’ Rule of Benedict, Prologue.

I also do a lot of Ignatian Contemplation where you place yourself within a scene or event in the bible, usually from the Gospels, and imagine what you can hear, see, smell, taste and feel…you put yourself in that place, lose yourself in the story.  Imagine that you’re there with Jesus in the boat as he calms the waters….  It’s a truly amazing way to pray and it has revealed some amazing insights to me, and God has spoken right into my heart during some of these exercises.  As an alternative to this I sometimes just imagine that Jesus is sat opposite me at the table in my kitchen and we have a conversation.  This is a very simple act but totally mind blowing at times. We’ve had some great chats, Jesus and I. 

Back in August 2009 I wrote the words below ~ I found them today and they are still relevant: ~ 

Prayer is unique to each individual

It’s that hurried word on waking or a constant all-day dialogue.

It’s half an hour of liturgical trawling through the Breviary.

It’s that conversation with the ‘no one’ beside you at the table or in the car ~ it’s our faith that makes that ‘no one’ a someone!

It’s just a thought ‘thrown’ God’s way.

It’s a heartfelt plea on the back of despair or a word of joyful thanks at a beautiful moment.

Prayer does not have to be words, it can just be silence.  It’s a two-way street and that silence can be filled with listening.

Most of all prayer, in whatever form, is an act of fidelity to God.

On the face of it, not much has changed since I wrote this, but yet everything has changed because I have changed.  There are a lot of echoes of what I still do today but it all feels very different.  A lot more authentic somehow.  I particularly like the reference to prayer being an act of fidelity to God.  Our way of demonstrating our faithfulness to God. 

In an ideal world my whole life would be my prayer, to be ‘always in His holy presence’ and keep ‘a loving gaze on God’. [Patterns of Prayer, McCaffrey OCD p19]  It is something to aspire to.  

Sharon xx

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Are you living RIGHT NOW??

I’m sitting here in the quiet of the afternoon.  My working day [employed] is over as I only work until 12.15pm.  These couple of hours before I go to pick up Ethan are always a precious gift, sadly one that [I feel] I often waste.  Sometimes I fill them full of housework and domestic ‘stuff’  which, although necessary, often feels like an opportunity lost.  Sometimes I just veg out in front of the T.V. if it’s been a particularly tough morning and that leaves me feeling unfulfilled and guilty.   Other times I will spend the time with God or reading/sewing ~ that option always feels ‘right’ and worthwhile.  I know I should always take full advantage of these siesta hours as I’m never otherwise alone here.

Why is it that some of us are preconditioned to feel guilty at how we spend our ‘free’  time??  I know that I’m terrible for this.  I can’t speak for others but my internal dialogue is to ‘live every day as if it were my last’, I think that’s me showing a sneaky bit of my Benedictine side, “Keep death daily before our eyes” [RoSB 4:47].   This might seem, on the face of it, rather morbid but that’s not the way it’s meant.  On a faith level it’s to remind us that we should be ready and prepared to meet God at any time for we never know when we will be called or when Jesus may come again.  It is also good to be reminded that we are not immortal and there is no place for complacency either with our faith or attitude.  That life truly is a gift to be embraced to the full.  I’m not saying that one should be on the go 24/7, filling every waking moment with tasks and hobbies.  What I am saying is that one should consciously live IN the moment even if that is time spent in silence just ‘being’ and renewing one’s mind and spirit.  Everyone needs ‘down’ time and rest, you can’t give from an empty cup afterall.  However the times I dislike the most are those days when the afternoon has passed me by and I can’t even remember what I did or thought about [if anything]; just a two hour void of nothingness fanning out behind me.  If I’ve slept or rested because I’m poorly or tired from a disturbed night then that’s one thing but, to get to the end of my afternoon and to have fruitlessly whiled the time away leaves me with the sense of a lost opportunity, time wasted and feeling downright grumpy and irritable [with myself]. 

I absolutely appreciate that not everyone sees this the way I do.  And to some extent I envy them as I would really like to be able to enjoy doing absolutely nothing [mentally or physically] for an hour or two without feeling guilty or grumpy at the end of it.  I know my dear Mum is the same as me, she can’t just sit and do nothing, she always has to be busy with ‘something’ so maybe it’s hereditary.  😉  So, next time you have some free time make sure you consciously enjoy it and store up a good memory to carry you through the rest of the day because that time won’t ever come round again.

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I went to Mass today at my old church, Christ the King.  It was wonderful.  I felt at peace there.  People spoke to me, people I’ve not seen in months.  They were pleased to see me.  I think I have my answer re that issue.

I have spent alot of today watching The Monastery on my little net book ~ yes, the whole series in one day 😆 .  I kind of slotted it inbetween breakfast in McDonalds, ironing, Mass and family life.  I missed the series the first time around [think I caught the last few minutes of the last episode, typical!!!] and I’ve always wanted to watch it especially as I was called to Christ during the subsequent documentary called The Convent in 2006.  Watching the documentary threw up many things for me.  One being that I cannot believe how far I’ve come in the last four years [religiously speaking].  How much I still quite obviously don’t like myself very much, sad but true.  How little I’ve come to terms with my past or even been honest about sharing that  since becoming a Christian.  Oh, except with God ~ He and I have full and frank discussions about my past but still it sits there like a big wart on my shoulder leering at me.  I am not able to come face-to-face with myself without trying to avert my eyes for fear of seeing that ‘wart’.

I know that alot of my reaction to Si’s revelation last week was due to the fact that his rejection of me just confirmed what I already knew or at least what I’ve managed to convince myself of and that is that I’m not worthy.  Not worthy of marriage, just not quite good enough.  I’m not saying for one moment that he said those words because he didn’t, not even through implication.  However, my internal dialogue tells me this every single day and then when something happens like that you immediately use it as a confirmation that yes, your internal dialogue is right and no you’re not quite good enough.

I don’t imagine it can be easy living with someone who has such a negative view of themselves.  There is an unpleasant fall-out from that.  The things Si said were hurtful and incorrect ~ that much is true.  However, my reaction was fuelled by an unrest deep within me that has been burning since long before Si even came into my life.  Probably even before I became a Christian but it’s far more high profile now that I am one.

I think I have some work to do.  I have to be able to move past this very negative view of myself in order to become who I’m meant to be in Christ.  To be able to reach my full vocation in this life before I can move onto the next one.  I’m not saying I want to feel wonderful about who I am or be full of sinful pride.  However, it would be nice to be at peace with who I am and who I was so I can move confidently onto the next stage with humility in my heart and my hand placed firmly in that of Christs.  This is one part of my faith journey I will be happy to put behind me.

The picture at the top is the Quiet Garden in the grounds of Worth Abbey which is where ‘The Monastery’ was filmed.

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…….so that in all things God may be glorified…..      

1Peter4:11 & R 57.9

Last time I blogged I said that I wasn’t going to renew my contract at the school for various reasons.  Well, that isn’t quite what has happened ~ best laid plans and all that.  I genuinely wasn’t going to seek another full-time [by that I mean a full school day] post at the school.  I had also written and handed in a letter to that effect.  A couple of days before we broke up I noticed a ‘mornings only’ position had not been filled.  I had been unaware that we even had any half-day posts available at the school but long story short it’s now mine.  The best of all worlds ~ a slightly different job description, some money still coming in and some ‘me’ time to devote to family etc.  I was a bit nervous at the thought of no personal income again if I’m honest.  Funny how things turn out.

I have said previously that I’ve found it very difficult to find God in my workplace and that has not changed but with my recent attempts at studying The Rule I was hoping to get a better understanding of why I struggle with this.  When I thought I was giving up my job I shelved the worry of that for a bit but with my last minute change of heart it’s become an issue again.  I am very aware that for most people the word ‘work’ does not just apply to paid employment but it is only when at my paid job that I have this problem.  When I’m working at home or I’m out and about I find God in all situations but at school zilch, nada, nothing.   

I have a very useful book by Jane Tomaine that gives an indepth commentary on The Rule.  There are quite a few books like this that you can read alongside The Rule that give great explanations and information but this one is the one I keep coming back to as it is a realistic guide on how to actually apply The Rule to my daily life.  It talks about Benedict’s view of equality for all jobs, how no one type of work is any more important than another.  Jane Tomaine writes that ‘Work has a strong spiritual component for Benedict: it’s a way to find God’ SBT p154 [emphasis mine].  This last line left me wondering where on earth I’m going wrong.

I am not defined by my job which is probably quite obvious to anyone who knows me, however I am a perfectionist and like to do things well.  The one thing I have always known is that Benedictine teaching embraces and promotes a day that is ‘filled but balanced’ SBT p153.  Arranging each day’s tasks carefully to create a useful and productive balance whilst remembering to care for and make time for yourself within that.  Our main JOB [as people of faith] is to love one another and to show the presence of/point to Christ in our daily lives in whatever format that may take.  Our work is also a way to use our God given gifts to bless those who touch our lives by becoming the hands of Christ.

I think I have been approaching this ‘God in the workplace’ thing all wrong.  I have been looking for what I can get out of it; how I feel when I’m at work.  As I sit here tapping away I’ve  realised that this isn’t about me.  I should be offering my work to God and using it as a form of prayer, praise and devotion.   When I was at home all day it was easy to feel the Holy Spirit close by, simple to turn to Him in prayer whenever I felt the need.  I was expecting similar at work but I can see now how unrealistic that is.  I can hardly find time to blow my nose never mind enjoy a quiet moment with God.  I should view the very act of working as a means of loving and hopefully blessing those around me and consequently loving Christ.

In one of the ‘tools’ that appear at the end of each chapter in JT’s book is a timely reminder for me [us] to use arrow prayers for those busy times.  Little bullets of devotion to be shot heavenwards as I [we] move through the day.  I’m a great believer in arrow prayers but have got out of the habit since starting work which is ridiculous really as that’s where they’re most useful.

I will apply what I’ve learnt when I go back to work in September.  I will try to change my approach, attitude and expectations to something less about me and more focussed on the greater good and, more importantly, our Dear Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria

Pax

 

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Okay confession time ~ well, I am a Catholic lol :).   ***whispers*** “I haven’t prayed my Offices since I moved house which was back in November if you remember”.  Yes, I’ve prayed obviously but my Offices [Hours] and Lectio have been sadly neglected whilst life and work took over and time has ticked speedily on….

I’ve been quite poorly for the last four weeks or so with an infection [??] that just won’t shift [I’m on my third course of antibiotics in as many weeks] so I’ve relied heavily on my faith to keep me at work and to get me through the day [and to stop me being a right grumpy mare].  To be quite honest I’ve been at my wits end with discomfort and worry.  Last night something made me pick up my Benedictine Daily Prayer book, which is my book of choice to use to pray the Divine Office, and there in those words I found such beauty, comfort, warmth, familiarity and most importantly the loving arms of my Dear Lord……my soft place to fall.

Why did I stay away for so long when heaven was just a page away??  It  amazes me now how I could just blithely put aside something that gave/gives me so much joy.  This truly is a case of you never know how much you’ve missed something until you find it again. 

For me praying the Divine Office was initially something that I felt I should do and finding my way around the prayer book itself was quite a challenge when I first started.  All those ribbons, all that page flicking, sigh!!  For a while I felt I was just going through the motions.  Now, after this unintentional break, I have to admit that at some point during those months of apparently ‘going through the motions’ a love affair began that I was totally unaware of.  A love affair with the beauty and predictability of the liturgical year through [now] familiar hymns, prayers and psalms.  A feeling of safety found within those beautiful words as they tap out the gentle rhythm of the religious seasons, especially on those days when personal prayer is dry and unproductive.  It’s all written there for you in the Divine Hours, like a big safety net just waiting to catch you when you fall.

So, I’ve taken a good look at my spare time.  [“What’s spare time?”, I hear you cry!!]  I have realised that I’m not using it very well at all.  Lot’s of working, cleaning, cooking, sleeping but not alot of ‘God’ time.  I’m going to have a reshuffle and strike a better balance, in fact I started today.  It’s like revisiting an old friend ~ why did I stay away so long……..??

Image is my BDP book, rosary and bible on my prayer table at Turvey last year.

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Believe, behave, belong….

Today’s reading in my “Daily Bread ~ words for life” was 1 John 3:11~24.  The notes spoke of being responsible for the [emotional/spiritual??] care of family members.  Those in our immediate family, those in our wider Christian family and beyond.  It also quoted the famous line from Genesis 4:9 “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and the short answer is yes actually, to a certain extent you are.  It then asks you to reflect on the many loving things that people have done for you and also the time, money, love, prayers that you have given to those in your ‘care’.   All very virtuous on paper but then it sets you thinking…..

As you may know I’m reading Finding Happiness by Abbot Christopher Jamison, in fact I’ve nearly finished it.  The  most relevant chapter for me turned out to be the one on ‘Anger’ which, if I’m honest, was a bit of a surprise to me.  I have ‘issues’, shall we say ,with Si’s family and their treatment of me [or at least my perception of that].  I also tend to take a huge emotional step back from anyone generally who annoys me [I think to avoid confrontation] ~ I turn back eventually but not until I’ve had a little sulk ~ all anger based reactions apparently.  According to Abbot Jamison this isn’t the way to deal with this strong emotion as it prevents you moving forward ~ brooding on things long~term can cause inner discontent and negativity and in some cases lead to irrational thought patterns as things become ever more introspective.  I would say that this is a fair assessment of where I’m at with Si’s family.  Brooding, angry, suspicious, critical, defensive and ever so slightly irrational ;).  We can choose not to feel these things, we can choose to hand these emotions over to God and instead continue to look for the good in the actions and words of others.  I am failing dismally with that in this instance and I know I’m in a rut and I know I have to put it right and the first place to start is in my own heart and soul……am I being responsible for all those in my ‘family’??  Hmmm, not quite eh!!??

Back to the plot……the final paragraph of ‘Daily Bread’ says “What we believe affects how we behave, and how we belong in the family of the Church.”  Those words rang very true.  Before I became a Christian I’d have just continued on with this impasse with my in~laws, inwardly grumbling away [ how very un~Benedictine].  However, even though this situation has lasted over two years now I’ve always known in my Christian heart that it’s ‘wrong’.  I’ve always known that ultimately only I can put it right by putting into practise what I believe in, in order to change the way I behave and show by example that I truly belong in the family of the Church.  It doesn’t matter if my efforts are shunned or unwelcome nor whether the recipients are Christian; the point is that I should try and keep on trying……….time to turn to God in prayer……

‘Lord, have mercy; Christ, have mercy; Lord, have mercy’.

pax

Sharon xx

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CtCI was at the checkout in Asda the day before Ethan’s baptism buying all the food for the celebration party.  The lady serving me was a beautiful black woman.  She could tell by my purchases that we were having a party of some sort so I told her what the celebration was for.  There ensued a lovely discussion on the joy of baptism per se and our faith.  At the end of the conversation we realised that she was Anglican and I was Catholic.  However, that really didn’t seem to matter ~ same God, different building we said, smiling.  For a while there we’d had a beautiful bond and despite the difference in our denominations we were singing from the same page in every way. It was a memorable moment for both of us I think and we hugged as we parted probably never to meet again ~ except in Christ!!!

I have often wondered and been asked if I think Catholicism is the only denomination ~ the right way, the path to eternal life.  I’d have to say no, I don’t think that, but it is the right way for me.  I love the Catholic faith, it fits me well and is the best way for me to express my love for God and He knew that which is why He called me to convert.  I will always defend my right to practise Catholicism and am fully prepared to defend and protect both my church and my choice.  However do I think everyone should be a Catholic?  No, I do not, unless they want to.  I am not arrogant enough to think that I’ve successfully manged to choose the only way to heaven!  Would I like everyone to find salvation in Christ?  Oh, yes, yes, I would, with all my heart. 

I think, as I’ve blogged before, that 43 years of  having very little faith whilst living a very tough life and then 2 years of trying various denominations on for size [and finding God in all of them] have left me very accepting and ecumenical.  That’s alot of experience to just cast off and ignore.  I suspect this is why Turvey is such a good fit for me.  No matter what Christian denomination you are there is a place for you at Turvey.  That warms my heart beyond measure.  I would probably encourage people to be Benedictine before I encouraged them to be Catholic as the more I learn about the Benedictine way the more it enhances and encourages me.  The Rule of St. Benedict helps me to be the best person I can be in Christ and consequently in life.  Like the Catholic faith, being Benedictine fits me like a pair of good shoes, although I’m at the very start of that journey and a long way from living The Rule as I should but, as with all long journeys you need a pair of good shoes.

I expect that are many who will want to shoot me down in flames for these rather broad and relaxed views but I know that there’s a God shaped hole in all of us just waiting to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  I can see that longing, that lack of fulfillment in alot of the people I meet.  Whatever Christian denomination it takes to fill that hole and bring out the love of the Holy Spirit in each person is all that matters from where I’m sitting. 

I don’t feel that God loves me any more or less now I’m a Catholic.  He called me as a non denominational person and that is all I need to know.   I thank God for meeting that lady at the checkout out in Asda.  She showed me the very best face of Christianity long before we even gave a thought to what building we worshipped in.  I’m so glad that it was one of the last things we said to each other rather than one of the first.  The first thing we knew about each other was that we both loved Christ and for those few minutes we loved each other in Christ.  Thanks be to God!!

[The picture above is of Christ the Cornerstone church in the city centre of Milton Keynes where I live.  It is apparently the first purpose built, ecumenical church in the UK and for me it is the best visual illustration of what this post is all about.  All denominations meeting under one roof to love and serve the Lord.  Amazing!!]

 

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CtKI had my meeting last night with Deacon J.  I’ve decided I’m not going to do a word for word post mortem on it as it was understandably very personal and emotive.  However, I am more than happy to share the general ideas, thoughts and plans that arose from that time we spent talking as a means of getting it clear in my own mind and as a response to my last post.  I also hope that should anyone else pass this way searching for answers then they too will find solace in these words.

The overriding message from Deacon J was that the two main commandments  God gave us were, “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, with all your heart, and with all your soul, ….. love your neighbour as yourself” ~ Matthew 22:37~39.  Deacon J also said that fundamentally the Catholic church was built on a foundation of Love.  He felt that I was fulfilling those commandments and that my relationship with Simon was also built on love so therefore something to be valued.  I expressed to him that at times I felt so desperate with the situation that I had considered leaving the relationship but when I had my sensible head on I knew that this would be selfish, create a huge emotional fallout for my children and Simon and potentially leave me with even more guilt than I have now.  It wouldn’t be a good advert for the Catholic church either.  Deacon J agreed that in fact leaving would probably seem like a greater sin than staying and trying to put things right with the status quo as it would indeed have a huge ripple effect on my immediate family.

Deacon J said that God certainly did not ‘call’ me to be miserable or to carry around ‘shed loads of guilt’ [his words, he did make me smile].  God also didn’t ‘call’ me to suddenly change His mind and rescind the offer.  We agreed that, just as Benedict tells us, conversion is a continuous state and that God is still working in my life through the Holy Spirit, guiding me in the right direction.  I also realised today that I am trying really hard to practice both my Stability ~ in staying put and working out my problems, and Obedience ~ in trying to listen to God and carry out His will.  As a discerning Benedictine Oblate I will [hopefully one day] take vows of Stability [Stabilitas], Obedience and Conversion [Conversatio] and this is what I’m studying and reading about as part of my journey towards that.  It’s very interesting to suddenly ‘see’ those qualities appearing in my thought processes, actions and approach to life.

He suggested that maybe I stop using the phrase ‘living in sin’ as it’s become a huge stick to beat myself with.  So maybe I will change it to ‘living in love’??  Sounds much nicer eh??  I know without a doubt that my negative thoughts on my relationship have caused me to be ‘Mrs Snippy’ and have prevented me from commiting 100% to Simon as I’ve always had this ‘stuff’ nagging away at the back of my mind so I’ve not allowed myself to relax and enjoy just being in a loving relationship because it felt wrong. 

We also discussed the sacrament of reconcilliation and this is something that I’m going to be starting fairly soon, not only as a means of dealing with this issue but also as a part of my grieving process and an ongoing part of my faith practice.  Reconcilliation is not the negative sacrament that it’s portrayed to be historically, it’s full of grace and forgiveness and I’m need of some of that right now.

Finally, Deacon J and I did discuss a possible plan of action that will hopefully make all parties happy [including God ;-)] when and if Simon and I should decide to marry.  I won’t share this with anyone just yet as Deacon J wasn’t sure if it fitted with Catholic protocol and teaching but suffice to say that all is not lost, yet. 

So, I left that meeting feeling like a huge weight had been lifted.  Deacon J is a lovely, kind, spiritual man who gave of himself in a way that left me feeling at peace and happy to lay down that big stick that I’ve been bashing myself over the head with for such a long time.  Things still aren’t right but I’m not doing this alone anymore and that’s just the best feeling.  Being able to offload it and to be heard and validated without criticism or condemnation was so important.  I’m also sure that this is somehow tied in with my grieving process but I still can’t quite work out how except that, as I said in my last post, my faith if everything at the moment and I can’t bear it to be sullied or untidy. 

Deacon J gave me a huge gift last night, something money can never buy~ he gave me back a part of myself, I feel whole again.  He also gave me one of the special cards that were printed in celebration of his Ordination and the rather pertinent words on it are as follows: ~

“Lord, make me know your ways.  Lord, teach me your paths.  Make me walk in your truth, and teach me:  for you are God my saviour.”  Psalm 25:4-5

church1

When I was ‘called’ three years ago I grabbed that amazing opportunity from God with both hands and ran with it as fast as I could.  When I think of it now I have a mental image of myself running, with great joy in my heart and the biggest smile on my face, into the arms of Jesus.  Deacon J said I’d come a long way in a very short time.  That’s because I’m running Deacon J, running for my life…….

Images are courtesty of my lovely church, Christ the King, Milton Keynes.

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Humility…

in_humility

 

I’ve been thinking alot about humility lately as I mentioned previously in this post.  What it is?  Whether I am an example of humility [mmmm probably not ;-)]?  Whether it’s a gift of grace or a conscious choice that we make to live with humility [or try to] or a bit of both?  I found this today whilst looking at the Benedictine Oblates Website and I found it rather beautiful and pertinent to my thoughts just now : ~

When will you bow your head,

acknowledge me as God,

acclaim me as preeminent

and as your loving Father?

.

Unlimited, I took a body’s limitations,

for love of you became my own creation,

accepted hunger, thirst and tiredness,

fear, rejection, whips and nails,

scorn and insult, cross and death.

Was this not humility for God?

.

Put off your dreams

of self-fulfilment and autonomy.

You need the air to breathe,

food and water to survive

and living in community,

even a community of two,

limits your free will.

.

Come to me child.

Put your hand in mine and I will lead.

Surrender to my love

and find those toys you thought were lost

have been kept safe

by me, for you.

by Francis Buxton, Oblate of Douai Abbey, Berkshire

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Life and deathI spent all last weekend on an Oblate retreat at Turvey Abbey.  I went with various things on my agenda ~ some quite obvious like meeting and spending time with some of the other Turvey Oblates and the Nuns ~ but also with some more subliminal needs.  Those needs could be covered by the words Peace, Healing, Humility and Understanding

Peace [of mind and heart] and Healing…….with Jim’s death still not a month past I’m now in a place where I need to be at peace with the fact that he has gone.  I am still grieving obviously but I need to be able to move forward with that now, to take it with me into my future where yes, it will still make me sad but not in the incapacitating way it has since he died.  During one of the sessions we did some lectio on Sunday’s gospel and this was the phrase that spoke to me “Remain in me, and I will remain in you.” John 15:4.  This was the one thing I hung on to whilst Jim was poorly.  Everything else went pear-shaped really, my offices, my worship generally, daily routine, everything.  No time to do anything, no head space even if the opportunity did present itself.  But, despite such poor application in my daily worship routine my relationship with God actually became better because my normal practises were replaced by an ongoing dialogue with Him ~ I really did remain in Him and I knew that He was constantly with me.  In fact I was closer to God during that time than I usually am.

Humility is something that I’m always aware of and try very hard to improve on daily ~ not sure it’s working but hey I refuse to give up trying.  Humility is always very difficult to explain to others I think ~ it’s a real spiritual gift and I’m not confident that I have it, even in part, but to stop trying is to be defeated, er nope I think not!!  Humility is also connected to the last word which is…..

…..Understanding ~ this covers so much of the last few weeks.  Understanding of suffering [illness, death and subsequent grief], of why people behave in certain ways and of my reaction to that of late [grief led or spirit led?].  I prayed about this all weekend and had just about reached the end of the retreat when Br John gave his homily on yep, you guessed it ‘suffering’.  The upshot was that we shouldn’t seek out suffering, that we should give the potential for suffering over to God and, in the words of Br John, ‘transcend it’.  That is not all he said by any means but it spoke right into my soul.  His words confirmed for me that I’m on the right track with my questions surrounding this and I really needed to hear that, it lightened my load immensely.

The Sisters were sharing with us some experiences of their monastic life and as the theme for the weekend was ‘Silence‘ one of the things they are often asked is ‘Sister, do you take a vow of silence?’  Apparently not as there is no such thing but obviously they do have times/periods/places of silence as part of their rule of daily monastic life.  However, Sr Miriam expounded on this by saying that perhaps during a time of silent work or domesticity it may become obvious that the Sister they’re working alongside is troubled or upset so at that point it seems unkind to continue on in silence when a word of comfort might be more in order.  So when Sr Miriam is asked if they take a vow of silence her reply [after this example is explained] is no, we take a vow of love.  I thought this was the most beautiful explanation of monastic living that I’d ever heard and one that can be so easily transplanted into our daily lives. 

So, I’ve returned home a new woman having been cherished and loved by the Nuns and other Oblates all weekend.  On reflection I was very quiet during my stay and didn’t contribute much during discussion but there is never any pressure to perform.  Often coming home from retreats or quiet days can leave me feeling shell~shocked once normal life hits, but not this time.  I’m still at peace and feeling very calm.  I’m newly motivated for my life once again and found myself cooking for pleasure tonight for the first time since Jim died.  I feel very liberated and free both emotionally and timewise ~ God has done some serious and welcome pruning in my life [see Sunday’s gospel John 15].  

The picture above is one I took in the grounds at Turvey [thank you xx], the smaller gated archway on the right leads to a pretty little memorial garden for deceased Nuns and Monks and the larger arch on the left leads back to the monastery.  I spent some time reflecting and thinking in the memorial garden and was then content to leave.  It is a really good image to illustrate what has happened to me this weekend ~ having spent time in the garden of grief I am now moving through the bigger archway back towards life.  Not my old life, as that has gone forever, but hopefully towards something as good if not better. 

Pax et bonum

Sharon xx

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