It’s been an intense few months since I last posted on this blog. We went on a sea voyage in April, exploring Andalucía, Greece, Croatia and Italy and shortly after that we discovered that we were expecting another baby, which brought with it a whole new set of, now resolved, worries! Soon after that we had the long school summer holiday, so I was fully engaged in looking after my two children, and in the last two months my youngest has started school, initially on a part time basis, necessitating frequent pick ups from school. Suffice to say I have not been able to write for some time.
In fact life has changed quite considerably in this time. I think back to before Easter, to before this pregnancy and reflect on what was my daily routine. Drop offs at school and nursery followed by daily mass, voluntary charity work, writing this blog and cleaning the church. The future seemed quite clear at that point, I had the time to devote my energies to the church and my endeavours were all shaped by a need to be holy and good.
Such a thought made me reflect on Jewish phylacteries, those black leather boxes held in place by strips of leather. I used to have some in the classroom and would show them to my students, explaining their meaning and purpose. I would ask them to think about the key words that they would put inside the boxes, words that would focus them on their life purpose. The answers were always varied, ranging from making money to the Golden Rule. I would tell them that the boxes contain the words from Deuteronomy:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being and all your might.
These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds…’
And so the straps are bound tightly around the head and the arm of observant Jewish men. They remind them of the love they have for God and of how their lives must be holy. My life before Easter was like this, a life tightly bound to God, focused on Him and on his Will.
How easily things can change. As I write this I look outside and see the cherry tree whose sparse leaves are now yellowed and easily persuaded to fall to the ground by just the slightest breeze. Only a few months ago they were full of sap and vigour, luminous in the bright and hopeful spring sunshine. A bit like me, I think.
Yes, those phylacteries have slackened and are no longer tightly bound. School runs, after school clubs, football practice, laundry, housework, groceries and peacekeeping between siblings have all loosened those straps a little, diverting my attention in all sorts of directions.
But maybe this is just how it should be?
I was able to go to mass today, to be still for a while and to consider the words that were being spoken. I am always ready to listen to true wisdom, it is like a thirst that I have. The word of God quenches it with the purest of waters.
It feels like some sort of dessication has begun in my soul when for one reason or another I cannot attend mass, where I am able to hear the word of God and receive Jesus. The recent song, ‘The Great Flood’ by Kevin Heider speaks of this amazing flood of grace washing over the soul.
So at mass today when the priest reminded us that Jesus gives us peace, ‘May the peace of Christ be with you’, I realised anew that trying to be good and holy has to take place in the midst of life’s business. It cannot be something reserved for Sundays. Christ does give peace to the soul, of that I have no doubt. If you could see the story of my soul played out before you like a movie you would see the immense and incredible effect that prayer, mass and a love of God has had on it. Christ does give peace to the soul and in these recent busy, changeable months this has always been there.
But at the same time I have realised again that faith needs to be nourished, prayer has to be my daily sustenance, I have to use the graces and sacraments offered by the church, they are there to help me through this life with its endless dead end distractions and beguiling illusions. It is so easy to have your head turned, which for me is where humility presents itself as a penetrating sword of strength. Putting aside your own will and handing over your life to God allows Him to flood your soul with all those gifts of the spirit…peace, true joy, acceptance of sacrifice, unselfish love, simplicity of desire.
So I must remember to neglect neither God nor my busy life as surely one can be found in the other.