Grumbles and Graces

It is often easier to find something to grumble about than be glad about, but St Benedict wasn’t keen on murmuring, although he did allow that there were occasions when monks might jutifiably complain. Unfortunately for us, they are few and far between; but they do exist, and with time, the grumbles can themselves become graces. Here, however, is a short-cut. In case you got out of the wrong side of bed this morning, I list a few of my own causes-to-be-grateful which may stimulate you into thinking about the blessings you yourself enjoy and for which you should give thanks:

I’m alive. Yes, I know I should be looking forward to the next life, but I haven’t quite finished with this one yet. I don’t share the happy Protestant certainty of heaven. As a Catholic, I rely utterly on the mercy of God. My consciousness of sin and failure suggests a prolonged period in Purgatory, at the very least. In the meantime, there are a few sock drawers still to be tidied . . .

I’m blessed with family, friends, community and the ever-wonderful Bro Duncan PBGV. The English don’t do feelings, so I reserve my emoting (thank you, American cousins) for the dog. He’s rather nice to have around.

I can read. What a world books open to us, and how many there are who cannot read or who do not have access to books! I am grateful, too, to know a little about book design and typography so I can enjoy beauties others sometimes miss. Of course, I also have a little grumble now and then, justifiable or not, about some of the dreadful things perpetrated by those who do not know but think they do. It adds zest to life.

We have a garden. This morning the bean flowers were beaded with raindrops when the sun shone briefly upon them, transforming them into diamond-studded cascades of red and white. I can lose myself for hours in the garden, thinking deep thoughts, or sometimes no thoughts at all. ‘Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return’ becomes a hopeful phrase when uttered in a garden. Eden is not lost for ever nor does Gethsemane last for ever; all will be made new in paradise.

We have an oratory. I save the best till last. Ours is small, plain but filled with Presence. It is where we take the most painful and most joyful moments of our lives; where we plead for others, and for ourselves; where we grumble, give thanks and are graced beyond measure. You may not have a physical oratory, but you have an oratory of the heart. Open it to God and I warrant his graces will flood your being.


15 thoughts on “Grumbles and Graces”

  1. Inspirational words, Sister. So much to be grateful for, even at a (personal) time of terrible darkness and uncertainty.

    Almost no family left, but I have a wonderful sister and really good friends. Not possible to have a Bro Duncan, but I am blessed with the great company of two beautiful cats.
    I can read – I absolutely love to “move into” a good book, and to be able to read is one of greatest blessings in my life. My big collection of books of all kinds – also The Rule of Saint Benedict – is a hugely valued part of my home.
    No garden but I have a very large balcony with lots and lots of flowers and plants. Taking care of all my flowers is the best therapy when everything else goes wrong. The balcony is also my oratory – especially on balmy and starry nights, filled with Presence.
    Life can be a real struggle – but I am alive and am thankful to be alive.

  2. Thank you Sister for your wonderful blog. This morning I heard of the death of my friend’s son, I thank God for the blessing of her wonderful faith and trust in Him.

  3. Dear Sister, I,m an Anglican, a long time reader of your precious prayers and blog, but I never knew we had a certainty of heaven! I am continually conscious that there will be judgement and that “nothing is certain, but the coming spring”. Was it St.Benedict or St.Francis who worried that even after a life well spent, we could deny Christ with our last breath? I worry about that too and pray for faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for your dedication to prayer, we all feel it’s power!

    • I said ‘Protestant certainty’, not ‘Anglican certainty’. Many Protestants do believe that after death the faithful Christian is assured of heaven; Anglicans tend to hedge their bets, so to say, some inclining to your view, others to the more Protestant belief; Catholics tend to favour Purgatory at best. Benedict had some serious things to say about life and death but even more about God’s mercy.

  4. I’ve only just read your reflection for the first time today Sr Catherine, and am so moved – by yours and others’ words – especially about the garden! The garden has increasingly become my sanctuary over the last few years. One of my favourite things too, is those little sparkling raindrop diamonds on leaves, petals, the washing line… To me these watery little prisms are the most precious of jewels on this earth because of their shimmery transience. In the garden we breathe life in all its seasons, cycles, birth, bloom, fruit, seed, death, resurrection. I just love that thought that even our ‘dustiness’ is filled with hope and promise in the garden! Thank you, Sr Catherine and each person who’s written here.

  5. You fill me with joy – again! Thank you.

    If it springs easily to your pen, I would love to know – when are monks permitted to complain?

  6. Thank you Dame Catherine.

    Grumbles or complaints are a human affection, which can become an infection if we don’t guard against it.

    But, you’re so right about being thankful to God for his blessings – the saying about counting your blessings, couldn’t be more apt, and we (and I) certainly have many to be thankful for.

    The certainty about Heaven belief is something I share with you. we can’t escape our Catholic upbringing so as an Anglican now, I live in the hope of sharing that eternal life promised, not necessarily the certainty. Like you, there are a few drawers (perhaps many drawers) to be tidied before I get there.

    I know that we have discussed Purgatory before, but I still struggle with the word, but not the concept of a period of waiting before we get to share the Kingdom of Heaven.
    And I can be thankful to you for your wisdom and insight which you have shared here often, Mildly correcting my errors and sharing so much teaching for us to consider and to discuss.

    I have heard people say to me that community such as this through social media isn’t real. Even artificial. I can only say that the experiences points me to a different conclusion, Jesus is here with us as we discuss, pray and debate and share our thoughts and experiences. That is sufficient for me.

    And off course, we have @BroDuncan to share with as well.

  7. Thanks for your wonderful writing, it is inspiring.
    Books and a garden are important to me too. Although I would never describe myself as a “green thumb” I do admire the gardens of others, and my garden does contain some treasures.
    I’m not sure about the ‘certainty’ of heaven but I do believe God’s loving care extends after physical death.

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