Drifting from the Shore

For the past few months life at the monastery has been distinctly challenging. About Cor Orans and its implications I’ll write at a more suitable time. It is enough to say that it continues to cause a great deal of heartache and eats into our time and resources in a way many find baffling. We’ve also had a lot of administration to deal with that has taken us well beyond our comfort zone being both unfamiliar and time-critical; and there has been the problem of my health. I have just returned from a fortnight in hospital, delighted to find that I am still alive and humbled by the generosity and kindness with which I have been treated (to say nothing of the skill and devotion of the team at the Churchill Hospital). It has made me reflect on what our Lenten journey is about. When life is pared down to the essentials and cannot be presumed upon to continue, one is forced to face what at other times one may try to hide from — and the utter transcendence of God is one of those things. But big words and big concepts can themselves be a form of evasion, so let’s think more directly about Lent.

We can take Lent too seriously. By which I mean that we think what we do is what matters: our prayers, our fasts, our almsgiving. It is all about me. But, of course, it isn’t. It is when our plans are upset and we find ourselves drifting from the shore into unexpected currents that we begin to learn what it is really about. Forget that pledge to say 150 psalms standing in the sea as the Celtic monks did — a smile at someone who is being tiresome may actually be harder but I guarantee it will bring its own reward. If the Lent book lies unread and fasting fell down at the first chocolate muffin hurdle, don’t waste time feeling guilty. Try an act of kindness or generosity that you weren’t expecting but which has come your way. In other words, don’t take Lent seriously in the sense that it has to fit your programme but take it very seriously indeed in the sense that it has to fit God’s programme.

This is the time of year when we are asked to pray especially for those preparing for baptism or reception into Full Communion at Easter; for those who are to be married, ordained or make religious profession during the Easter season; those who will be confirmed at Pentecost, and so on — all joyful things. It is also a time to pray for the dying, for those who are grieving while everyone else is singing Alleluia, for all the sadness that humanity endures. The only way we can do that is to allow our prayer to become one with that of the praying Christ. During these last few days before entering on Holy Week, therefore, may I suggest that we look closely at how Jesus spent this peak period of his life on earth? There was solemnity, yes, but also light-heartedness with friends. Our Lenten journey must follow the same pattern. So, do not waste time over failures, as they may appear to us, but concentrate on the ‘now’ of Lent. ‘Behold, I am doing a new thing,’ says the Lord. What is asked of us is that we listen and respond today — not as we might have yesterday or as we might do in the future, but today.

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15 thoughts on “Drifting from the Shore”

  1. Oh thank you, thank you so much for this welcome post. Humbled and so grateful that you can find the energy to write it after your recent medical ordeals.
    Always seem to get to this part of Lent wondering where it all went wrong, what happened to all the plans I had made. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, as my dear Mum (RIP) used to say, so this reminder to focus on the present day is timely and most welcome.

  2. Dear Sister, As always you have said what I have needed to hear. I am one such – who fell even before the first hurdle came into sight. Thank you for your kind, understanding and encouraging words. The preacher at church on Ash Wednesday reminded us that Jesus, carrying his cross, fell three times. Three times he bit the dust. Your words an inspiration to keep on going – for today.

  3. Dear Sister Catherine
    So glad you are have been well cared for and are out of hospital; and back blogging with vigour. I appreciate the effort it must take and am thankful for your so often timely spot on blogs. I wish you well.

  4. Dear D Catherine,
    How wonderful to have you back amongst us again, you have been sorely missed. I have missed you.
    And your comments about drifting from the shore are absolutely spot on. When life throws one or multiple spanners in the works, that‘s the moment one sees how foolish are our plans, no matter how „best laid“ they may be. From the utterly banal, like planning to do the ironing and then feeling too tired, to more serious matters which suddenly seem too entangled to even think about, we just have to accept our limitations with as good a grace as we can…and that‘s a Lenten exercise! It‘s neither laziness, nor wilfulness, we are simply human. With aspirations to be more.God bless and preserve you.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your reflections. I am learning to live each day as it comes and my Lenten journey has included the it isn’t about me lesson. It has taken me where I hadn’t planned to go but it is a journey towards Him who died for us and learning from my failures. I hope this next coming week I will be able to follow Christ’s lead. He spent time with those he loved and continued to teach them how to live by his example. And he loved even those who persecuted him and prayed to his Father in heaven for them. Praying for all of you as we enter a Holy Week.

  6. Thank you again for your timely blog and continued payers for your recovery. This season has always been my battery recharge to last me through the coming year but this yes has been hard as Health events have forced me to step back from so many commitments that I have both enjoyed and felt partly defined me to others. Letting go is not easy or enjoyable and accepting ones weakness even harder but your inspirational blogs show the path to letting Him lead us. Thank you.

  7. I hopefully have managed to stay on track with Lent this year. Aided by the fact that we currently do not have a Parish Priest, albeit, our new Incumbent will be instituted into the Benefice on 4th May.

    In the interim I have been called on to lead some services, some for the first time, to serve and support visiting priests and to Lead a five week, 10 session Lent Course over the past five weeks. Also, parish visiting, taking Home Communion to the sick and those in care and even keeping the church open, by presence and welcoming the many who come in to quietly pray, to visit and see or to visit their relatives ashes interred in our Garden of Rest (we don’t have a burial ground as a large municipal cemetery is nearby, and a Crematorium just a few miles away).

    I have perhaps prayed more than usual, particularly for and with those who have been bereaved during Lent, three families have lost a loved one since the start of Lent, and have come to us for funeral arrangements, and meeting them is one of the additional task in the absence of a Vicar, although, a visiting clergy from neighbouring parishes conduct the funerals themselves.

    And I know, that now the vocation that I felt towards Licensed Lay Ministry has and will continue to be fulfilled. I am supposed to retire from this ministry in October, aged 70, when the ministry has barely got off the ground. Hopefully, the Bishop will consider allowing me to continue for three years, with his permission, but it isn’t a forgone conclusion, I need recommendations from the Area Dean and Parish Priest, which are also not a forgone conclusion. So prayer and reflection are needed to ensure that it happens, through God’s Grace.

    And my (and our) prayers continue for you. You are prayed for in our weekly services and hoping that our prayers are joined with the stream of others whose prayers for you rise, will be of benefit to you as you live with your condition.

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