A Word for the Weary

Weariness is something we all experience from time to time. For some, it is a more or less chronic condition that goes along with being the parents of small children, illness, or caring for someone who makes huge demands on our energy and patience. Today, in the U.K., I sense a kind of collective weariness about our forthcoming General Election. People are beginning to tire of the debate, the endless accusations, the promises that don’t quite add up, the gimmicks, the shoutiness of social media. For those of us observing Advent, there is also a kind of mid-season weariness to be factored in as well. Can we really be so close to the third Sunday of Advent when we don’t seem, to ourselves at least, to have even begun? Is there a word for the weary we can all take to heart, that will provide balm for our souls and encouragement for what lies ahead?

What a gift today’s Mass readings prove to be! Isaiah 40. 25–31 comforts us with the reassurance that even the young may stumble and tire but the Lord will bear us up as on eagle’s wings. Then in Matthew 11. 28–30 we have those comforting words of Jesus himself, inviting those who labour and are overburdened to come to him and share his yoke. But there is a snag. There always is a snag. Most of us don’t recognize that we are weary or overburdened. Those who go around proclaiming how tired they are or how much they need a holiday are not usually exhausted. They are still able to register what they think and feel. Their judgement is still at work. The truly exhausted are no longer able to judge their own exhaustion but tend to go on, becoming wearier and wearier, often more and more silent or sending out cries for help that go unnoticed by others. In my experience, it is not those who can articulate their distress who tend to have the break-downs but those who can’t. Can anything or anyone reach such depths of weariness?

The conventional answer to that question is that grace can touch and transform anyone at any time. Weariness is no obstacle to God. I agree with that, of course, but I think I would want to add a small nuance. St Benedict is very eloquent about the mutual support community members are to give one another. Much of it is unspoken, rather understated, but it relies on being aware of others and their needs. To give a simple illustration, last night was wet and windy and I admit to shivering a bit. When I went to bed I discovered that someone had put a hot water bottle between my sheets — unasked, just because she noticed. Hot water bottles are a very practical response to a perceived need, but it isn’t only, or even especially, practical needs we can help with. A smile, a prayer, a little patience may be all it takes to give someone else the courage to face another day — and in helping others, we may find that we have been helped, too. Those eagle’s wings take many forms.

General Election 2019
Whenever we have an important decision to make in the monastery, we stop discussing it for twenty-four hours before voting on it in chapter. That gives us time to think and pray without being distracted. Accordingly, apart from posting our prayer intentions, we shall be abandoning social media until tomorrow so that we can reflect more deeply on the choices we and the rest of the country have to make in the Election.

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8 thoughts on “A Word for the Weary”

  1. Spot on, as ever. Thank you Sister Catherine, and thank you Quietnun for the living out of The Rule, (or love). Quiet from the clamour for 24hrs is attractive. Would I be open to God changing my mind during that time? I wonder…

  2. I personally know that I need to get around 8 to 10 hours sleep at night to beable to be of service in my day work. It’s hard sometimes, as my nature is very very social. Our children also need a good amount of sleep as school hasn’t closed for the Christmas Holidays yet here. I am choosing to take a slow avent journey.

  3. Sometimes in my weariness, suffering Rheumatoid Arthritis plus and still trying to care for aged and frail parents I feel trapped in this exhaustive state and my prayers for healing unheard, a temptation I know – just then when at my lowest unexpected help will often arrive, but it is so hard to carry really heavy burdens while feeling no one listens – but God is always watching and loving us ready to catch us.

    • Vigil, If you live in England, Please get in touch with the adult social services department of your local council
      and ask for a care assessment (also known as a needs assessment) for you and your parents . Explain you need support managing everyday tasks like accessing your community. There’s no charge for a care assessment and you’re entitled to one regardless of your income and savings and regardless of what your needs are.
      If you are feeling not confident to do this ring( we’re here to help) We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 140 local Age UKs. These services are for you Vigil and your parents. Please use them. Blessings.

  4. I’m tired, but not weary, it’s just been an awful week. A work Christmas party, too much alcohol drunk by one person, a few vile remarks made to a young female, left distraught, HR rightly declare it gross misconduct, and someone gets sacked right before Christmas… Who’d be a manager? (Let alone an abbot!)

    Please pray for all of my team, including the drunken ex-employee.

    Hopefully I can find a more advent-like sentiment in the next couple of weeks, while trying to rebuild my colleagues confidence, and … (only half a joke) figure out how to cancel all future Christmas parties without getting dubbed Scrooge!

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