Nought for Your Comfort?

The relentlessly cheerful and optimistic can be rather trying to the rest of us, who would probably say we are ‘realists’ or claim to be cool and rational in the face of the world’s ills. (Personally, I think ‘cool and rational’ is rather overdone since it tends to be the attitude of those who like to give others the benefit of their opinion unasked, but let’s leave that for the moment.) There is certainly a great deal to be exercised about at present. In Britain we face never-ending scraps about statistics, lockdown restrictions and the economy, not helped by silly headlines such as ‘Worship Banned’ or ‘Christmas Likely To be Cancelled’ and the ramping up of the perceived likelihood of another terrorist attack. Across the Atlantic there is the disedifying spectacle of the President questioning (that’s the most neutral word I can find) the validity of his country’s democratic processes, to the great delight of Russia and China and totalitarian regimes everywhere. Meanwhile, people are dying in the mud of landslides in Guatemala or lonely and afraid in Cameroon and Mozambique, while the starving children of Yemen are largely ignored and the abuse of human rights elsewhere is mainly remembered only when it serves another purpose.

Those who forecast the end of the world as we have known it may well be right. The tradition of liberal Western democracy most of us have grown up with may not survive. The economic systems with which we are familiar may be lost as the East comes to dominate both manufacturing and finance. As for the Church, there must be a question-mark over whether she can continue to ignore so many of the intellectual and cultural changes that affect our lives or even sustain the huge investment in personnel and plant (churches, schools, seminaries, etc.) that has characterised previous centuries. Bombs, beheadings, the sheer inhumanity and selfishness we see daily must give us pause. ‘What is the world coming to?’ we cry, but answer comes there none.

And yet. And yet, God is still there, endlessly creative, and the human spirit is there, too, graced with compassion and fellow-feeling. If we are being called to a new situation, a new way of being, as I think we are, surely we can take heart from those two elementary truths. That is where real comfort (in the sense of strength) is to be found. Over the next few weeks, I hope to be able to share with you a few ideas on the subject. In the meantime, let’s pray for one another, and especially for those who feel daunted by the prospect before them.

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20 thoughts on “Nought for Your Comfort?”

  1. As ever a thoughtful and thought provoking piece. Very grateful that there are communities of praying people who in praying are also listening, the often forgotten part of prayer.

    Thank you sister.

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  2. What a great post, so full of hope, despite how we are living now.

    I know, that despite the lockdown God is still with us, among us and abiding in us. How we express that will be dependent upon our context and situation, but I am cheered that I will now be in church assisting in the Eucharist, preaching occasionally all being streamed to our stranded people in our community.

    Apparently I am working (in accordance with the guidance) I prefer the word serving, because that is what I feel called to do. And on Sunday, I will lead a very short service at the War Memorial in the Church Grounds, for those who cannot be their in person. I won’t be in uniform, I will be robed but I will at least wear the medals awarded for previous service in a hugely different role.

    God is with us,
    God be along side us,
    God abide in us.
    Amen

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  3. This article deeply resonates with my own thoughts Dame Catherine. Thank you for sharing. I will be interested to read the follow up articles.
    Grace and Peace +

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  4. Thank you,Sister Catherine.
    What does it mean to be called to a new situation and a new way of being? Lots to ponder.
    I look forward to your future posts on this subject.
    Many thanks!

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  5. Much of the feeling that the world is in decline may be due to the relentless negativity of the main news media. There are actually many reasons for thinking that the world is improving in important ways, albeit in a ‘two steps forward, one step back’ kind of a way. Steven Pinker certainly thinks so and many others agree. For example: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sex-murder-and-the-meaning-life/201803/ten-ways-the-world-is-getting-better

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    • I don’t think there is a single answer, is there? I’m simply addressing some of the concerns that have been raised recently by those contacting the monastery. Living where I do, and being a nun, I myself am largely free of the media onslaught but the historian in me registers that some of the things we have taken for granted are fast disappearing. I have only to look out of my window to notice species decline, etc, and I can understand how much that affects people. My message, if I can dignify it with that name, is one of hope, though.

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  6. There are many now, catholic and non catholic who believe the world as we’ve known it is ending. Many more prominent and unusual catholic sources are also drawing attention to this subject.

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  7. Unfortunately, there is ample reason for the American President to question his country’s democratic processes. To turn a blind eye to serious election tampering Is to subvert democracy itself. Should fully warranted investigation reveal no such tampering, there is every reason to believe this President will step aside and in a peaceful and timely manner. I know many people have an intense dislike for this President, but that only makes the likelihood of criminal election interference that much greater. Coronavirus allowed for creation of novel voting practices which were denounced months ago by reasonable folks from all sides. This is not a usual “sore loser” response. These are quite different times with the mainstream media and social media heavily pushing a one-sided agenda. Otherwise , I loved your reflection here.

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  8. Thank you for this post full of hope
    I believe we are being called to a new way of being , being drawn back to our compassionate loving God or being drawn to Him , there is a surge of people logging on to online services , seeking answers , seeking hope in a dark world where nothing satisfies and material worth can disappear over night . They have been asking for prayer to a God they previously ignored , have embraced a faith they previously believed to be irrelevant .
    The pandemic is challenging our values and Challenging the meaning of our lives
    There is always hope !

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  9. Dear Sister Catherine, thank you so much for another thoughtful piece. So many of God’s children are suffering from natural disasters and man made conflicts. Too often these catastrophes go unrecognised and fall between the cracks of political activity. But there is always hope for something better. It needs more people to follow the path of grace, peace and love advocated by our dear Lord and our Saviour, Jesus Christ. With Christmas approaching, the time is right for helping those less fortunate than ourselves and for generating some much needed goodwill to everyone around us. Our dear Lord doesn’t create the problems but does have the answers.
    God bless and care for you all at Howton Priory. Peace and love be with you.

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  10. We are called to live in faith, hope and love, not fear. More easily said than done but worth aiming for every day.

    I often think about our ancestors who experienced plague, war, famine and how the end of the world must have seemed imminent to them. They kept on and did their best. While as individuals we can’t solve all the current problems we can each do our part and encourage each other in the process, including worship, prayer, scripture meditation, even if restricted to our homes.

    We’re looking forward to your future posts helping us navigate the road ahead, and many thanks for that! Best wishes and prayers for all.

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  11. When things seem to be going pear shaped as they have, as they are, and as they ever shall be, I always remember to “look for the helpers” and to keep my eye on the “people of good will”. And then I remember what Julian of Norwich heard from Jesus in a vision she received, “It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” When I look for the helpers and people of good will, wherever I may find them, I know that this is true because God is still on his throne.

    Remember Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

    God knows that we can become bowed down and discouraged by the world and all its shenanigans and evils so he gives us this encouragement. This doesn’t mean that we should be vapidly naive and blindly optimistic at all. It just means that we need to actively look for the good before the world steals our joy.

    Reply

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