Today is May 25 2013. I took my children on a pilgrimage.
First we went to the Natural History Museum, where they watched their 8-year-old cousin present a very cool PP presentation and a brilliant 10 minute talk on entomology to the Young Entomologist Society. This was a word that before he became interested in bugs I never knew. His talk was amazing, it was all about the bug collection and the bugs that he has found in his Grandma and Grandpa’s french garden. He won the prize for best presentation and Young Entomologist of the Year Award. This is really quite something, as the older entomologists are looking for the future generation of entomologists to train up, and take over the wonderful jobs in the museum, which hosts the greatest collection in the world. He is not a bug ‘geek’, he is cool. He is from Mansfield with a strong accent and a cheeky charm. His presentation was filled with his natural sense of humour, and his charming passion which pulls you in and makes you listen in a cool way. He makes bugs, moths, butterflies and mini-beast funky. His voice is slightly husky and he speaks clear and slow and direct, with a confident order, all delivered with a smile. Just Brilliant. Afterwards we took in the past 65 million years.
So the first part of our pilgrimage was about the journey of the caterpillar ~ to the flight of the butterfly . . . and then briefly about the 65 million ancient times gone by. From tiniest larvae to giant dino’s. The survival of the gentle and humble is amazing. Fragile beauty ever-moving on. God is great.
The second part of our pilgrimage was to the Brompton Oratory, which I had completely not realised is St Philip Neri’s Oratory. This was a mini revelation else miracle for me, you see I knew we were going to the history museum and so I had planned to pop into the beautiful oratory just a few buildings along, and show it to my children. I have been now twice before, and on my first visit I had a deeply spiritual experience. I was absolutely penetrated by Mary Magdalene in her chapel, I cant explain exactly what happened that day, whether it were her posture or whatever, but the image of her penetrated right throughout my whole being, leaving me both transfixed and feeling utterly understood, the spiritual experience was both shocking, and absolutely comforting at once, and my first ever experience of being held in such a spiritual encounter within a church. I was with a group from my parish and my encounter made me feel completely exposed although I am almost sure nobody noticed. This was before I was even received into the Catholic Church and so whilst Mary Magdalene has since been so very special to me, St Philip Neri had no connection with me what so ever, therefore on my previous visits I barely took him in at all.
So you can absolutely imagine my surprise and delight when today (the day before my one year anniversary of being received into the Catholic Church) I entered into God’s House to pray and light a candle and be and share with Mary Magdalene, only to discover that it is St Philip Neri’s Orotary. You see on the 26th May 2012 I was received into the Catholic Church and it was on St Philip Neri’s feast day. It wasn’t the day I wanted to be received into the church at all. I desperately wanted to be received in on the 22nd July, Mary Magdalene’s feast day, but I couldn’t be, which filled my heart with sorrow. On the 26th May 2012 the day that I became a Catholic, it was St Philip Neri’s Feast day and also the Pentecost vigil Mass, the birthday of the Catholic Church, when the Holy Spirit came down upon the apostles/disciples and Magdalene was there I know. So you see I am connected by default to Mary Magdalene and the very birthday of the Church. Gods Love burning down upon us both, turned out to be quite perfect. Todays other little miracle was that I also discovered that St Philip Neri was born on July 22nd, The Feast day of Mary Magdalene. He was also very fond of the Dominicans of whom Mary Magdalene is the protectress. Amazing connections, quite mind-blowing.
I took great hope from todays pilgrimage, a day full of interior hurting. A day when I longed to be on pilgrimage at Walsingham with the rest of my diocese.
Instead God blessed me with kneeling and praying and lighting a candle in St Philip Neri’s chapel in front of a wax effigy of the Saint himself, he is the patron Saint of joy and I have read many joyous stories about him. When I came home I did a little research on St Philip Neri and I was so delighted to find this;
The lives of the saints are enlightening in this respect, and in the life of St. Philip Neri just such an occasion is described. He was an irascible man who quarreled easily and had violent outbursts of anger and of course endured violent outbursts from his brothers. One day he felt that it could not go on. Whether it was virtue or whether he could no longer endure his brothers his Vita does not tell us. The fact is that he ran to the chapel, fell down before a statue of Christ and begged Him to free him of his anger. He then walked out full of hope. The first person he met was one of the brothers who had never aroused the slightest anger in him, but for the first time in his life this brother was offensive and unpleasant to him. So Philip burst out with anger and went on, full of rage, to meet another of his brothers, who had always been a source of consolation and happiness to him. Yet even this man answered him gruffly. So Philip ran back to the chapel, cast himself before the statue of Christ and said “O Lord have I not asked you to free me from this anger?” And the Lord answered “Yes, Philip, and for this reason I am multiplying the occasions for you to learn”.’
Thank God. Hope for me yet.
The final part of our pilgrimage was very special for me. My twin daughter has been asking me (for quite a while) if she could see my university and see the special chapel, I guess so that she can finally have a picture in her head of where I have been going each Saturday for the past two years. I did more than that. I took them through the beautiful grounds and allowed them to stroke all the Sisters herbs in the garden to infuse their skin with the heady scent. I allowed them to go to the little grotto cave below the Virgin Mary statue and enter in, and walk right through it. No adult could do this unless they crouched low like a child. They all said a prayer inside the grotto, a little nature haven. I then took them all into the chapel, having outside reminded them to genuflect on entering, and the first thing my little five-year old daughter did was went boldly straight in, walked forward, got down on her knees right in front of the altar and stayed there until she had finished praying. My heart hugged her so hard from five pews back. Bless that child.
It has been the most difficult past few terms at university. I deferred my last assignment as something happened which dismantled all my ability. And now I appear to have a mental block about it. My notes were lacking, I couldn’t focus properly and now I just can’t catch up. And so I have resigned myself to my fate. Neither can I do this terms assignment for having lost all my confidence on the last one, and this one is my last assignment before everyone is awarded their degree. I am sure that I am capable of doing it, but despite this all motivation has deserted me. I can write a blog, I attend, participate and Love my lectures, but if the truth be known I have never felt worthy of getting a degree, I missed it the first time around, finance was forever the issue, and then there is the fact that I am no academic. I was so pleased to have managed to finance this one all by myself, I had no choice, administration errors meant that it was not open to student finance after I was told it was. So far I have passed every single module, but at the last hurdle I have fallen. :O( However I count my blessings.
You see I have Loved my time here. I Love my lectures. I Love the chapel with her cobalt blue starry canopy, she has cradled me and held me close for two whole years, years which I never thought I would get to experience. It has weekly been a temple for my prayer, and it gave me one of the most beautiful privileges of my life. And I Love the Sisters, even the stern ones. I shall miss it desperately when I leave university in July . . . then I will be just a butterfly butterflying. Getting a degree is just a piece of paper. Being blessed to be a part of such a beautiful, spiritual and stimulating pilgrimage for the past two years has been a compelling and precious treasure that I shall take away with me and hold in my heart forever.