Today at Mass something beautiful happened.
I sat next-door-but-one to a young Italian woman. I have seen this woman cycling her bicycle before now in carefree flight through the village, and I have seen her twice at Mass too before now. There was something about her on each of the three previous occasions that caught my deeper attention. Today after Mass, I said hello – It was noisy and I lent close almost cheek to cheek so that I could speak into her ear, and she thought I was going to kiss her in continental greeting and she responded by kissing my cheek – complete stranger friend. Italian. :O) An English person would not have responded in this way . . . unless like me you are tactile and open. I smiled so ~ inside. I told her ‘you have a very beautiful face’ and she responded with ‘your eyes ~ you have very beautiful eyes’. She teaches languages and so I said that I could introduce her to my Sardinian friend a linguist who speaks Italian as a first language, and in true coincidental style it turned out they happen to share the same name too. All three of us live in a home with someone who doesn’t share our Catholic faith – they are both happily married.
I often look at people with beautiful eyes ~ and it is not their eyes that are beautiful ~ but more often that, whatever-it-is that is inside is shining out. You can even look at beautiful sad eyes ~ but still it is something of the inside that somehow pours out in beautifulness. Someone once said to me that the eyes are the windows to the soul.
This week a job has been re-advertized, it could be my spiritual, financial and practical ‘get out of jail free’ card. A lay Chaplin post in a secondary school has become available ~ but I have lost my confidence. Where once I would have applied for it in great confidence without thinking or doubting myself (even without being qualified), I now am scared to apply for it. And yet even though I know that I could bring a gift to the table that nobody else might bring, I am scared of falling short of what everybody else could offer – and of what I couldn’t. My university degree means that I should be qualified to take such a post, but I feel as if I would need a little training on the job. It would be perfect as it is a full-time post with most holidays off, so I could be off with the children in the holidays. It is great money for me and could offer me independence.
It would be working within my faith, and I would be sharing that faith by accompanying others. Exactly what I want. Though I am maybe less administratively organized than some, and possibly less computer literate than others, my spelling and mildly dyslexic written tendencies are less conventional but are a gift. I am a great warm people person, who would exclude no-one, and could help bring many closer to God through Loving kindness. The deadline for application is November the 4th. However one day per week I am now training on my Ignatian spirituality & spiritual direction course, and unless they would consider taking someone for 4 days per week (valuing the benefits of my training) things wouldn’t work. ~ Maybe God is telling me it is just wrong timing and I need more training. ~ And then I think of the money that could save me from a certain death and offer me a certain independence, new life and resurrection, and I want to run ahead and apply for it without looking sideways, backwards or down.
Another coincidence, in fact 2 coincidences happened last week.
On my course we did this brilliant exercise that involved making a visual ‘mood board’ of our image of God – without having time to process our thoughts. You see at high-speed we were charged to tear things out of many magazines from a heap in the middle of the floor. We had to grab a magazine that caught our attention, and scan quickly page after page tearing out any images (and afterwards words) that made us think of God. All 20 or so of us rip rip ripping away at high-speed. Overtime as we began to slow we were jeered on faster and faster again, until suddenly we were to stop. We were then given a large white piece of paper where we were to arrange our images.
Interestingly enough my ‘mood board’ of course included the clichés of mountains, bridges, lamps, piers, candle light, solitude, and waterfalls etc, but also was one of much greenery, peace, nature, wildflowers, gentle windmills, babies ~ and then more interestingly still, the soft and feminine images of a mother breastfeeding her child and the beautiful images of intimate togetherness and love-making. The words ‘guide’ ‘Love’ ‘interior’ ‘the call of the wild’ ‘experience’ and ‘direction’ were all words that caught my attention. In completion my mood board of ‘God images’ completely took me aback because of their equal soft femininity, and gentleness ~ Being a daughter I have always consciously looked at God as Male, Father, Strength, Protector, etc, and yet I look at my Lord Jesus as my beautiful Beloved Rabboni, my Lover, my Spouse, my Companion and my Soulsharer who is intimately and eternally ever-present and ever loving and arousing.
When reflecting upon my board I voiced my surprise at how gentle and feminine my board was, then somebody said to me the breast-feeding image on my mood board reminded them of the beautiful short Psalm 131. As soon as I got home I looked it up and right there was one of my images.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up;
my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvelous for me.
2 But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
3 O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time forth and forevermore.
Then on Friday of last week I went on a quiet day with the Canonesses, and in one of the small pieces of liturgy compiled by the Canonesses there it was ~ Bright, Bold, Beautiful and waiting in Holy Spirit/coincidence just for me ~ Psalm no. 131.
This week under tension I fell out with Mum. Sometimes compassion and praise are hard for her to give, she is not a woman of great maternalness (despite having four children and 11 grandchildren) neither a woman of artistic nature, neither a woman of spirituality or faith – but of a practical and secular world point of view which mostly involves regular daily living on a tight budget (retirement age), keeping her house and garden immaculate, frequent socializing and celebrating with friends, and living a beach and social life in Goa. She finds it difficult to accept the choices I have made because of my faith and because of authentic Love – and has no problem in telling me so, whether I want to hear it or not. She praises R and criticizes me and the way I choose to live my life. She dislikes the Church for their stance she sees imposed upon a family in second marriage. I tried defending the church and my choices, but she has a point.
She lives in Goa for 6 months of the year and so this makes it especially difficult that on the 3 or 4 times that she visits my home (in the 6 months that she is back) is often ungenerous and lacks compassion. However this week instead of my taking her criticisms on the chin as I usually do, I finally at 43, instead of just getting huffy, lost my temper and criticised her back. I tearfully blurted out how I felt hurt and let down, and of how critical she was, and she didn’t like it and abruptly left. I have never ever done this before. And it of course is held in absolute tension with what the bible teaches us about respecting our parents. However it was really quite a releasing, purging and purifying experience, I suddenly for once felt like an independent adult – free of my Mum’s wrath and disaproval.
Then I thought of the piece of scripture that says family will be divided ~
Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”
and I know it so.
The following day I took myself off to Mass to be consoled. And in true coincidental, Holy Spirit style the above reading was the Gospel of the day.
On Saturday we were suppose to be celebrating ‘Christmas’ at Mum’s house before she goes off (on the 1st of November) to Goa for 6 months. I of course was worried about going, having not spoken for a few days. I considered whether it would be kinder for me to stay away or to go, and whether my presence would make things too uncomfortable and ruin her enjoyment of the special family day before she leaves for India. I prayed Mass whilst R got all the children together, and then I decided to go. I wasn’t scared should one of us die whilst she is away, as I know (that we both know) that we Love each other – and that Love is the death of death. But still I prayed about it. I wanted her to see that in God I would do what was right, even if she and I were struggling to. However despite the initial awkwardness of eye-contact, within 5 minutes everything was just fine, and the early Christless Secular Christmas celebrations were great fun as always. There may have been no Christ, but there was much Love, with 21 of us in total including 10 children. It was slightly awkward at first but we were both forgiving and gracefully ignored any awkwardness and at the end of the evening we parted with a hug.
So often I wonder about the Holy Spirit ~ coincidence is just that ~ coincidence ~ but the Holy Spirit does follow me ~ and surprises me ~ and startles me ~ and convinces me ~ and takes my breath away when I am least expecting it ~ time after time after timeless time.
Dearest God, please be a shelter and safe-haven to us all in these storms.
And dearest St Francis Xavier please keep my Mummy safe ~ and in spirit and truth closer still to God ~ especially whilst in Goa.
In Love and wonder