Monday, 26 November 2012

Staring at your tail

Yesterday I was shattered. My wife and I had a social life at the weekend and I'm obviously too old for such youthful, crazy-dude pursuits. Old friends are great to catch up with but costly if you gab past midnight. Since then, as my previous post outlined, I've needed to catch up on another Old Friend, Sleep.
In between, things can get to you that normally don't. In fact, an unfinished working day of nine hours up to that point was taking its toll and I was really fixated. Thankfully, the distraction of family life came to the rescue. Then I managed to do the additional hour. Sigh.

World, I'd like to formally apologise for anything you found, and are finding, objectionable in my behaviour. Six out of ten, must try harder. (Well, not work harder, maybe just smarter. Do I even deserve 7? Ok, I'm stroking the cat as I type and she's purring, so maybe I get seven.)

So I cheered myself up by checking the viewing stats for my blog so far. Wow! Someone is reading it right now. And they use the same unusual browser as me. And the same unusual operating system. Wow! And 'Don't track your own pageviews' wasn't selected.
I was, in fact, my own audience. I was viewing the stats that I was the stats.

We say it's a small world. It doesn't get much smaller than viewing your own thoughts.

Even my cat, lazy as she sometimes seems, doesn't look at herself except to clean herself, not even her tail. Moreover, she doesn't appear in the least bit stressed over anything. Anything at all.
Net traffic? Who cares?
I just feel the warmth inside.
So, when I feel myself getting all stressed out, I need to act more like a cat. I'm not sure exactly what that will look like, but it gave me paws to think: I should stop thinking and go chill out and meet the world outside my own thoughts. This blog helps me do it, regardless of stats.
A loyal reader
ps Thanks to sometime-viewers of this blog in France, Germany, the US (and maybe the UK?), Sweden and Indonesia. You're not me (hurrah for you!) and your views did cheer me up, as did this video:

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The imminent vocation

I am probably like most people in that I occasionally have things happen that make me think 'is this the job/role I'm supposed to be doing in life?' For me that really gets asked as 'what is God calling me to do?' Better still, go ahead and ask 'what do You want me to do?'
As people come and go at work, sometimes people surprise you by indicating how they're likely to move on. I think I'm quite conservative that way. I'm a 'bloom where you're planted person'. In particular, I'm concerned not to think the grass is greener somewhere else- perhaps I've done that in the past and I realise there's an immaturity there. Besides, one thing I have learned is that your learn more about yourself in adversity, even if it's just hard work. Moreover, another benefit is the satisfaction after enduring what's dreaded in some way, or finding your own way of getting to the other side of it.

But anyway, I suddenly had a flash of inspiration on that front! The clouds lifted! My Vocation became clear: sleep.

God wants me to get a good night's sleep. 

It's obvious, and sometimes our lofty ideas of what to do next are best put aside in favour of the obvious, the imminent. This is especially true if everyone around me prefers me properly rested!
I'm not asleep, I'm refuelling my patience and sense of reason.
Our youngest two, the way we prefer them. (I'm kidding).
But is this imminent vocation also immanent? (Or have I butchered the English language enough for one post?)


[im-uh-nuhnt] adjective
remaining within; indwelling; inherent.
Philosophy . (of a mental act) taking place within the mind of the subject and having no effect outside of it. Compare transeunt.
Theology . (of the Deity) indwelling the universe, time, etc. Compare transcendent

Contrary to the second definition, I believe it will have a very obvious effect on those around me. How much more pleasant I would be! How much more patient! But, more seriously, the vocation for all is the one that Therese of Lisieux discovered: love. So, I'll love myself as God would want me to, and I'll get the sleep.
But if I don't manage it, I'll just have to love a bit more in order to be pleasant and more patient.

November remembering

Mum and dad passed away two years ago now. It's hard to believe. And I've gone from thinking I had to go every day or every week, to just managing to squeeze in a visit to the cemetery before November is finished. But that's life with children. I do go at other times of the year as well, just not as much as I'd like to.
I did want to make sure we went in November though, and not just myself. So I took them all and we prayed the Rosary in the car on the way. Then we did a decade there. It was a bit waterlogged and there was the inevitable policing of children investigating neighbouring grave stones and flowers- but the lesson was imparted. We visit cemeteries to pray for loved ones. And we do this especially in November.
I was actually dog tired and didn't want to go but I knew it was the right thing to do, and it was.

It's a good lesson for me as well. When I was young a visit like this was just nostalgia. I couldn't relate too emotionally to the people we were visiting. It was just 'duty' and 'nice'. But my children knew and loved my grandparents, I hadn't really known mine well.
I hope I can impart something of the reality of our existence to them in a visit like this. But it's not a harsh reality. Perhaps a wake-up call, yes.
But it's a wake-up call to a beautiful morning that awaits us beyond the reality we see. We believe in the God who made all that is seen and unseen. The immeasurably beautiful unseen.

Mum and Dad,
pray for us,
and we for you. Amen

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The humour in sincerity

One of the ways in which our special son (the child and a half) entertains us is with his comments made in all sincerity.
My wife has frequent issues with any objections made to her cooking. She is quite right. After all, what right have we who are getting fed to quibble with the fare being offered?
Well, one night when serving after slaving in the kitchen over the dinner, a negative comment was passed. That was it. At the end of her tether, my wife made her thoughts crystal clear.
Wife: I'm fed up with people who have nothing better to do than say whatever they like about the food I've made. Well, if you don't like it you can go to a restaurant up the road and eat whatever you like!!
Special son: Mum, where is it? Can I go?
You don't believe I like it?
I'm wearing it for goodness sake!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Why worry?

I've set myself the task of reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church in a year.
But I have help from here. I'm sent a small portion to read every day. Sometimes two emails are sitting in my inbox and I realise I really have to do something right now. Otherwise it'll get out of hand. It is working though. Every time I read a section (5 mins or so) I find something I didn't know. And it's fascinating. Often, I'm not just learning, I'm inspired by a particular point.

This happened this evening. Something that gave me a shot of Hope. Section 208 of the Catechism reads:

Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." But because God is holy, he can forgive the man who realizes that he is a sinner before him: "I will not execute my fierce anger... for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst." The apostle John says likewise: "We shall... reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

It's this last part that really struck me. My heart is often troubled by asking myself 'am I really doing the right thing here?' It is good to ask that question when one is confronted by a serious matter (the Church outlines what these are). But when one is bogged down by asking the question continually and it is wearing you down and robbing you of peace, then this quote really consoles:

"We shall... reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."

The key is sincerity. If I sincerely want to love and make manageable and serious commitments to do it, then forget worries. They're not from God.
He is my Friend, so I won't keep my distance from Him. Naturally, I'll talk to Him every day. This shows my Friend I believe He exists, I believe and hope in His Power - that Love Itself is Who I am conversing with. I want us to know each other.

"You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you."  John 15:14

Do we worry about doing the right thing? God knows what is in our hearts. Why worry if this is one friend who cannot misunderstand us and our intentions.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Two ingredients for a Hope cake

I was full of joy tonight after an evening of recollection. The priest spoke of Holy Souls, it being the month of November, the traditional month for this for Catholics (and, come to think of it, everyone else if you consider Remembrance Day). This was also my mum's birthday, the second since her passing away, and I had been to Holy Mass in remembrance of her.

But the priest spoke not so much of the suffering of Holy Souls, but of the fact of their being saved. They are happy, to be envied in so much as they are certain of their eternal reward. This is a great ingredient for Hope for those of us left to ponder - to foster the hope of heaven.
Now let me see. Where are we?
What does this 'eternal' idea mean? It's so hard to get this notion into our finite heads. One approach I got lately came from reading someone else's blog, which referred to this video.
Put aside, nay, sweep aside the possible feeling of anonymity, and the vast coldness of space. If you get the chance to follow Fr.Spitzer on YouTube you realise there must be God. And as we experience pleasure (a real miracle) and love (a real miracle) - just to start with - these facts suddenly give us something to contemplate when thinking of eternity as a gift from an incredibly powerful and loving God.

God is. God is Good. God is Goodness Itself. Our happiness will go on, and on, and on, and on in Eternity.

The second ingredient in this Hope cake is sleep. By Providence I read a blog post I wouldn't have agreed with normally but I found sympathy with. Or rather, it gave me sympathy. I had a short sleep after work today and it suddenly made the world seem a better place. It hadn't changed, I had. I was joyful.

The priest recommended that we see the Year of Faith that has been proclaimed in the Catholic Church as a Year of Joy. We could measure its success by how much joy we have. So, adding two and two...

We should make sure we do what we can to get sufficient sleep in this crazy world that doesn't like silence and contemplation and genuine rest, so that we can live the way we were meant to live. It won't change the world by itself, but it will change how we see it. And we should add to this some time every day to contemplate our heavenly destiny.

Each day is made to love. We awaken to love.
And maybe then, full of Hope, we can set about changing the world. Starting tomorrow, after a good night's sleep.

Happy Birthday Mum!
Pray for me and I for you and all your friends, that we may meet merrily in Heaven. (St.Thomas More to his daughter).

Saturday, 3 November 2012

What can I offer you?

There's a lovely hymn that goes:
What can I offer you Lord Our God,
How can I thank you for all that you've done?

With my parents now passed on, I often think of where they are. I also often think christians are increasingly finding it hard to practise what they believe in varying degrees. Both things have caused me a lot of angst in recent months. When my dad first passed away it felt as if there wasn't a clear purpose in this life. Why couldn't I just be with him? Why this life here? Why not just the next one?
But both suffering and heavenly reward were very prominent throughout the readings for the day on All Saints' Day Holy Mass. When I read them I was really bowled over by the imagery of what it means to be saved and to be at the Heavenly Banquet. On the other hand you have persecution mentioned in the First Reading and then again in the Communion Antiphon. The Gospel itself, the Beatitudes, balances efforts with promised rewards.
We know where we're going but there's a climb first

Do you want to live forever? Well, what about living forever and also in such bliss as you cannot possibly be dissatisfied? Forever. No more tears, only unending joy. I see my parents again. We'll never again be separated. What would I not give?

Well, once you think about it, you come to the conclusion that there must be something you can do in return. How embarrassing to turn up at celebration and you haven't brought a gift for the banquet. Or more accurately, someone actually gave you the present but you ate it on the way. You spend the party thinking 'I can't believe this is the best party I've ever been to and I've not brought a single thing to show appreciation for my invite.' And everyone else has.

All around us we have opportunities to offer something to God. The more bleakly the struggle of life is portrayed, the greater the persecution we sense, the more work there appears to be done, the more opportunities there are. What can I offer you Lord Our God?
God has given to me, and everyone else, the gift of a life beautifully wrapped and, inevitably, in the shape of a cross.

I picture myself at the threshold of the door, knocking and expecting a warm welcome from my Perfect Host. In my hands is an empty box, the wrapping dishevelled, my face greedily covered in chocolate.
Dear God, I hope this won't be me.
You're on your way to the party, what are you doing with that precious gift in your hands?