Saturday, 30 April 2011

Married Life

Here is how married life is for me whilst my husband remains unconscious and fighting for his life.

Intensive Care is amazing and the nursing staff and doctors are inspired. However it is not a place I can linger in. I am made to feel welcome and they always have time to speak to me about my concerns, however, it is exhausting for me to watch and pray there. The mask of sickness that obscures my husband is both grotesque and strangely beautiful, but it is hard to look through this mask and touch his soul. I have to come away.

I have been very fortunate to have been able to get to Mass nearly every day since he went into hospital. It is at Mass where Love and Truth are presented to us and where shadows of anxiety, fatigue and loneliness are transformed into something beautiful and sustaining (even if exactly what is just out of reach). It is before the Blessed Sacrament that I can be closest to my husband by placing everything in our lives before Our Lord.

Back at home, there are certain domestic chores that have to be done and which can become a prayer in themselves; cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing, light gardening all done with cloistered silence and steady care are both therapeutic and of more significance than the sum of their parts. They can still the body and still the mind. This is very different from the frantic cleaning and tidying I indulged in whilst the adrenaline was still kicking around in the early days of this situation. Being busy for the sake of it, is something worth ditching; hyperactivity and me do not get on.

I am continuing to go to work. That is therapy too, of sorts. My employers are very considerate. And it is good to be laughed at by my 11 year old pupils for getting a simple addition sum very wrong.....

Married life continues, it is important I keep it prayerful and still, he has not left me and I will not let go of him until told to by the Lord.

Saturday, 23 April 2011



Husband is still critical, but his condition has stabilised. There is still along way to go but the doctors are sounding more optimistic.

A Blessed Easter to you all!

Haec dies, quam ecit Dominus; exsultemus, et laetemur in ea.

Thank you so much for your prayers, I don't know what I'd do without you. It is thanks to your prayers that he has received the Sacrament of the Sick and that a priest had the time to stay with him so that we could say the rosary together.

No significant change in my husband's condition....

You can't fault my husband's timing..the emptiness of Holy Saturday just about sums it all up.

My husband has a great devotion (and they have been devoted in return) to St Paul (who he was named after), Blessed John Henry Newman and to his guardian angel. Say a prayer to them, if you will...

May God bless you all.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Please say a prayer for my husband who finds himself in Intensive Care, sedated and being artificially ventilated after coming down (very rapidly- less than 20 hours) with pneumonia. He is not well, he already has COPD and fibrosis, the doctors are not cheery.

After leaving him at hospital last night, I went to watching at a nearby church, in fact, there were two in walking distance of each other so I watched in both.

Something new struck me last night. Normally when I go I just think of Our Lord's words Could you not watch one hour with me? and it seems right and fitting to make up somehow for what the Apostles failed to do, and as God stands outside time, Jesus can draw comfort from our prayers.

I always start watching by reading the seven penitential psalms. I don't know why I do this, a few years back it seemed like a good thing to do, so I try to keep doing it. Last night, it struck me that the sighs of the psalmist are our cries down the centuries; in our suffering and in our acknowledgment of how deep we have sunk in the quagmire of sin. That God so loved us as to provide the ransom for this state is overwhelming. We kneel before the Altar of Repose not just to do something that the Apostles failed to do, indeed our gesture must hurt the Lord sometimes when we casually forget him at other times; beneath our holiness lies many pratfalls. We keel before the Altar of Repose to respond to His love, receiving our chalice; it is our "fiat".

I got home to to a telephone call telling me just how bad my husband actually is.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

For la Mamma...

For anyone laid low this Holy Week.

I have no real tips, I struggle with prayer, I'm struggling with the rosary (sometimes I can't remember the mysteries and often I find I can't recall my Aves and Paters)so all that is put to one side, sometimes it is best just to let go. I am finding silence really important; there is so much to hear in silence, but with the hot weather it is not easy to find unless it is very early in the morning.

Here are a few words from some far wiser than me:

Firstly from Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen O.C.D

..if we turn to God, we shall never be disappointed; even if he does not alter our situation or take away our troubles, He will console our hearts interiorly, in secret and in silence, and will give us the strength to persevere...

If our life and all its events, even the most painful ones, did not rest in God's hands, we should have reason to fear; but since everything is always in His hands, our fears are groundless and we should not be dismayed.

Secondly from Bl M. Therese Soubiran.

I believe that all You do and permit is for my good and my salvation, and I abandon myself to Your guidance with love and trust and without anxiety, fear or calculation.

Both quotes are taken from Divine Intimacy.

Remember, prayers said in suffering are very powerful even when they come out all rubbish and confused....

You are in my prayers.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Desert Wandering

This Lent, I’ve been wandering in the desert with Moses. Somehow, I’m finding the Book of Numbers very rewarding . I bought the Holy Father’s latest book on Jesus of Nazareth, but I’m struggling to read it, I don’t seem up to academic texts, no matter how beautifully they are written.

Chapter 20 of Numbers deals with the incident that is referred to in Psalm 94, “harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the desert when your fathers put me to the test”. In the past I’ve been put out by this chapter because the punishment inflicted on Moses and Aaron seems a little steep for their “crime”. Moses would not lead his people into the promised land and Aaron would be dead by the end of the chapter. I just could not work out what they had done to merit this. They just seem to have the pastoral needs of their people at heart and ask God to help them in their distress. Isn’t that what the leaders of God’s people are supposed to do?

Looking at it afresh it now becomes a disturbingly real and seems to speak a great deal of how we should behave towards our spiritual leaders and how they should respond to us.

The chapter starts with the near seditious murmurings of the people. They are looking back to a fictitious golden age in Egypt, they are dissatisfied. Their physical need for water overrides their trust in God. This is not a good state to be in. This is what Lent is all about; trying to dampen down our kvetching about the state of things and how much better things would be if only……, and trying to shut-out the voice of our physical needs and let God in.

God’s justice is never cruel, it is merciful. Moses and Aaron have responded inadequately. They respond primarily to the physical needs of their people, imploring for yet another (soon to be forgotten) miracle. Their pastoral work does fall short of what it ought to be. They have not responded by teaching the people to have faith by example, they have wanted to keep them quiet. I’m reminded of the disciples when the Canaanite woman implores loudly for her daughter to be cured, the disciples ask Our Lord to get on with it to shut her up.

So God is rightly disappointed with Moses and Aaron, they have sought to “people please” over and above putting the love of God first. It might not seem much of a crime, but look in any parish and you can see the damage it does. Mummy wants her little girl to serve at Mass even though she yawns and looks bored, the Children’s liturgy group want the kiddies around the altar after the Consecration every Mass (even though they are rowdy), the Music ministry team want hymns nobody else has heard of and even though Father isn’t quite sure they are theologically sound…..Father gives in to their demands, Father doesn’t want a fight, Father wants to try and show everyone he is here for them, Father’s exhausted and dispirited, Father can’t stand arguments, Father feels weak, Father has no authority, Father wants to say things in his sermons but he lacks the guts for the murmurings that may follow.

Father has forgotten to put God first. What is happening to him is not that different from what happened to Moses and Aaron.

As parishioners, we must in all charity stop murmurings before they cause such things, the consequences of not doing so have been shown to us more than adequately in the Old Testament.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

This charming man

Some time in the late 1980s, I found myself in one of the bars of an Oxford College. It was probably Brazenose; geographically, this would make sense. However,I was not an Oxford University student, I was just on a bit of a bender with some chums who were.

We were sober, well more sober than the 4 wealthy gentlemen propping up the bar. They seemed to find my flat northern vowels amusing and they certainly found it "quaint" that I was drinking/ordering pints of bitter. I tend to ignore such "southern softie" ignorance, but they seemed determined to engage me in conversation. Having ascertained my provenance as a "Manchester Lass", and having suffered a chorus of "ee bah gum Lass", they then, with some sincerity, told me how much they liked the Smiths. The Smiths were a popular band from Manchester at that time, though I have to admit I found them lumpen, insincere and overrated. The 4 gentlemen were so impressed with their knowledge of popular culture that they started singing a "hit" of the Smiths called "This Charming Man" complete with wavey, affected hand gestures. If they had been attempting to chat me up or even engage my interest, then they were an abject failure.

Now, I'm not saying that any of those gentlemen is now our current First Lord of the Treasury, but they represent a certain type of Oxford Student that exists to this day. I wonder if it has occurred to Mr Cameron that many 17-18 year olds simply do not aspire to an education at Oxford, partly because it is full of people like him.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Just in case you are bored...

I sincerely hope you aren't bored, but if you are can I recommend you fill out a questionnaire on a little known blog called the contemplative catholic. I will not link to it for reasons that will become obvious if you read it, but you will find it listed at the Britcat repository of all things Catholic, British and blogged.

I trust my gentle reader will answer sensibly and with orthodoxy.
Take your time and beware of questions like "is the Pope infallible?"

On a better note, you may wish to try the excellent blog The Hearth of Mopsus, probably the best blog from a good Anglican Rev who is probably not coming over any time soon.

Thank you all for your prayers, I'm very touched by your response.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Diary of sickness

I'm reluctant to turn this blog into a sick-ologue, however, illness does rather consume me at the moment.

If,to quote Blessed John Henry Newman, "everything hitherto as been for good" then I really ought to find blessing in my infirmity. What shall I pray for? I've not admitted this to anyone before, but I've not prayed to get better. I don't know why this prayer won't come readily to my lips, but I'm not sure it is ingrained on my heart.

I've prayed to God that I hope I will not let him down in my service to him.
My more specific prayers are that my marriage may continue to grow in strength and that (more bizzarely) I don't let my Year 11s down. I really don't know why my current classes of 16 year olds have so ingrained themselves on my heart, but there they are and whilst I stagger into work, primarily it is for them. I just ask God to prevent me from becoming pigheaded and believing in my own importance, I've asked him to help me know when it is time to stop and to "go on the sick".

I've still not got a definite diagnosis, though they have a "strong hunch". We have a new professor on the case, sadly he has brought half his patients with him from his previous hospital so getting my next appointment is proving a battle. Another six months of tests and scans may be in order before they get round to an operation and possibly a lengthy convalescence.

I refuse to separate body and soul, to concentrate on sickness of the body is to deny sickness of the soul (something we all suffer from). I'm trying to see my sickness as a mortification of the body for the benefit of the soul.

I cannot see my body as something that can be cured by doctors. Perhaps, because they take so little interest in me as a person, everything they do is intrusive. I feel like a prostitute, I've consented for them to poke and prod (this isn't rape), but I have yet to see any "good" coming out of our transaction. I look in the mirror and can hardly recognise myself, a sick and tired person stares back (like I'd woken up to find myself 30 years older).

Perhaps this picture by Picasso say something here, it is called "Science and Charity". Look how introspective and in the dark the man of science is, it is "caritas" that illuminates the scene.

The Lord keepeth all them that love him- Psalm 144

Sunday, 3 April 2011

In the pink

Shell has a good post on the need for Marriage Education Rather than Sex-Education

It did however leave me feeling slightly uncomfortable. What niggled at me was the quote from Mother Angelica (of EWTN fame) that women who have never had the desire to be mothers would make terrible nuns or religious sisters. As a woman who is neither a religious sister or a mother, I feel a bit affronted that anyone should claim to pass judgment on the fitness for purpose of a woman who has never felt the maternal instinct. Indeed it is something I have only ever felt once; a sharp pang I had in a card shop in Wigan on seeing a card that a son could send his mother on Mothering Sunday, it hit a nerve as I realised I would never receive such a thing. I fleetingly sensed an emptiness and sorrow in my life, that I have not experienced since.

I do however feel the need to unpack Mother Angelica’s truism to see if it reveals anything of depth and value.

A maternal desire for children is biological and normal (and may be spiritual in origin) in women. I’m also staggered at how strong the urge is in some of the teenage girls I teach; it seems so natural yet is so very frowned upon and culturally shocking that anyone under the age of 25 should be desiring motherhood. This is a sad reflection on society rather than a reflection on young women.

However, maternal desire is not a spiritual gift, it can be both good and bad. The desire to have a child to meet ones own ends and needs is very real (and much pandered to in modern society) and also wrong.

Surely the ONLY desire that can drive any of us is the desire to know, love and serve God. All other desires, be they good, subsist within the one desire. Surely then the desire for children is not a necessary desire implicit to fulfillment within the female consecrated life. It is simply one of many that may be fruitful within a vocation. I’d also have to argue it is not a necessary desire for fulfillment within the vocation of marriage; especially those marriages that are childless (for whatever reason).

The workings of the universe as desired by our Creator (and brought about through love), has been given a tag by Fr Barron and the tag is one that I spend a lot of time contemplating; spiritual physics. There really is a spiritual physics being enacted as we try to order our lives to the Gospel. In my case I can testify to a physics of fruitful fruitlessness that is a reality and a blessing. Just perhaps, this is no different to the fruitfulness of the consecrated life. Just perhaps, not all women are meant to have a maternal instinct. Just perhaps, not having a maternal instinct can also be a fruitful gift from God.