The sea in not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that sometimes ships are wrecked by it. On the contrary this adds to its beauty.
Simone Weil, Waiting for God
I struck the board, and cried, 'No more.I will abroad.What? Shall I ever sigh and pine?My lines and life are free; free as the road,Loose as the wind, as large as store.Shall I still be in suit?Have I no harvest but a thornTo let me blood and not restoreWhat I have lost with cordial fruit?Sure there was wineBefore my sighs did dry it: there was corn,Before my tears did drown it.Is the year only lost to me?Have I no bays to crown it?No flowers, no garlands gay? all blasted?All wasted?Not so, my heart: but there is fruit,And thou hast hands.Recover all thy sigh blown ageOn double pleasures: leave thy cold disputeof what is fit, and not. Forsake thy cage,Thy rope of sands,Which pretty thoughts have made, and made to theegood cable, to enforce and draw,And be thy law,While thou didst wink and would not see.Awake: take heed,I will abroad.Call in thy Death's head there: tie up thy fears.He that forbearsTo suit and serve his need,Deserves his load.But as I raved and grew more fierce and wildAt every word,Me thoughts I heard one calling, Child:And I replied, My Lord.
From the heart of the Tempest the Lord gave Job his answer. He said:'Have you ever in your life given orders to the morning or sent the dawn to its post,telling it to grasp the earth by its edges and shake the wicked out of it,when it changes the earth to sealing clay and dyes it as man dyes clothes;stealing the light from wicked men and breaking the arm raised to strike?Photo: Sun God by HenyeahHave you journeyed all the way to the sources of the sea, or walked where the Abyss is deepest?Have you been shown the gates of death or met the janitors of Shadowland?Have you an inkling of the extent of the earth? Tell me all about it if you have!Which is the way to the home of the light, and where does darkness live? You could then show them the way to their proper places, or put them on the path to where they live!If you know all this you must have been born with them, you must be very old by now!'Job replied to the Lord:'My words have been frivolous: what can I reply?I had better lay my finger on my lips.I have spoken once...I will not speak again;more than once...I will add nothing.'
You have built here what you or others might have built anywhere, but you have destroyed something that was unique to the world.'
I come from a distant landwith a knapsack on my backwith a silent song on my lipsAs I travelled down the river of my lifeI saw my voice(like Jonah)swallowed by a whaleAnd my very life lived in my voice.
My Voice: Partaw Naderi (b. 1953), translated by Sarah Maguire and Yama Yari.
You could hear the A1 from the retreat centre I used to work in; not close, but in the distance. There were always groups of children running around the grounds; people ringing the doorbell or calling on the phone. The heavy oak doors slammed. Outside there were birds in the trees, and creatures rustling in the undergrowth. Sometimes the local farmer grazed his sheep on the field.
In Salamanca the busy city was always wide awake, but tucked between the shops and the cafes were Churches whose doors opened during the hours of business. Nipping into the coolness of the twilit chapel the sounds of the street become muffled, not absent but separate. New sounds are present, the creak of old wooden benches, the scrape of their movement on stone; sometimes you can hear the breathing of others in prayer, the footsteps of someone walking. When the door to street opens all the hustle and bustle floods in, ebbing back out as the door slowly re-closes.
At 9.05 the Church is full; there is only one mass in my Parish of a Sunday. Everyone is talking, the children are meeting each other in the aisles, the ushers are welcoming people to their seats, a few brave singers are gathering to form the choir; the organist practices a few notes. Some people kneel to pray, some read the newsletter. Then with the sound of a bell at 9.15 a silence descends, and the community stands to celebrate the mass.
The crunch crunch crunch of heaving boots walking on gravel scraped to halt as the sun peaked over the tip of the mountain ridge; a dawn sunrise. The birds, jumping through the wheatfield trebled their chorus to greet the day. Crickets and cicadas chirrup and hop across the pathway. Stillness. Then, the thud of a rucksack hitting the ground, and the sigh of a pilgrim hunckering down to watch this spectacle of nature in more comfort. People breathing heavily after walking the first few kilometres of today's pilgrimage towards Santiago de Compostela - a long day ahead. Expectation.5. Lourdes - The bustling town
The sound of a million people talking in different languages, shouting out, singing, laughing, joking. There are cars, lorries and buses squeezing through small crowded streets sending pilgrims in wheelchairs and pedestrians into tacky shop displays to escape from the crush. Here the hustle and bustle is equal to a city going home of a Friday; everything smells - food, drink, people, petrol. Stopping to watch; everything and nothing - all human life is here.
'Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church. We are fighting today for costly grace.Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjack's wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sins, the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church's inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price, grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance, and since it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?'
'The only true God is the God of freedom. The other gods make you feel at home in a place, they have to do with the quiet cycle of the seasons, with the familiar mountains and the country that you grew up in and love; with them you know where you are. But the harsh God of freedom calls you out from all of this into a desert where all the familiar landmarks are gone, where you cannot rely upon the safe workings of nature, on spring time and harvest, where you must wander over the wilderness waiting for what God will bring. The God of freedom will allow you none of the comforts of religion. Not only does he tear you away from the old traditional shrines and temples of your native place, but he will not even allow you to worship him in the old way.'
'No virtue can have life in it except in charity, and charity is nursed and mothered by humility. You will find humility in knowledge of yourself when you see that even your own existence comes not from yourself, but from me, for I loved you before you came into being. And in my unspeakable love for you I willed to create you anew in grace....Pressed by my servants prayers I look on them (sinners) and give them light. I rouse the dog of conscience within them. I make them sensitive to the perfume of virtue and give them delight in the fellowship of my servants....The eye cannot see, nor the tongue tell, nor the heart imagine how many paths and methods I have solely for love. and to lead them back to truth that my grace may be realized in them.'
Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, 'Do it again'; and the grown up person does it again and again until he is nearly dead, for grown up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, 'Do it again' to the sun; and every evening, 'Do it again,' to the moon. It may not be automatic necessities that make all daisies alike; it may be that God makes each daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in nature may not be mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore. Heaven may encore the bird who laid an egg.'
'A fool you are,' she said,
'weaving dreams of blue
deceiving sky. Evening folds them all,
and what are you?
Squanderers of centuries and hours
Hold only faded flowers.'
'And why should I,' I answered,
'Walk among the dead?
And you are dead a million years,
The wolves are fed.
A fool who eats the leavings of the Wise,
Who tells me that he dies?'
'Lord,' she said, 'Help me.'He replied: 'It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the little dogs.' She retorted, 'Ah Yes Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from the masters' table.'Matthew 15: 26 - 28
She was a bright young thing of the Parisian annees folles, the inter-war 'crazy years', who danced into the night with smartly dressed boys and lusted after the latest throw-away fashions. Proud, wilful and flirtatious, she once fell in love with a man for his seductive intellect and beautiful handwriting. (From E: Haven't we all fallen in love with a man for this?)Paris is in thrall to a scintillating new volume of memoirs but they are not those of a bohemian writer or 1920's film star. After a life of devotion to charity and Catholicism, France's favourite nun is revealing her naughty side. 'I'm no saint', declared Soeur Emmanuelle in a collection of interviews to be published next week ahead of her 100th birthday. (100? Excellent work sister!)"I'm bad tempered. I'm vindictive, angry; sometimes malicious. People say I'm hard, capricious and proud." (Sounds like a description of someone I know....)For the country that views the nun as a national treasure, this self criticism will be hard to swallow. Soeur Emanuelle, born Madeleine Cinquin in 1908, has been dubbed the French Mother Teresa for her work among the poor of the third world. Her popularity has not waned with age: this month she was voted France's sixth most popular personality in a newspaper poll, ahead of Carla Bruni, Gerard Depardieu and Theirry Henry. (Who? Eeewww! and 'oh, yeah - him')But the image she portrays of her youthful self is a very different woman: a girl torn between a craving for 'immediate pleasure' and an awareness that her vocation was calling her elsewhere. 'I thought only about having fun, dancing, going to watch films, going to the theatre,' she said. 'I loved dancing, preferably with nice looking boys. My mother used to say to me, 'You want boys to like you, to admire you. And of you become a nun...' And I would tell her, 'For God, I would leave the boys alone.'(And for this, if nothing else, you will enter the Kingdom of Heaven!)Speaking from a peaceful retirement home in the south of France, the Belgian born daughter of a lingerie manufacturer recalled hopping between European capitals in a quest for new thrills with no thought for the cost. 'That was how I behaved,' she said 'Money was no problem for me.' (Ha! Her parents made knickers!)After taking her religious vows in 1929, Soeur Emmanuelle travelled extensively, teaching for 40 years in the Middle East and North Africa. It was in Tunisa that she met the 'intelligent and seductive man' that she fell in love with.'I knew what it was to have you heart beat fast.' But she never told him how she felt. 'We were taught never to tell a man you loved him. I thought about it. But I had chosen God. I have no regrets' (Really, none? But, how much did it hurt to love and not say?)At 63, after she saw the poverty of Cairo's slums, she began working among street dwellers. Her experiences led her to espouse unorthodox Catholic beliefs. She saw no reason why clerics should not wed, while working with young girls who were regularly falling pregnant in Cairo led her to write to Pope John Paul II in support of the contraceptive pill. (A woman who takes both her faith and the practicalities of living very seriously, hoorah!)This formidable spirit defines her, says Jacques Dufresne, co-author of 'I'm 100 years old, and I'd like to tell you....' 'In a world where people feel that they are being lied to...we love those who put in to practice the ideas that they proclaim.' (What a strange title for the book - say it how it is, sister, don't hold back.)