Sunday 28 April 2013

Above all else, love.

Once again I approached the weekend exhausted from the challenges of an hectic week. On Friday, unusually, I had woken in a foul temper and found it hard to shake. Please God I did not allow my odd mood be seen by too many. Journeying home I began to look forward to a weekend with family and friends. I knew we would all be sleepy. The busy-ness in my life is not unique!

Gemma and Tracey arrived in good time for the three of us to catch the bus to the Ashmolean and meet my flatmate. There was an evening event to promote their new Chinese exhibition. At the heart of the museum a huge crowd gathered around the atrium and new staircase. There was to be a live re-enactment of The Scream by Edward Munch. Without warning a young artist standing in the midst of a buzzing huddle of curious by-standers began to scream. He was joined by his secret colleagues. It was an unsettling experience, and sent shivers down the spine. Screaming is an alarm call, we only use it in emergencies - it means something must be done, urgently. Screaming demands that action should be taken. I began to laugh. What action should be taken? The artist began to conduct. He wanted us all to scream. 'Why do we have to scream?', I asked.

I have since found my answer. There was an urgent action that needed to be taken. After a wonderful evening out Gemma and I brought our friend out to the country to meet with my parents at their home. We had a wonderful shared lunch prepared by my Ma, and sat and gently chatted about many things before we headed out for a walk in the woods. My Ma said we all had to hug a tree. 'Why do we have to do that?', I asked. But I did it. It took 5 of us to stretch around the trunk. I laughed, and was a little embarrassed. 'Ma! There are other people coming!'. I get my complete love of trees from my Ma. I love the way they feel, the way they smell, the dappled light they cast on the woodland ground.

Then, in the Gospel this morning, the urgency of 'The Scream' returned. Jesus' farewell discourse, his last words before his death. We take notice of the last words people utter, and rightly so. 'Love one another', Jesus says, 'By this love others will know that you are my disciples.' Christian love is demanding, of course, Jesus gives his life out of love and, if we are to love as he loved, we will give our lives too. All of a sudden I knew what the scream was about. Love one another. No one ever gave their life to their loved ones by being so sleep they 'couldn't be bothered'. No one ever gave their life to their loved ones by getting so stressed they 'didn't have time'. We give our love and our lives to others by being there, by sharing our energy, laughter, stories, tears, hugs, sorrows, joys. I was screaming at 'The Scream' because sometimes the world of work must stop, we need to step off the treadmill and give our everything to the people that matter. Nothing else  in the world matters so much. And, if that is not happening having a good scream and taking urgent action to remedy matters is vital. With that in mind I spent my Sunday appropriately and looked back over the weekend grateful for family, friends and all the people I love. 

Sunday 14 April 2013

Do you love me?

So, today is the Gospel where Peter is asked by Jesus three times, 'Do you love me?' It is always one of my favourite Gospels, especially when it is dovetailed with the fishing trip. Peter leaps from a boat 'wearing practically nothing', throws his cloak round him, and rushes to greet his friend, his Lord. I love Peter when he rushes about like this, impulsive, full of energy, bursting with emotion. 'Of course I love you'. Peter is hurt by being asked three times, but he is gently making up for having denied his love three times. This, to me, is the story of every relationship of love. It is about family, about friends and about God. It is how we are. We love people. We love them with all our hearts, we would jump from a little fishing boat into deep water and wade to the beach to greet them; we would make feasts for them; we laugh with them, we work for them; we cry for them. But, in all that, we sometimes still mess things about, upset the people we adore, betray them, let them down. In the end, it is our little declarations of love, spoken and unspoken that repair the damage we do.

Another thing. In Church today our Priest and Preacher reminded me of the story of The Fiddler on The Roof, a beautiful story of another family working through the love they have for each other.  The credit for this blog post belongs to that preacher and teacher: I have stolen it. So, in the Fiddler on the Roof three daughters spurn the idea of an arranged marriage and find partners who truly love them. All these partners, of course, are truly unsuitable in the light of their Father's eyes. Nevertheless, in living through the situation he asks his wife, Golde, the question on his mind, "Do you love me?" Her response is wonderful: you have indigestion; you are a fool! For all these years I have done so much for you, and now you ask, 'Do you love me?' Well, 'I suppose I do.'

Here's the thing. Love undeclared in words is spoken in action. She knows she loves her husband because of what she has given to him: a home, a family, food, comfort, a bed, company, companionship. Love has creeped up on them in its' most natural form: action. It needs no words, but given words, 'after 25 years, it's nice to know'.

Cooking for others is one of the many ways I show that I love those I love. Today we shared a most delicious Sunday Roast. I suppose I think that is what Sundays are for: cleaning the kitchen before Mass and coming home to cook a delicious meal, sharing that meal together and then relaxing through the afternoon. Family, friends and loved ones all coming together to share a meal and each others' company.

In school too, I can see this dynamic in play. Cheeky students sometimes ask, 'Do you love me?'. More often they might declare, in order to get out of trouble, 'But, you know you love me.' Teachers everywhere show the love they have for their students day in and day out, going the extra mile to stay with someone who needs help to grasp something, taking the time to laugh and play with their students, being there to listen to the trials and tribulations of growing up, preparing young adults for the task ahead of them: the life worth living, the life of love.

In conclusion, today I was grateful for this Gospel, and for The Fiddler on the Roof. Thank you to the priest and preacher who brought it to my attention, I plan on wilfully stealing and using it in school. And I hope, more than anything, I will always recognise  and thank the people that love me because I will always be grateful for the beautiful tasks they take on for me: teaching, preaching, feeding, clothing, loving, befriending, laughing with and laughing at, looking after, holding, supporting, praying, being. In return, I hope I will always take on and enjoy such work for them.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Regina Caeli

Easter Wordle

"just connect"
"friends corner"
"lovers made time"
"world beautiful place"
"seasons pass"
"loving laugh"
"adventure star chattered God"

What do you see?

Shadows of Light: Whisper it Softly

I have been exhausted. I know this because when you are on your last ounces of energy it is hard to find the reserves to feel. The most amazing homily, the saddest film, the happiest story - all can be heard and listened to impassively, as if from a distance. That is how I approached Easter this year. It is why I have not written. There was nothing to say. Thank God for the holidays! I am well rested now, and in the company of friends have begun to recharge my batteries. Thank God for my friends, especially those who know, even though I wake early, laugh, head out on adventures and play, sometimes I do not know how tired I am, and a few excuses to rest and sleep will do me the world of good.

Much of the Triduum passed me by, muted in tiredness. Or so I thought, but it returns to me now, in snatches. There are beautiful moments: the washing of the feet - 'this is the night God knelt to serve you'; the quiet meditations of Tenebrae; creeping to the cross on Good Friday; the fire of Easter, firelight spreading to candlelight through the church at the Vigil, the bells and smells of the Gloria. I remember very few words from the services, perhaps none. But, I can feel the action of the prayer we made together, standing, sitting, kneeling. I can smell the services: frankincense, rose, peaty charcoal, snuffed candles, perfume and damp coats. I can feel the crepuscular rays of the resurrection throwing light into the future.

Whisper it softly, but today I felt warmth in the glow of the sunshine. It made me stretch like a cat, and I began to feel again. I am happy, excited about life, ready to take on what comes. The Easter shadows of light are finally beginning to creep into my blood. No great revelation this year; no 'Alleluia' moment; just a gradually increasing sensation that everything is going to be okay. He is risen. So be it. We walk on together. Tell me a joke and I will laugh, tell me a sad story and I will cry. I am here.

You may tell me it is all not very Easter, but if I must talk of food, and I must, I should tell you the truth of the fare that has been enjoyed chez moi. It is not fancy, and you might not call it the stuff of feasts, but I have been making of late: sausage rolls and star blue pastries; chicken in white wine (that was a dinner); cheese and bacon on toast (that was a lunch). A sausage roll or a cheese toastie I am sure you can all do; chicken in white wine anyone can look up, so I will share with you the makings of a star blue pastry. It's not rocket science.

Star Blue Pastries

Puff pastry (I bought it)
Soft blue cheese (dolcelatte or some such)
A large white onion
olive oil
Greased baking tray.

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease the baking tray. Finely chop an onion and fry it in a little olive oil until soft. Chop the cheese roughly into small pieces and place it in a bowl with the warm fried onion. Mix together thoroughly. 

Roll out your puff pastry to about 2mm thick, and slice it into small squares, about 8cm by 8cm. Taking one of these squares cut each corner diagonally towards the centre, leaving a 2cm central space. Carefully spoon some of your cooled cheese mixture into the centre and fold in alternate corners to create a star shape. Ensure the ends hold by glazing with milk. Repeat this process until you have filled you baking tray. Bake for approximately 15 - 20 minutes. Eat warm and eat with friends and family.

Happy Easter All.