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People often speak about the particular things which they consider as identifying them in some way; it may be a particular political belief or a special hobby for which they have a great interest, or it may be the profession to which they belong or the job they do, or it may be something entirely different, and which has special meaning for them. For me, the single thing which I have always considered as defining me more than anything else, is my faith. I don’t mean that in a pompous or an arrogant way and I certainly don’t offer it as a self-congratulatory pat on the back, as though my practice is perfect; it is anything but that. But it is a constant. It has always been there, even at the more difficult moments of life – in fact, perhaps more so at those moments. And so it comes as something of a heavy realisation to me that, for some time now, it seems to have been undergoing ‘testing’ (I can’t think of another suitable word) in the most difficult way.

I say ‘for some time now’ – that translates as about four years so far, with no end in sight. And so it isn’t to do with the pandemic, nor with the inability to communally practice the faith – although I don’t suppose that has helped. It goes far beyond – and far deeper than – that. The only way I can even begin to try to describe it is as though I am walking along a road I have walked many times and which I know very well – and yet all the lights have gone off and the road has become dark, so that it now seems unfamiliar and disconcerting. And yet, beyond what I have said here so far, I can’t really explain it any better than I have done in these two paragraphs. And I’m not at all sure what to do about it.

Certainly, there have been periods of respite over these last few years – they seem to occur around the times of the major feasts and at certain other moments – but they last only a little while, a week or two at best, and then the gloom descends again. And in case you are wondering, it isn’t an affective issue – I am not depressed in the least and I have no worries or any great concerns. And every other area of my life seems to be in good working order.

And so, the only thing I can really think to do is to focus on the essentials, practising them as best I can. That means prayer – and particularly the prayer of the Rosary – every day and every night. This is my anchor. It feels like my anchor, without which I would be cast adrift upon the furious waves and lost in the storm. I have no doubt whatsoever that this one prayer is holding me firm, keeping me steady despite everything; and that only later will I discover the true extent of what I have just written. Most often, that nightly Rosary is the moment of true peace through the day – in fact, that is almost always the case, when I think about it. But some nights it is so difficult – or rather, the thought of beginning is so difficult; once I have begun, peace descends almost instantly. It’s a very curious thing.

There was really no great reason for writing this other than to actually record it somewhere as my experience, for whatever that is worth. But it is a rather elongated experience.

If you do happen to be reading this page at some point, I wonder if you would do me the great kindness of offering a little prayer, perhaps a Hail Mary, for my intentions? I would be very grateful – and I will return your kindness, I promise.

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