Recently I wrote about the spiritual struggle I have experienced over the last few years, and I wrote this as part of that article –
“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.”
This seemed to sum up the experience I was trying so poorly to describe in words, even while those words did no justice to it at all. That sense of the very real risk – and fear – of being cast adrift was an appropriate one. Presently, that still seems to be the case although I would qualify it slightly, by noting that it feels as though the ship is in dry dock. And there in that dry dock, work is underway on the hull, on the overall structure and on the interior, so that the ship might one day be ready to set sail again and to do so safely, taking a steady course to it’s final port.
I suppose that is a roundabout way of trying to describe what I might call spiritual pruning. This descriptor occurred to me earlier because I had spent part of yesterday afternoon sorting the plant pots in the garden. One of them had been badly damaged by the winter snow and repeated frost, so that the enamel had fallen away leaving the underlying clay visible to the elements; it is in need of some work. All of the pots – not only this particular one – needed work. The first task was to pull up the dead flower stalks and then to eviscerate the rotten bulbs which were hiding in the soil, unseen, but which would certainly cause issues later if left unchecked. Once all that was done, I re-tilled the soil, breaking up numerous dense lumps and loosening everything off, ready for the planting of the new bulbs. This was duly done. How small those bulbs were! And yet, filled with such hope for what might come to be. Now, the pots are looking much better but I have no idea whatsoever if anything will actually grow; while my hope is for the garden to gradually become a blaze of colour and joy, only time will tell if that proves to be the case.
Thinking about all of this earlier this morning, what similarities I saw between the garden and it’s pots, and the state of my spiritual life!
I have noticed over the last month or two that I am much less inclined to engage online in the Twitter world, something I have mentioned previously. I post, certainly, but not that much – generally one or two posts each day although there are days where I don’t post at all. As for all the debates online in so-called ‘Catholic Twitter’ – I really can’t be bothered. Much of it appears to be ultimately meaningless and without worth – certainly without spiritual worth – and it sometimes seems to me to be little more than a way of publicly expressing how great, noble and holy we believe ourselves to be. If that were true, of course, both the Church and the world would already be a far better place – and neither one is the case. Still, posts such as these also make me think, and for that I am grateful.
There are, of course, some wonderful posts online – and these are the ones I make a point of reading. These are the ones – and there are plenty of them out there – which edify me, challenge me, make me stop and think, and which strengthen and support my life of faith. Such posts sometimes make me realise I have got something wrong, or that a fault I perceive in another is – in fact – mine and not theirs. Top of this list for me are the short words from Pope Francis, and which I often quote on the front page of this website. Throughout this Lent, particularly, his words have greatly challenged me, stopped me in my tracks, and given me hope when that has seemed to be in short supply. He always seems to have just the right thing to say, something that is both insightful and piercing. I can read his words in the early afternoon and I am still considering what he has said hours later or even the next day.
But that takes me right back to where I started – the prayer of the holy Rosary. This prayer, time and time and time again, is the moment which throws a heavenly light upon every other moment of the day. It is like being in a still and quiet room on a dull day and then, for a moment, the sun streams in through the stained glass of a window and everything – absolutely everything – is transformed; everything is bathed in that gentle light and takes on a variety of colours, such that even when the sun has passed, the joy of those colours persists. And it is there, in that moment of praying the Rosary, that the real solace, encouragement, challenge take place. Our Blessed Lady has – for reasons known only to Her – always been very kind and gracious with me, in a way I have most certainly never deserved nor been worthy of. Be that as it may, Her kindness and graciousness are beyond question – and never more so than in those moments I have the privilege to spend with Her during the praying of Her Rosary.
And so I return to the nautical metaphor of the ship, with which I began. I am certain that the Blessed Virgin is quietly but formidably overseeing the much-needed work being done to this ship in the present moment whilst it is in dry dock; and that She will continue to take charge of the rudder and of the voyage itself, when eventually this ship returns to the seas.