Welcome to Words from the Edge

This is a site where you can share faith and spirituality with women and men who long to expand their horizons and move more deeply into the wide spiritual dimensions of life. It’s written with the same edgy content that characterised Tarella Spirituality, but simpler to navigate and more tablet and smart phone friendly. You can still reread favourites on www.tarellaspirituality.com

I welcome comments and suggestions. You can reach me at judith@judithscully.com.au

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In praise of young dads

Monday, 9th September, at 7.30,
I will be the guest speaker at
Spirituality in the Pub at the Jamberoo hotel.

Topic: The Time is Now and We are Here

If you live in that part of NSW I’d love to meet you there.

Tim and Harry adjusted

I admire young dads. The ones I’m familiar with are very comfortable playing with their children, changing nappies, reading bedtime stories and handling toddler insubordination. The men in earlier generations were probably just as busy as fathers today, but they gave an impression of distance- a ‘Just you wait till your father comes home’ distance. Hugs were seen as unmanly and love a four letter word that was best left unspoken.

Changes in society, the rise of feminism and the intermingling of cultures have all contributed to the way young men perceive parenting in today’s society. Parenting at its best is assumed to be a responsibility shared by a woman and a man. This involves lots of negotiation, from decisions about how much time can be allotted to adult male sporting pursuits, to a united approach on issues from toddler tantrums through to door-slamming adolescent rebellion and how many Christmas presents are too many.

Much is expected of Australian fathers today. I have known four generations of men who were fathers. My one and only grandfather believed that children could be seen but definitely not heard. No grandfatherly hugs to be found there!

Right up to the time I left home for the convent, his eldest son, my father, was just dad; he went to work, he drove the car, he barracked for Fitzroy, he paid for my Catholic education, went to Mass every Sunday and spent a lot of time protecting Australia from a supposed communist threat, instead of trying to share some of the differing interests of his three sons. Not so long ago I heard my then two year old grandson calling “daddy, daddy” as the garage door signalled that his dad was back from cricket training, I wondered what it would have been like if my father and I had shared a similar bond all those years ago.

When we are young we might yearn for a father who thinks that we are the most wonderful person in the world – even when we obviously weren’t – a father who always has time listen to our joys, our triumphs, our confusions, our heartbreaks. This ideal father would gently and persuasively shares his wisdom, hold us in a bear hug and send us back to our daily routines and commitments with a renewed strength and purpose.

Previous generation fathering wasn’t always the kind of hands-on love that lingers in the memory. Neither my dad, nor later on my brothers were as hands-on and loving as the young men who are today’s fathers. I might be looking at this through rose coloured glasses, but it’s my belief that these young men are more able to talk openly about the joys and struggles of family life. As a result their parenting seems more unselfish and in touch with the needs of children.

My father’s great grandchildren are growing up in an environment where their father is a loving centre and role model. It’s a more relaxed kind of fathering and it’s a great gift to their children. So on Father’s Day when all you dads receive lovingly wrapped ‘men-presents’, know and believe that it is in appreciation of the gift you are.

                                         Judith Scully (judith@judithscully.com.au)

That wardrobe feeling

Recently, while researching some material about spirituality for what I hope will be my next book, I came across this piece that I wrote five years ago. I thought how relevant it is as Australian catholics are being invited to rev up for the 20/20 Plenary Council. I would be interested in your comments.

closet 3Do you know this feeling? Standing in front of an open wardrobe and deciding that everything is either too tight, out of date, too worn, too hot- or cool, just not right!

It’s a great image for spirituality as we mature in years and faith – that inner knowing that some practice, some tradition or long-held belief is not the right fit. Maybe it suited the younger you but the mature you wants something more, something that you can’t quite identify.

It reminds me of a story I copied from a website years ago:

During my adult years, I went to church for long periods of time. I still yearned for the sense of meaning and the feeling of belonging that the whisper had intimated-the mysterious presence, the felt connection to a larger reality-but the actual experience of what had been promised seemed to be absent. It did not meet my longing.

It wasn’t until my mid-forties that I mentioned my dilemma with the church to a colleague who’d once been a Dominican priest. He told me a story of a beautiful tree in the center of a garden, surrounded by a high stone wall. He likened the tree to a person searching for the sacred, and the wall, to the boundar¬ies defined by her religion. He concluded by saying:
“The tree needs to grow out of the garden. Its branches need room to expand and spread wide. They need to reach far outside the garden’s walls, for they cannot be contained by the walls’ limits. But the tree always remains rooted in the garden.”

His story helped to reconcile my hope and my grave disappointment in the religion of my childhood. I had done everything I could to stay within the garden’s walls, but letting my branches expand had become a mounting demand. Once more, I left the church but the church never left me. It remained inside like the tree’s roots in the garden, guiding me not so much morally (for my family had provided that structure), as in my human passage. Its stories and teachings gave direction in ever-deeper waters, reminding me how to navigate and integrate a life at every turn. I have been continuously fed by that heritage. Since early childhood, it has been my foundation and formed a large part of who I am. Like the tree’s branches, however, I had to seek far outside its walls before I could return and listen again-but this time, not with my ears.

Many people, but I suspect more women than men, experience a ‘But wait, there’s more’ feeling about the way they live out their faith. What to do about it as Sunday comes around once again? Sit in a pew and feel bored or even angry, change churches, give it up all together, settle for passivity – a what can I do about it approach, stay home and feel guilty?

Just like a favourite dress that has to be laid aside because it no longer fits our more mature shape, so too the way we express our faith and live out our God relationship changes over the years. I think that it’s important to trust our inner knowing that some faith practices are no longer life-giving, and may need to be laid aside with sadness, courage and a sliver of excitement.

   Judith     (judith@judithscully.com.au)