One of my spring joys is sitting in the sun – doing nothing, not even thinking about anything in particular. Just appreciating the warmth, idly noting the lush growth of weeds and admiring the plum tree which has exchanged its scraggy winter look for a flattering shade of green. Once garden shops and nurseries reopen there will be plants to buy, pots to refresh and petunias to plant. That’s then. Right now I sit in the here-ness of a warm spring day and let summer possibilities begin to take root in me. Is this prayer? Or do I pass it over as wasted time or day-dreaming? Are precious times like this an opportunity to sit awhile with God– no words, nothing to do, just be.
Every so often the Pope writes an encyclical, a document that is a cross between an exceedingly long letter and a book. Centuries ago wrote occasional circular letters to keep the far-flung bishops of the world in touch with church teachings and doctrine. Francis has been Pope since 2013 and in that time he has written 3 encyclicals- the first about religious faith, followed by one addressing environmental issues and now, a third, titled Fratelli Tutti, which sounds like a new flavour of gelato, but is actually the first two words of a reflections on the needs of our times. John Allen, who writes extensively on Church matters, describes it as “an extended meditation on political and economic life in the early 21st century, including the impact of the coronavirus crisis.” Before you ask, no, I haven’t read it yet. It’s approximately 40,000 words long and written in what I call church-speak. I hope that as religious writers delve into what has been described as a baggy elephant of a document, they will make it easier for people like me to read and absorb the wisdom of Pope Francis.
It’s ten years since St Mary MacKillop was canonised. She was a girl from my hometown Melbourne, who followed an inner prompting that led her into the lives of the poor and disadvantaged across the country. In slums and struggling country towns Sister Mary and those who came to join her lived out the Gospel as they saw it unfolding before their eyes. She was a humble woman with a healthy ego. To use an Australian expression, she was a woman who “stuck her neck out” and in the process got things done. When challenged by the ecclesiastical authorities about her innovative practices, she was able to respond respectfully, confidently and humbly because she knew that she was simply a channel of the ongoing action of God’s Spirit. She was a great woman, a powerful woman, but she never claimed it as her own. She was never full of herself, only full of God.I am proud of Mary MacKillop, proud too that she is recognised as an Australian who did something about the rights of all to education and a decent standard of living.
Accept surprises that upset your plans, shatter your dreams, give a completely different turn to your day, and, who knows, your life. Leave the Father free, to weave the pattern of your days. (Dom Helder Camara 1909 – 1999)