A Skylight

In mid- January this year a hail storm knocked out my bathroom skylight, peppered our flat roof with tiny dints and left cracks and holes in the laser light that runs the length of the back veranda. The storm over, we secured a tarp over the hole in the bathroom ceiling, cleared the veranda, and notified our insurers.

That same day a man from Wuhan in China flew into Melbourne. Six days later Victoria Heath confirmed him as Australia’s first case of coronavirus. Two happenings, unconnected, but that have run on parallel lines in my life ever since. 

The tarp blocked out the main source of light in the bathroom but I told myself that a darkish bathroom isn’t particularly important. Summer ran its course and autumn morphed into winter and it had become a habit to switch on the bathroom light as I walked in. But I missed the sun light, in daylight, the life it brought.   

Meanwhile all around the world more important things were happening. What first seemed to be a flu-like epidemic rapidly became a pandemic. You know the rest of this ongoing story -borders shut, shops, workplaces, schools and churches closed, along with gyms, theatres, restaurants and cafés. Employment changed and plummeted. We were urged, advised, and eventually legally required to isolate in our homes. We did as we were told, but as the weeks, then months, have stretched out, our resilience and acceptance of endless restrictions has become harder to live with and a darkness of spirit has resulted.  

In her poem Abundance Marlene Marburg wrote:
This dark time flirts with me in subtle, joyous ways.
Silence, space and solitude are the lenses through which I see
the kaleidoscopic invitation to be and to become.

The mystic John of the Cross wrote poetically and at length about the way dark time experiences can befuddle thinking and the way we assume life is going to be. He was familiar with anxiety, depression, loneliness, frustration, boredom and even heartache, comparing them to the darkness of a Spanish night. If he was around today he’d probably tell us we’re living in a communal dark night of the soul – one that sometimes feels as though it will never end.

In the spirit of Jesus’ death and resurrection, Christianity teaches that painful experiences have the potential to push us out of whatever comfy spot we had settled for and edge us beyond into a life that is less selfish and more life-giving. Darkness always gives way to light.

This week, nine months on, my bathroom tarp was replaced with a large, rectangular, glass skylight and instantly the room was flooded with spring sunshine. I looked up and saw the sky and the gently moving eucalypt leaves of the world outside my lockdown. I noticed what had been there all the time, not just the ceiling cobwebs and my aging skin, but a light that has begun edging its way into me, looking out to a future that will be very different from how I imagined it in January. The Light is in my Now, and it says, “I am with you all days”.                                                        

Judith Scully

Announcing . . .

Today I am delighted to announce that A Gentle Unfolding: Circling and Spiralling into Meaning, has been re-published. Five years ago the editor of the Good Samaritan Sisters website, The Good Oil, asked me to write something suitable for Vocation Sunday, not a topic I particularly wanted to write about. But I wrote it.

Under the title My God Dream, it began like this: At some point in my early teens, just when I was discovering there was more to the opposite sex than beneath-my-notice little brothers, I fell in love with God. Which is why, aged 16, wearing a fetching little hat and my first pair of high heels, I left my weeping parents and chuffed off to be a nun . . . and I followed it up with these words:

While the rest of my class prepared to be nurses, teachers or secretaries, I was one of the chosen ones! In the terminology of the day, I had a vocation. Nobody questioned it, least of all me. In the family photo album there is a shot of my mother and me taken the day of my first vows. There I am, all flowing black and white, my 18-year-old face encircled by a stiff coif, and there’s my mum in a smart, tight-fitting suit, spike heels and red nails.

That picture captures something of what I understand about vocation. It’s a trust in something way bigger than the imagination can capture. In its first heady romantic moments it makes light of the cost. That’s why my mother’s spike heels and red nails didn’t stand a chance against God. Vocation is not about the what, but the Who.

Writing that piece led me to reflect on the fact that I was one of thousands who left religious life after Vatican 2. I believe later generations will look back and analyse the effect that had on lay ministry in the Catholic Church, so I decided to write a book about my experience of those years, putting it in a framework of events, movements and changes that have coloured the last 50 years.

Three years later that first paragraph of My God Dream became the opening words of A Gentle Unfolding, published by David Lovell. David died suddenly four weeks later and David Lovell Publishing folded as a company, leaving my book available through online distributers but lacking any formal publicity. Eventually I regained copyright, and with that in place, Hugh McGinlay and Nicci  Douglas at  Coventry Press accepted A Gentle Unfolding  for re-publication.


$25.95, to order click here.

(ISBN 9780648804413)

Judith                                                                                                  judith@judithscully.com.au