Archives for posts with tag: Everyday life

This Jubilee Year of Mercy, which is about to end tomorrow, I have been attentive to all those who have been committing acts of mercy. Like last year with my Moments of Love, every single day I have recorded something I have observed, in this case great and small mercies. I have found that the scope of mercy is broad and that it is not just found in the pardoning of offenses, but in the reaching out to other people and creation without a cause. Here are just some of the hundreds of gems that I have discovered:

  • Some local citizens lifting away a trapped car.
  • Two little Aboriginal girls buying their friend a drink when she had no money.
  • A man in prison praying good wishes for other prisoners who had been abusing him.
  • A 7-year-old writing a get-well card to her principal.
  • A wealthy man giving money away without letting anyone know it was from him.
  • A woman offering her umbrella to an old lady in the rain.
  • A lesbian woman accompanying her partner through a painful operation.
  • A young boy holding open a gate for us.
  • An army veteran forgiving the Japanese who had treated him badly in a POW camp.
  • People from an organisation rallying round a dying member.
  • A teacher picking up bags of children’s rubbish every day.
  • A family involved in a lethal car accident forgiving the perpetrator.
  • A little girl giving me a flower.
  • A teacher starting a school recycling program.
  • A Sister looking after a heavily drinking woman for years who had been in prison.
  • A priest and a young man sitting down with a man with a severe disability.
  • A Sister exhausted at the end of the day making time for a person in need.
  • The Sisters forgiving me for cheating at cards!
  • A woman giving a sweet to a refugee boy who then gave it to his mother.
  • A Sister helping a family who crashed into her car.
  • A circus friend offering his house for visiting performers.
  • A man in a nursing home helping us to get out the door.
  • A man in prison telling the others that they are made in God’s image.
  • An ant carrying a dead ant.
  • A man giving his son $150 when he asked for $50.
  • A man returning $20 to me after I left it in a shop.
  • A lady hugging a homeless man.
  • A neighbour fixing our wrecked gate.
  • A priest staying up all night with an unwell pilgrim.
  • A cleaner shutting the door so she wouldn’t disturb us.
  • A father not punishing his daughter over destroying a tree.
  • A refugee letting me wear shoes in his shoe-less house.
  • A student’s concern for a boy with Aspergers.
  • A man living on Nauru feeling compelled to write about the injustice there.
  • A Sister taking in a homeless man to stay at her house.
  • Someone saying she liked my cooking when I don’t think she did!
  • A priest taking a homeless man camping.
  • A man at the check-out purposefully making my bags of equal weight.
  • A prison officer getting us to wait in the warm sun.
  • Sisters having a good cry with a bereaved man.
  • A soccer goalie going to embrace the opposition’s goal scorer.
  • An old woman going to the nursing home to sing and read poetry.

And these are just a few of them! If anyone was doubting, the world is chock full of mercy, God’s mercy expressed through beautiful human (and other-than human) action. May the Jubilee Year of Mercy continue to inspire you every day of every year.

Advertisements

heart

At the end of last year I was feeling particularly unloving. I felt stuck in a selfish world of about-me-ness, unable to break out. I knew in my head that God loved me unconditionally, but I couldn’t seem to translate  that practically into “love one another as I have loved you”. So I decided that maybe I would start a search for love in the world and, hopefully, end up becoming more loving myself.

So on November the 30th, 2014, I began my quest for God’s love expressed through the loving actions of God’s creation, which turned out to be both human and non-human! Very little moments surprised and delighted me and I have faithfully written down at least one for every day until now. Sometimes I struggled to remember or wrote a few days in bulk, but I was sure that even in the most ordinary of days, if I searched my memory hard enough, a love moment would surface. God did not disappoint and I thought that as my year is closing that you might like to share some of the moments with me:

  • My brother getting engaged (this was the first ‘moment’!)
  • An unexpected hug from someone wanting to thank me
  • A young father looking after his pregnant wife
  • A Sister leaving her half-finished meal to help someone in need
  • My tears at the death of my loved Aunty
  • A mother giving her child a ‘spotty party’ during her chicken pox
  • A man rescuing an unknown sheep stuck in a fence
  • An older brother escorting his siblings across the road
  • A young girl explaining why a friend with a disability was as she was
  • A Sister caring for her father for 7 years without a holiday
  • A woman forgiving the family of the boy who killed her son
  • A young man looking out for a friend overdosing on drugs
  • A friend’s pride in her great-grandchildren
  • A man with a homosexual orientation offering exceptional customer service
  • A mother sitting on a hard floor for hours with her children
  • An elderly couple expressing their ongoing love for each other
  • Parents of an IVF baby treating it with utmost, profound love
  • An angry parent protecting a child from putting a plastic bag over his head
  • A woman having a change of heart over asylum seekers
  • A prisoner publicly forgiving another who had hurt him
  • Friends picking up and caring for a hitchhiker
  • A crow helping a koala to cross the road
  • A friend crying about the estrangement of a loved sister
  • Two toddlers giggling at each other
  • A Sister feeling sorry for thirsty birds and turning on the sprinklers

These are just some of the moments, some tiny, some enormous. They have all reminded me of just how much love there is in the world, if we would only look. The universe is created and immersed in love. What can I do but return some of this love, to keep the cycle going?

It has been such a LOVEly year that I think I will keep the tradition going. In the Catholic Church we have now entered a Jubilee Year of Mercy and I think that I might record ‘acts of mercy’ every day instead. I have a feeling that there will be much more mercy around than anyone could have expected. Though I imagine Jesus will be giggling: “I told you so!”

 

We have just had an amazing visitor to our Mercy house of welcome in Port Augusta. While we had 6 Sisters here visiting from India (and Adelaide), we managed to fit one more person in…Rubina! Here she is:

Rubina

She is about my age and is riding around the world on a bicycle! Here is her bicycle (Percy):

Bike

I hope she doesn’t mind that I borrowed these pictures from her website, but I am encouraging you to go and look at her website to see for yourself: www.rubyrideon.com

Rubina/Ruby is an incredibly fit, determined and inspiring physiotherapist who one day had an idea to ride an bike around the world. I imagine that many people have this dream, but she is actually doing it. I think she said she had been 18 months into what she believed would take three years. After a whole lot of adventures coming through Europe and Asia, she had a few mishaps on the way here, probably all in a day’s work for her now.

In Coober Pedy, she met the priest, Fr Paul, who put her up and was fascinated by her story. He warned us that she was on her way down in a couple of days, but… Near Pimba her bike broke down. Luckily, Fr Paul had warned some travellers to look out for her and they came across her 10 minutes after she had to stop. They drove her down to Port Augusta and she stayed on the floor of our kitchen (as there were 9 in the house) for 2 nights. Here she slept, recovered and a friend of ours fixed her bike up – at least to get her a few hundred kms more. I forgot to add that the temperature was 39 degrees celcius and there was a bad headwind for her too. Understandably, she was pretty wrecked at this point, having slept little in the last few days.

However, she quickly recovered and got a lift back up to Pimba to start that section of the ride again. In 2 days time she was back here and stayed another 2 nights – this time in a comfortable bed.

Rubina rode on and she continues – encompassing the world one pedal and one conversation at a time. She obviously loves people and is so willing to share and learn. God bless you with wings in your heals, Ruby!

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus painted a word image about the scrupulousness of the Pharisees. He got his audience to imagine: “They are blind men leading blind men; and if one blind man leads another, both will fall into a pit.” Yesterday, however, I experienced this very image in reality and it was not at all what I would have expected…

 

I was at a funeral of a young man who had been to a school for people with visual impairments. When people were invited to say a word or two about him, two young women came from the back of the room. Both of them had been at the school with him and it was one blind person leading another. The woman in front lead the other who had the greater impairment, but she held out her hand in order to feel any obstructions and later I saw her with a guide dog. After the service, she was leading a trio of people all from the same school.

 

Perhaps because we grew up with Jesus’ image, I have always imagined that a blind person leading another would be greatly catastrophic. Seeing this duo and then trio, however, made me ‘see’ differently! I realised that, in fact, people with visual impairments are best placed to understand the circumstances of similar people. Peer support and encouragement, even in finding one’s way, is the most natural thing. I presume that times of grief and trauma would particularly bring this out, and I was so glad to see that others did not ‘take them in charge’, but left them with each other.

 

Not knowing about today’s reading, I commented to another Sister how this parable has suddenly changed for me. Not only because of the visually impaired women, but because of the man whose funeral we were at. Both he and his mother had severe physical (but not intellectual) disabilities and lived by themselves together for years when other family members had left the home. Many encouraged them to seek higher care separately, and not at home, but somehow they managed. His mother spoke at his funeral and said: “I was his best friend and he was my best friend.” I believed her. Maybe I will have to modify Jesus’ image in my mind. He is not talking about blindness, but about pretentiousness. And that, I assume, grows when shared.

Last Thursday, a truly beautiful man, named Allan Geyer, died peacefully. In the few years I have known him, his generosity and constancy have marked him out from the crowd as a quiet achiever, a steady rock. I wrote about Allan in one of my first posts, on my first visit to his house in Port Augusta. Since then I have visited many times, mostly to pick up the jars of homemade jam or other delights he would prepare. He would show me the lizards in the back garden and the photos of his grandchildren. He was also a regular visitor to our place, to prune the grape vines or do odd jobs around the back yard. He lived fully in the years after his wife’s death and seemed to conquer the natural loneliness by going out to others. He organised the ‘Red Suitcase’ project, to send heaps of clothes and necessities to disadvantaged people in Tanzania. What started out as a simple idea to fill a suitcase turned into a big collaboration between school students, priests, friends and families. He also organised the mounting of the heavy statue of St Joseph in our church. When it arrived it came across the seas no problem, but the most difficult challenge was to get it the last few metres from the foyer to the stand at the front of the church. Allan prepped and directed a team of men, with a chorus of onlookers, to transport the statue and raise it using pallets, finally sliding it up to the stand.

But what I will most remember Allan for is his passion for making rosary beads. One day last year he asked me to come around to his place so that he could teach me the art. It was fine, delicate work, needing attention to detail and patience. Each set took about 2-3 hours to make and he went through the intricacies with me, hoping to transfer this skill of his before it was too late. I took this photo on that occasion. ImageHe kept giving me more beads and equipment in the months that followed, encouraging me to teach others when I went away. So in May I went to work at the Curtin Detention Centre and took along the rosary-making equipment in the off chance that I might be able to do some there. Well, after some time organising to get the implements through security and a suitable venue, and waiting fruitlessly for a week before anyone showed up, finally we started making the beads with 2 interested men. The idea took off and some days we had too many people for the equipment available! We made about 5 or 6 sets while I was there and I left the equipment for the next pastoral workers. I have heard from them that the classes are still going and they wanted more beads. Partway during my time, one man who really loved making the rosaries, left the centre on a bridging visa. At the airport, we proudly took this picture of him with his homemade beads. I said I would give the picture to Allan. Well, Allan never got the picture, as he had left Port Augusta to visit his family and died while with them. But I sent the picture with some equipment and beads so that the man can continue employing his new skill. A cropped version of the picture is below. The rosary-maker was wearing all white that day, so we had to display his beads against his friend’s black top.

ImageAllan’s funeral is on Friday. Rest in Peace, Allan, with your God. Your legacy lives on after you.

What a day! A beautiful, full, rich and event-ful day, with harried dashes connecting up the islands of deep present meaning-making. The ‘islands’ were all commemorative celebrations, for four entirely different reasons, but in God’s good design I was blessed to be present at each.

The first was not so much an ending, as a recognition of the finality of life on earth. I went to Wami Kata, the Aboriginal nursing home, for a service. This ministry I have grown to love, as I get to know the residents, staff and other ministers in this place of rest and endings. I am so privileged to lead the service, as I think we are in a place that few others can be – providing a space to reflect, pray and offer peace to each other. One resident loves the music we bring – often from the Areyonga Gospel Singers. She called me over during ‘How Great Thou Art’ to ask what the words meant. But her favourite song is ‘Coming Home’ and so we finished with that. I told her after that I didn’t know the words and was about to say that I would Google them (though she would not have known what that meant!) when she gave the practical solution of checking a hymn book. However, I reverted back to Google to find these words we sang: I’ve wandered far away from God, Now I’m coming home; The paths of sin too long I’ve trod, Lord, I’m coming home. Coming home, coming home, Nevermore to roam, Open wide Thine arms of love, Lord, I’m coming home.

My second event today was the year 12 Graduation Mass at Caritas College. The whole school, from Reception up, gathered to celebrate the year 12s in a moving liturgy with lively, well-chosen music. The students are about to set off in new directions, but there is no doubt that today was a great opportunity to look back with love to the school that had been their second home for years. I found the year 12 leaders’ speeches to be quite moving and one even shared a short poem about the gifts of the school. The final song was sung by a year 12 with his guitar and the applause went on and on.

From there I rushed to my ‘beginning’ event – the opening of the Well Women’s Centre in the central town district of Port Augusta. It will be an Aboriginal women’s health centre, with a team including doctor, nurse, maternal and infant care worker, etc. The occasion was celebrated with speeches, a cutting of the ribbon and a smoking ceremony through the new house. Then we all processed through to see the facilities, complete with posters, artwork and photos of staff and ‘well women’. It seemed to hold great potential, with a few people around me saying they knew others who would benefit from the service. As we witnessed the collaboration of services and agencies, we also experienced the power and success of Aboriginal women working together on such an important project.

Finally I drove to Adelaide for the last Mass of the Catholic Theological College. It was a poignant but beautiful occasion, as we remembered all the good times of community and learning we had had at the college. When I was there three years ago, it was still in ecumenical partnership with the Uniting and Anglican Colleges, which everyone regrets is no longer a reality. Now it is a college in transition, with various pathways of theology being offered in different formats, but not ‘how it used to be’. What really touched me was Fr Philip Marshall’s homily, in which he preached on a passage from John about love – very similar to the one used at the earlier school Mass. Fr Philip is well known for his preaching on love, but he began by saying that while the passage should be a gold mine for him, he is finding that the older he gets, the less articulate he is about love. His honest spiritual reflections were perfect, and exactly fitting for any celebration of ending or beginning. Love is so fundamental to our lives, and lack of love so destructive in our world, yet words cannot do justice to what, in the end, must be experienced.

Each of those residents at Wami Kata will ‘come home’ to God and their lives will never be repeated. The unique personalities of the year 12s will never be present at the school in the same way. The Catholic Theological College set-up will die for something new and different to rise in its place. And the collaborative energy that got the Well Women’s Centre going will make its unique mark on history. But in each of these diverse circumstances and groups, the character of love, inexplicable as it is, keeps bringing us together, keeps filling the lonely places in our hearts. It is a quality I felt in each of these four events, and I can’t conjure or describe that feeling, but I can graffiti on my memories: ‘God woz here’. 

 

 

 

 

Image

(Photo by Anne Foale)

In the green is my indoor soccer team (the Strikers), as usual getting flogged by our opponents. I am in the goals, where I sometimes take an overestimated turn and usually end up amplifying the opposition’s score. Though I outdid myself on Wednesday – the last match of the season – when I magnanimously kicked a goal for them too! However, I must say that we have tried everything. When losing by around 20 points each week got a bit boring, the scorers would try things like giving us a goal when the opposition kicked one or giving us a goal when one of our members kicked it through the basketball hoop instead! On better weeks we lost by 5 or 6 points and one magic time we drew the game. For the season, we got 35 goals and let in 161 from others.

It sounds like a tale of woe. But actually it is the tale of a team. If you looked at the statistics, you would have had us pull out after the first few rounds. But we stuck together through thick and (mostly) thin, in good times and (painfully) bad. We tried different combinations to build on our strengths, we coped with our best players away and we definitely improved our form throughout the season. None of us were aggressive players, some were new and we had to rely on brain over brawn. In an adult mixed competition, we were the only team to field women, and we were proud of it.

Lately I helped to organise a pub night with the theme of ‘Sport and Religion…Sport as Religion?’ and this raised a whole lot of issues, from commitment, drugs, fanaticism, coping with loss, rules to respect. What I related to was the aspect of teamwork – that your team will be with you no matter what – as God and God’s family is too. No matter how many goals we let in, no matter how many times we stop to tie our shoes, no matter how many missed shots. I know that is how God operates, and I pray that our Church can live up to this ideal too. Sport can teach us something here…

Back before the invention of indoor soccer, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews knew this too. On Sunday at Mass we will read “We should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection…Think of the way he stood such opposition from sinners and then you will not give up for want of courage.”

This message sounds just right, the intersection of sport and religion. We need discipline, commitment, energy and perseverance to be Christ’s followers. It sounds like what a coach would say at half-time in a game. However, the game, like life, is not straightforward and winning or losing is not the ultimate goal. Every time, at the end of our predictable defeat, our team would say to each other, “We did well. We improved. We had fun.” And somehow I think Jesus just as well understands our failings, and yet how hard we try. And in our thick-and-thin relationship, we might even find the ultimate gold.

On May the 22nd, a funeral was celebrated in Concord, NSW, for the Sister of Mercy Leonie Crotty. It was a sad event for all in our religious order, as she had been so intrumental in recent years in facilitating the massive change from small individual Mercy groups, to a large one covering most of Australia and Papua New Guinea. However, despite her obvious gifts for organisation, practicality and business, I remember her most for something entirely different…

In 2010, the candidates (novices) of the Sisters met together in Sydney for a month for joint formation with the theme of mission. We met Leonie during this time and she lived in a building next to ours. She greeted us with great hospitality and we shared some lovely meals. But when she spoke to us about her work – the “reconfiguring” process – she expressed her struggles with the isolation of her work. Not isolation from other people, but isolation from those who are poor, disadvantaged or uneducated – the people that Sisters of Mercy vow to serve in “works of mercy”. Hers was an office job, dealing mainly with other Sisters in order for us to carry out our ministries more effectively. We all agreed that there are times when our first calling is to serve our ‘family’ – the Sisters – as a priority. But I soon learned that her missioning call was always wider.

One morning Leonie related a story of the night before about a desperate someone coming to her front door asking for money. The person knew her and had called before. I imagine that her generosity was widely known. She then went on an adventure, trying to get to a hospital, or drop off at a shelter, or find relatives, or…I can’t remember the details. I do remember her concern and compassion as she told the story and that the whole process had taken a couple of hours from what I assumed would have been a quiet comfortable evening. What struck me was that though her official ministry or job was not a “work of mercy” for the needy, she was one of the best examples I had seen of mercifully responding to need. In fact, it was more beautiful for the fact that it wasn’t part of her job description.

Works of mercy are done in small ways, at many times and places, by many different people. They do not need a label, a badge or a title. ‘Sisters of mercy’ and ‘brothers of mercy’ exist everywhere – wherever people respond to God’s struggling ones. Leonie Crotty was a true Sister of Mercy, and she didn’t need a Religious Profession or a job description to make her one.

Jogging in the dark this morning, all was quiet in the empty Port Augusta streets. I was heading towards the train repair factory (at least that’s what I think it is), which usually starts getting alive about 5am. This morning, however, there were no vehicles around yet. But one walking figure was heading there. I could barely make him out, but he was ambling with his protective uniform ahead of me. He was on the other side of the road and started to cross it, knowing that he would clearly hear any car that passed at this hour. But he instinctually looked back and noticed me jogging his way. I could almost read the though process going through his mind: “I can’t make her out well, but it looks like a she and she’s on a mission. I might look dangerous to her. Better not startle the wee thing.” So he paused and went back to his side of the road until I passed…

Yesterday one old parishioner said he had something for me and the Sisters and I dropped around to pick it up (some fruit cake). But I happened on him at the most interesting activity. He was making and repairing sets of rosary beads. He had a desk, a lamp (though his eyesight is getting poor) and tools (though his hands are getting shaky). And lots of beads picked up from various places, wires and catalogues. He proudly showed me his craft and explained that he was preparing them to send to Tanzania with one of our priests who is returning there. He also told me about ‘The Red Suitcase’ – a chance idea of his to send clothing that has multiplied into multiple suitcases and a project to get them there. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness, creativity and generosity of this dedicated soul…

Just a few minutes ago, I read the obituary of one of our recently deceased Sisters. I never knew her, but she was obviously a quiet achiever. Committed to primary teaching, boarding supervising and visitation of the lonely and sick, she made a big impact on so many lives. I was struck by her humble perseverence and marvelous deeds that few knew the extent of…

Small events in 24 hours, but all linked. With quiet acts of faithfulness, God’s grace is revealed moment by moment in our lives.

Yesterday was International Women’s Day and I spoke at a beautiful event in Roxby Downs, organised by courageous strong women who weren’t in for men-bashing. Likewise, in this post, I don’t want to set up gender against gender. Even saying men and women is too limiting; gender is much broader and more subtle than that. Not that there isn’t so much horrible violence done to those in the minority genders (women, transgender, etc.) Jesus was on about the person first, and St Paul caught on exactly: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:28

The other day I was shocked to read in Friedrich Neitschke’s 1880s book ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’: “Man should be trained for war and women for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly.” That mindset is limiting for people of all genders.

However, in the last week, I have been surprised over and over by small kindness I have noticed of men towards children, which certainly defeats the stereotype of the unfeeling male warrior. There have been little things – a father holding his child’s hand escorting him to school; a father of a newborn playing with his one-year-old to keep his mother free for breastfeeding; and a man playing father to 4 young children, racing them on a trolley to their sheer delight! But the most moving was a scene that played out at a short distance from our kitchen window. I looked on with a friend with the protagonist never suspecting he had an audience. It was a young father with a son of maybe 2 or 3 years. They climbed together up from the sanddune with hats, backpacks and hands filled with each other’s. When they reached the top they stopped for a break in the shade and the father squatted down, took off his backpack and found the drink of water. After they had both been refreshed, he replaced the backpack and, hand-in-hand they walked off. It was such a simple scene, yet so touching. Would that all children could grow up with fathers like this – then the Our Father prayer would really make sense!

[Of course, it goes without saying that our images of God include mother, rock, friend, lover, shepherd, hen, etc. too. Different images speak in different ways to different people, but Jesus’ prayer is hard to hear by those who have not had good experiences of fathers.]