The Beauty of the Ordinary: it is seriously good!
Posted: Wed, 06 Oct 2021 11:18
One of my family sent me this picture of the full moon, known as the 'Flower Moon', taken in my village at home. The beautiful bright moon was just over our local cemetery where my parents, grandparents and family are buried. Meelick Tower has been a centre of worship since the Celtic monks founded their monastery in the ninth century. There is something very sacred, and yet ordinary, to stand at my family grave, connecting with a huge legacy of Christian heritage. As children, my father dragged us around what seemed to be every burial ground in Ireland 'to pay our respects.' However, it was more than just that—as I grew older, I realised that dad was connecting us to our family history. At these graves, places of rest we have an opportunity to remember and link with ancestors, some of whom we never met. In this act of remembrance, we were able to join with those gone before us 'marked with the sign of faith' as we pray in the Eucharistic Prayer. As my own parents died, I realised just how important these visits actually are: I was incredibly touched when my good friend Andrew rang, while on a visit to the West, to say that he was at my parents' grave, sharing a little prayer. It is these simple things that connect us to our past and the living history that we share.
We are now living through that part of the liturgical year known as 'ordinary time'. However, with the gifts of creation, prophecy, Incarnation and new life through resurrection, can anything, in our Christian life, be seen as 'ordinary' again.? We are invited to share in the beauty of the extraordinary.
At such times, walking down a street, sweeping a floor, washing dishes, hoeing beans, reading a book, taking a stroll in the woods – all can be enriched with contemplation… This contemplation is all the more pure in that one does not 'look' to see if it is there… It never attracts anybody's attention, least of all the attention of him who lives it. And he soon learns not to want to see anything special in himself. This is the price of his liberty.
It is in these ordinary, everyday experiences that we are invited to find God. Some will go on extravagant pilgrimages or spend time apart, perhaps with a special 'in group', in their quest for the almighty. Some will offer up an hour on a Sunday and then will get on with what they see to be important. Today I invite you to discover God in everything that you do, as the wise Julian of Norwich reminds us:
The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything. God is the ground, the substance, the teaching, the teacher, the purpose, and the reward for which every soul labours.
There is a certain manufacturer of cake that tells us, in its advertising campaign, that it makes more than just good cakes—it produces exceedingly good cakes. Likewise, a younger, and very enthusiastic member of my family tends to see life not just as a 'good' experience, but 'seriously good.' We have our heroes in the Church such as Mary, Dominic Savio, Dorothy Day, John Paul II and Oscar Romero. We need these saints as guides and mentors, but, according to another great hero of the Church, Don Bosco we are all called to sanctity. Without a shadow of doubt, young this young lady is a saint and a hero for me: her zest and energy for life is infectious and certainly captures the light of Easter joy in the darkest of times. During lockdown, our patience has, most likely, been tried, as we learned to live without going out for work, school, recreation and worship. As we slowly return to the new normal, we realise that that the experience has helped to shape us: in brokenness, we found resilience and strength. We had to adopt a new way of having to relate to people, especially those who are so close to us, and some are finding a return to work and social interaction a little intimidating and hard. Today thank God for the heroes you live with and for all their positive qualities that have, hopefully, shone through, especially in your darkness. Of course, there will be wobbles: those temper tantrums, raised voices, slammed doors and words we should not have used. However, we are a community of reconciliation and so we are invited to forgive. Think of those champions today and always: as an educator, I thank God for those heroes who have been part of my journey. To that endless list of colleagues, students, family and friends I owe a huge 'thank you!' I am sure you have an equally long list—perhaps you could offer a prayer or thought for each one of them on each of the days of this sacred time. Remember their birthdays or feast days in a special way: help them to see just how seriously good they are. We can use these special days to take away the doubt, worries and pain that have could have accumulated over this past year. The good Lord invites us to share our spirit of generosity as we breathe the air of kindness and enjoy the 'seriously good' to the max.
I pray that you can see the 'seriously good' in life—being with 'seriously good' people helps, as does having a 'seriously good' attitude. You have all given up so much over these past few months, and I hope that you might get encouragement, support, a listening ear, or a hug—even from the strangest of places. This year will take us to new places, if we allow the Spirit to guide us. However, it can be transformative if we allow ourselves to enter that excitement of the ordinary. Pope Francis urges us to use this experience of pandemic, and recovery, as a time to change and show some 'seriously good' love:
Love rejoices in seeing others grow. Hence it suffers when others are
anguished, lonely, sick, homeless, despised or in need. Love is a leap of the heart; it brings us out of ourselves and creates bonds of sharing and communion. (11/11/2020)
Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB
Image: ©Joseph Healy