“I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes.”
A woman was sitting with her spiritual director. Not quite “sitting”; collapsed like a rag doll, listlessly staring at the floor. He looked at her. He urged her to pray: stop doing, stop trying to get herself out of the dark place she was in. “What good will it do?” she bleated, equally unsurprisingly. She hadn’t read Richard Dawkins’ description of prayer as uselessly “murmuring in our heads,” but would have resonated. Then, bitterly: “Is God going to send me a rose?”
My mother and I have an annual tradition of spending a day together at the Canadian National Exhibition. This year, as we sat in sunny chairs near a shady gingko tree, listening to the approaching parade, a tall man folded himself into the neighbouring chair. Taking a break from his booth, he told us it was his 38th year exhibiting there. He showed us a smooth rounded stone with a hole in the middle: a cobblestone he’d reclaimed from the lake. They were dumped there because they were obsolete, but he finds beauty in them.
“Change is good!” So proclaimed a brightly smiling instructor to her dismayed class, who’d just learned their school was being moved to a different corner of the city. Somehow it didn’t feel quite as good as the neon smile and cheery voice pronounced it should.
The richness of a gentle August day was all round. A drive in the countryside featured lush fields ready or almost ready for harvest, with merry little breezes riffling through. Such a day will always make me think of Margaret O’Gara, for I heard the news of her Aug. 16 death during that country drive in 2012.
Once, across a crowded meeting room, I recognized a face. Our eyes locked. Weeks earlier, this person and I had attended the same retreat. We both knew we needed to steal away and talk, as soon as possible.
When the opportunity came, each of us took it immediately. We found a quiet place. We talked as though we’d known each other for years. “I had to speak to you,” said my new old friend. “I feel as though we met in Narnia, and back here in the regular world I have to touch you to know it was real.” I understood instantly.
Even the daily trip home from work can be an adventure. One wintry night, I stood on a jam-packed city bus impatiently tracking its slow progress up a crammed street. We finally came in sight of the station. And there we stopped. Stuck. Inexplicably, the bus glued itself in place while minutes passed.
A few weeks ago, I attended a special prayer service. Led by two bishops (one anglophone, one francophone), it gathered Church dignitaries to celebrate an anniversary. The service was surprisingly moving: a remarkable result at the commemoration of a Church document not so many of us, even within the Church, have ever heard of. The two bishops, and three other Church leaders, reflected on passages from Ephesians and John.
“Let’s go to Bethlehem,” we students agreed with one another. We were enrolled in a summer course in Jerusalem, through a program called Bat Kol which the Sisters of Sion generously invited me to attend. The final free Saturday was approaching. We wanted to make the trip before returning home.