Leah Perrault

Leah Perrault

Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com. Her Register column will appear monthly.

Nothing grows in a death grip, so dare to let yourself go

Several times in the last year, after speaking on grief and loss, I have been asked a question with variations on the same theme: What do we do when it feels like we cannot go on?

More than a week has passed since Easter and there is still chocolate sitting in the Easter baskets. We are gradually learning that joy can be spread over many days in small doses, rather than trying to consume it all at once. Though the Easter baskets appear on Sunday morning, the resurrection in my life rarely arrives overnight. New life is emerging more than arriving suddenly.

Years ago, musician Audrey Assad released “I Shall Not Want” on an album called Fortunate Fall. She had discovered a Litany of Humility and set it to music. At a concert she did at my parish, she told us that she wrote it so that she would be inspired to pray it more often.

That has worked for me, and the chorus has become a measure of my spiritual health: “When I taste your goodness, I shall not want.”

People are curious and beautiful and mysterious. One of the things I love most about humans is our capacity to make meaning. It is endlessly fascinating to me that many people can be in the same room, experiencing the same objective reality and come away with such beautifully different perspectives and subjective understandings of what has happened. We are all living in the stories of our lives, whether we acknowledge them or not. 

Snow has finally starting falling in Saskatchewan, as January brings in a new year and its usual push for resolutions. At the same time, my social media feed is also full of gentle reminders that it is okay to just have made it through. I have been thinking about how these two extremes can be healthily connected at the heart of things. Just as snow falls gently over the ground, and fog wraps its way over the earth, it is a gently held intention that allows us to move peacefully through the season we are in.

I have been sitting in my living room in the dark evenings lit up by the Christmas tree. I am fumbling with a fiddle, coaxing my fingers to play the notes of folk tunes and Christmas carols. This fall, the world seems particularly weary, beauty weighted with a complicated mix of war and worries. And I sing quietly along in my head one of my favourite lines: “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.”

‘I believe’

As the darkest days of the year arrive in the northern hemisphere, my heart is aching with the knowledge of just how conflicted the world is. So many people not only fail to find comfort in faith, but struggle with the concept of belief itself. There is a crisis of engagement — in service clubs and churches and political issues, just to name a few. And it begs the question, what does it mean to believe in something.

In Catholic tradition, November is both the last month of the faith year, and the month where we remember and celebrate all souls. We write in a book of remembrance the names of loved ones lost and light candles for them. We pray for and with those who have gone to eternity before us. The practices remind me of Ash Wednesday: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

One of my favourite things about public speaking is the conversations that happen at the end of the event. After ideas, emotions and (hopefully) the Spirit whirl around a large room with many hearts, something is distilled between two previous strangers. There is such immense trust in these brief encounters. A story to share. Words of gratitude. Another perspective.

Gratitude is our invitation at Thanksgiving, a feast to celebrate the work and gifts of harvest. In my corner of the world, it was the second consecutive year of drought for many farming families. My garden was well watered by the sprinklers, but I crowded the space. The pumpkins and tomatoes took over so the potatoes, carrots and beets were pretty sparse. Season to season, the abundance of harvest is not always the same. Thanksgiving comes anyway.