Sunday, 1 April 2018

What I learned from my daughter

Regular readers may know that I've made a real effort to observe Lent this year.  I had to adapt my approach slightly (initially I tried giving up swearig as a way of governing my thoughts; I lasted about 20 minutes).  So instead I set myself the discipline of going to Mass three times a week and being sure I avoided meat on Fridays.  I've also been eating plainer food generally, although that's more a matter of economics than piety.

It took until about Good Friday for things to become clear to me.  The source was not what I expected.  I was having a conversation on Twitter with a robust atheist who demanded to know what good God was if people still suffer through no fault of their own.  This was my reply: 
There was little agreement on the point.  However, "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" and the more I talked the harder I found it to resist my own logic.  There is work to be done in this world to make it less harsh. Many children need a little extra help to get through at school (this is the excellent work the Smith Family does).  Many people get into economic strife.  Sometimes it will be through foolishness, but folly is as human as courage. Helping them is the work of the Brotherhood of St Vincent among others.  And sometimes disasters come from the heavens, and this is the time for the State Emergency Service and Red Cross and others (on a related note: my friends on Instagram may have seen that I was recently accepted into the Coast Guard).

I was fortified in this conclusion by something one of my daughters said a few weeks ago.  She was drawing a picture to encourage people to give to a cause.  She had come put with the tagline which she told me with all the clear innocence of childhood: "Help the needy - don't be greedy".  Her words have been in my ears ever since.

If the need is great, and if I have the means to alleviate it, then what right do I have to refuse to do so?  Pope John Paul II's observation to prisoners is apposite here -
The Jubilee reminds us that time belongs to God. Even time in prison does not escape God's dominion. Public authorities who deprive human beings of their personal freedom as the law requires, bracketing off as it were a longer or shorter part of their life, must realize that they are not masters of the prisoners' time. In the same way, those who are in detention must not live as if their time in prison had been taken from them completely: even time in prison is God's time. As such it needs to be lived to the full; it is a time which needs to be offered to God as a occasion of truth, humility, expiation and even faith. The Jubilee serves to remind us that not only does time belong to God, but that the moments in which we succeed in "restoring" all things in Christ become for us "a time of the Lord's favour".
The time I have is not mine, but is a held on a reversionary trust from God.  So if I don't use it as He would have me do, then I'm basically a thief.  Well, maybe not a thief.  A crooked trustee is an apter analogy.  Still, a white collar criminal remains a criminal.  This has profound ramifications for how I ought live my life.  Do I have time in the week's 168 hours that I am not putting to use in suitable works (if they're required by faith and reason, they can't really be called good)?  If so, why not?

I'll save a breakdown of my week for another post.  A few things come to mind though.  Clearly I have to keep working, because I have to give Grace and Rachel a good start in life.  Mondays I have SES and Tuesdays will be Coast Guard.  Wednesday isn't accounted for, but Thursdays tend to be covered by Red Cross (either emergency services or blood bank).  Friday tends to be a bit of a dead end.  Saturday and Sunday mornings can be Telecross days.  Much of the weekend tends to be work and helping for my parents who aren't young.  I can justify running and fitness if I tie my races to fundraising, and in any case, all work and no play etc...  And where there is space, there is time for prayer.  It seems to me that a more organised and thoroughgoing giving of my life to suitable works would give my life the intensity I've wanted ever since I first heard of the Cistercians as a young undergraduate.  I certainly have no vocation for the cloister. I don't think I ever will.  But I want to give my life to love.  I was a bad husband, and I doubt I'm much of a father.  Maybe this love of neighbour was what I was made for all along.

De Laude Novae Militiae (image from here)
St Bernard of Clairvaux wrote De Laude Novae Militiae in praise of the newly-founded Templar Knights.
They never sit in idleness or wander about aimlessly, but on the rare occasions when they are not on duty, they are always careful to earn their bread by repairing their worn armor and torn clothing, or simply by setting things to order. For the rest, they are guided by the common needs and by the orders of their master.
Claiming to be a modern Templar can only be described as "naff", a thing for fantasists.  An organization like the Brown Nurses is what this age needs.  It's time for dirty hands and getting things done.  God needs workmen?  Maybe that's what I'm called to do.

Help the needy - don't be greedy

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