It was my son’s school’s sports day and I had been asked specifically to speak in a debate that day. What to put first? I just did both: staying til the end of the sports day then before the prize-giving rushing like a mad thing by car and tube to arrive breathless ten minutes into the debate. I was forgiven.
It was the last Mass at my son’s school. I was asked at the same time to call on a cabinet minister. My wife knows me too well. She said that I would not want to miss the Mass, and I didn’t.
The dream was even more horrible than the previous day’s! I returned to Parliament and there outside was a very, very senior MP of independent mind, never been a minister, actually hanging. I was horrified. I ran in asking any colleague I met why this dreadful thing had happened. No one seemed to care. Indeed everyone was rather flippant. What was his crime, I asked. He spoke his mind. He has to be got rid of! Perhaps the dream was telling me that I should be more careful in the future.
I had a dream. I had arrived for Mass at the Brompton Oratory. It was obviously going to be a joyous occasion, high mass with all the works, and I was settling in to enjoy myself.
I then noticed that in a side chapel a famous politician, a very famous one that was about to give a talk on politics today.
Foolishly I was tempted. Perhaps there was something I hoped to gain by being ‘seen’. It was a big mistake. The talk was of course vacuous in political content but more important, when I asked questions no straight answer was given. I wished profoundly that I was still in the mass. Perhaps the dream was trying to tell me something!
Some children were taking First Communion in our local church. It’s so sad that one can never repeat except fleetingly this onrush of first faith at the age of seven. Everything is magical, new, and utterly believable. Doubt is driven to the future. Now we can only share the pleasure vicariously by watching the children take their Communion.
The interchange between Sarah and Abraham comes to us as legend but is curiously human and realistic. The poetry speaks to us as if it really happened.
And now, at ninety-nine, Abraham is promised another son, Isaac, and the covenant will be with him. Did he ever doubt?
Abram at last gets a son – Ishmael – at the age of eighty-six! He never seems to have lost faith that one would arrive.
Today Abraham falls into a deep sleep but in his sleep, I suppose in a dream, he received his covenant. It’s strange how important dreams are.
Today I could not sleep and started saying the Rosary to send me to sleep. I kept waking, remembering a dream for a few instants, and then going to sleep again.
Abraham obviously had a special relationship with God and was it seems in regular communication with him. Why have we lost it I wonder and what has happened to the promises to us that he received so readily. Perhaps we have become too sophisticated, too close to reality, and Abraham lived in a simpler, rawer age.
“All the land within sight I will give to you and your descendants forever.”
This week’s stories from Genesis follow the adventures of Abraham. The first question is what tremendous faith he had to wander off in the first place. Would we have done it? I think not.
The Lord said to Abraham, ‘leave your country, your family and your father’s house’ and he did!
People often wonder at the complexity of the Trinity and when priests give homilies on the subject they say that it is one of the most difficult Sundays to preach on, but for me the logic is not difficult. A God that exists obviously can’t be like us. He can’t just have a single intelligence but must have many parts. Thus to me a concept like the Trinity makes sense. God then is part human incarnation, part spirit, and part resident of heaven.
At the end of this week St Paul writes that “I shall be happy to make my weakness my special boast.”
I suppose that’s all we can do and we should be content with that.
“So many others have been boasting of their worldly achievements,” writes St Paul today. I suspect that a God that exists cannot see or is not interested in the outward body. To him the most outwardly disabled person, the oldest and sickest, has as shining an inner soul as the fittest, youngest and most beautiful.
Like St Paul today I “only wish you were able to tolerate a little foolishness from me”.
Maybe in your eyes this advice is foolish, but I can only give what I know.
This is the most difficult advice that St Paul gives this week.
“Thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow the more you reap.”
But it’s so tempting just to sit in a quiet place and read a novel, and is one then not sowing in one’s own mind; and that’s one of the most important places to be.
The obverse of yesterday’s reading is today’s.
St Paul refers to the “constant cheerfulness of the brothers” despite great trials. I suppose that’s what CS Lewis meant by being surprised by joy.
St Paul puts his finger on it in today’s reading from his Second Letter to the Corinthians:
“We prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering; in times of hardship and distress.”
Easy to say more difficult to do!
The priest who was taking Mass today came out with a good phrase today. Normally it’s the young who dream and the old who have wisdom. After today, it’s the old who should dream and the young have wisdom. But the most important thing is that the old should go on dreaming!
I always wonder about today’s reading:
“There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself I suppose would not hold all the books that would have to be written.”
But why didn’t they write them down?
I walked into Lincoln Cathedral and the duty chaplain invited me to say the Litany with her. I was the only one in the side chapel.
The litany in its repetitions is a powerful spiritual tool and the Book of Common Prayer version has enormous power.
Another film. This time “The Way”, a story about the Santiago de Compestela walk.
For all its Hollywood glamour, famous actors, and moving story line it does not have the spiritual power of “Into Great Silence”. But a powerful story for all that.
What is the secret of the happiness of the Carthusian monks? They have nothing. They eat virtually no meat and drink virtually no alcohol. Obviously they own nothing. They never publish anything in their own name. They are happy. I think it is because they are in a continuous encounter with God.
There are numerous tapes of Gregorian chant. Here in the film (“Into Great Silence”) one can read the text as well as listen. Again, you will be profoundly moved by the simplicity of the slow cadence. Again I went to bed happy.
Often it is helpful to fix on some other object or look at something different. I started to watch “Into Great Silence”, a film about the Carthusian monks at their mother house La Grande Chartreuse. In the film there is virtually no dialogue and no background music apart from the plainchant of the Office. It is as if, instead of watching the movie, one prays with it.
What the film captures is the profound stillness of the Monastery. There are long shots of just a candle or the towel swinging in the air as the monks have dried their hands on it before going into the refectory, or the water moving in the bowl that they wash their hands in.
But what was strange was that after watching the film for an hour it was as if I was in the monastery. As is often the case when I stay in a real monastery, I went to sleep profoundly happy. They say they make saints, they don’t talk about them.