Monday, August 08, 2005

everyday habits

The early desert mothers and fathers realised that if we wish to find any peace in this life then we must occasionally flee the madness of the secular world to sit in silence before our God. Having just got back from a seven day retreat at the St Mary at the Cross Glasshampton Monastery, I can heartily agree with them.

That's not to say my short stay there was particularly restful. I found myself challenged, disheartened and confused at first. There was one guest who broke down in tears on her first day; she had come on a retreat 'because that's what religious people do' only to find a lack of purpose and direction in her life. Fortunately monasteries tend to be populated by monks (technically they are 'friars' or 'brothers') and as I have always suspected, monks are full of humble, generous wisdom. The brothers stand both as a challenge and a comfort. They provoke us to consider how much of our lives we give to God, how committed we are to prayer and to our neighbours. But ultimately, their perseverence in faith is a reassuring message in our post-religious world. By the end of my time there, my prayers had found their foundation and I have the confidence to go on meditating daily even when faith can seem like a fairy-tale.

The house itself is an old stable-block at the top of a hill in a very small village near Worcester. I've never been much of an 'outdoors' sort of person, but I certainly found walking around the woods and fields near the monastery gave me sufficient space to organise my confusing theological thoughts. One day, when God felt very far off, I decided to wander off into the trees with no particular sense of where I was going. As I walked deeper into the forest, there were various other paths leading off the track that I was on. Still with minimal sense of direction, I plodded on ahead. 'I have no idea where I am going,' I thought, suddenly conscious of my accidental allusion to that famous prayer by Thomas Merton. The road soon became steeper, muddier and harder to walk along. I momentarily entertained the idea that there might be a parable in the whole experience. Soon enough, after walking aimlessly for about forty-five minutes, the path opened up onto a field and I could see the back of the monastery. I had walked right round in a circle. As I came into the hall, I met one of the guests who is a minister in the Church of Scotland. I told him where I had been. 'Ah,' he replied, 'sounds a bit like a parable!'

      We shall not cease from exploration
      And the end of all our exploring
      Will be to arrive where we started
      And know the place for the first time.
        - T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

watch this space

Can I begin by saying that if anyone anywhere followed my little request and prayed for me (or maybe even just thought of me, or whatever else you might do with your conversations with the Divine) thank you very very much indeed. I have through the grace of God and the advice of a close friend, I somehow managed to recover a few scraps of faith in recent days, and I hope, time permitting to kickstart this old chicken again.

Now, it might be a while before that actually happens, but blogging helped my faith so much, and it only makes sense to start again. First though, I have a few more things to do while I crawl back to the throne of God, and, once again, your prayers and thoughts would be hugely appreciated.


Saturday, March 12, 2005

guess who's back...

I am very very tired, and I didn't plan to write this post. In fact, I was looking through some blogs to pass the time before my eyelids started to close (which is happening now). As I flipped down the menu for blogs, I saw the link to this old place and decided to read through my old entries. This isn't as narcissistic as you'd think, because in many ways, I am hardly the same person I was when I kept this blog in regular order. I have been at uni, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) the temptations of the world have taken me over in one way or another and I have hardly prayed in months. Heck, I even sided with Satan in my last essay on Paradise Lost. What does that tell you??

Anyway, I realised that actually I might well want my faith back again. I'm not entirely sure why, although a series of spooky things happened as I read this blog. I was thinking these quasi-repentent thoughts, and then I looked up to find an old post (man, I still don't listen to my own preaching!) about the importance of giving up the world for God's sake. I then realised that, in true contemplative fashion, I am full of beer and pizza. I then realised that it is Sunday tomorrow, and I could squeeze in a bit of church action.

So, blog readers, if any of you are still there, Please take a moment to pray for my rather odd state of affairs, and I will promise to keep you posted.

Monday, December 06, 2004

to die for

"I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong." -Bertrand Russell

Give your life for your nation. Give it away for your cause. Give your life on the frontline.
Give your life for your cause. Give it away for the faith. Give your life for your Jesus. Give your life for your Mohammed. Give it away for your faith. Give your life some importance.
Give your life for your artistic expression. Give your life for your scientific progress. Give your life for your politics. Give it away for your cause.
Give your life for your friends. Give your life for those who need it most. Give your life for your husband or your wife. Give your life for your girl or your boy. Give your life for your kids.
Isn't that what we all want? Something to make life meaningful? Something to die for?
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" - Jesus of Nazareth

Friday, October 01, 2004


Well, my room is in a mess, my family are hugging me especially hard and downstairs the cat is having the time of her life climbing over boxes and bags. All this can only mean one thing: I'm off to uni. Having spent a year travelling, I feel incredibly over-packed, but then this time it won't be on my back!

This also means that the blog won't be updated for a while; I imagine the general craziness of the first few weeks will overtake me for while. Anyway, thank you for your comments and readership, and I'll 'see' you all soon!

For anyone interested, I'll be doing English Literature at Jesus College in Cambridge.