Signs and Wonders

Today I took a rest from writing, and I went out into Norwich for a walk. I took my camera with the intention of photographing “Signs and Wonders”. Here is what I did – largely unedited, as they are.

Pub Signs

Doors

What can I say? I love doors, especially these rustic medieval ones. Norwich has lots of them.

St. George’s Colegate

Elm Hill

This is where they filmed Jingle Jangle, the new Christmas film that has been released on Netflix. I am excited to see it because one of my former students is in it!

The Britons Arms is the first place I stopped to have lunch when I first moved to Norwich. A friend who is interested in history read that the museum had documents to suggest it was was a Beguinage! This part of Norwich is steeped in medieval spirituality.

The Octagon Chapel

Honestly, I have absolutetly no idea why there are yellow teapots in the tree outside The Octagon Chapel! It is a genuine wonder.

Heritage Signs

I cannot believe I only took pictures of two of these. What was I thinking?

The Old Bank of England Court.

I had a job interview in here the first time I ever came to Norwich. I did not get that job, but I did like the city. A few months later, I got a better job at the University, and so I moved here.

And finally, a strange place to be selling art.

Exploring Personal Prayer: Last minute joining up.

If you find yourself wanting to join the talk for The Spiritual Exercises at 6.30pm British time today, but you haven’t registered, not to worry. Here is the link for you to join:

Description: Margaret Mary McFadyen is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us04web.zoom.us/j/79909257172?pwd=WE1LN0xaNk80Qi9SVXdrUElLaGdEQT09

Meeting ID: 799 0925 7172

Passcode: 0H6sYy

Hope to see you there.

Margaret Mary

Diary of a Sunflower: 2 May, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

I don’t know where I am with Sedation. I got upset with him tonight. He was talking about money and stuff and resenting doing things around the house. What’s the point? Sometimes I wonder. I think he’s pushing me too hard. He’s trying to get things all settled here – perhaps the way he wants them – and I’m feeling that he’s asserting control over me that I don’t want. I don’t want a man to control my life, to tell me what I can and can’t do – no matter how subtlely! Maybe that’s the problem. In trying to find his place, he’s pushing and that has implications for me. Maybe I can cope/tolerate/accept what those implications might be but the pushing I can’t accept. I’m not prepared to accept being told what’s not good enough in my own home. I have a very tight knot in my stomach after our discussion tonight. God, what do I do with this? 

Imaginative Contemplation: Christ the King

The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ the King (Thirty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time), Cycle A

Here, as stated before, it is my intention to draw from the forthcoming Sunday liturgy and to offer a guided prayer on one of the pieces of scripture in the same way that we have been doing in Exploring Personal Prayer. I do not intend to offer any reflections on the scripture. My suggestion is that you follow the Ignatian structure: preparation for prayer by reading the scripture, going to your prayer place and doing the prayer itself, and then moving away to another place and doing a review of the prayer. Keeping some sort of prayer journal is good practice. Note any moments of consolation in the prayer, where you felt drawn more deeply into God, and moments of desolation, where prayer was disturbed, where you were distracted and pulled further away from God: feelings of attraction and repulsion should be noted. These points may provide areas for repetition of the prayer. Also, if you have a spiritual director or prayer partner, someone who can listen with an ear to where God is in this, it may be worth sharing your prayer with them. I am following the processes outline in the prayer cards above. You may print these onto A6 or A4 card to have in your prayer space to help you become accustomed to this way of praying, remembering it is more of a flow than a rigid structure.  

The Call of the King

On this Feast of Christ the King, I am offering an imaginative contemplation from the Spiritual Exercises, which occurs between the first and second week of the Exercises. It invites us to consider an earthly leader – in Ignatius’ day, he suggests an Earthly King, but here it is adapted for our modern times. We choose someone that we admire greatly, and might even consider following. And then we consider, if we would think about following an earthly leader, how much more might we consider following Christ the King. The grace we are invited to ask for in this contemplation is not to be deaf to His call, but to be prompt and diligent to accomplish His most holy will.

There is an alternative Imaginative Contemplation for this feast day which I presented last year, should you prefer.

Imaginative Contemplation: Christ the King. Guided Prayer

Background music is the album: Keith Halligan – Lifestyle Meditation, Global Journey  

Made a Decision. Step 3 and The Spiritual Exercises

Made a decsion. Step 3 and the Spiritual Exercises.1

Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

The Twelve Steps: Step 3

It has been a while since I wrote the reflection on Step 2. I finished that post with a poignant clip where Wallander handed in his badge. It was not something I could express explicitly at the time, but the clip caught the mood of my decision and alluded to it: I decided to hand in my badge. I had decided to resign from my job as a teacher, but at that point had not acted on it. I have now, and I am currently working my notice in school, which I agreed to extend until the February half term. The period inbetween is living the third step. I have written about this step before, and several times on the theme of surrendering to God. This third of the twelve steps follows on naturally from the first two, but to say that makes it sound easy. It is not easy.

In “Breathing Underwater” Richard Rohr says:

Surrender will always feel like dying, and yet it is the necessary path to liberation.”

Breathing Underwater, Richard Rohr

and he makes the point of surrendering being a decision we make:

Our inner blockage to “turning our will over” is only overcome by a decision.

Breathing Underwater, Richard Rohr

He talks about the dangers of “the myth of heroic sacrifice”, or the martyr complex as revealing the false side of love. In the twelve step fellowship to which I belong it is called “playing the martyr”, and the character of wanting the be the “hero” is a personality type that is recognised in adult children of alcoholics. It is about always wanting to be good: I have to watch out for that one myself.

In relation to the Spiritual Exercises, I might align it with the Eternal Lord of All Things:

Eternal Lord of all things, in the presence of Thy infinite goodness, and of Thy glorious mother, and of all the saints of Thy heavenly court, this is the offering of myself which I make with Thy favor and help. I protest that it is my earnest desire and my deliberate choice, provided only it is for Thy greater service and praise, to imitate Thee in bearing all wrongs and all abuse and all poverty, both actual and spiritual, should Thy most holy majesty deign to choose and admit me to such a state and way of life

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, trans. Louis J Puhl S.J.

It is also consistent with the three powers of the soul that Ignatius describes:

…will consist in using the memory to recall…and then in applying the understanding by reasoning….then the will by seeking to remember and understand all to be the more filled with…

So, too, the understanding is to be used to think over the matter more in detail, and then the will to rouse more deeply the emotions.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, trans. Louis J Puhl S.J.

Here is described a process of deepening. Our imagination and memory begin to tell us something, and then our reason works it out and comes to a decision. It is not done and dusted at this point. The Eternal Lord of All things occurs in the space between the first and second week of The Exercises, and expresses a desire, a wanting to want it, as it is described sometimes. Three quarters of the journey of the Exercises, which take us to the Suscipe prayer and the expression of surrender, still remain. And yet, the movement throught the rest of the Twelve Steps suggests that with the decision, it is done. What is not made explicit in the step is the process of handing our will over. It is the struggle of Oda Mae Brown from Ghost agreeing to hand over the cheque and then handing over the cheque, even cheerfully and freely.

Made a decsion. Step 3 and the Spiritual Exercises.2

What does it look like to live this step? I recognise that it is what I am doing. It is once and for all, and every day. The once and for all was making the decision, sitting with it for a bit to notice movements within me and then acting on it by handing in that resignation letter. There is no turning back at that point. The consequences of acting begin to accumulate, a public announcement and a replacement appointment being made. The every day decision is noticing when that creeping fear of making a mistake in these uncertain times is creeping into my thoughts and then turning to God in trust that I am following the path He is leading me on. It is to notice the sense of lightness I walk with, the burden laid down, the life giving energy flowing through me. When I notice a sense of being overwhelmed by all the work that is in front of me in forging this new path I have been shown, it is to listen and hear Him say:

One day at a time, one step at a time.

Feeling fear is of itself not so much the problem, C.S. Lewis says as much in The Screwtape letters when the senior devil is trying to educate its junior in getting the young soldier to abandon his post, rather than just be afraid. Rather it is what our fear leads to. Previously, in my journey with Julian of Norwich, Julian recommends:

…but He then wants us to behave like a child. For when it is distressed and frightened, it runs quickly to its mother; and if it can do no more, it calls to its mother for help with all its might. So He wants us [to cry out]

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 30

The Spiritual Consolation is in allowing out fear to turn us towards God in faith and trust.

I call it consolation when an interior movement is aroused in the soul, by which it is inflamed with love of its Creator and Lord, and as a consequence, can love no creature on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of them all. It is likewise consolation when one sheds tears that move to the love of God, whether it be because of sorrow for sins, or because of the sufferings of Christ our Lord, or for any other reason that is immediately directed to the praise and service of God. Finally, I call consolation every increase of faith, hope, and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of one’s soul by filling it with peace and quiet in its Creator and Lord.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans. Louis J Puhl S.J.

Of course, there is a second part to this step:

…as we understood Him.

The Twelve Steps: Step 3

Made a decsion. Step 3 and the Spiritual Exercises.3

And this part of the step may prove challenging to those who prescribe to any particular religion. How do we really feel about someone else’s image of God that is different from our own? Can we accept the premise and so engage in dialogue as equals? or do we have to insist that we are right and they are wrong? And try to get them to admit it. I do not know about you, but I would certainly not feel very enamoured if someone else was trying to shove their image of God down my throat, so I am not going to set out with the agenda of shoving my image of God down theirs. Can I be generous and magnanimous, as God is generous and magnanimous, and find my God in the description of their Higher Power that the other person is describing to me? As a spiritual director, when people tell me about their relationships with God, they are personal and unique, and different from my own. But I recognise my God in who they are talking about. There is something intrinsically liberating about letting God be God in terms of how others understand Him. When I do not try to dictate how God is to another, it frees me to tell my story, and of my relationship with Him; it frees me to hear of how another relates to God. It is like when you meet someone, and realise that you have a mutual friend. When you start to share your own stories about your time and impressions of your friend, you recognise with joy that:

Yes, that is just like Him!

When I experience this in listening to another, it brings be out in goosebumps, and I know the reality of God. If I were intent on bringing the other round to my understanding, I am certain I would miss that.

The third step to my mind is a gateway to deeper freedom and relationship with God. It may be a process, but it starts with a decision, we make up our minds.

Diary of a Sunflower: 17 April, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Sedation has given up the course he was doing to become a teacher and is much lighter for it. With her own school inspection over, the pressure has also been taken off Sunflower a bit at work. Things are a bit more relaxed. 

I feel really close to him at the moment. There’s a warm intensity there. It’s a feeling that we fit together. He compliments me in so many ways. 

I’m getting more into tai chi. I’m ready to be more disciplined with it now – and that’s what I need to do. I’m going on a retreat with Sedation in the summer – looking forward to that. 

I also talked to my ex today about applying for an annulment. He said he would comply for my benefit, but his view would be that it’s the way the church twists it to justify divorce. I can live with that. I wanted to check to ensure that it wouldn’t hurt him, and to make sure he knew that I didn’t regret marrying him. I may well apply for it after the divorce comes through. 

Lectio Divina: 1 Thessalonians 5

Lectionary

Here, as stated before, it is my intention to draw from the forthcoming Sunday liturgy and to offer a guided prayer on one of the pieces of scripture in the same way that we have been doing in Exploring Personal Prayer. I do not intend to offer any reflections on the scripture. My suggestion is that you follow the Ignatian structure: preparation for prayer by reading the scripture, going to your prayer place and doing the prayer itself, and then moving away to another place and doing a review of the prayer. Keeping some sort of prayer journal is good practice. Note any moments of consolation in the prayer, where you felt drawn more deeply into God, and moments of desolation, where prayer was disturbed, where you were distracted and pulled further away from God: feelings of attraction and repulsion should be noted. These points may provide areas for repetition of the prayer. Also, if you have a spiritual director or prayer partner, someone who can listen with an ear to where God is in this, it may be worth sharing your prayer with them. I am following the processes outline in the prayer cards above. You may print these onto A6 or A4 card to have in your prayer space to help you become accustomed to this way of praying, remembering it is more of a flow than a rigid structure.  

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6

5 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters,[a] you do not need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. When they say, ‘There is peace and security’, then sudden destruction will come upon them, as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman, and there will be no escape! But you, beloved,[b] are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then, let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober;

Lectio Divina: Thessalonians 5. Guided prayer

Background music is the album: Keith Halligan – Lifestyle Meditation, Global Journey  

Diary of a Sunflower: 1 February, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Don’t believe in the longevity of this relationship anymore. I have trust issues and Sedation is not convincing me that letting go of them is the right thing. He doesn’t listen when I try to express any feelings of dissatisfaction with the way it is and he goes off on his little martyr, poor me trip. I’m fed up with it to be honest and it’s pretty boring. I don’t know if and when we’ll split up, but I don’t see myself throwing my lot in with him. 

Praying with Images: The Ten Bridesmaids

Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Here, as stated before, it is my intention to draw from the forthcoming Sunday liturgy and to offer a guided prayer on one of the pieces of scripture in the same way that we have been doing in Exploring Personal Prayer. I do not intend to offer any reflections on the scripture. My suggestion is that you follow the Ignatian structure: preparation for prayer by reading the scripture, going to your prayer place and doing the prayer itself, and then moving away to another place and doing a review of the prayer. Keeping some sort of prayer journal is good practice. Note any moments of consolation in the prayer, where you felt drawn more deeply into God, and moments of desolation, where prayer was disturbed, where you were distracted and pulled further away from God: feelings of attraction and repulsion should be noted. These points may provide areas for repetition of the prayer. Also, if you have a spiritual director or prayer partner, someone who can listen with an ear to where God is in this, it may be worth sharing your prayer with them. I am following the processes outline in the prayer cards above. You may print these onto A6 or A4 card to have in your prayer space to help you become accustomed to this way of praying, remembering it is more of a flow than a rigid structure.  

The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids

Matthew 25:1-13

25 ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids[a] took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.[b] Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids[c] got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids[d] came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12 But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.[e]

Praying with Images: The Wise and Foolish Virgins: Guided prayer

Background music is the album: Keith Halligan – Lifestyle Meditation, Global Journey