Catherinanne here for Kevin. I really don’t know what to say today. We have been wrestling with a lot – with diagnoses, with restrictions, with limitations, with time, and with our own inadequacies as we do our best to face it all. Things that have helped us in this match are the kindnesses that come our way each day, and the many prayers that are lifting us up. And we try to wrestle as a team, to the best of our capabilities.
The joys of the upcoming events at Brescia, as we celebrate our great patroness, St. Angela Merici, are helping in some way, but they also take considerable energy and time… and a little something more to wrestle with. They will be well worth it, but your prayers with that too are appreciated.
I share one little story – there was a possibility that Iain Stevenson would join us to share his beautiful gift of music. that brings joy to so many, but as luck would have it he is in exams (prayers for him too, please). One of our students, when asked to ensure we had a playlist of online music, was disappointed. “Live music will be the icing on the cake,” she said Sunday night. I knew there was nothing more I could do, so I told her, “If St. Angela wants live music, she will have to arrange it herself.” I know… not a good thing to get the honoree to do her own work, but when you’re tapped full, sometimes it all you can come up with. Imagine my surprise when our student Tricia messaged me last night and told me that indeed St. Angela wanted live performance at her lunch! Seems that Tricia got speaking with her waiter at dinner last night, and found out he was a musician, studying at Western, who was free on Friday… More to follow on Chad, and perhaps a link at a later date…
And now in Kevin’s words:
Audiobooks are a far cry from real books. What I mean to say, is that I find the experience of reading a book far more superior, far more engaging, and far more fruitful than listening to someone read a book to me.
That said, I am indeed grateful that such technology does exist. And thanks to audible, iBooks, and the London Public Library, I have filled countless hours this past three weeks, hearing the words of a variety of authors. So far I have listened to quite the range of writers: CS Lewis, Henri Nouwen, Lewis Black, Michael Wolff, Jake Tapper, David Miliband, Timothy Wise, Condaleeza Rice, Reza Aslan, and Hillary Clinton.
Most recently, I have been listening to a book that I intend to use for Lenten study at St. Aidan’s church. Ron Rolheiser is the president of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. Catherinanne and I were fortunate enough to meet him and spend some time with him in June 2017 when we attended a conference focused on the writings of Henri Nouwen. Rolheiser is quite well versed in the life and writings of Nouwen and is internationally renowned in the field of spirituality. He is also a Canadian, which made me pretty proud when visiting Texas.
The book I have been listening to is titled, Prayer: our Deepest Longing. It, along with his book, The Passion and The Cross, will be the foundation for the upcoming Lenten series at St. Aidan’s Church.
The book has many great insights. And it managed to capture my attention more than most of the books I have listened to over this past three weeks. One insight in particular jumped out at me this evening. Rolheiser references Nikos Kazantzakis, the Greek writer and philosopher. Kazantzakis is popularly known for books like Zorba the Greek, and The Last Temptation of Christ.
In his autobiographical novel, Report to Greco, Kazantzakis recalls his time spent in a monastery in his youth. He would spend his summer days speaking with the elder monks. On one such occasion he asked the older monk this question, “Do you still wrestle with the devil?“ The old monk shook his head, “Not any longer, my child. I have grown old now and he has grown old with me. He doesn’t have the strength! Now I wrestle with God!”
Rolheiser goes on to write about how our focus changes as we age. In our younger years, we tend to fight different things than we do in our older years. For those of us in the second half of our lives, the real struggle is with God. I think this is actually quite true. The younger versions of ourselves are quite more self-assured. In our youth we often feel we have the answers. As we get older, hopefully we get wiser, but we certainly are far more willing to live in the uncertainty of the questions. Rolheiser invites us to think of Abraham, Moses, of the apostles and indeed of Jesus. All of them, at some point or another, argue with God, resist the call, beg for a reprieve, argue their own plan. They all have to wrestle with God in their own way. This sort of honest struggle, honest wrestling, is something that Rolheiser suggests is a crucial part of our relationship with God.
The real challenge is to integrate this into our understanding of faith and understanding of prayer. It may just be that we come closest to what it means to be in relationship with God when we lay out our hearts in honesty. When we lay bare not just those things that we would share with others, but when we might wrestle with our Creator over our deepest fears, insecurities, and inhibitions. After all, there is no manual – No list of easy to follow instructions for life.
This is the part where someone offers pious outrage and tells me, “the Bible is our instruction manual!” To that I say – Hogwash! I have a deep respect for scripture. I read it daily and it guides my life. But I would be fooling myself and everyone else, if I pretended that all the answers I needed were found between the pages of our holy book.
So I will continue wrestling with God. I will wrestle with God because of the things I read in Scripture. I will wrestle with God because of things I see in the world around me. I will wrestle with God because of my own feelings of inadequacy. I will wrestle with God, because many times I do not like what God is asking me to do.
And now if you’ll excuse me, She is waiting for me to get back on the mat….