The mouth of a labyrinth



“The beauty of the world is the mouth of a labyrinth. The unwary individual who on entering takes a few steps is soon unable to find the opening. Worn out, with nothing to eat or drink, in the dark, separated from his dear ones, and from everything he loves and is accustomed to, he walks on without knowing anything or hoping anything, incapable even of discovering whether he is really going forward or merely turning round on the same spot. But this affliction is as nothing compared with the danger threatening him. For if he does not lose courage, if he goes on walking, it is absolutely certain that he will finally arrive at the center of the labyrinth. And there God is waiting to eat him. Later he will go out again, but he will be changed, he will have become different, after being eaten and digested by God. Afterward he will stay near the entrance so that he can gently push all those who come near into the opening.”
Simone Weil, Waiting for God

Good Friday on the dusty hillside

No church open here, the wind blowing, sitting with readings and  solitude that feels more like a deprived loneliness. The world fading to secular.


Yet this has been a Lent of such giftedness and  quite literal showering of abundance, work, connections, gifts, friendships, insights, intimacy with some  withheld yearning aspect of the Beloved. A season of surprises. But no fellowship or sacramental togetherness except in  solitary prayer. What  does it mean to  stay in the Church without  a church gathering present?


“Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.” [Flannery O'Connor, 1957]


Some years are like this. The churches  shut up and closed,  few able to drive long distances to Mass elsewhere. I  don’t drive because of eyesight disabilities so that is that.


Going back to Flannery O’Connor that great unsentimental mystic, in a hard time:


The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. A higher paradox confounds emotion as well as reason and there are long periods in the lives of all of us, and of the saints, when the truth as revealed by faith is hideous, emotionally disturbing, downright repulsive. Witness the dark night of the soul in individual saints. Right now the whole world seems to be going through a dark night of the soul.



This wild God

Spy Wednesday was the old name for  today in Holy Week.


Reading about the witty, acerbic Barbara Ehrenreich’s mystical vision  as a girl of 16 in 1959. The older Ehrenreich, political and atheist, came across her schoolgirl diary and began thinking about that long-forgotten mysterious experience and wrote a book, Living with a Wild God, to  explore the  meaning of that  diary entry and her memory of who she  had become afterwards.

Of most interest, of course, is that 1959 experience in Lone Pine, Calif., where, after spending the night in a car, she went for a walk at dawn and saw “the world [had] flamed into life.” A talented student (co-valedictorian in high school), especially in the sciences, Ehrenreich studied chemistry and physics in college and graduate school, a career path she abandoned during the era of Vietnam and civil rights. But ever resting like a splinter in her mind: that Lone Pine experience.


The book is inconclusive and   she  remains  standing between  belief and  agnosticism, but still  impelled forward by that numinous memory, an experience that can’t be  explained away or relegated to some  niche understanding.


Many of us have had  an experience like that and  sometimes we have allowed it to shape us, we have carried it  as a lodestone or omen. I think of the Tudor mystic Mary Ward of the  Ignatian Loreto order. And of course of  Julian of Norwich.


When I think of the  impetus that  led me to hurry into the Roman Catholic Church, an unclear and confused impulse I could not explain to myself, I feel awkward and tongue-tied. Those mornings by the sea, reading  the New Dutch Catechism and wanting to be let in, to belong,  not knowing how to understand some of the teachings, let alone accept. And the lived faith as a practising Catholic no easier, my nature warring with so much, a my personal life ambivalent and compromised, my doubt always  seeming to triumph over  the faltering lately acquired faith.


And yet. That shaped me, that  obscure  and unexpected desire to become Catholic. It was not a solution but a beginning. It was bad timing in some ways but  there would have been no easier time.  I heard Catholic hymns for the first time, thought about my early convent schooling at Regina Mundi Convent in the mission field, I  read Catholic fiction and daydreamed. I was coming into a  new community and felt myself to be surrounded by a radiant and  sharp-eyed ghostly crowd of saints,   saved sinners and  mysterious strangers. I would be changed and  the nature of that change is still a mystery,  a stumbling block, a challenge.

Could I learn something from that  awkward eager convert of 1982? What  would it mean to  go back and listen to her again, acknowledge the force that rose and impelled her forward into an inexplicable conversion, something barely understood but felt to be utterly, unquestionably, necessary. And I was not happy despite  rare moments of intense joy and  euphoria, another story there. I did not come to belong, I  struggled with myself and others. It was hard.




We don’t know enough about the experiences other people have. I suspect many people have uncanny, unaccountable experiences that they attribute to something conventional—God or what they’ve been told God is. Or they put it aside completely. What I’m saying in this book is, let’s not bury this anymore. Something happens often enough to enough of us that we ought to know what it is. The urgency for me is sharpened by my critique of science and its unwillingness in so many ways to acknowledge that there are other conscious agencies or could be in the universe than just ourselves.


Lent’s dark tapestry

Such a rich and tangled  web of a Lent, poised between darkness  and light. As at any other time I suppose but felt more intensely here and now.


Who has put this weight in me
The weight of a rose that does not wither
The weight of an egg that doesn’t fall
The weight of a hammer that doesn’t strike
God, let me wake one morning to your
lightness, go out whistling into your light
— Agneta Pleijel (trans. Anne Born)

when words fail me

“No One”

I just want you close
Where you can stay forever
You can be sure
That it will only get better

You and me together
Through the days and nights
I don’t worry ’cause
Everything’s going to be alright
People keep talking they can say what they like
But all I know is everything’s going to be alright

No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I’m feeling
No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I feel for you, you, you
Can get in the way of what I feel for you

When the rain is pouring down
And my heart is hurting
You will always be around
This I know for certain

You and me together
Through the days and nights
I don’t worry ’cause
Everything’s going to be alright
People keep talking they can say what they like
But all I know is everything’s going to be alright

No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I’m feeling
No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I feel for you, you, you
Can get in the way of what I feel

I know some people search the world
To find something like what we have
I know people will try, try to divide, something so real
So till the end of time I’m telling you there ain’t no one

No one, no one
Can get in the way of what I’m feeling
No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I feel for you

Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh [x2]

Autumnal Saturday in lent

You can’t feel deprived in Lent, my  purple and white plectranthus bushes out in heraldic flower,  wild lilies blooming in anticipation of winter rains, farmer’s market stalls heaped with  white pumpkins, red-skinned sweet potatoes, butternuts, thick  creamy white and green leeks, hard green  gem squash. Mushrooms in  pine or oak forests on mountain slopes, days of hot sunshine and cool evenings, outings to pick olives or  search in fallen leaves for pecan nuts.

Abundance is what nature and  life  has to offer and what we  surrender or give up is really so small.

Going boldly into Lent

A friend called and said she had found a lump under her arm. Carelessly, to deflect her from  her own worst thinking, the kind of  black hole into which we are all prone to tumble, I said: ‘I’ll  launch into  all those  impenetrable  Catholic  prayers found in the Racolta and litanies of obscure saints, that’ll  sort this out.’ She laughed, nervously. Nothing much else to be said.

She went off to see  specialists, have  tests and wait for results, I sat and prayed hard, stumbling over prayers,  distracted, bored,  worrying, unconfident, bumbling, reciting by rote, airless, dull,  persisting.

And  the lump  was  found to be a harmless cyst. She is convinced the prayers worked. I  believe prayers ‘work’ but often not in ways we are  able to grasp.

First Sunday in Lent

First Sunday in Lent. From the reading in 1Thessalonians:

‘…we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live: the life that God wants, as you learned from us, and as you are already living it.’

Sense of  circling and returning in a cycle rather than any kind of linear progression. But  circling down, something going deeper.



circular labyrinth