This week I have felt down and buried under an increasingly dark cloud to the extent that by Wednesday, I started to experience physical symptoms of lethargy and nausea, but I had no idea why this should be the case. I have been engaging for some weeks in correspondence on Facebook and the Hereford Times website where different groups have been fighting the perceived injustices in the county caused by the secretive ruling Conservative councillors.
In the meantime, as well as trying to continue with reading the Bible I have been avidly consuming Matthew Kelly’s book Rediscovering Catholicsim. I have reached the section where he talks about first visiting a church each morning on his way to school to pray for 10 minutes and then his love of the Catholic Mass which he tries to attend daily. On Wednesday evening I resolved to go to Mass this morning, but during the school run I felt that I did not want to attend and was not in the righ frame of mind to do so. Then a voice said, “That’s precisely why you should go.” Still not convinced, I can home after the school run but after making a phone call, decided I would drive across the city to Our Lady’s Church for morning Mass. On the way, I passed the new development which our Council claims will put right all the problems of the County bringing with it a host of shops and a six screen cinema.
My reaction to this building this morning was to call it Babylon – a place in ancient times which was an extremely licentious, immoral city-state-empire; a city where sex outside of marriage was not only acceptable, but was considered the highest form of religious and spiritual practice. All forms of sexual perversion – homosexuality, bestiality, incest, paedophilia, etc. – were widely practiced. Drunken orgies were common entertainment. Whilst many will welcome the 6-screen cinema, how many of the films that will be shown there will be suitable for children and families? Or will it indulge in the filth that often passes as entertainment at the nearby Courtyard Theatre.
Having passed that building, I soon arrived at the car park at Our Lady’s and contemplated again whether I was in the right frame of mind to go to Mass. Again, a voice said quietly, “That’s exactly why you should go on.” So I did. I sat quietly near the back, and holding beads brought back for me from Bethlehem, said a decade of the Rosary, recalling the moment Our Lady gave her fiat to God through the Angel Gabriel.
Mass began and the priest introduced it by telling the small congregation of just 12 people (there’s a Biblical number of I ever heard one) that today we would be celebrating the feast of St Thomas of Hereford or St Thomas Cantilupe, a man who fought against injustice. Well, you could have blown me down with a feather! According to the New Advent website, St Thomas spent time:
labouring incessantly for the good of his people, maintaining the privileges and property of his diocese against Gilbert of Gloucester, Llewellyn, and others, supporting Edward I in his struggle with Llewellyn, combating the unjust practices of the Jews, and reforming the clergy, secular and regular. He came into conflict with Archbishop Peckham on questions of jurisdiction, and at the Council of Reading (July, 1279) led the resistance of the bishops to the policy of Peckham. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14694c.htm)
I wish he was around now to take on those in authority in our City today!
After the short penitential rite we sat down to listen to the first reading, taken from the book of Nehemiah. Again, I felt the hand of God in my attendance at Mass – this is the very book of the Bible that I am currently reading – truly I was meant to be here this morning. The icing on the cake, so to speak was the Gospel reading where the 72 are sent out to give the Good News to the rest of the world. By this time I was certain that God was preparing me for a sending forth. I know neither the day nor the hour but this week was about patience, about listening and about prayer and most importantly, the Eucharist.
As I went up to receive Communion, I looked at the tiny host in the palm of my hand and really felt the presence of Jesus Christ. I very nearly said ‘WOW’ at the moment I was supposed to respond by saying ‘Amen’. That was the effect it had on me and it was set to last.
After Mass, I felt the cloud around me start to evaporate and I went home. Now the previous evening, the gas fire in our lounge had refused to ignite. In my wife’s words, it was beeping very loudly until the batteries were taken out. When I arrived home, I tool all six batteries and tested them. All seemed to have sufficient power but when they were returned to the case, the beeping started all over again. I felt I should pop into town and buy some replacements.
Then something else happened. I couldn’t find my wallet. I checked various places including a small box where I usually keep the SatNav as it is about the same size and colour and I could have mistakenly placed my wallet in there. There was no sign of the wallet but there were 6 pristine unused batteries. When I replaced those in the fire, it worked immediately. The next moment I went to an old coat hanging in the cloak room and retrieved my wallet.
A little while later I walked into town to run a couple of errands and really felt that cloud dissipate completely. As I walked, I bumped into a man whose father I knew to be suffering from terminal lung cancer – he and his late wife had been heavy smokers. I’ll call the man him Dave. We chatted about his Dad and then I saw Dave flick a cigarette into a nearby drain I suggested gently that he should give that up for the sake of his health I put my hand onto his right shoulder and said I would pray that he would give up the habit. We parted on good terms and I offered to pray for him and his family. As I walked away, I did precisely that and thanked God that at communion, that not only had He healed my soul that morning, he had also lifted the dark cloud that had surrounded me all week.
I continued to have happy encounters with friends in town and over coffee and even though I was completely soaked through by the rain on my walk home, I feel energised and empowered, so much so that I sat down and wrote this up that it might touch other hearts.