Wednesday, 20 March 2013


The Spring Equinox, though it still feels wintry. A time to reflect on - and pray for the grace of - balance. I crave balance right now. I'm aware of a lot of quite turbulent change, already happening or looming in the wings, and much negativity in the air (and I'm owning a lot of it as mine!)  There's a lot of comparing (always dangerous ground) going on in conversations I've been part of: how things are now vs. how they have been, or how they might be; does that ring any bells with you? I'm so easily drawn in: I know from bitter experience how quickly my defensive buttons get pushed.

Well, it's Lent and I'm trying hard... Everyone knows - and many sneer at - the old adage, "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything", but it's advice we could all do worse than follow. Instead of "nice" try "loving", or "conducive to the greater glory of God" if you're into Ignatian-speak, and see what you think... Ah, but it's not easy! Now that I'm paying more attention to how my own negativity flows into my conversation I'm so often dismayed. Sometimes when I know I'm losing the struggle with myself I'll even physically withdraw and take refuge in the loo (there was a good post about praying there in Finding God In All Things a while ago). My colleagues probably suspect I have a medical problem!

Ignatius tells us how important it is to be at balance (and to know when we're not!). He suggests a way of re-balancing: agere contra, or to move in the other direction. Sometimes I can find the grace and energy to do that; I might change the subject or even manage to say something loving and positive while still remaining true to myself. But often I can't. I think I'm learning, though, that agere contra needn't be about action. It can be simply a helpless turning to God who, in the words of the old Lenten collect, seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves. As the newly-elected Abbess says in Rumer Godden's novel In This House Of Brede: "I can't... So You must!"

I'm up to Jacob in Genesis: "truly the Lord was in this place, and I didn't know it." God is there even when I can't feel his presence - joining in a good old game of "ain't it awful", or hiding my helplessness in the loo.

Blossom, bare boughs and grey sky - on the station platform this morning. Oh, and there's a blackbird in there somewhere. 


  1. I go through stages where I think I'm not such a bad person, and then I have a long season of reality checks, in which I recognize how broken and flawed I am, and how deep the flaws run. I don't feel like I'm DOING very well this Lent, but I'm certainly aware of my own lack, and trying to turn toward God. That's got to be worth something, right?

    1. Hello Kathleen - good to see you again! For myself, I feel that awareness of my flaws is a real, precious gift. Otherwise they end up in my "rubbish sack" (as in Robert Bly's Little Book On The Human Shadow) that I drag around behind me, festering away. Not a pretty thought! And I think that turning towards God, as you say, is all God asks of us - he can do the rest!

  2. Antonia, I used to be a really negative person. Some of the reason was that I learned it in the family growing up. Also, I felt unloved and no good. By the grace of God, I learned to look for and encourage the talents of others and spent my entire career supporting and encouraging others, teaching them how to build on their strong points. Now it's a habit.

    One thing that helped me was to be a life long learner with interests far beyond my surroundings. As a Catholic, I'm interested in the universal Church, not just my parish. Other cultures excite me and I look for how God mercifully used their attributes to bring His word to them. Art and music feed me, especially sacred music. In gaining a big picture, I've become much less negative.

    Another thing that helped me was to be totally committed to whatever my goal is. I have no time to waste on distractions.

    Then there's the growing old, facing my own sins, and realizing that I have to cut others slack because I have no business to judge them when I'm so imperfect. Regarding politics, I'd rather discuss the basis for opposing something that violates truth rather than arguing and playing "ain't it awful" like you mentioned. But I didn't get to this place easily.

    So be of good hope and you will find yourself letting go of negativity.

    1. Thank you, Barb, for all you've shared. I agree about looking to the big picture - seeing ourselves as a small (but unique and beloved) part of a vast Universe. And, yes, feeding on beauty such as art and music is such a healthful thing - a passion of mine. I've just been reading Pope Benedict's thoughts on this in the book of his essays On The Way To Jesus Christ. Thanks for all your encouragement!


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