Thursday, 5 September 2013


The children were having a great time on the Merry-Go- Round, or Carousel.   Round and round they went, seated on motor bikes  mounted on vividly painted horses with enormous bright eyes,  seated behind the steering wheels of flashy cars, chugging along in railway trains.

Alas, all good things come to an end! Soon their ride came to a halt.    Laughing, and chattering, parents and children  made their way home.

‘What goes round comes round.’ I thought to myself, and then,   ‘But what if these children were to go round and round and round and round, on and on and on and on?  They’d eventually become bored at the sheer monotony of it.   What if this continued - in spite of their boredom,      then their anger, and eventually their fear,  as they realized they were trapped in an experience that had lost its merriment?    What had been great fun would then take on the drudgery,                       the sameness, the awful routine of a treadmill.’

Recently   the theme of my meditations, my prayer life has been,   ‘What goes round comes round.’     You see, as a somewhat retired priest I’ve ended up where I started  - young and inexperienced.    It’s like this. In 1959 I received my first posting as parish priest.      Now in 2013 I find myself assistant priest in the very same parish.        I’ve gone round from one place and come back to the same place.

During these fifty or so years of journeying back to where I started   so many interesting things have happened to me,  such a variety of activities!          Flavoured with joy and sorrow, hope and anguish, success and failure,  self-congratulation as well as self-accusation.

As a backdrop to all of this there has been the constant routine   that has structured my life and shaped my personality…a regularity, a predictability,  within which there has been so much variety,  encountering so many different people, involvement in experiences and  projects,              some weird and wonderful, most  common-place, dull, forgettable.

For me, a priest,  to have celebrated but one Mass in the whole of my life,  to have preached but one sermon,  would have been  momentous, a privilege beyond .        Without boasting I can claim that to have celebrated Mass thousands of times,   and to have preached thousands of sermons.        Don’t imagine for a moment that on every occasion I’ve felt on top of the world         – in a state of sublime ecstasy.         I’d have been  totally exhausted if I’d been through  extreme and intense joy of any kind, emotional or spiritual, for a long time. So I admit, without surprise and without shame,  that over the years there have been times, even seasons, when I felt a dreary weariness at the thought of having  to celebrate yet another public Mass and to preach yet another sermon.

    Similar to my experience as a priest must surely be that of the couple  who have  been happily married for many a year.      They couldn't possibly have survived an  endless honeymoon                   of gazing into each other’s eyes,  embracing, making love with their spouse,                                      day after day, year after year.        They’d have tasted the bitter as well as the sweet,   the worst as well as the better.        Happily, the verdict will be,       ‘What  an immense blessing, a great privilege…but it hasn’t been easy!’
Much of this also applies to lasting the commitments of friendships and to life-long careers that, for the most part are worthwhile, gratifying and fulfilling.      These will have been punctuated with  irritations and frustrations,   or simply feeling fed-up and bored.       With the passing of time what, who, is most delightful to us  can on occasion have lost most of what used to charm us.

I suspect  that these days we find it hard to be fascinated by anything or by anyone for long.  It’s not that anything too bad has to have occurred.      It’s rather that we see that the ‘shelf-life’ of commitments is meant to be short.     Replacement is the order of the day.       When we become disappointed or dissatisfied,  rather than take the trouble to rekindle the fire that has all but gone out,  we tend to look to be fired up by something, someone that is fresh, to stimulate us.

If this occasionally happens to us let us admit it! Let us not feel ashamed!        These ‘off-moments’ are a necessary part of life’s journey, yours and mine.        From these we are to learn that long-term enthusiasm must not be taken for granted.     It does not remain simply because we would like it to.       We must deliberately, explicitly, cherish what we value,   take care of it, refresh it, and even repair it,   so as to recapture our sense of wonder that leads to thanksgiving!

WHAT GOES ROUND COMES ROUND .     Sometimes, somehow, we have to get round to making ourwaygodsway.      And God’s way is that His love endures forever.
Peter O.P.
The next posting will be on 20th September

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