old news

Packing up the house means I need every bit of old newspaper–or, in this case, the weekend magazines from the various papers we’ve had over the years. Usually there’s a recipe or two we wanted (my caponata recipe, for example), and the magazines ended up in a heap in the kitchen. Until last week, that is–when I started packing china and glasses, and ran out of actual newspaper.

I’ve read some interesting stuff–restaurant reviews; why cheap Barolo is not worth buying; the ‘invention’ of slow medicine in San Francisco by a doctor who was doing a PhD on Hildegard of Bingen. But today I discovered a story I’d missed in February 2010, about how a very small girl was failed horribly by her mother, extended family, neighbours, and the entire social service network. She starved to death at the age of three, in conditions unspeakable, in an English town. Her mother is now serving a 12-year sentence for manslaughter, her step-father fiive years for neglect and cruelty–or something like that.

What are people supposed to do with a story like that? I crumpled up the first page of the article, walked into the kitchen (away from my own children) and burst into tears. Thomas followed me, oblivious, saying something about Cristiano Ronaldo. I let him keep talking while I recovered myself a bit–he would have been in an even worse state had I revealed what it was that had upset me. I recovered myself, though, threw the crumpled-up paper in the bin, and carried on packing. But I will be haunted by that story now, and to no particularly good purpose. What can I do? I pray for the repose of the soul of that little girl.

Doesn’t make me any less sad. How do these things happen? I look at my own little girl, who is three. I pray for children around the world who don’t have what children need–especially attentive and patient love. The suffering of children breaks my heart. Every single time I hear a new story of neglect, every time I remember an old one. It makes me want to take God by the shoulders and give him a good shake. Are you paying attention to this? I want to ask.

Then I remember where God lives in the world now, and I realise that God is paying attention. Wherever I am paying attention, God is there. When I remember little Tiffany and all the other children who suffer in this so-often-cruel world, God is there. My heart doesn’t break on its own, it breaks together with the long-suffering heart of God, whose tender compassion and mercy flood my own soul (on a good day).

That doesn’t answer my most pressing question, though: why didn’t God do anything? Why didn’t someone there, at the time, DO something–that’s how God tends to work in the world. Wasn’t anyone listening? All the theology I read, from the Bible to yesterday’s blog post, helps me not one bit with that question. I know all the ‘answers’, and none satisfies.

And maybe that’s right. Maybe my heart is meant to stay broken open until the redemption of the world. That’s what yesterday (the Sacred Heart of Jesus) and today (the Immaculate Heart of Mary) are about: living God’s love in the world is a joyful occupation, but it means living gratefully and joyfully with a heart that is perpetually broken.

I think I am going to go hug my three-year-old now.

 

Advertisements

Saturday of the second week in Lent: prodigious grace

The first time I tried the Lenten discipline of daily reflection on the Mass readings, my life was slightly simpler than it is now. Fewer obligations, and fewer children, meant that the struggle to find the time each day was a struggle. This Lent I have found myself at a loss some days: there is neither physical nor psychological space for the kind of prayerful reflection I intended. Some days I have returned to the meditations I wrote five years ago–and been grateful to God that I was able to undertake the daily reflections. Today, though, the meditation at thinking coram Deo is truly today's. It is brief. The readings today are all about grace, God's unchanging and already-present grace. In that grace, God meets us while we are still making our way back home. If that's not good news, I don't know what is.

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

I have been very grateful for the comments from Saintly Sages on previous posts. These Lenten reflections are simply a part of my own discipline. Blogging them is a form of accountability;  thanks to Wesley Hill, for sharing a link to thinking coram deo on Ash Wednesday and adding some incentive! 

I first tried something like this in 2009, on paper. Over the past 5 years, I have gradually typed up those daily meditations and shared them with others. I would love to make those available in published form, perhaps for next Lent. All the feedback and comments on the meditations on my blog will be of immense help as I revise that manuscript. So thanks, for reading and for commenting. Today’s post is at thinking coram deo as usual.