Seasonal Reflections (Easter to Pentecost)
Seasonal Reflections (Easter to Pentecost)
Once when I was working as part of a multi-disciplinary healthcare team there had been some issues around the pain-management of one of our patients, ‘Paddy’, who had been very agitated. A case conference was called in which all the members of the team were asked to speak about their involvement with him. The medical personnel gave their input on medication etc. Other allied health professionals also spoke about their treatment of Paddy, and finally, I was asked to say what my involvement as the pastoral care worker had been.
In situations like this, non-medical personnel can feel somewhat intimidated by the discussion of medical terms and various medications. I decided to be honest about the simple encounter I had had with Paddy.
Paddy was at that time very worried about his son who had special needs. I invited him to tell me about him and led him in a relaxation exercise. I then asked him to visualize a beautiful place. This Paddy did very easily and he was able to describe what he “saw”, and how his son was there in that beautiful place – and very happy.
Paddy seemed much more relaxed after this exercise and in fact he died very peacefully the next day. I believe this exercise helped him on his journey.
As I was reporting on my work at the conference, I could feel a silence coming over the whole group. I had the feeling that some other force was speaking through me and that I was being used as an ‘instrument’. I knew that I was contributing something which was different to what others had contributed and that it was significant. Several members of the team afterwards spoke to me about the “power” of my contribution.”
I was a student at U.C.D. at the time. I alternated between the science block in Belfield and the campus which at the time was still located in the city centre. I enjoyed the life styles.
On one visit to Belfield I happened to be in the Arts block. I was looking at a notice-board (Perhaps the Literary and Historical Society’s?) seeking out some interesting debates when all at once a small notice caught my attention. It seemed insignificant but I wondered what it proposed. I can’t quite remember who placed that notice, but I do remember what it said: ‘It highly recommended’ a particular film, “Five minutes to midnight”. I don’t know if you have ever seen it but for me it was a life-altering experience. It opened up for me the whole vista of how people lived in the developing world. The dramatic difference with us in the west and the urgency of the world attending to these crises at what was now “Five minutes to midnight”. The dramatic title of the film illustrating the urgency of the task.
This was a profound and life-changing experience, From that point forward. I became a committed activist in development issues. And I continue to do so to this day. It was something that changed, something that involved my entire person. It was certainly a moment of deep attention to God in my life.
I was lying on a hospital trolley in my hospital gown. The master surgeon looked down and spoke to me. “We can give you a general anaesthetic putting you totally out or just give you a local around your eye; you will be awake for the time – I hesitated.
I looked at the surgeon; he was well known to me. Our eyes met. I asked what he thought? After a moment or two he said “Knowing you, I feel that you would like the local one.” I just lay back. Then the bright lights shone down on me, the needle was inserted, numbness shone around my right eye and then he and his team began.
It was very strange. I could hear him issuing the instructions to his team.
All this time I was chatting away with him, “Was your son disappointed with the defeat in the cup match?” Is one or two of your boys doing a big exam this year? Am I distracting you?”
He came to what he said was the important bit. I took this as a sign to stop talking for a while. Then he said “That’s that”. I asked will be able to drive and read? Of course when I got home I was asked “It must have been scary, awake like that all the time, hearing what they were saying and doing. “Were you praying all the time? You know that I never said real prayer, words made by somebody else. I had complete trust and confidence in him, just chatting to him – isn’t that what St. Theresa of Avila said: “Prayer is a conversation with the one you trust.”
It was a Wednesday afternoon and I rushed to the notice board.
I was nine years old, an altar boy, competitive and ambitious. Wednesday was a half-day at school for games in the afternoon. The game this particular afternoon was important because it was against another school rival. I wanted to be on the team. I looked up at the notice board. “The Under 12”, then “Under 10 – yes, there it was: Under 10 – but no, my name was not there, was it a mistake? I looked again and I was not on the team. I went away and cried.
That was one of life’s disappointments for me and there were many. Looking back now, older and wiser, I can see how I handled these disappointments. Sometimes tears, anger at how unfair life is.
But it was never the end and very often those disappointments were the gateway to new horizons and new relationships, as long as I did not stay stuck and embittered in my tears.
I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in us from the moment of our conception to the day we die. Of course, we are often not aware of that presence in our lives until perhaps we have an experience that opens our hearts to this revelation.
I had that experience many years ago after a harrowing birth of my first baby and it is still very real to me sixty years later. I prayed in my pain and suffering that the Lord would take my baby, as I was at such a low ebb that I could not give him the care he needed. Out of the blue an old friend whom I hadn’t seen for years, called and she helped to ease my pain and set me on the road to recovery. I have no doubt that it was the Holy Spirit that gave me the fortitude that affected my healing.
Our grandchild is making her Confirmation this month. She was asking me if I remembered the Gifts of the Holy Spirits. I went through them as I was taught them: wisdom, understanding, right judgement, courage, knowledge, reverence, and wonder and awe. We were both surprised that I remembered them.
It got me thinking about the impact of these gifts in my life. The one that I always craved most was wisdom. I lived in the shadow of a very bright sister, one year older than I. We went to the same school so I was regularly compared to her. I resented her and didn’t realise it until I began to study Theology. Through the power of prayer I realised that we all have two sides to us, a positive growth side and a negative shadow side. They are both important aspects of humanity. We have a choice every moment whether to live from the positive and learn and grow or to live from the negative and stagnate. It is our choice, and our choice alone.
Faith is the most important ingredient for growth, so thanks for the opportunity to experience this past learning.
My mother had been in hospital for ten days and my brother came home from England to see her. I brought him up to the hospital. Mam told us that the Doctor had been in that morning and that her tests had all been fine but he wanted her to stay until Monday as he was waiting for the results of one last test. She was really happy that all had gone so well, and she was in great form.
She remarked that she had a terrible thirst so my brother went back down to the shop to get her a cold drink. I brought Mam up to the smoking room; she lit a cigarette, and then she said that she felt a bit dizzy so I took the cigarette out of her hand. I noticed that her lips had gone very blue. My brother returned with her drink and I asked him to get a nurse. Three nurses came very quickly. They directed us to another room to wait while they looked after Mam. While we were waiting I tried to pray but I just couldn't formulate any prayer, which was very unusual for me.
After a short time the nurse came in to tell us that Mam had died. We were in total shock. They took us into a room where Mam was lying on a bed; as soon as we entered the room I began reciting the De Profundis through my tears. This was not a prayer I knew. I was heartbroken to see that my poor Mam dead. I then realized that the Spirit of God had come to my aid when I needed it.
This all happened 20 years ago on 6th January. The experience has given me great comfort in my life. I know that I am never alone especially in difficult, or emotional situations, I feel and know that the power of God lives and moves in me especially when I am most vulnerable. This has been a great blessing in my life.