Father’s Day

Sunday is Father’s Day. My dad was a regular 24/7 father and the words I’ve written about him don’t go very far to show the man he was, probably because that’s the only way I see him – as just dad. Fathering comes in lots of different packages. Father’s Day is a day to honour the men who may not have fathered us but are there as our mentors and guides,  men whose children are adopted, men who stay part of their children’s lives in spite of divorce, step-fathers and men whose own experience of being fathered has made it difficult for them to father well.

You might also like to read In Praise of Young Dads. (Find in From Where I Sit)

Happy Father’s Day!

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It happens sometimes – a man getting out of a car and as he turns around I think for a moment it is my dad.  It isn’t of course. My father has been dead for some years, but that fleeting glance picked up something familiar, something that I recognised as ‘dad-like’.

I don’t remember having any expectations about how fathers should be or could be when I was growing up. He was just dad; he went to work, he drove the car, he barracked for Fitzroy, he paid for my Catholic education and put money in the plate at Sunday Mass and spent a lot of time protecting Australia from a supposed communist threat. I am forever grateful that he encouraged me to read and to use words well. Any regrets hover around the fact that while he treated me with respect it was not the kind of hands-on love that lingers in the memory.

So when my grandson  takes off like a little Japanese bullet train accompanied by a “daddy, daddy”  sound track as he hears garage door sounds signaling that his dad is back from cricket training,  I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if my father and I had shared a similar bond all those years ago.  Unlike me, my father’s great grandson, is growing up in an environment where the father is absolutely central to his experience of the world.

My father was born in the first decade of the twentieth century, the eldest child of a father who was already in his fifties – a hard, somewhat unfeeling kind of man. The family were comfortable but didn’t value education and so dad left school at Grade 8 instead of going on to further education. He worked right through the Depression years and spent WW2 in a Melbourne munitions factory,  (though if you look up Army records he is listed as serving in New Guinea- his identity stolen by a younger brother. Why? Who knows? A family mystery!)  He married a country girl who liked the city, had four children, retired early so that he could indulge a passion for overseas travel, and was headed for 100 when he died. He relished history, loved a bargain, told all and sundry what spendthrifts his four children were and periodically wrote biting letters to the newspapers about political matters.

It wasn’t until I was widowed and a grandmother that I began to appreciate my father. He invited me to share his house. My brothers were skeptical but I had never let that stop me. Now when you live by yourself it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your ways of keeping house are best.  Dad and I both had to make adjustments, to check out occasional misunderstandings and make allowances for different ways of doing things. Those two years living with dad were hard sometimes – he really was very opinionated – but he was also interesting and alive, ready to take on new challenges as long as they didn’t involve eating vegetables or salad. He never did come to accept the smell of onions, garlic or curry in ‘his’ kitchen.

We discovered we liked the same TV programs so the evenings were companionable. We talked about lots of things- earth-shattering and banal – and even if I had occasionally to hold my tongue, it was adult talk and we had both been starved of everyday adult company. He never actually stopped being the father, but it was a more comfortable, adult relationship and I discovered that he could  give me a hug and even tell me he loved me. Now that wasn’t the dad I remembered from childhood.

When I was clearing out his wardrobe after he died, I held his favorite shoes in my hands for a long time. The scuffmarks, the impressions of toes, the polish or lack of, the worn heels and soles, all showed traces of who he had been, what his  life had been like in the years since my mother’s death. Shoes were his one extravagance and be wore them for years. They were the shoes of an active man, someone whose feet were firmly on the ground, whose journey had begun ninety seven years earlier in a little cottage in Yarra St Abbotsford. Those shoes had travelled the world and walked him to daily Mass – always sitting away from others so he didn’t have to share a sign of peace. But that was how my dad was!

As I placed the shoes in a bag for disposal  I knew that while I could never walk in my father’s shoes, either literally or figuratively, my life  journey and my faith journey are linked to his, and for that I give thanks.

Judith Lynch 

Praying the memories

Tarella Spirituality website has taken a back seat this year while I write about the life choices I have made, why I made them and how they continue to ripple through my life. I’ve looked at photo albums, dug out years of journals, made time lines and sometimes felt submerged in memories that I never knew were there.

I’ve discovered that in the passage of time, happenings which may have gone unnoticed can take on a new and unexpected significance. There have been turning points in my life, small choices sometimes, which sent me in directions that I didn’t understand at the time.

Recalling past events, experiences and people is giving me a chance to capture their power and occasionally to better understand and to heal a memory that has niggled for years. Attending to my story has enabled me to experience in a new way the touch of God that has always been there. This is prayer.

As Michael Leunig says: “Let it go. Let it out. Let it all unravel. Let it free and it can be a path on which to travel.”

   Praying a Memory Leunig

▪       When a memory surfaces, don’t flick it away. Invite God to join you as you ponder this piece of your personal and  private life literature.

▪       Be gentle with whatever memory surfaces, whether it’s a person, a place or a long forgotten experience. Let it unfold without anxiety or tension.

▪       Locate the space of the memory, where it happened.

▪       What were your feelings before, during and after the event or experience?

▪       What feelings rise up now in your recollections?

▪       Share these feelings with God. Be honest. God can take it!

▪       What would you like to say to the memory. Say it.

▪       Give God some space to reply. It may come as another memory, or a feeling or maybe words of scripture or a song. Sometimes the response will come later, but you will recognise it. Whatever the response, trust it.

Judith Lynch

 

 

 

 

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A Still Point in my Changing World

This reflection on Mrs Rembrandt was first published in the July edition of The Good Oil. (www.goodsams.org.au/the-good-oil)

In what one of my young grandchildren calls the olden days, but was actually 1975, my husband and I went to Europe. It was my first trip outside Australia, his second, and it a bus tour – see so many countries, in so many days, and bring back the slides to remind yourself, and others, that it actually happened.

Like the rest of the tour group I bought souvenirs- a leather handbag from Florence, a glass swan from Venice, Marks and Spencers everything in England. Then, at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam I met Rembrandts mother, and brought her home packaged in a cardboard tube – my souvenir of two days in Holland. Decades later she sits in solitary splendour on my bedroom wall.

I’ve always called her Mrs Rembrandt and assumed she was painted by her brilliant artist of a son. Now it appears that may not be true. Maybe she was someone else’s mother. But that doesn’t matter. Whoever painted this old lady did so with love and respect, no air brushing here. She wore her age with dignity – more than that really. Every miniscule wrinkle of her lived in skin was a sMrs Rembrandttory without words, captured the way an artist paints the folds of a landscape. This elderly lady had come to terms with life’s regrets.

I wasn’t aware that the reason Mrs Rembrandt and I clicked probably went right back to my choice to leave religious life. She looked so calm, so settled, so comfortable in her own skin. It resonated with the womanliness of the aboriginal women on the Northern Territory mission stations where I taught as a young religious. They had something that I had not found in my years of living with women in religious life. As I smoothed the print into its slightly battered second-hand frame and hung it on the lounge room wall, my inner self touched into her settledness and I thought, “You and I are going to get on well together”.

Scholarly articles suggest that my Mrs Rembrandt picture was a depiction of the prophetess Hannah. After all she is reading what appears to be a Bible. My own Bible is well thumbed and I like to think that as I age I will find myself in the story of the prophetess Hannah , or is that Anna? Anna, an elderly woman and the first evangelist, proclaiming Jesus’ advent, Anna, a woman reaching into an everyday event and finding there the redemptive action of God. And Anna, a model for women’s ministry in the early Church. Like Mrs Rembrandt I find life and meaning in my Bible.

Sometimes I walk into my bedroom and turn on the table lamp and there she is, sitting so comfortably in her lamplight that I delay drawing the bedroom curtains and sit on the bed and watch her. Outside it’s dark. Her face is partly shadowed and that might be the reason I’m most aware of her during the winter months. Of course it could also be the cosiness of her fur trimmed hat and jacket, but I think it’s more than that.

Winter in Warrandyte means cold mornings, mist drifting through the green of the eucalypts and evenings that close in before 6 o’clock. That morning mist is how I sometimes catch a glimpse of who God is, of the relationship between God and me. I see, but I don’t see. Just when I begin to think that I might understand the mystery of who or what is God, it’s gone.

Mrs Rembrandt sits there in my softly lit, shadowy bedroom reading her Bible and it seems appropriate that she and I would share our God journey. I’m fleetingly reminded of that lovely poem by John of the Cross where he describes walking through the dark to meet God, when God is too close to be seen with the senses but glimpsed with our birthright of inner light, something I glimpse in Mrs Rembrandt.  It’s a wintery thought and a comforting one that I resolve to remember the next time I feel the chill of what I describe as God’s absence.

Mrs Rembrandt and I have lived together for a long time now and I’m rapidly catching up with her. Soon we’ll be two old ladies swapping stories about our children and how well, or not, they have fared!  She’s lived in seven different houses and spent a couple of years in storage as well. Sometimes she hung on the living room wall, more often in the room where I write. Wherever she hangs it’s the way the light comes in from behind her that draws my eye.

She has been a still point in my changing world.

                                                                                                                                         Judith Lynch

I’m back

I’m aware that this year I’ve neglected Tarella Spirituality and my faithful readers. While some retirees walk the Camino, some babysit grandchildren or become volunteers in community or church organizations. Others decide to write a book.

Well, that’s me and now I’m a bit over half way through. To use a yachting expression it hasn’t all been clear sailing. 25,000 words in I reread what I had written and was dissatisfied with it. There were two options as I saw it – hit the delete button or re write. It took me a couple of weeks to dredge up the courage to start again but .. .I re-wrote and now that’s behind me and I’ve started on the rest of the chapters. All encouragement gratefully accepted!

I hope you find something to think about in my piece about Deacon Boniface Perdjert. If not, then check out the Gospel reflection for this Sunday. You’ll find it on the Connexions page.

From my home among the gum trees,

Judith  

 

 

 

 

A Litany of Mothering

 The brochures cluttering her letter box paint a charming Mother’s Day picture but Lee, the mother of two pre-schoolers, is learning that mothering isn’t nearly as soft and fluffy as the  pastel coloured slippers and dressing gowns suggest.First smile Mothering is tough. For a few moments he wonders what it might be like to walk out the door and never come back – and knows she could never do that.

Solicitor’s letter by solicitor’s letter Debbie and her husband have fought out the custody arrangements for their two small boys. Very soon her mothering will be split down the middle and the pain has already set in.

Month after month she waited for the everyday miracle of conception to happen. Now Emily sits in the specialist’s waiting room. It’s called exploring the options, and so far they have been intrusive, painful and costly. She wonders why God, who created her body to accommodate and nurture life, seems to say, “Not for you.”

Twice a week Ingrid visits her ninety two year old mum. Decades back it was her mother who looked after her, checked homework, scheduled dental appointments and made wonderful birthday cakes.  Now the child has become the mother and hovers lovingly, respecting her mother’s independence while worrying about unforeseen dangers.

She’s Jake’s mum. He’s eight and was born with cerebral palsy. The dreams she dreamed for him, and herself, have changed, revolve around small achievements. During those eight years she has learnt that the pull of love is stronger than the tug of a career.

Maureen had four children, but there will only be two cards this Mother’s Day. When they were young they formed a tight little unit. Then there was a divorce and the kids took sides. Now she grieves for the children who ignore her and the grandchildren she never sees.

In a noisy Thailand market a middle aged woman coos into the face of a newborn baby boy. Her arms remember the feel of another baby, nearly thirty years earlier. In a Melbourne florist shop a dark skinned young buys flowers for the woman he calls mum. Briefly he wonders about his other mother, the one he doesn’t remember.

It’s their monthly lunch date and Joan has a new crop of photos on her phone, ready to produce when the conversation gets around to grandchildren. She loves being a grandmother, able to enjoy the smiles and cuddles without the financial stresses, broken nights and toddler tantrums that accompanied her own mothering years.

Mothering God, we pray for the women who spread your mothering across the world:

for young mothers, coming to terms with new responsibility ;

for mothers who are tired, stressed or depressed; for mothers who struggle to balance work and family; for mothers whose children have physical, mental or emotional disabilities; for mothers who raise children on their own; for mothers who mourn the loss of children no longer part of their lives; for women whose desire to be a mother has not been fulfilled.

We pray this prayer through Jesus, who understands the demands and the love that accompanies everyday mothering.  Amen

Judith Lynch

Two months later. . .

It’s April, the days are shorter and the fire threat in my little part of the world has died off for another year. I’m about halfway through the book I’m writing – still unnamed – and, like a distance runner, I’m wondering if I can ever ‘dig deep’ enough to see my way to the end or will I give up.I’m writing what I think is called a focused memoir, with the focus on vocation, my vocation first expressed in religious life then detouring into other areas, some of them not always to my liking, but all of them steps along the way. I think I could do with a cheer squad while I keep putting the words together: judith@tarellaspirituality.com.

Now for an Easter offering. Locked Doors is a Gospel reflection for the second Sunday of Easter. I know, I’m a couple of days late! You’ll find another seven for the following weeks on the Connexions page.

LOCKED DOORS

My youngest grandson is crawling – well, more like swimming across the floor, exploring lots of interesting and touchable things. Which meant that before he and his parents came to lunch on Easter Sunday we needed to  install a portable gate to lock off stairs that headed down. It led me to reflect on all the locking that I do – the car, a computer password, the doors of the house, windows locks to comply with insurance regulations, a swipe card that unlocks money at the ATM, and so on. I closed off the stairs because I feared Jack would fall down them. I lock everything else because I fear others who might want to harm me or take what is mine.

Locking a door gives one a feeling of security. The Apostles gathered behind doors that 151were closed and locked because they feared, probably rightly, that they would be hunted and executed like Jesus. They talked endlessly and in circles about what they were beginning to believe was Jesus’ resurrection. The implications were beginning to dawn on them and they didn’t know how to handle them.

Which sounds like the Catholic Church right now. There are constant allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, official investigations,  court cases and widespread scandal. The institution that we call the Church doesn’t really handle accusations and criticism well.

If I image the Church as a building then it always seems to be locked: locked in by rules and male authority figures, secrecy, celibacy and somehow always being right. Extreme efforts are made to protect the Church and avoid scandal, which has led to cover-ups and increased scandal. The media, which often tries to set the agenda, cries out for transparency and commissions articles about a deep-seated problem Church problem – the abuse of power. When the Church is under siege it metaphorically locks the doors and windows and hunkers down hoping the shouting crowds will go away.

If you lock doors then others are kept out –women, locked out of any possibility of full membership or Asian and African Catholics whose traditional culture is generally passed over in favour of European religious traditions. Bishops complain that their regional authority has been hijacked by bossy Vatican officials.

The Catholic Church is a divine institution, run by humans. There will be sin and eventually the media will find out and report it to the world. As a result good priests can find themselves bracketed with abusers and then feel unsupported by a hierarchy who seem obliged to follow “party lines”. Rightly or wrongly, we ordinary Catholics can feel let down by the Church that we respected and assumed was perfect and unchangeable. We can walk away, and multitudes have, or we can acknowledge that sin is a reality, that power corrupts. Instead of voting with our feet we can face the fact that the Church is a living, breathing organism that makes mistakes. We can remember that we, you and me, are the Church.

If Thomas had not questioned Jesus’ resurrection then maybe we would not have the courage to question unhealthy and unnecessary Church practices. If Thomas had not asked to touch the wounds in Jesus’ body then we would not be free to recognise the reality that the Church in our time is wounded. If anything can get rid of the religiosity that sometimes defines Catholicism it’s recognising the wounds that are caused by greed, the abuse of power, by sin.

I would like my grandchildren to be a living part of a Church that listens rather than denounces, a Church where the Holy Spirit feels at home because everything is not cut and dried, a Church that has the courage to say “We were wrong” and the audacity to face the new and the untried.

Judith Lynch

The picture across the top of the Tarella Spirituality Home page is the view from my workroom window. Over the next five months I’m going to be seeing a lot more of it as I finish writing a book, to be published in October. So while I concentrate on the book I will not be posting any new pieces on Tarella Spirituality.

While I’m busy writing all those thousands of words you might like to click on to my archival pages:


Garden seatFrom Where I Sit
has a mix of bits and pieces that are relevant to the times we live in.

 

IMG_2289Women at the Well expresses Christian spirituality in language and symbols more suited to the feminine.

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Gum Tree Spirituality tries to capture the Australian face of God.

Bible-620x428 Connexions is a week by week reflection on the Sunday Gospels for Year C.

Judith Lynch