Hello to you all,
I came across this piece of writing during the retreat in Chiang Mai. I wrote it over 25 years ago and had forgotten about it. However, as I read it again, it touched a chord in me about how we are led by the Spirit. I thought you might like it, especially as we are now in the middle of the Great Novena to the Holy Spirit.
And so, I came to the river. I knew, I think, that it was there, but I had never really seen it or felt its touch, probably because I was too young to know where to look – until that night in summer. It was still bright when I went to bed, but I was not allowed to stay up until it got dark, for I was still young and the summer evenings in Britain are long. However, although I went to bed at the required time, it was difficult to sleep while the sky was still so bright and that night I lay there not sleeping and was still awake when I heard my sister pass by my room. She was allowed to stay up later than I, for she was older, and because I was bored, I called out to her and she came into my room and made that night different. She sat down by the side of my bed and began to speak and slowly she began to tell me about the river!
You can see the river, she said, when you make the Sign of the Cross. You raise your right hand to your forehead and say, “In the name of the Father“, and then you move your hand to your tummy and say, “and of the Son“, and then you move your hand from the left shoulder to the right and say, “and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.” (We said “Ghost” rather than “Spirit” in those days!) I did what she said and suddenly I also began to see the river. It sparkled in the evening sun, and how pretty it looked. My sister began to speak again and said that I would be able to see where it was coming from if I said: “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my life and my soul” I then said those words and did begin to see where the river was coming from. My sister then went on with other words, which I now know pointed to where the river is going, but from where I was then, I could not see those parts of the river. My sister soon left and I was left to snuggle down to sleep, but thinking how nice the river was – how gentle, how pleasant to have it running through the garden of one’s life!
How long it was before I felt the call of the river to come to it, I do not remember, but I grew up accepting its presence and found it nice to have there, although at times it did seem to bar my way and hinder me a little. For the most part, I accepted that others did not seem to have a river in their life, but that did not make me envious of them, but rather made me feel a little special, for I had my river and I appreciated that it was there. Those with whom I grew up accepted that it ran through my life and whereas they might be curious of it, they asked no questions and just accepted that it was a part of me.
Slowly, however, the river began to exert its magic over me, calling me softly, so very softly until I began to move towards it. It was seductive, urging me to come ever closer until, at last, I was caught! I was drawn to its banks and there I saw a boat into which I could step, if I so chose. If I stepped in and cast off, it would mean daring what lay beyond the bend, but when I saw the boat I didn’t really think about that at all – all I saw was how seductive the river was as it lay there so temptingly, so cool, so joyful! All I wanted, all I could think of, was how to get into the boat and let the river take me wherever it would.
How to step into the boat? I did not know! But, I was fascinated with the dream of getting into the boat and all through my latter school days I played with that dream. I would try it on at night, although not always with joy! Sometimes, as I would be going to sleep, a picture of the boat would come to me as I lay trying to sleep. It would be disturbing and I would try to forget it but it would keep coming back – urging, urging me to get into it. I would say that I wanted to sleep, but the thought would come again and a picture of the river would rise so powerfully that finally I would slip over the side of the bed, kneel on the cold floor and so enter the boat as I knelt and said my night prayers. Then for the rest of the night I would sleep in the boat, gently rocked by the breeze, the so gentle breeze that flowed across the river.
May was a busy month. There was a retreat cum tour in Thailand – and we were rocked twice by earth tremors, which was quite exciting! Then, I flew to Bali for another retreat cum tour – but, this time, without the earth moving – although two of our people were quite shaken by something that happened. Let me tell you about it.
At the Carmel Retreat Centre, we were having lunch one day and I was opposite one of the men in the group. He was chatting away quite animatedly and I finished my meal long before he did. Normally, I would have stayed while my companion finished eating, but something urged me to leave him – so I made an excuse and left. By that time, no one else was in the room – all had finished – but one of the group came back for something and when she saw the man alone she began chatting with him – the first time she had done so.
This woman had been adopted as a child and whereas she knew a little about the family she had been adopted from, she thought they were all dead and that she was alone in the world. However, as the two chatted they were drawn to share more and more of their story with each other and the woman discovered that she was, in fact, sitting and talking to her uncle! It had a profound effect on both of them.
Thus, does the river draw us into places unthought of!
After the Bali retreat, I spend a few more days there, visiting people, including the prison. I stayed about 40 minutes, for it was so crowded and hot that I couldn’t stay longer. The next day, I had a streaming cold – which I think I must have picked up in prison. This developed into bronchitis, which only now am I getting over. However, I should be better by the time the students arrive back on Thursday – at least I hope I shall.
Two Mill Hill students – one from Sarawak and one from Sabah – are setting out tomorrow to go to the Philippines to begin their formal studies for the priesthood. They have dared to step into the boat – their names are Christian and Freadzeno – please pray for them.
The Dayaks in Sarawak are celebrating “Gawai Dayak” today – Dayak New Year – So, to you all:
“Gerai Nyamai, gayu guru, senang lantang, panjai umor nguan menoa”!