One of my favourite prayers - well, it’s really an invitation to prayer - comes from the Proslogion of St. Anselm of Canterbury, and it seems to me very opportune as we enter into the Summer season. St. Anselm writes, “Come now, little one, turn aside for a while from your daily employment, escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside your weighty cares, let your burdensome distractions wait, free yourself awhile for God and rest awhile in him. Enter the inner chamber of your soul, shut everything out except God and that which can help you in seeking him, and when you have shut the door, seek him. Now, my whole heart, say to God, ‘I seek your face, Lord, it is your face I seek.’”
The invitation to rest a while in God is vital for us to hear. It is Summer, and while we remain in the midst of a pandemic, some aspects of life that we have missed are being reopened. We aren’t back to normal, but we are as close to normal as we’re likely going to be for a while. It’s good to walk by parks and see people having fun, enjoying the beautiful weather, enjoying public spaces in our communities, even if we all stay 2 m apart.
The pandemic has hit each of us differently, but all have been impacted. Some have lost jobs, and some have had their work expand exponentially. Many have been cut off from their loved ones. It has dragged on, and I’ve noticed in recent weeks a collective fatigue setting in. There is a fair bit of anger and irritability in the air. You sometimes encounter a real venting of emotions about something that seems really small, and you think, something else is going on here. Sometimes you encounter that in yourself.
When we read in the Scriptures about keeping holy the sabbath, it’s interesting to see how strong that invitation is from God. We are to rest on the 7th day. When Jesus and his disciples are traveling through Galilee and Judea, he invites them to step away and rest for a while. There are many things in our culture, not bad in themselves, which move us to be busy all the time, to produce, to accomplish, to achieve, to become. There can be a strong moral overtone to all of that as well. That can set us up for burnout, or at the very least, for exhaustion, with a restlessness that keeps driving us. It’s good to remember that the one who created us, who has great plans for us, who is at work in the depths of our being, tells us on a regular basis to step aside and rest for a while.
Sometimes when I go to bed at night and start thinking about the 300 things still on my to do list or the 1100 emails in my inbox, and how I haven’t reached out to people who have asked for help, or I’ve reached out to one and ended up elbowing another in the process, I find it hard to sleep. Pope John XXIII used to pray at night, Lord, it’s your church, you look after it for a while, I’m going to sleep. My prayer is simpler, rising from the heart: O God, let me rest in you. Let me rest in you.
Many of us feel that fatigue and exhaustion, including those who have been cut off from their work. I think we would all do well to hear the Lord invite us to come away for a while and rest in him. There’s a lovely little story from the Jewish tradition that suggests that when God wakes up in the morning, God gathers the angels together and asks, “where does my world need healing today?” Sometimes the answer is, it needs healing from all the busy-ness, the hectic pace, the chaotic pursuits which keep us running all the time. We would all do well to rediscover some of the wisdom and grace of keeping the sabbath, whatever that might mean for us.
On that note, I am going to sign off for a little while from these weekly messages. I will return to them at some point in the next few weeks, sooner if there is something urgent to communicate. But before signing off, I want to extend a few thank yous: thank you for watching or following these weekly messages, and for following the livestreamed Masses and other video resources we have produced during this pandemic; thank you for carrying the burdens that this strange time has placed on you, and for the ways in which you have been able to reach out to others in the midst of it; thank you to the clergy and staff, parish council and other lay leaders who have worked to keep our communities intact over the past months; thank you to those who have worked on the financial front to secure subsidies which keep us from financial crisis, to those who have made possible those subsidies, and to those who have continued to contribute to our parishes despite not being able to celebrate our faith in the usual ways; thank you to the archdiocesan staff who have persevered, and to those who have been creative and energetic during this pandemic, especially in the field of communications; thank you to little groups I have gathered to brainstorm about homilies and about the content of weekly messages, and who have generously allowed me to share their ideas without indicating the source of those ideas; thanks to the many committees who have continued to work over the past months, with special thanks to those who work on policy and protocol and education to prevent sexual abuse and address the painful legacy of clergy sexual abuse; thanks for your understanding to those who are still waiting for a response to emails or letters, and thanks for your patience to those who are frustrated with our efforts to take steps forward as safely and faithfully as possible in our churches.
Wishing you all some time of rest during the Summer months. May we all heed the Lord’s voice to come and rest for a while, to live deeply the life he has given us, and to seek his face. God bless!
Archbishop Don's Weekly Message Watch HERE
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