Saint Ignatius College Geelong

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    Faith Matters - Arctic

    Article by Mr Brendan Nicholls

    Faith Matters – Arctic

    As I write this we are in the midst of the first true ‘cold snap’ for the year. The sky is dark, the wind is hurling rain so that it stings and the wind chill is minus nine degrees; meaning the temperature is effectively -2.5c! It’s times like these that you either love living in Victoria or start to consider a move to Queensland. Our seasons are a reminder that nothing is permanent and that we need to adapt and enjoy change. The true test of this ability is to have the courage to rug up and walk straight out into the storm with excitement and a sense of joy.

    Our lives are not linear, everything ebbs and flows. All that we know changes like the seasons. Here for a while and then subtly change occurs so delicately that we often do not even sense the movement and then something new begins. There is no constant in our lives except for Jesus. 

    The cold weather over the past week can offer us something metaphoric to contemplate. Winter is a time of short, cold, rainy days. There are moments in our lives like this. Often the ‘winter’ in our lives occurs suddenly and demands a response. Often illness, a death, problems at work or a fracturing of a relationship are sudden and like winter force us to change what was in the past safe and enjoyable.

    Our patron St Ignatius encountered this storm due to the catastrophic injuries caused at the Battle of Pamplona. His vision of the future was no longer achievable and all that he had known and all that he had prepared for became a memory. In his convalescence he encountered Jesus and his heart and desires changed due to the movement of the Spirit within him. His winter occurred at Manresa. The nine months in prayer and service of people in need changed him and afforded him mystical experiences that transcended the ordinary. Because of his injuries and his dedication to seek God he became truly whole and left a spiritual legacy that is a treasure freely given shared to this day.

    As we are forced to respond to the cold weather we might profit from contemplating moments in our lives, maybe even in the present moment, where we have entered into an emotional or spiritual winter. What can be drawn from experiences that we would rather not encounter? It may be that during these times we stay indoors, seek comfort and warmth. We may pause our social commitments or superfluous engagements whilst we contemplate how to move forward. We may rest and seek comfort in what is safe or we might reach out and find warmth in friendships and family members who are able to affirm and revive us.

    Take a moment to bring to mind a time of winter in your life. What shocked you about the change? What subtle signals were there that might have forewarned you and allowed you to plan if you were to notice? What did your time ‘indoors’ look like and what did you draw from this period of seclusion? How did the silence of being alone open your heart to the love of God that is particularly discernible at such times? What other things bought comfort and healing? How did this unwelcomed experience lead to spiritual growth and resilience?

    Based upon this reflection it would be worthwhile going deeper. Based upon what you learnt from the experience how could you respond differently in the future? The American band Casting Crowns released a track called “Praise you in this storm” in 2005. The lyrics were written by the band as they sought to come to terms with the death of a young fan to cancer. The song reached #1 on the Billboard charts, stayed in the charts for over fifteen weeks and has been bought/downloaded over a million times since its release. The lyrics of this song are worth mediating upon as they encourage us to reflect about how we might prioritise God in times of need and enjoy his mercy and healing at the most difficult moments. The song offers us the following to contemplate:

    “And I'll praise you in this storm
    And I will lift my hands
    That you are who you are
    No matter where I am
    And every tear I've cried
    You hold in your hand
    You never left my side
    And though my heart is torn
    I will praise you in this storm”

    As the seasons change and storms move through from time to time how can we ensure that we praise God more in our day to day lives and especially in times of trouble? Inspired by St Ignatius how can we draw closer to God in times of trouble; even if we are empty and don’t feel his presence around us? 

    As the weather this week offers us a point of reflection we can gain so much through what is offered metaphorically. As I conclude these thoughts the wind still blows and the showers continue to pass over, but the sun breaks through and the birds begin to call. Even though the storm rages we can glimpse what is better. Although it’s Artic outside the wind will calm, the rain will move on and the sun will shine again and bring new life. In the interim we can reflect, rug up and enter into the storm. Although we don’t desire the cold wet weather we know it is necessary and that we can be joyful and invigorated if we have the courage to open the door and experience the changes that are occurring. Just as the sun shines through even on the coldest days God’s presence is discernible even when everything around us seems dark and empty.

    I wish you all the best over these first wintery weeks and hope that you can find joy in the change of season.

    Yours in Christ,

    Brendan Nicholls  Liturgy Coordinator

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