We are coming to the end of the third week in Lent. It was International Women’s Day on Thursday and this became a point of reflection for me in my Lent spiritual reading because my text is the first book known to be written by an English woman.
An element of humour has always been part of my spiritual journey, although I have sometimes aspired to a more serious Catholic life of contemplation. In fact it is exactly ten years ago that I was in Hermitage P in the great cloister in Parkminster Charterhouse in Sussex, struggling with the hard diet and exhausting timetable of Carthusian life. It was the monastic equivalent of joining the Foreign Legion.
Even then, God invited me to see the funny side of things, and that was not difficult with the help of the surprisingly impish humour of the Novice Master Father Cyril. One afternoon he rang the bell of Hermitage P, walked quickly through the ambulatory and up to my cell, greeting me with, “Hello there: I’m just dropping in to check you’re not dead yet.”
I would also sometimes have to suppress giggles when things went horribly wrong during recital of the psalms, sitting in the poor light in the creaking oak stalls during those long hours after midnight in the night office in the freezing great mock-gothic church.
So it was perhaps unsurprising that God would play some jokes on me during my attempt to do some serious spiritual reading in Lent 2018.
The first was quite an old joke really. There are at least two failing Catholics in Finestrat and we discussed our Lent plans in early February. My friend said she would commit herself to going to weekly Mass during Lent. I said I would commit myself to reading the Divine Revelations of Julian of Norwich. We are coming to the end of the third week in Lent and my friend tells me she still hasn’t been to Mass, while I am just on page xviii of Denise Baker’s Introduction to the text and neither the Lord or his chosen revelator Julian have revealed anything to me yet.
Yes, the old joke is the text I ordered from Amazon. It is the original untranslated Middle English of the fourteenth century. “All shalle be wele, and alle maner of thynge shalle wele…” etc. That will teach me to choose the edition with the scholarly notes. As an intellectual, I thought the Penguin paperback version – also available on Amazon – was just for the plebs. In fact it would have been an easier read for this pleb too. Was this the key lesson of Lent 2018 ?
Meanwhile, the other joke that God played on me this Lent is that I was sacked from my school teaching job on 1 March. This was a rather curious hiccup in an otherwise fairly uneventful working life, and not particularly useful for my GCSE students, but it does at least provide more time to struggle with the Mydelle Englyshe of Julian of Norwich.
Hey ho, and on with the struggle. “Ther was a tresoure in the erth whych the lorde lovyd. I merveyled and thought what it myght be.” That’s a good idea… time to go and plant some beans. I’ll come back to sister Julian tomorrow.