FR. FRANK’S LOG: 29TH OCTOBER - 5TH NOVEMBER
Our Passionist Community in Bishopbriggs is very impressed by the dedication of Father Gareth to his nightly swim. No matter what time he gets in; no matter how hard he’s been working; no matter how tired he is; no matter how much he’s had to eat, he grabs his sports holdall and heads down to the local leisure centre to spend his allotted time in the pool. It takes a great deal of discipline to do that so fair play to him; although where the discipline goes when he comes back and raids the fridge or the pantry I’m not so sure.
I am one of those people who just can’t swim. I might manage an undignified length, in my own unique form of free style, staying close to the side of the pool in case of a moment of panic, but that’s about all. I think my reticence goes back to when I was a child and my older cousin offered to take me to the local baths to teach me how to swim. As she was a girl and I was a boy we had to go to separate changing rooms. I came out first and, having watched people on television diving into water I thought, “how hard can this be?” and so I just dived right in. After a while, floating beneath the surface, with my young life flashing before my eyes, I was rescued out of the pool by one of the lifeguards who pumped the water out of my lungs, gave me the kiss of life, and brought me round again. I became aware gradually of people gathered around, one of whom was my cousin in a state of shock and, funny how the mind works, the next thing I became aware of was that I had forgotten to take off my glasses.
From that point onwards, much as I loved the water, especially the sea, and would dearly have loved to be able to swim, I just knew that it was never going to happen. I suppose there are lots of things in life we would love to do but, at some point, we just reach an acceptance that it’s never going to happen; just as there are other things we would rather not do, but life throws them up at us anyway, and we have to just get on with it.
Life is not what we hope for, dream of, or imagine; even though it’s good to have our hopes and dreams and imaginings to aim for. Life is what happens every day, expected or unexpected, wanted or unwanted, bidden or unbidden; and the best we can do is abandon ourselves to it and live it, by the grace of God, as best we can. As Carl Jung said: “Bidden or Unbidden, God is Present”.
I can think of no better prayer for this than Charles de Foucauld’s Prayer of Abandonment:
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself, into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.