Tuesday, 1 September 2009
The photos are of the farmhouse and the statue of Our Lady about a kilometre away on the road to the village.
Back not home but from home in the Vendee (that’s increasingly how it feels) after almost a month in the sunshine and having completed all the jobs which have to be done when running a house at a distance – cutting the hedges, repairing and painting shutters etc. etc.. There’s a lot to be said for a Benedictine balance between physical labour and the work of prayer; less seriously, there’s also a lot to be said for a glass or two of decent French wine at the end of the day!
“Go away and forget about it all,” is always the advice we are given; that’s not so easy when the things we are being urged to forget make up our entire life. Yet there has been time – and at a suitable distance and in a different cultural setting – to reflect deeply on the issues which now face us and what the future may have in store. The best thing this particular couple of Francophiles from Wales did some years ago was to buy a house both for eventual retirement and present escape which would at least provide us with a roof over our heads and a small measure of security when the Anglo-Catholic world fell apart, as it was inevitably going to do, given the direction in which western Anglicanism was heading and the single-minded ruthlessness and lack of scruple of our opponents on the radical feminist left and their more liberal fellow-travellers. [To digress a little, interestingly enough, when I got back I had an email invitation from the diocesan cell of Inclusive Church – the unintentional humour of random mailshots!]
The clear dawn in Portsmouth harbour soon gave way a couple of miles along the motorway to a steady drizzle and a temperature of twelve degrees (at 7 a.m. admittedly.) For the last few years “summer” in Britian has been not so much a season as a question asked of the climate with an increasing note of despair. Obviously again this year the answer has come back in the negative.
But in some ways – in many ways - it’s good to be back among familiar and friendly faces doing what I am meant to be doing.
But sooner or later I know that the situation will become such that we will get on the ferry to France, having bought a one way ticket, and watch England, together with all our battles and defeats, our dashed hopes and unfulfilled dreams, recede into the mist.
But that time is not quite yet and there is still work - God’s work, I believe – to be done in the particular place where I have been put for the time being. But…. for how much longer? That, as everything else, is in the Lord’s hands and his hands alone.
Even in defeat there are rearguard actions to be fought and things of value to be rescued from the oncoming catastrophe. Undoubtedly, though, for me exile (ecclesial and physical) will be the end result of the process through which we are living. But it will be exile in the hope that, with the kind of paradox our Catholic Faith delights in, the place of exile will turn out to be my intended home all along. Read that as you may.