There is a joy about July, a time of freedom to just be and enjoy our being. There is an explosion of colour around us, warmth, sunshine, and song. It is a time to be with others, a time to be glad to be alive.
I have fond memories of school holidays with long, seemingly endless summer days, exploring the countryside, and roaming off at will, just being free. Memories stay with us for a very long time, and memories are very precious, especially in our declining years, when they become a rich treasury for us.
July is often a month of endings and looking ahead to new beginnings. We know things will change over the summer, there will be practical things to do, there will be exam results and decisions to make, new uniform and new shoes to buy for growing children before school starts again in September….the list goes on…., but this is all in the future; for now we know we can happily focus on that beckoning stretch of summer time.
July is often a pause between the old and the new. Pauses are interesting times; extended times in which to stop and rest; to think; to enjoy the time and just allow things to be. I recently read that John Henry Newman was becalmed on a sea voyage from Sicily after a serious illness and used that time to write Lead Kindly Light. It is interesting that these pauses are sometimes imposed on us to wait and to be patient, to discern, and to sit in that pause and really listen, and that listening is important. Maybe we have to be calmed sometimes for beauty to emerge from us.
In July our Diocese visits the shrine of Our Lady of Glastonbury and we process through the streets of the town and gather for Mass in the Abbey ruins, a place where people gathered for Mass for centuries. We also have our annual Oblates meeting in July for St Benedict’s feast day; lovely time carved out for us, and by us, to pause our busy lives and gather together in our Abbey chapel, welcomed together as community, with time to welcome others, think of others, and celebrate. These annual gatherings keep traditions and memory alive and keep communities actively together.
We live in a society impoverished in time and community where people are often isolated from other people; there is a constant cry that there is never enough time and always too many demands on our time. Many people appear to be constantly attached to their phones; continually in conversation or texting or on social media. It becomes normal to be so very busy and difficult for people to disconnect themselves and take a pause, even on holidays. We can become embroiled in an unsustainable life of perpetual busyness which becomes the accepted and self –perpetuating mode of being. Our noisy frenetic world seems to demand this greedy use of time, and our perception of time becomes eroded and narrowed. If we have no valuable time to think, to stop, eat and drink well, rest and reflect, then we become impoverished and disconnected from ourselves, with no time or ability left to just be.
There is a discipline about carving out time. St Benedict took a pause when he left the clamour of Rome for quiet Subiaco. Sometimes we choose to pause, sometimes circumstances impose this on us, but these times are always precious in some way because in those pauses we may just see our way.
Monasteries give a peaceful haven from the world for many people but are also an example in the world, to have the regular discipline to pause and pray during the day, every day, and to stop and listen within a profound pause. This constantly resets the clock to a greater time, a richer, expanded time, a time which has depth and meaning and life, and gives a different perspective and calmer rhythm to the day. People often come to visit monasteries and their surroundings, to seek and find peace and tranquillity, that gift and grace which touches people’s lives in so many ways. Those monastic prayer pauses can dwell in hearts and memories for a very long time and can be very precious in our lives:
“Eternal living Lord of all, unchanging rock of might, the rhythm of each falling day you measure out with light. We pray that evening may be calm and life may never fail, in death may all men come to find the peace that will prevail.”
Oblate of Prinknash