This weekend I was committed by my priest to creating a Christmas tree on behalf of the parish, it was for the 2 day magical All Saints Christmas Tree festival. There are over 150 trees exhibited, all unique creative master pieces and some of them are amazing. People travel from all over to see the beautiful trees, in years before now there have been up to 2000 visitors, and with a few pounds entry fee it is a great way of raising much needed funds. I was not relishing the idea, in fact I was dreading it. My creativity has run out. I am uninspired. My real tree each year at home is beautiful, it is adorned by 5 children’s artwork, with a mash of not matching garish school made decorations, which hang until they are only worthy for dressing the bin. I constantly try to pull off a slightly more pretentious look, it always fails. This year our tree at home has just glass and silver dec’s, the children tell me its boring . . . they are bright kids . . . It is, but I needed simplicity.
I felt burdened by the hassle of having to be creative which requires inspiration, Love and enthusiasm, at a time when I just feel like being a hermit away in solace on my own. Attending the festival instead meant I would have to venture out into a very public place and engage. For the forseeable future I have cancelled all commitments, and have made my excuses at all groups, and avoided most social gatherings. I have a smiley happy personality, I don’t feel like being inauthentically smiley and happy at present, I don’t feel like being anything. I’m tired.
I don’t want to play ball. I almost copped out completely, but it was rather too late, so I came up with the easy idea of a prayer tree. I brought a beautiful fresh lush green tree and as a base, hung some of my dear friends antique angels, golden festive baubles and a little golden tinsel on it, easy! My dearest friend realising my need, helped print up some praying hands on little cards, and we simply invited people to write a prayer and hang it upon the tree.
By way of a little evangelisation I printed up some little Christmas business cards with the Catholic parish church addresses on, and Christmas Mass times, and we left a little A4 poster saying ‘All the prayers hung upon our tree will be offered up at the Midnight Mass, you are welcome to join us’. The tree looked bare, sad in fact, all the other trees were all creatively complete, and looked wonderful. I left sharpish, head hung low, worried about the parishioners disappointment. To be quite honest, although of course deep down inside I care, at that moment I couldn’t care a less.
It was my last day of term at uni yesterday, I’ve been contemplating whether or not to drop out. I’ve completed one year and I have Loved it immensely, especially setting up morning prayer and Mass with the sisters on a Saturday morning, but this year it has all changed. It is now the turn of the new first year students to do the sacristans role and I am missing it immensely. I watched them setting up late on Saturday and it just doesn’t feel quite so beautifully sacred and reverent anymore. It has been a good year for discerning what inspires me, and a good year for being honest to myself about what doesn’t.
My finances are in constant deficit. It cost’s me over £100.00 in travel expenses alone each month. The train lines have for weeks on end been closed and the journey at times horrendous. I also found out after beginning the course that although I qualified for a grant, the course doesn’t qualify with student finance London because it is subsidised by Westminster, (I was originally told it did) however by that time I was several weeks in and I Loved it. So I got my first ever credit card at the age of 41 to pay for it myself. All rather frustrating financial/administrative problems.
However I Love my class, it is a little church family in its own right, we all care for each other dearly. I Love Mass in the beautiful chapel, I Love the lectures beginning and ending in prayer. I Love it when the lectures go deeper and get me thinking beyond the lecture. I Love the journey there and the journey home. I Love popping into the Carmelite Church on Kensington Church Street on the way home and lighting a candle. I Love browsing in the charity shop windows. I Love the mix of prayer and study, of community and solace, of contemporary and ancient, of wealth and poverty, of secular and religious. I Love the atmosphere and the streets and the parks, and the lights and I Love to talk to the homeless people and offer them a little something to eat.
It has been a most special year of my life, momentous in fact in many ways, a year blessed with little miracles and so much Love. A year I didn’t want to change. But things do change. As well as the miraculous transcendent highs, my personal journey has also been too difficult, fraught with pain, and I’ve had enough. Each assignment has collided with a desperate low on my personal journey, making it almost impossible to feel motivated. I have different circumstances to operate under than everyone else I know, I have a future that can never be fully realised. I am tired of hurting. I am tired of being nailed, nail by painful nail to the cross, when it could all be so very different, I am discerning that maybe I am only to be resurrected in Him elsewhere. Beyond.
It’s ironic that on Saturday evening when I returned home from uni, I had a message letting me know that more prayer cards were needed, as the prayer tree was so so successful, the prayer cards had all been used up. It’s Ironic because the ultimate prayer carved upon the ultimate tree, made into a sacrificial cross, is that of our Lord’s body crying out in agony to His Father, a Prayer, at the time seemingly ignored. And yet here is our tree having captured the prayers, hopes and faith of so many of our secular and faithful brothers and sisters. Friends who have nowhere else to turn with their messages of Love and prayers for mercy, other than to God.
They will be blessed, because I don’t believe I have ever witnessed anybody praying Mass quite so reverently as the Catholic Church do. I believe that the miracle of transubstantiation (the transforming of the bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord) is a miracle transformation, not only in the host, but by our very presence in the image and likeness of God, a transformation in us too.
This evening after two days in All Saints Church, I went and dismantled the tree and redressed it back in the Sanctuary of our beautiful little holy Catholic Church. I counted over 140 prayers to be offered up.
God willing on Christmas Eve I will venture out to pray a very sacred and special midnight Mass with Christ, for All my brothers and sisters, without separation or exclusion . . . and I will pray it in deepest Love.