Catherine of Siena: A meditation on becoming yourself

This meditation can be used in different ways. You could sit with it for a while and take time to reflect on different words and phrases. But most of us flick by things like this at more of a pace: just more words that we absorb in our hurried catching up. That’s okay too. This piece is intentionally short for that reason. Maybe a word, an idea or a question will remain with you into the day. Stop here for as long as you are able. And no longer. Use this place as a quiet pause, a deep breath, a moment for your soul to listen and speak.

It might help you to know a bit more about the story that has inspired this piece. If so, you can read it here.


If you are what you ought to be, you will set fire to all Italy, and not only yonder.
Catherine of Siena, Letter T368

It is the hardest thing in the world.
To become yourself.
It involves more than simply being.

You learned quickly to hide your self away.
The knocks of childhood and the taunts of adolescence
Pushed your self into a shell that calcified and cocooned.

Becoming yourself is a conscious uncovering that leaves you vulnerable;
Emerging from your shell of self-preservation to stand naked in the world.

Becoming yourself is active resistance;
Breaking the chains of others’ expectations that hold you captive.

Becoming yourself is an act of courageous stepping up;
Grasping that you alone can do the work you are called to do.

Becoming yourself requires you to
know yourself,
love yourself ,
embrace yourself.

Becoming yourself is to become tinder for another;
You are not becoming yourself for your own self’s sake.

As you become yourself
You may never feel the heat of the fire you leave in your wake.

As you become yourself
You may never see the sparks left behind by your authenticity.

As you become yourself
You may see only sad, smouldering ashes where you thought there would be a blaze.

To become yourself is to take a risk:
You risk finding nothing inside your shell.
You risk stripping everything away to be left ashamedly exposed.
You risk fizzling out before you set the world on fire.

As you become yourself, may you come to know your precious complexity.
Beneath your precious complexity, may you find quiet simplicity.
In your quiet simplicity, may you find still pools of peace.

And bathed in peace, may you set the world alight.

Be who God meant you to be, and you will set the world on fire.

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A clockwork check-up

We have a clockwork baby mobile. It has a dial that turns and coils a spring. At the release of a switch, controlled by cogs, the spring slowly uncoils itself and turns the mobile.

Sometimes, the mechanism gets stuck. The dial will no longer wind, but the cogs won’t turn and the switch will not release the spring.

If the mobile is unscrewed, the coiled spring bursts from the mechanism as it releases its tension, and the mobile spins frantically out of control until it dissipates the energy that it has held captive.

Our souls are a little bit like clockwork.

Things happen. We are wound up, and our complex mechanism of cogs: our emotions, social graces, spirituality, common sense, rest and relationships, deal with the energy that is generated. Under normal circumstances, we are able to release our tension appropriately, creatively, beautifully.

But sometimes, our mechanism is a bit battered. Over time, as we cycle through coiling and uncoiling our springs, we get out of sync with ourselves. The mechanism jams. The switch fails. Our spring gets tighter and tighter with no way of releasing the tension. Eventually, the energy has to go somewhere.

Perhaps we implode.
Perhaps we explode.
Perhaps we seize up completely.

Repairing a jammed clockwork mechanism is a simple task, but it takes a bit of time and care, and you need the right tools.

20160414_111528Can you give your own clockwork mechanism a check-up?
What winds you up?
What helps you to release tension healthily?
Are you feeling tightly wound at present?
What tools do you need to dismantle your own mechanism, release the tension, and reset the spring?

The Annunciation: A meditation on partnering with God

This meditation can be used in different ways. You could sit with it for a while and take time to reflect on different words and phrases. But most of us flick by things like this at more of a pace: just more words that we absorb in our hurried catching up. That’s okay too. This piece is intentionally short for that reason. Maybe a word, an idea or a question will remain with you into the day. Stop here for as long as you are able. And no longer. Use this place as a quiet pause, a deep breath, a moment for your soul to listen and speak.

It might help you to know the story that has inspired this piece. If so, you can read it here.


She could have said no, you know.
Even as the angel told her what would be, Mary still had a choice.
The angel waited for her response.

God sought Mary’s yes.
He wanted her permission, her assent.

Mary could not have done this alone.
But neither could God.

Nothing will be impossible with God, says the angel.
And nothing would have been possible without Mary.

Mary needed God.
God needed Mary.

God’s suggestion
and
Mary’s assent
heralded an alliance of Heaven and Earth.
A union so perfect, so complete, so potent, that it would set the world alight.

And so as Mary cradled that embryo – then foetus – then baby, with her body, so God himself cradled Mary.
She became overshadowed by the Most High: held, protected, empowered.

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Have I known moments of annunciation? Perhaps…

…a creeping feeling of what will be.
…a prompt to become more fully who I really am.
…a nudge towards my destiny.
…an invitation to partner with God and await what unfolds ahead of me.

I don’t have to say yes.
But are there things that God cannot do without my yes?

Do I ponder, perplexed and disturbed as Mary was, on how God might be using my own moments of annunciation – and my quiet submission to them – to change my own small corner of the world?

And do I know that I am cradled, even as I seek the courage to say “yes”?