Trouble should not really be thought of as this thing or that in particular, for our whole life on earth involves trouble; and through the troubles of our earthly pilgrimage we find God.” (Saint Augustine).
We – like many Australians – have a small swimming pool in our back yard.
My husband is a very handy and outdoors sort of person, and so, he usually spends at least an hour a day vacuuming that swimming pool, cleaning the filter, and weeding the garden beds surrounding it. He routinely does this straight after work to wind down, or on a Sunday morning, while I am sorting the children out for the day. Though I often think to myself, it is a shame that he does not clean the house with as much enthusiasm as he does that swimming pool, it is very good therapy for him to have that time to wind down each day and because it is good for him, it is also good for both of us!
Because, he takes such care of the swimming pool, we make sure that we keep an eye on it for him, because we know that he takes great pride in the fruits of his labour. His means that if anything appears to be out of the ordinary in relation to that pool, we are sure to bring it to his urgent attention.
The other day we had cause to do just that, because a cute little family of ducks decided to take up residence in our pool. There they were – the mother duck, the father duck, and four cute little ducklings – happily paddling around in the pool.
Our children were overjoyed. Cute little pets had moved in and there was nothing that Dad or Mum could do to stop them. But of course, we parents knew better. After all, my husband would surely not allow a family of ducks to destroy all his hard work by dirtying that swimming pool that he was keeping safe for his own children. And so, as many a father before him, he went on a campaign to scare the ducks away. Each time the duck family landed (or waddled) into the pool, my husband shook and shouted until they flew away and the children watched him, feeling a little bit sad and misunderstood, despite all this effort in their best interests.
This performance continued – to my great amusement and our children’s regret – for a period of some days, until finally, the ducks had well and truly moved on to clearer waters… The neighbour’s pool perhaps?
I have been thinking about those ducks for some time because it has occurred to me that our treatment of those ducks was very similar to Our Lord’s treatment of occasions of sin.
The other day, one of my sisters brought her three children to Saturday Vigil Mass with me. There she sat at one end of the pew, and there I sat at the other, and there sat six, polished and well-behaved little children between us.
Our children are very close in age – only a few weeks or months apart in age. We have been taking those six little children to Mass each week since they were born. This is no easy thing – as any practicing Catholic parent will tell you. After all, when they were younger, we each had three children under the age of three or four years old, and there we sat at the back of the church through tantrums and bathroom breaks and distractions and chitter chatter and nappy changes and bottles and complaints... Sometimes, those children drove me so mad during Mass that I thought to myself, that it would have been far less sinful to skip Mass altogether than to try to attend with three naughty little children. But week, after week, we pushed through. Week after week, we redirected those children back to the task – sometimes more successfully than at others.
And that brings me back to that family of ducks that we saw the other day. After all, dragging a bunch of kids into the Church week after week, is not a very dissimilar thing from shooing a family of ducks out of the pool. After all, if we did not go to Mass, there would be far more occasions of sin and far less Grace for us. Every Mass – even when we barely attend with our mind, draws Grace to our souls. And that Grace keeps us clean and keeps all the bad stuff out.
Just like my husband shooing those ducks kept the pool clean, my sister and I persevering in attending the Blessed Sacrament of the Most Holy Mass, kept our souls reasonably clean. Of course I do not mean to say that we should attend Mass and then continue sinning as though nothing has happened. After all, during Mass, we hold our GOD inside our hands, place Him on our tongue and consume Him through our bodies so that He can reside in our souls.
For it is inside our souls that all our troubles can be found. And, as the great doctor of the Church, Saint Augustine advised, “In all trouble you should seek God. You should not set Him over or against your troubles, but within them. God can only relieve your troubles if you in your anxiety cling to Him. Trouble should not really be thought of as this thing or that in particular, for our whole life on earth involves trouble; and through the troubles of our earthly pilgrimage we find God.”
And so, as my husband shoos ducks and my children come with me to Mass, I cling to my Beloved and my Lord. For my only wish is to find Him. It is my only wish…
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.