God Sis­ter Teresa

The Oldie - - NEWS - sis­ter teresa

Re­cently, I was on hol­i­day in south­west Scot­land stay­ing in a lovely house with the kind­est of hosts.

The scenery there is, in its way, per­fec­tion, with minia­ture hills and val­leys, small lochs, dry-stone walls and farm­houses so much part of the land­scape they might have grown out of it or­gan­i­cally, along with the woods.

There is some­thing very mov­ing about go­ing for a walk or a drive in such set­tings. I passed an an­cient round fort grazed over by cat­tle – far more im­pres­sive than if it had been ex­ca­vated and turned into a tourist at­trac­tion – and the sil­very light made the coun­try­side glow as if lit from within. (The more cyn­i­cal would say that this means that a shower of rain is im­mi­nent, but it doesn’t stop it from be­ing lovely.)

I was on my way to the small town of Dal­beat­tie, where Saint Peter’s Ro­man Catholic church was open ev­ery morn­ing, with Mass cel­e­brated at 10am. This Saint Peter’s is more than two hun­dred years old and clas­si­cal, rather than neo-gothic in de­sign; it is there­fore full of light and has that un­mis­tak­able at­mos­phere of prayer which only comes from years of con­stant use.

There was a short gem of a homily ev­ery day: never more than a minute. The ap­peal for si­lence in church – put gen­tly and po­litely by the pri­est – re­mains with me, as does his sim­ple state­ment that we should be at peace be­cause we be­long to the uni­ver­sal church. All this was said with no fuss or rhetoric, but with the wis­dom and hu­mil­ity ac­cu­mu­lated over a life­time. I felt so grate­ful for hav­ing been able to spend time in such re­as­sur­ing sur­round­ings.

Why do most peo­ple con­fine them­selves to church-go­ing on Sun­days only? Is it per­haps be­cause it never oc­curs to them to do oth­er­wise? Or be­cause at­tend­ing avail­able ser­vices dur­ing the week or vis­it­ing a church for a few min­utes’ si­lence are sel­dom, if ever, en­cour­aged from the pul­pit? Many peo­ple can­not spare the time – but for those who can, giv­ing it a go might be well worth the ef­fort.

I was more con­scious than ever of the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of the things I love: a gi­gan­tic gas pipe­line is goug­ing its way through the beauty of Gal­loway. Doubt­less it is a mag­nif­i­cent piece of in­dus­trial en­gi­neer­ing, but this sort of progress will ex­act a heavy price.

My near­est and dear­est, too – who used to be so ro­bust – are now show­ing signs of frailty. But I refuse to be down­hearted be­cause I be­lieve that the qual­ity of love is eter­nal and that, some­how, we can­not be de­prived of it.

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