Any ordinary day

I have a container of joy siting on my table. A vase of peony roses. The head of each rose is a wonder to behold: layers of tiny, delicate petals, each coloured with a slightly different blush of pink. They are held up by an impossibly thin stem, surrounded with shoots of green leaves. They carry a slight scent and, even though their days in the vase are numbered, I appreciate the wonder of them. They are a reminder to me of the blessing of God in the ordinariness of life.
November calls Catholics to remember. Throughout the world, parish communities are setting about the wonderfully sacred task of remembering and praying for the dead. It can be painful to remember. Our thoughts may return to those first awful days after the death of a loved one—they can be days filled with a terrible silence. We try to recall the last words, the last moments of life, and the ‘finality of death’ suddenly becomes real to us. The ordinariness of our life has been disrupted.
Last week, an ordinary Friday became extraordinary when one man brought violence into a peace-filled city day. The randomness of it is shocking. And this is the challenge of life, I suspect. That the ordinary can be disrupted in an instant.
In a recently published book, Any Ordinary Day, Leigh Sales interviews a range of people who have experienced unimaginable tragedy and loss. In light of their stories, she uses research into fear, loss and grief to try to make sense of how people go on after deep and inexplicable tragedy. One of her interviewees, Juliet, when asked what she hoped people would learn from her story says: ‘That in pain, there’s also joy. You can’t be in the presence of just one thought, that life is good, or life is bad, or life is sad. There’s all these things. And there are so many good people in the world, actually so much kindness. It’s everywhere’ (p. 149).
In the face of death and tragedy, we look for ways to make sense of what has happened. We lay our flowers, light our candles and call upon our God. And we remember. This is the gift that November offers Catholics. We remember that our God is a God of presence, blessing and goodness. And, in the words of Karl Rahner, when we ask where our dead have gone, we know that

They have gone to be with God, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, not the God of the dead but of the living. So the calm we eventually experience, when our necessary period of mourning is done, is not a sign that things are again as they were before; that cannot be. It is rather a sign that part of us lives now, already in eternity, with our loved living dead.

—Karl Rahner, Encounters with Silence (St Augustine’s Press, 1999)

So let us remember with love our now silent friends—those women and men who went before us marked with the sign of faith, who blessed us by their presence in the ordinariness of our lives.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Cathy Jenkins

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