Happy Friday, friends!
The return of spring, and souvenirs of faith.
Hello from a sunny south coast of England this morning! It’s a joy.
The house is still in need of a “proper” clean, it’s been a hard week, but also a good one, and a swathe of early spring sunshine is spotlighting the frost melting on the fence as I look outside.
Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight,
At the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more,
When he bares his teeth, winter meets its death,
And when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again.
—C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
A reminder that spring always returns.
Last night, on a quick grocery run, I impulse-bought two bunches of tulips, for the hallway and living room, where they’re now ushering in spring (and distracting from my need to vacuum).
The heady scent of hyacinths do the same.
How are things where you are? Are there signs of spring yet as you look outside, or—as I know is the case for friends Stateside and in Canada—not just yet?
Praying, as this pings out, that we’ll all catch glimpses of spring—of every kind— around us.
On faith and tchotchkes
I wanted to share something that I read this week in a free taster of author and writer Rod Dreher’s diary on Substack.
Recalling a trip to Portugal with his wife and visiting the pilgrimage site of Fatima, he describes his disdain for the “Religious tchotchke shops everywhere. One had glow in the dark plastic statues of the Madonna, in several sizes, filling a window …”.
Then, they came to the plaza in front of the basilica.
There we saw a mass of pilgrims streaming into the church; it was January 8, a Marian feast day … There was a young Portuguese mother moving forward on her knees, with maybe a quarter-mile ahead of her … She was doing this, mind you, in a cold drizzle, with the plaza asphalt damp under her knees.
Standing behind her was her husband, holding a baby, and an older woman — either her mother, or her mother in law. They were moving forward to thank God and the Virgin for the baby. The mom did not care about the hardship of “walking” on her knees, nor did she care what people might have thought of her. Such faith!
As I stood there marveling, I realized that judging by the modest dress of this family, they were probably the sort who would fill up the trunk of their car with tacky religious tchotchkes before heading home. And yet, upon whose heart — mine or theirs? — would the Lord look more favorably? To ask the question is to answer it. I repented.
I remember walking along a similar street in the Vatican City, when sightseeing in Rome in my early twenties, and I’m pretty sure I bought a medal or two from one of the tubs of trinkets outside the shops.
Come to think of it, I have a treasured rosary, broken now, which is, in fact, glow-in- the-dark.
The cotton thread worn, and many luminous beads long lost, it’s been tucked away in a drawer for ages.
I look back on such memories and see them as signs of sorts, on the way.
Some that even glow in the dark.
I got the most amazing message from a friend following last week’s newsletter, in which I wrote about Oxford, and the place where Roger Bannister broke the world record for running the four minute mile.
It brought back, she wrote, wonderful memories of growing up in Oxford and, moreover, actually BEING THERE, in the Fifties, when it happened.
“I was there at the running track, sitting on my father’s shoulders when Roger Bannister ran his 4 minute mile.”
Another reader wrote that she loved being taken back to studying at Oxford in her uni days.
From Oxford to London, I also remembered this old chestnut from the Insta archives—my brother and I on his school sports track at St Paul’s, sometime in the late 70s.
I’d posted it with these words from St Augustine, which feel like a fitting follow-up, of sorts.
“Look, you’re here, freeing us from our unhappy wandering, setting us firmly on your track, comforting us and saying,
“Run the race! I’ll carry you! I’ll carry you clear to the end, and even at the end, I’ll carry you.“
— St Augustine, Confessions
Along with the image of the young mother on pilgrimage, approaching the basilica on her knees, such a beautiful picture of a finishing line.
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