40 Years Red

Red the life vest of the oarsman. Red the wide-rim hat of a smiling cyclist.  Red the lips, the dress of a woman walking into the sun. Red the fluttering shirt of a young man running.  Red the coat of a woman calmly writing, seated stately on the pebbled shore. Red the tulips. Red has made me smile, revived my drooping spirits. And yellow is the Mustang that growls like a contented lion.

Our daily prayer begins with Psalm 95. Before I leave my bed this morning a line from it is already hovering around me – “for forty years I was wearied of these people.” What a thought with which to start the day. But it’s the forty years part that is significant now because on this day forty years ago I made my Final Profession as a Pallottine on the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena and I intend this to be a blessed, peaceful day.

It’s also Monday, my day off, a day that always finds me spun out after the weekend. It’s my day of rest and I tend to approach it slowly, quietly lingering over breakfast before going on to pray and then making a decision about what to do with my freedom.

But today I’m not feeling very well. Didn’t have a good night and I begin by tripping and stumbling into the morning – literally. The doorbell was ringing incessantly and I had to scramble to get dressed before going down to answer. So, I feel frazzled, frangled – there’s no such word but it’s what I feel – my nerves a bit on edge. There were too lovely people standing there, one of whom I was pleased to see but the other was way too early for me.

He’s Christ in need and I treat him badly, with impatience because I already know every line of the speech he is about to give and he will not stop until he has worn me down and then proceeds to ask for much more than I have given. So, I’m not on for it, tell him I can’t do this right now and feel ashamed of myself, a foolish feeling that won’t leave me alone all the day long. There’s no excuse for being impatient like that. And maybe my pride is wounded for letting myself down in that way!

Eventually I go for a walk, a gentle 11k (according to my app!) along the seafront in the lovely sunshine, passing the idle big wheel, and it’s out there that all the beautiful reds dance before my eyes. But it’s not just the blaze of anonymous red that revives my drooping spirit. I’m most specially revived by my encounter with a lovely young mother from the parish and her two beautiful sons on their little scooters. It is a radiant joy. And as always, the children are a little bit puzzled by the sight of me not wearing vestments!

I get to thinking about the power of uniform and I’m thinking of the tall young undertaker whom I meet regularly on the job. So reliable, calm, sure of what needs to be done, with an unflappable smile when things are going awry. And sometimes I meet him on his way to work, out of uniform and he appears more vulnerable. I wonder is that how I appear when not wearing my vestments?

The evening is closing in now and I’ve closed the church door, switched off the lights and whispered a sigh to Jesus. Then a text from my friend consoles me ever before I tell him how bereft I feel. He’s feeling the same for some reason so we are in this moment a bereft brotherhood, breaking that particular bread over the material distance that separates us. I will listen to Pray-as-you-Go and be one with him in that too, praying for all who are even more bereft than I, those who do not have access to the peace that will enfold me this night.