Thou Art My Island

There’s a breeze that blows before the rain. It meets the resistance of the rhododendron, braced against the weather, not a trembling but more a stiffened shaking, a soldier standing to attention in a storm.

This is a day of hibernation, a day with no plan, free flowing. Water begins to pour through a carck in the eve shoot of the house on the corner. I’m home for the holidays. My first day. Been up since 8.00, having gone to bed at 10.00 and now it’s 11.00. Still not dressed, a coffee and a tea later. Brown bread in the oven.

The ship that brought me home sailed at 2.40am and at three o’clock in the morning on the upper deck of the Ulysses I found myself stretched out  on my back, looking up at the sky. It was  black. At first! And then the stars came out. They were out already. It’s my eyes that must adjust. I think of Aelfred sleeping out beneath the stars; a woman in the Sahara doing the same and I wonder will I do likewise when I arrive at the desert night. 

Two weeks later. Two weeks of rain. Another boat on another sea and my flagging soul is buoyant again. There’s only so much positive spin you can put on so much wet weather. It wears thin, very very thin.

This is the prayer that stirs in me: Love is the boat that ferries us; Love the sea on which we sail strong-hearted waves; Jesus the sure sailor, Holy Spirit the enfolding wind and God the Father the Island – destiny of all desire.

On the island I found this prayer of St. Colmcille whose Holy Well we came upon for the first  time after more than 60 years of visiting Aran:

“Lord, Thou art my island; in Thy bosom I rest

Thou art the calm of the sea;

in that peace I stay.

Thou art the deep waves

of the shining ocean.

With their eternal sound I sing.

Thou art the song of the birds; 

in that tune is my joy.

Thou art the smooth white strand of the shore;

in Thee is no gloom.

Thou art the breaking of the waves on the rock;

Thy praise is echoed in the swell. ​

Thou art the Lord of my life.”

It is an island of many monastic saints, including St. Enda (Eanna) whose name I took for my Confirmation. I love to pray at his altar in the small chapel in Killeany cemetery. I made a cross of stones there, holding fast to the faith we have in common and, even though that faith has largely gone into hiding, the truth of it will abide. Jesus will always remain the destiny of all desire. With time, patience and prayer and above all by grace, I have found all my desires – one by one – to be honed, shaped and purified in the furnace of humiliation, in the ever surprising grace of ministry and in the fire of His Divine Love. The process continues as I am brought low by memory of what I perceive as past failure and turning aside again to Him, to what it is that He has done, is doing and will do in my life.

“Leave me alone with God 

as much as may be.

As the tide draws the waters close in upon the shore,

Make me an island, set apart,

alone with you, God, holy to you.

Then with the turning of the tide

prepare me to carry your presence 

to the busy world beyond,

the world that rushes in on me

till the waters come again 

and fold me back to you.”

St. Aidan of Lindisfarne