Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Following the thread…

Newton’s Law: every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Throw a stone into the water and ripples will form.  Nothing comes from nothing.  You’ve heard and seen it all.

I have always been fascinated by consequences.  Just the thought makes me agonise over decisions and, sometimes, when I have reached a point in life, I pause to trace back as far as I can go and I am amazed at the chain of events – the minuscule, small, medium, large and enormous consequences - that have determined my journey. Consequences – it’s a topic I’ve waffled on about before and will waffle on about again – and again!

Let me explain: We have a discussion group on faith and culture and we have to take it in turn to lead the discussion.  So far, I had been happy to take a back seat.  Then, the priest director and I happened to engage in conversation and I threw up the remark, ‘How am I a Catholic?’ He was taken aback, ‘What do you mean?’  Well, I know that I was baptised and confirmed and I do attend Sunday Mass and I will jump into arguments on doctrine and faith for argument’s sake, but does that make me ‘Catholic’ in the way it is supposed to mean? Our discussion meandered, as it usually does and the upshot was that I led the discussion on ‘my’ topic.  It so happened that I used a prayer written by a Jesuit, Fr. James Martin.  It turned out that he had written a book, ‘My life with the Saints’.  I was given the loan of it and what a joy it was to read.   The author is an excellent raconteur with a rare personal honesty and the ability to find grace in all things (I like to think that is a Jesuit trait – I like the Jesuits!).  I discovered much that I had forgotten and was happy to remember.  I discovered that we had many saints in common – those whom we liked, to whose intercession we had turned, whose name was part of our own.  For instance, the happiest part of Confirmation was that it allowed me to add St. Bernadette to my given names!  And who hasn’t tweaked St. Anthony’s ears for that lost and must be found object.  Included in Fr. Martin’s book was my favourite Pope, John the XXIII – I have a cherished rosary with his image embossed on the case.  And I had recently been introduced to Fr. Pedro Arrupe through a heart tugging musical put up by a student group from Goa.  

But I digress (so did Fr. Martin, on occasion, but he did it so nicely!).  The point I wanted to make was about saints and names: my baptismal name is Anne.  A little patience and you’ll see where this is going. Consequences!

God called my husband home.  Our parish organist – who played at his funeral – followed him a little later.  That was unexpected and a shock.  It also left a vacuum in the music ministry. I started filling in with my minimal keyboard skills and scratchy soprano, happily drowned out by the powerful and in majority altos. From there I went on to accompany Sister at morning Mass.  She is the Principal of a school in need of a singing teacher.  In Mumbai singing teachers are either priced out of range or thin on the ground.  And so I was reluctantly press-ganged into training the uninitiated to unite voice with keyboard in a semblance of harmony.  I use recorded tapes for voice (the mind boggles at the thought of 60 voices imitating me!). I digress again.

The name of the school? St. Anne’s!  

I have never given my patron saint a second thought.  All I know about her is that she is Our Lady’s mother, her husband’s name was Joachim and we remember both on parents’ day – July 26 every year. Now that I have read Fr. Martin’s book, I am curious.  After a lifetime of exploring different trails, this connection cannot be mere coincidence. And there is more.  Three sisters in law taught here.  And I have just discovered that St. Anne’s is the Alma Mater of my office assistant at XIC – a very happy young lady who bubbled over with memories of her schooldays. Consequences with connections!

Consequences or God’s plan? Should I even dare to think so? Many tomorrows will reveal the pattern; in the meantime I will be the thread woven into the motif, the patch, sometimes in the background sometimes in relief.  A bright thread I hope - one which lends (a little!) decoration to the design.

Oh dear! I have waffled.  My thoughts have run away with me and today’s late night is going to have disastrous consequences if I don’t rise and shine with the dawn tomorrow.

I wish you sweet dreams. Enjoy where they lead!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Water into Wine

When a Jesuit friend asked me to teach writing skills to his students, I was tickled all the shades of the rainbow.  I pointed out that while I loved to write, I had neither qualifications, training nor the necessary experience to teach.  His response? Just do it! (Yes, he beat Nike to that slogan though not everyone knows it)

Fortunately, my first student had a decent grounding in the basics and her writing skills did need some direction which was within my scope to offer.  We hit it off beautifully and went from strength to strength.  As a test case, this one was definitely A-OK.  As I taught, so did I learn.  As I answered, I found new questions of my own.  And as the students increased in number, so did my interest in the form and medium – the Internet. Five years on, I was fairly seasoned!

Today’s papers brought the news that 55 year olds, with no apparent handicap other than that they had retired from gainful employment, were joining retirement day-care centres.  I, too, had hoped that retirement would bring a comfortable chair, a lazy day, a good book, background music and perhaps a little chit-chat with like minded friends.  Not so.  At 61, I am still struggling to fit 28 hours into the 24.  

Now, a nun who is Principal of her school has decided that I should teach her children to sing.  I can manage Happy Birthday and play the scale of C-major on the keyboard with enviable accuracy but teach music?  I don’t think so.  Sister thinks otherwise.  Just do it (Nike again!).  In the meantime, I have found that with practice my repertoire of key signatures has grown – I now no longer blanch at 4 sharps or flats – and  I can accompany the choir and cantor at Mass without any ‘ouch’ moments.  Except when they hit a wrong note despite my hitting the right key.

I have made the discovery that a very ordinary talent can be coaxed to the next level especially when it is being prodded vigorously in the rear!

I have also made the discovery that retirement has its own interpretations.  Not everyone refers to the same dictionary.

And it appears that the Lord has never stopped changing water into wine.  Wine improves with age.  At 61, I give myself the compliment – con brio!