Meteorologically, it is now autumn, even if officially we are still in the dying embers of summer. And it is at those turning points of any year that I tend to take a look back and review what has been happening since the last time I undertook such an endeavour. I find that as a general rule, my conclusions tend to be mixed.
Spiritually, my devotions haven’t changed and nor do I foresee any major future change to these – aside from the Mass, the Rosary is the primary spiritual devotion and I am still using a variety of little meditation books as a way of gleaming as much spiritual ‘worth’ out of the Rosary as I possibly can. Now, I don’t mean to imply by this that it is nothing more than a question of personal effort – while such effort is certainly necessary, it is grace which is needed more than anything else. But I find that these little books of simple meditations help to keep me ‘on track’ and receptive to that grace when it is offered. Meditations written by others invariably provide me with insights I have not already considered, and they open before me paths I have not already walked. This also means that the Rosary tends to remain fresh and always new, never stale or tedious.
Aside from the Rosary, there is the daily Divine Office, the Liturgy of the Hours. Morning and Evening Prayer are very much the spiritual ‘hinges’ of my day, as the Instruction on the Hours refers to it rather astutely. Morning Prayer certainly sets me up for the day and I often consider later what I have read earlier. I try to pray the Prayer During The Day also, but this is not always possible for one reason and another, so I do my best and don’t worry too much about it. I do like those moments of Night Prayer, which close off the day as it draws to its end. I know there is a new and updated translation of the Divine Office coming our way, perhaps as soon as sometime next year, and I look forward very much to this. I have a book containing the new ‘Abbey Psalms’, which the new version of the Office will incorporate and they are lovely – but the Grail Psalms will be very hard to replace as I have used these (and become very used to them) over many years now. I won’t mention the Calendar of Saints, which is now hopelessly out of date. And I pray they tone down the very clerical nature of the intercessions if the Office is truly to be considered the prayer of the whole Church and not just the clergy.
The ‘devotions’ part of things is all well and good, but the part needing deeper work seems always to be what is going on inside.
So for me, this is where the real questioning tends to try to probe. Of course, that necessitates a high degree of objectivity – and we all tend to be forgiving with our own faults, while also excusing our personal omissions and those failures which make their presence felt in these moments of introspection and review. So I need to guard against that one as best I can. Dealings with neighbours (‘neighbours’ in the Biblical sense – that is ‘everyone else’) is the biggest area, perhaps. It is the place where so many of the failures have taken place, even if interspersed with the odd success here and there. It is a ratio which always needs work and which will never be perfect – indeed, at times it seems more like a demented see-saw, swinging from side to side under its own steam. My report card here reads “could do better”.
The particular fault of which I am aware at the moment is believing that my perspective is of interest or value to others, and determining – as a result – that I ought to impose it on them or at least share it with them; for this, the report card is presently telling me that my approach “needs work”. But I am at least aware of this, so I have a staring point from which to begin.
So it is slowly into autumn and then winter I shall go now, and no doubt this will provide ample reading time during those long dark nights which are just around the corner. My book pile – of spiritual books – will see me through these months and will hopefully give me plenty to consider and think upon until Spring arrives. Which currently seems like such a long way off!