We are surrounded by changes in our daily lives at the moment. Schools are reopening, workplaces are resuming on-site practice, people are moving on. Life for many, though not all, is suddenly ‘unpaused’ after six months of a reset.
My daughter, my only child, started secondary school this week. Commencing secondary school is an exciting though anxious experience at any time. Due to the pandemic, there are even more differences. I have had her at home every day for six months. Instead of being in primary school with her friends, marking all the milestones of that year and then spending a summer gaining more independence, we have been together at home in our own ‘pod’ or ‘bubble’. We have always been close but even more so now. I really treasure that one-to-one time though. It was certainly the silver lining on the dark cloud.
Of course, when she started secondary, I imagine the sense of ‘letting go’ that I felt as she walked along the pathway alone ahead of me, was even sharper on account of the extra closeness of the last few months. I was prompted to think of my own parents and how they must have felt at all my milestones. Letting me go while still holding me close and that is a thread, a golden thread even, that I believe will always continue. Those we love are always held close even when we need to let go.
I have found great strength in recent weeks reflecting on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. When Annie made her Confirmation at last in socially distant circumstances, and in a simple yet beautiful ceremony, I was privileged to be invited to read the prayers of the faithful which were based on the Gifts. I offer the following prayers for all those who find themselves wanting to hold close while letting go.
Wisdom is timeless and ageless. May we welcome the gift that comes with learning from our successes and failures, from listening to and learning from others.
Not everyone will know how are feeling. We will not always know what others are going through. May we be patient and understanding, taking it easy on ourselves and taking others where they are at.
We will have major and so-called trivial decisions to face all the time. Let us think before acting and put our best foot forward in using our right judgement. Remember even when we cannot articulate our problems, the Spirit knows what lies in our hearts.
Butterflies in the stomach means you care. We wouldn’t worry, unless we had the empathy for ourselves and others about the consequences of our actions. Take a deep breath. Remember you are not alone. The Spirit gives you courage.
We are lifelong learners. Be grateful for the gift of gaining knowledge every day – knowledge that you think, knowledge that you feel, knowledge that you do.
We are not the centre of the universe. Others matter. The environment matters. God created us all. Isn’t that incredible? How lucky are we to be part of it all! May we always be grateful and show respect and reverence for all of Creation.
May we never cease to be amazed. May we notice the beauty and wonder in all manner of things. May we slow down and treasure our loved ones and surroundings. Truly awesome.
Dr. Bernadette Sweetman is a post-doctoral researcher in Adult Religious Education and Faith Development at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education, Dublin City University.