First Things First

February 17, 2024 | Reflections from Abbess Hilda

LENT 2024

This year as we actively remember  the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, we have in front of us a world that has never looked more like standing in need of salvation. The right order of things is out of balance. Nature itself has been thrown and right order knows much interference. The distribution of weight across the surface of the earth has shifted due to melting ice at the North and  South Poles has meant that the earth’s axis has tilted significantly. We have polluted our waterways, we have damaged the ocean. Unprecedented   natural disasters are becoming common place. War seems to be everywhere. Orphaned children in Gaza are now burying siblings because there is no one left. Life is daily being exterminated. By July of this year 2024 twenty countries will be facing famine with its dire consequences and we feel powerless. This is definitely not right order; this is not how things were meant to be. And we ask, what can we do?

There is an answer, and the invitation this Lent is to apply that answer to our lives. Someone asked Jesus

“Master what is the greatest commandment of the law? Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:26-27

There is right order, put God first. There is more to it than meets the eye. Let me tell you about someone who is currently on the list for possible canonization. Her name is Catherine de Hueck Doherty, a Russian laywoman, born in 1896.She was married at 15years of age, faced World War I,  fled Russia in 1917 during the Revolution, went to Finland and then Canada as a refugee, had a baby boy, her marriage broke down and was subsequently annulled. She converted from the Russian Orthodox Church to Roman Catholicism. She foundered places of refugee, “Friendship House” and “Madonna House “she called them, in Canada and in Harlem New York. Catherine was at the forefront of advocacy for racial justice, indeed justice of all kinds.

Her life was more than busy and the challenges she faced were enormous. However at some stage she stumbled across a truth. Whatever she was doing, it would not “fix” the world. Neither were her “good works” the reason God loved and valued her. It was her company God wanted. Catherine discovered that so much happened, way beyond her expectations and hopes, when she attended to first things first.

She reached back into her Russian heritage and rediscovered the reality of a “Poustinia”. This was a hut in the woods, a room in a house or more attainably a place in one’s heart where nothing else was done except being with God. This was not a place for seeking God’s advice, or telling Him our concerns, we can do that anyway at anytime.

This was specifically and intentionally a place to be with God for God’s sake. One can do this for five minutes or however long one wants. The practice though is to do it every day if you can. So maybe on the train to work, a person might slip into one’s own interior Poustinia and there be with God, for God’s sake.

There are loads of ways of doing this. Spend five minutes saying your favourite prayer over and over, repeating a line from the scriptures, doing nothing but be there. Take as your guide whatever you would do with your best friend if you were keeping them company for their sake, not yours.

You will be putting “right order” back into the world this Lent and although you may not see anything for keeping God company, trust me when I say, right order in the world is restored. One day, when you finally met God face to face, in a way that no longer relies on faith, you will hear Him say “Thank you. In my darkest days you were with Me and that made all the difference”