Monday, March 25, 2024

The House was Full of the Scent of the Ointment

 25th March 2024

The House was Full of the Scent of the Ointment

"...Mary brought in a pound of very costly ointment, pure nard, and with it anointed the feet of Jesus, wiping them with her hair; the house was full of the scent of the ointment..."

These words from the Gospel today made me think. Mary's gesture was most extravagant in that the ointment was so precious. She used so much of it that the whole house was drenched in the sweet perfume. Judas would question the reasonableness of spending all that  money. 

I am struck by her generosity and her love. Of course her generosity is born out of her great love. I am reminded of Mother Teresa saying "Give until it hurts and then,  give some more." Like Judas, I question the Wisdom of giving too much. I calculate what I should give, how I should give, when I should give. Where is the Love in that?  And as I quibble about being asked for more, I find that I'm in a quagmire of grime and stench that stops me moving forward, that keeps be bound to myself.

Lord help me, during these days of Holy Week,  to be like Mary, to Love you more, to give without counting the cost. Help me Lord to fill my house with the sweet aroma from the ointment of  self giving, so that I can  rise with You at Easter  into the Light of Your Love.


Thursday, March 21, 2024

Actually it's Eleven

21st March 2024

This section of my memoir has touched many people. I've had a great deal of positive and emotional feedback from it. Thank you to all who contacted me . 

4th June 2020

Ten Things Of Thankful.

I thought for the TTOT today I'd share a chapter from my memoir. I am enormously thankful to God for all the experiences here.
I could count to many more than ten, but hey, who's counting. And to be fair who can count God's blessings.
Obviously, as it's just a chapter in the middle of my memoir, there is some knowledge that is assumed. If you want clarification please ask.

Actually It's Eleven

October 1982

I enjoyed my pregnancy and planned to do things right this time. My wonderful midwife, Brenda Tucker gave me a book on breastfeeding, “Breast is Best”. It became my bible. The first time round I got mastitis and was advised to stop feeding which put me off trying again the second time.

 With number three I was determined to get it right. Everything natural, including a home birth and no pain relief.  Studying the book, I could see where I had gone wrong before, which made me a bit sad, but also gave me great hope that I could succeed. I read it from cover to cover over and over. 

“I’ll book you into the midwives’ unit. It’s homely and you’ll be out six hours after the birth. It’ll be fine.” She patted my hand. She knew I was  disappointed, apparently, too high a risk for home birth because of the twisted womb that I was left with after Emma.

“And I’ll try my best to be there and if it’s not me, the rest of the team are brilliant too,” she smiled. I had come to rely on her. She understood exactly where I was coming from. I had seen a few of the other midwives. They were lovely, but Brenda was special, we had a bond. Even when I said I’d like to try without pain relief she said she’d help me with that. One of the others just laughed saying, “we’ll see.” I think it was because Brenda treated me with dignity, as an intelligent person, that I was so fond of her.

On the due date, October 1st I went to A morning of recollection in Winton, Oxford with Helena, Sonia, Sheila, and another I don’t remember. Feeling healthy I thought nothing of the forty minute drive and anyway, Helena was driving. I sat in the oratory and prayed. I was thinking about joining The Work (how members refer to Opus Dei) and was asking God if that’s what he wanted. Everything about it seemed to be just for me.

“Lord, if the baby comes tomorrow, then I’ll take it as a sign that I have a vocation,” and I hoped. The next day was the anniversary of the founding of the work,  2nd October 1928, which, obviously was significant. I read all I could about the founder Josemaria Escriva and loved his emphasis on holiness in the middle of the world - so attractive to me.

Sure enough that night I got inklings that baby was coming. Contractions on and off, fifteen minutes apart, then none for an hour. I’d had Branston Hicks contractions the week before, so initially didn’t get too excited.

“Do you think this is it?” Peter handed me a cup of tea.
“Just put it there,” I pointed to the coffee table while pacing up and down the living room. It was a Saturday so he was at home, which I was grateful for. By mid afternoon the pains were every ten minutes and sometimes closer.

“I think I should take you in,” he was getting nervous. His mum who had come up to look after the others agreed.

“No, we’ll wait a bit more.” I wanted to leave it as long as possible before going in.

An hour later we drove the fifteen minute journey to the Royal Bucks Hospital. Brenda met us and stayed with us the whole time, helping me have the birth I’d planned. Peter held my hand, tried to be helpful, always one for solving problems but completely out of his depth in this situation. With the absence of normal hospital equipment, although close at hand if needed, the room was set out like a bedroom, with comfortable chairs, coffee table with books on and pictures on the walls.

I walked about for a lot of the labour but eventually pulled myself  up onto the bed for the last stage.
Yes, the birth was painful, I won’t pretend it wasn’t, but I worked through it with my helpers and Katherine Sarah was born that evening weighing 6lbs 7 oz. She lay on top of me, Peter’s eyes filled up. He looked at me. I put out my hand to his, squeezed, both of us now shedding tears of joy.

As arranged, I was left without any drugs to expel the placenta, wanting everything to be as natural as possible. It wasn’t the normal way they did things, Brenda said and I’d read as much, that it could take quite a while for the placenta to come away. Baby was even still attached by the cord after ten minutes and was happy feeding.

“You’ve done it. And just the way you wanted, couldn’t have gone any better, so proud of you.” He kissed me gently on the forehead. He was right, all had gone well, very well.

“I know, she’s lovely, I’m so happy,” a delicious sense of achievement flowed warmly through my body.
I even got up after half an hour to go to the toilet. We’ll be home soon, I said to myself.

But it was not to be. The afterbirth came away, or so it seemed, but I started to feel unwell and it transpired that some of the placenta had been retained and I’d have to have a manual evacuation under general anesthetic.  We were not going home that night.

“Don’t let them give her anything, not even a drink of water,” I pointed my finger at my husband who stood there stressed, frowning.  I didn’t want to be separated from her and had genuine concerns and fears that they might decide she was hungry and give her formulae, which I was adamant she was not to have.

“Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere. I’ll make sure they don’t do anything untoward.” He rubbed my back while I gave baby her last feed of rich colostrum.
He was true to his word and when I woke later I heard her little whimper and looking around saw her in his arms, him cooing at her, the two of them totally in love.

Even though I was tired from the operation, I spent most of that first night feeding her. Peter had been sent  home. I was left alone. Staff wanted to take baby away too,  so I could get some sleep.  I knew there was no chance of that.
In those days we weren’t allowed to take the babies into bed with us so I sat in an upright chair, hooked up to a drip filled with IV antibiotics, and watched my baby feed, her little hand  squeezing my finger, both of us locked together in a sweaty embrace. I prayed through that night, thanking God for everything he’d given me.

Life with the  new baby.

“Oh mum, she’s so cute,” I lay on my bed,  Emma sat one side of me, James on the other.

“My turn now,” James positioned himself more uprightly. I prised the baby from Emma and placed  her in James’ outstretched arms. He immediately lifted her to his lips and kissed her forehead.

“She’s so tiny,” he said not taking his eyes off her.
 They loved their new sister form that first moment. They’d waited, peered out of our bedroom window and on seeing us, ran to meet us as we got out of the car.
 One of the first things Peter did was go shopping for some clothes for her. She was so small that the first size baby clothes we had swamped her. He ended up buying dolls clothes, which worked well for a month or so.

She was never without arms to hold her, from Peter’s mum and his sister Chris, my sisters Di and Kay, to all my new friends from church who came round with dinners, clothes, and cards, so many cards. It seemed that she brought joy into the world with her.

Life was good. I settled into a beautiful life, looking after our new addition and growing more and more in love with her as the days went on. Our little family grew close. At nine days, she was baptised, with my good friends Audrey and Jose as her Godparents. Audrey, now a catholic was over the moon to be asked, it was like we were family. They moved to Tenerife a few years later, to start a business. Although I was happy for them, I was also sad, especially as we couldn’t afford to go see them. We kept up contact by Christmas cards and the odd letter, but It would be  thirty two years before we’d see  them again, when in in 2016  Peter and I had week’s all-inclusive holiday in a hotel near where they live. We went for coffee had meals together and it was like the years just melted away. We definitely won’t leave it another thirty-two years.

When she was just eight weeks, I took Katie on retreat with me to Wickenden Manor, an Opus Dei house in Sussex. Helena took me down and had her four month old daughter, Mary Anne, with her. Three days of peace, praying, time to think, to work out with the Lord what this chapter of my life was going to be. Although we were in silence in the house, Helena and I found time to wander the grounds with the babies and chat. And sometimes I would keep her awake late in the evening with my enthusiasm to hear more about what it meant to live my vocation.

Life with our new baby was not only a great joy, but also so much easier than I expected. The feeding went well and I fed her anywhere, discretely, of course.  In fact, I had a better social life than ever before, visiting friends, going to prayer groups and church meetings. Nobody minded baby coming, quite the opposite, it was always a conversation starter.


“I need you to come home,” I never phoned him at work. Any problem or disaster could usually wait till he got home.

“What’s up, what’s the matter?” I could hear the machines in the background and the office door being shut. “That’s better, I can hear you now. What are you saying?”

I told him I was bleeding, that my tummy hurt, but not like when you have a period, that I nearly passed out.
By the time he got home I was in tears in the bathroom.

I’d thought I might be pregnant but as I hadn’t had any bleeding in the ten months since Katherine was born, I didn’t mention it.

“I’m sorry love, I was worried, I suppose it could be just the first period after so long, but it doesn’t feel right.” I knew in my heart it wasn’t.

“What do you want me to do?” he stood on the landing, looking at me.

“I’m not sure. Make a cup of tea for now.” I stayed put. He went downstairs.

“Love, can you come up,” I shouted out. He came bounding up the stairs.

 We both stared, both  peered  into the toilet bowl, both not knowing what to say, both linked hands trying to take it in. The fetus was not even the size of the palm of my hand, maybe seven or eight weeks, no more.
 Now, even thirty seven years later I find it hard to think of it, still a wound within me.

 There was only one other time I had a miscarriage. That was ten years later in 1993, in Studland Close. Our neighbour, Molly, helped me that time. There were eight children by then.  I lost a lot of blood, had to go into hospital for a D and C and a blood transfusion. Again, it was early, about twelve weeks. I don’t recall much, I was too ill, but like the first one it’s remained with me and when I tell people I have nine children inside my head I add, actually it’s eleven. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

A Long Life


 20th March

 A Long Life

Your life is not long on this earth ,

open  your wings,  flutter in royal magnificence,

reaching far and wide.

Your life is not long on this earth,

with patience gather those who are poor,

in kindness bring abundance .

Your life is not long on this earth,

with joy, bring  rest to the weary,

to the anxious , bring peace .

For your life will be long on  this earth, 

according to the love you have for the others, 

according to how little 

you think of yourself.

So here's to a long life lived,

with days spent 

in fullness and joy.

reach for the stars.

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

St John Bosco

 We celebrate the Feast of John Bosco today. I've always had a great love for this Saint.

With a particular concern and care for the young, first with evening classes where hundreds came to listen to his teachings about God and Heaven.

he eventually set up a boarding house for apprentices and workshops for education and training, which is wonderful , thinking about them working and doing well and not just thinking about their spiritual lives. After all it's all one , our struggle with sanctity and our whole life is part of that. 

Some of his sayings:

"My children, jump, run, and play and make all the noise you want but avoid sin like the plague and you will surely gain Heaven"

"learn to flee from bad companions and bad books"

"Without confidence and love , there can be no true education. If you want to be loved ... you must love yourselves, and make your children feel that you love them."

"Act today in such a way that you need not blush tomorrow"

"Servite Domino in laetitia!" (serve the Lord joyfully)