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Episode 37: Maria Garvey - Advent Thoughts

[Music] Welcome to the loved called Gifted Podcast. This is your place to come for musings about spirituality, identity and purpose. I'm your host, Catherine Cowell. [Music] 


So, Maria, thank you so much for joining me for this conversation. And I'm not sure where this will go. And I just had this moment where I thought, "Oh, I should ask Maria if we could have a conversation about Advent, because that would be really cool." [Laughs] 

M: That's great. It's cool for me too. [Laughs] It's got me thinking about Advent at least. 

C: Yeah, and you said to me that you're actually leading an Advent retreat. 

M: Yeah, starting actually tomorrow. It's in advance of Advent. It's in preparation for Advent. Even though Advent itself is in preparation for Christmas. So, I seem to be drawn into in preparation for preparation this year. [Laughs] 

C: And of course, when this goes out, we will be sort of in Advent, rather than preparing for it. 

M: I like the idea actually of preparing. I always love that song, "Prepare Ye the Way for the Lord," or in my case, I might put it, "Prepare Ye the Way for Love." 

C: Yeah.

M: Like it's preparing the way, making space, opening up an avenue, or a space where love can be visible again and alive for us in maybe in a different way. So, I really like the idea of even preparing for preparing. I just realized, "Oh, even just preparing to step back a little bit and make space." 

C: And what do you notice that does to you in a landscape when you do that? 

M: Well, instantly what I actually see visually, I see a visual image almost like of a very wide avenue in my life. Like generally speaking, on the inside of me, there's so much going on. I mean, probably like all of us, but certainly I don't notice the pathways on the inside. I'm just in the middle of whatever is happening and moving from Zoom meeting to Zoom meeting or place to place without necessarily taking the gaps in between. Whereas the minute I stop, even when you said, "Let's pause before we start," it just opens a space where anything can happen. You know that scripture text, "Behold, I am doing something new." Can you see it is already happening? It's already present. But generally speaking, I'm so caught up in the ordinary of everyday life and the sort of things that are in my diary and the people I have to see and how much space I'm going to find to do Christmas shopping or to do… How could I possibly behold? So when just when we started, the idea of being here to see a long avenue rolling out in front of me where anything can happen, it's lovely. Because I don't know what I'm going to see, but I know I have a bit more room to see it.

C: I don't normally sort of have a particular spiritual practice for Advent. This year, I sort of have. I had a conversation which actually I did a podcast recording of a few weeks ago with a friend thinking about kind of autumn and winter and the way that the trees lose their leaves before the winter season. And she'd had some insights about the fact that that happened in order that the tree doesn't die. Because if it was still holding onto the leaves when the frost came, it would do damage to the tree. But in the midst of all of that, I sort of sent an invitation into that sort of place of darkness, but not a threatening darkness, but you know, just the sort of almost like into the womb of God.

M: Mmm. Yeah. 

C: So I've been wondering how to respond to that invitation. And I made the decision on Sunday, actually, that what I would do is just take 10 minutes, either both ends of the day or just when I can manage it. Preferably either after it's got dark, which is easy when the clocks have moved, or before it gets light and just sit for 10 minutes in the quiet with a candle. So I've been doing that since Sunday evening.

M: Mmm.

C: And I've no idea what that will do or whether it will do anything, but it just felt like I could sense this invitation from the divine into this sort of pared down quiet space. So I thought, well, take it and see what happens.

M: So interesting Catherine because this morning I was listening to a conference that I wasn't able to attend, but I got part recordings and I have I've had the recordings for a few days, in fact, for a few weeks, but it was only this morning I got to listen to the last one. I mean, I've listened to them all now and it's about palliative care, specifically in relation to people with disabilities, like how do you accompany somebody with a learning disability in their, you know, at the end of their lives, end of life care. But I've always, all my life been really interested in how do you accompany people through time when they're really afraid. And the thought, I had a few thoughts this morning on that. And it's funny you should be talking about the invitation into the dark because I thought if I was to write anything right now today, I would call it No Longer Afraid of the Dark. It rang – like that's just the thought I had when I was having a shower after listening to this because they were talking about those we need to accompany us in the last days of our lives. The people who aren't afraid of death, who aren't afraid of the unknown because we need someone not to be afraid so that we can make the journey. And I thought, am I afraid? And I'm not afraid of death. I need to say that I'm not afraid. Maybe I'm afraid of dying, but I'm not actually afraid of accompanying people into like as they breathe out their last. But it's, I don't know. And again, I suppose because in terms of the liturgical year, we're now this week is the last week. It's the end of an era for us in the Christian liturgical cycle. The beginning of a new year is the beginning of the first day of Advent. So I some of the scripture texts this week are around death. They're actually pretty somber before we ever imagine new life. We are in a way being invited to be with death. This morning is all about the destruction of the temple. I mean, it's a, it's a really, it's from Luke, but it's all about the destruction of all that we held dear, all that we felt was precious and nation against nation and plagues and earthquakes. And like, oh my God, you know, and then in the middle of it all, it's going to be terrified. You kind of think, do you really, really? Like, don't be terrified. And it struck me, imagine what it would be like that no matter what the circumstances and conditions were, I wasn't terrified. What wouldn't that be something? Now, it won't be something that I can do by myself. I have to tell you, like I'd like that to be a grace, but I would remind it then of somebody really close to me, somebody I love very dearly, who struggles quite a lot with deep black depression. And there was a time in his life where he had been in hospital and he came out of hospital and he was catatonic with depression, really. You know, it was like, it was like the biggest, blackest, darkest place. And because I love him, I wanted to make it better. I thought that weeks saying it'll get better, don't worry, and it'll get better and all of those things. And then one day I had the grace, I think I was going to say wisdom, but it doesn't feel like wisdom. I think I'd reached the end of believing I could do anything for him. And I sat down beside him on the couch and he was lying there. And I said, what do you need from me? What would you, more than anything, what could I bring you that might support you? And he said, and I've never forgotten it. He said, “come into the dark with me and hold my hand and maybe together we will one day walk into the light.” I know it's very moving, isn't it? And I have never forgotten that invitation. Like he was saying, don't be pushing light in, your light into my dark, but walk with me into the darkness and we will be able to get through it together. And then later this morning I was listening to What Is It a Person Who is Dying Most Needs? And it literally said, “someone who's able to walk in the dark and not be afraid.” So I suppose, and I wasn't expecting to say this on this thought. It just happens that you mentioned the dark and I think there is an invitation perhaps for all of us right now to be able to look at pain and not turn away because we're looking at a world in pain.

C: Yes.
M: Our entire world is in need of accompaniment in the dark. And I suppose the question I ask myself is, “who do I be?” Like I noticed that I'm inclined to turn off the news at the moment. I'm inclined not to look at the world and what's happening in it. It was Ukraine, now it's Israel, Palestine. The images are too strong. They feel like they're too strong. So I find myself running off to read crime fiction. And look at crime fiction. Anything to distract me from the pain of our world. And yet there is a line in a poem that again I was very present to this morning, which was “do not try and rid yourself of your grief. It will not sap but strengthen your courage when you can look at it and have it move your life.” I suppose for me, this Advent, it's about allowing my heart to be moved into new life. Not by wishing the light, not by some lightweight version of ‘let's light up the world’, but to feel the dark, to be in the dark. So that I moved enough that we were moved by that young man's. I could see you were moved well and hear it and you can hear it in me like that was many years ago. And even when I think about walking with somebody in the dark until someday we might walk into the light. It's like, oh, what an extraordinary thing to be asked to do. And how hard it is because I want to run away.

C: Yeah. There is something about continuing to walk with people in the dark when it's taking longer than we think it should. That I think is a real challenge. The story of Job kind of tells you that doesn't it? So Job has a whole pile of disasters happen if people aren't familiar with the story. And then he has some friends who come and sit with him and initially they just sit with him in the dark. And then he begins to express his deep pain and his deep sense of betrayal because he's been a really good guy and God has allowed all of this stuff to happen. They do the sitting with him in the dark for a while and then they get fed up with it and they try and sort him out. But I've been in so many conversations like these conversations between Job and his friends where they sort of say, well, you just need to repent of the thing that's going wrong. You must have done something wrong. It must be there is this spiritual answer. And if you've just got this spiritual answer, it will sort it out. And Job gets really cross with them and said, “no, no, no, no, no, it's not like that. It's not like that. And it is really awful and God has been awful.” And they said, “no, no, no, no, God couldn't possibly be”. But they have this kind of backwards and forwards. And in the end, God turns up and vindicates Job, who's simply been honest about his pain. And for Job, there is something about the presence of God in his life, which turns it around, despite the fact that actually it doesn't look any different. The thing that struck me was the fact that actually they do all right for a bit, these mates of Job's. And then they get impatient and they can't bear it any longer. And so they start walking and sitting with him in the dark and start to try to turn the lights on. And he kind of wanders around after them, turning them off again, because he's just not ready for it. But I can think of the situations where I’ve known friends who have been in the dark for a long time and the dark doesn't kind of go away. And the temptation to come up with a whole pile of easy answers and say, “no, no, no, it's fine”. It's really deep, isn't it? 

M: Oh, it's human. Like, who wants to welcome pain into their lives? Who wants to walk in your own pain, which is, of course, the most difficult thing in the world, or walk with someone you love? Or even someone you don't love, but you're asked to walk with them? Like, I mean, Jesus, when he was being tempted in the desert, you know, the angel said, “you're God, can't you turn those rocks into bread if you're that hungry?” And Jesus said, “no, a rock”. Well, I mean, I add this line is not necessarily in Scripture, but a rock is a rock and bread is bread. But we have this notion that we can transform rocks into bread. You know, let's turn a bad thing, make a hard thing easy, or let's make a hard thing into food. It's kind of like spiritual bypassing, really, isn't it? I mean, you know, let's find a very nice spiritual or psychological solution. You know, if you only did this now, if you went to bed early, and if you for weeks on end met all your friends, etc., all would be well. You know, we'll do anything as human beings to relieve the pain. 

C: Yeah

M: We'll do anything to turn a rock into bread because it's too hard to sit with a rock when I'm hungry. Like Jesus in the desert. Like, I always think it was extraordinary when we said, no, a rock is a rock. I am God, I'm not going to change and transform a rock into bread. You know, so if I who am God isn't going to do that, then why would I, you know, why would I, and yet of course I want to, I want, if I'm hungry, I want to, I want to turn whatever there is into food. You know, so the same thing in terms of pain, I want to fix it or give it meaning. It was a big one. You know, it's like, oh, ‘this is what this means and you just have to live through it and you come out of it the other end and God would have rewarded you’ or you will be. But like sometimes I think the darkness is just the darkness. It's just the darkness. Can I be with the darkness without judgment, without need to fix it, without needing to do anything. Without needing to do anything with it, but just experience it. This advent, I think I am invited a bit like yourself actually to allow my heart. I've decided I'm going to look at the news. I'm going to watch the news every night and I'm going to watch what's unbearable to watch. You know, to feel my heart collapsing. That was when I stopped watching. There were two children sitting on a rock in Gaza and they were waiting. They were saying, when is mommy coming? The reporter said there was a six year old and a three year old. They were sitting on this rock, meaning a bit of rubble. And the reporter said both their parents were killed this morning. And I just was brought literally to my knees with sorrow. I thought I was gulping with pain and not being able to do anything. Being here in Northern Ireland where I have everything I need, where I have a warm home, and just allowing those two children to come into my heart. To allow my heart to be broken open so that love has some opportunity to go to work. What I've discovered is that with all of the pain of this past year between coming out of COVID, these past years actually, and all of the fear that we're hearing about climate crisis, and all that's going on, all the bad news that we're having to be with day and daily. My heart has become a bit numb, you know. And I suppose what I'm imagining that, I'm imagining the possibility of allowing my heart to be brought back to life this advent. Because I think not being able to feel the pain also means not being able to experience love. You know, I think there's probably two sides of the one hand, love and loss, love and pain. And without one there isn't the other. There can't be the fullness of the other. So these are just thoughts, that doesn't mean anything. What will mean something is to stay faithful to a practice that allows my heart to break. 

C: Yeah, and see what comes out of it. And see 

M: Trust in feeling fully what needs to be felt. I mean, not to look at the news and say that's over there, as I frequently do. Or not to look at the news and say I must contribute to the next charity. But it's like to look at the news and see another human being like myself, another me. Imagine what it must be like for these other humans to be living what they're living. And just one of them. What I can, for me happens is that the numbers just, they suddenly just become a blank. But to allow myself to see one human being and to go into, to imagine what they must be going through. That's the only thing that will ever allow me to know the pain of our world right now. To know the darkness, to walk into the darkness of our world right now. And at the exact same time trust what that man said to me, which is if we walk together in the dark, we can perhaps one day walk together into the light. It may not be this advent. It may not be. Advent might be a long time this year. It's not just suddenly going to be Christmas and then it's over. We also have that attitude that one month before Christmas is Advent and then it's Christmas and all the lights are on and all the parties are happening. Anyway, these are just thought, they're reflections really on Advent.

C: As you were talking, I was thinking about the flip side of some of that, which is that actually there is something about relieving suffering where we can. Because Jesus also walked alongside people and saw individuals in pain and did something about it. There's a holding, a both-and in a tension, isn't there, of being prepared to do something about the pain, whether it's our pain or somebody else's, but also not minimising it. There is a sort of –

M: hmm. Hmm. I mean, I suppose when you say that, I ask myself, what did he actually do? Was it that he was so fully present to them? You know, the way when somebody is 100% present to you, there are times where at least me, where even a doctor, like if you go with something physical and the doctor listens in such a way that they actually really get it. I don't know if you ever had the experience, but you kind of feel like, I mean, it's not that you're cured, but at least you're not alone.

C; I did. I had, when my first husband was, he was ill at one point and he sort of had something growing in his brain that shouldn't have been there. But in the point, at the moment, when that was all kind of happening and he'd had an appointment at the GP and I rang the surgery to cancel the appointment. And the receptionist said, “well, would you like to talk to the doctor?” And I thought, that's such a novelty to be given the opportunity to talk to the doctor. I thought, I don't think I need to talk to the GP, but the fact that I've been given the opportunity, I'm not passing this up. So I did. And I talked about what was going on and he simply listened, and it settled me in a way that wouldn't have happened if he hadn't. And then I went to see him again when my husband was in hospital for a while and I just thought, you know, I was managing a department in the NHS. I just thought, “I can't hold all of this together”. And so I went with my three sentences of ‘this is what's happening’ so that he could do what I needed and I could leave his surgery and leave him in peace. And he just sat and held the silence between us and then said, “and how are you?” And it was beautiful. So yes, I would agree with you and equally somebody can come with all of the healing skills in the world. And if they haven't got the right bedside manner, people go away, unreassured and not understanding that there has been help. And you know, I've seen people kind of when you listen to what the doctor's actually done, it's probably the right thing. But the person has come away feeling quite disturbed because they don't know what's going on. And so yeah, I think –

M: I suppose hearing as you speak, what surprises me is sometimes just knowing that you're not alone.

C: Yeah.

M: And like scripturally that comes up over and over again. “You are not alone”. You know, “you are not alone. I am with you. I will be with you to the end.” Like those promises, the presence of love can be experienced in the most extraordinary places. It can be a doctor. It can be somebody who's cleaning a toilet. But as you were speaking, I was thinking about a L’arche(?) ritual in a way. In L’arche, Advent is way more significant in L’arche, well, in Belfast, at least, but in our L’arche communities in general, way more significant than Christmas. Because we've got Chris Kindle. It starts with an event. We have an event, but just before the first Sunday of Advent, there's a community event and everybody discovers who their secret friend is, who they are being the Christ child to. So your Chris Kindle is the person for whom you are going to be Christ child. You do things to let them know they are loved all during Advent. And you don't have to do big things. We say sometimes, even if you pray for someone, but they need to know that there is someone who's loving them during Advent. I remember one stage waking up one morning and hearing a whole lot of noise downstairs in a house that I was living in by myself. And the person who was Christ child for me was outside my door with, he was somebody with a disability, so he needed help. So he was outside my door with a mandarin orange with a candle in it. I was not supposed to know that it was him. Right. So this was the biggest thing that it was meant to be secret. But he couldn't come without making a lot of noise. So I actually did know, but it still felt extraordinary. I still felt a candle and he put it down on the step outside the door and he was shuffling and shot, you know, like, there was nothing about him that could do it quietly. And he burst out laughing and off he went with delight that he had been love for me at seven o'clock in the morning. He'd gotten out of his bed and gotten someone to drive him six miles across the city to leave an mandarin orange with the birthday candle lighting outside my front door. And, you know, that meant more to me than any of the Christmas gifts, probably, that I've ever received and definitely that year. So for us, one of the big things was to bring love alive during Advent. Like, how do we make love visible in the community? And I was thinking about that again this morning, even though I no longer live close by our L'arche community in Belfast, I live a bit away. But I was thinking about practices that have love be visible. And I come back to that scripture text, “see it is already happening”, to keep my eyes open for love. And I remember one of the ways we did one year, we had a map of the world on the first day of our Chris Kindle. And we noticed the places, we put little black crosses on all the places where there was huge sadness across the world. Little small little, we had made little crosses. And we said that during Advent, we would each take one of the places to pray for. It was just, it was amazing. Now, what was really interesting was all during Advent, every night when we would put on, and we didn't watch a lot of television, but people would say, "Put on the television. I want to see if my prayer is working." So people listened to the news to see any, any word of love that came out from these darker places. And it was extraordinary that our people with disabilities and indeed the assistants but the people with disabilities particularly, they were saying, "Look, she's holding her in her arms." What they saw was love hidden in the chaos and in the rubble. What they saw in the rubble was love present. And they gathered all these stories of love all during Advent and it transformed the news for us all. We saw love at work in the midst of terrible tragedy and fear that Advent. And when it came to Christmas Eve, we ought, we had a new map of the world and we asked people if they felt that love had been at work in their place in the world, they could light a candle and put it on that place, on the floor on the map. And as we sat around preparing for Christmas Day, we looked at a world lit up by love because we'd been able to see love as well as fear. And that brought extraordinary, extraordinary hope. But that was maybe one of the best Christmases we've had for years because we saw hope and healing at work as well as the devastation and the destruction. So that was one Advent celebration that I remember really clearly.

C: So maybe as you sit in front of the news, this Advent, there is also an invitation to look for the love.

M: Yeah, to see. “See, I am already doing it.” Like “open your eyes, I am here quietly, still at work.” Love is never absent, though it feels right now like all that there is is hate and fear and destruction. Because right now it would be desperately easy to give up, wouldn't it? My experience right now of life is that it’s a struggle to actually see light. It gets so much, like every news bulletin.

C: Yes. So looking, looking for where there is love, because there is. I was just thinking that when Jesus came as this little tiny baby into the occupied land of Palestine in a politically complicated context, somehow God trusted that this little tiny baby would make a difference. This man who walked in these, in these places. And as you were talking about Jesus giving people his full attention, I was remembering the woman with the issue of blood and that wonderful story where she touches him in the crowd and he's on the way to the house of the important person. But there's a little bit in one of the gospels which says, “and she told him everything”. So he held, he gave her that space. An absolute full attention for long enough for her to tell her whole story.
M: Hmm. It's funny, again, that conference I was listening to this morning, one of the lines that stayed with me was, if I was in trouble, who would I ring? Who would hear me without, without judgment, without need to do anything? And I was thinking, “who would I ring? Who would I actually know could hear it? You know, I was ill and dying, if I was in trouble about anything. Who would actually –” it's interesting because this nurse, they were talking about the death of somebody with the disability and how her bedroom was filled with people, filled with people who wanted to walk with her to the end of her life. And a nurse in the hospice that she was in, or the hospital that she was in, said to one of them, even if I had one person who would sit with me until I had crossed and I had breathed out my last, I would consider myself the luckiest person in the world. I think there's a theme emerging for us, like, can I sit with, can I be with and still see love and still trust that love is always present? And maybe that brings us back to the beginning of the conversation. You asked me about what does the pause do? Maybe that's what it does. It brings us to that space where we can touch and hear and see that tight, the tininess of love.

C: I'm not sure it's that invisible once you open your eyes to it though.

M: No, but you have to open your eyes to it. 

C: Yeah, but there are, there is a lot of love out there, you know, there are, there are people feeding their cats and taking their dogs for walks and tending their gardens and looking after their grandchildren and sending Christmas cards and…

M: There's way more love. We never talk about it. We never hear about it on the news. We never, so it's up to us to speak it.

C: Yes.

M: Speak it and speak it into being. That was another advent that we did in L'Arche Belfast where we decided for the whole of advent we would only speak good news. And one of the young assistants said to me, “does that mean also on Facebook?” And I said, “yes, that means also on Facebook”. He said, “I don't think I'm going to be able to. There's no juice in good news.” And he was right in a way. Do you know, like people like to pass on the bad news because it feels like there's a bit of adrenaline in it. Whereas speaking only good news, actually none of us except for the people with disabilities, none of the rest of us assistants managed it. Seriously, like you'd say, because you couldn't stop yourself saying, what would I tell you, “the weather forecast for tomorrow is desperate”. It was so automatic to, you know, to alert people to danger, which of course is, it's healthy. We do need to be alerted, but it was so automatic. And that was so funny. I think about it, the people with disabilities, what we would say is the core members, they were held bent on bringing good news everywhere they went and they were uninhibited. And the rest of us slipped back into old patterns of, you know, some of it was good and most of it was, oh, what will I tell you? Oh, well, it is interesting to reflect really, isn't it? And how do you prepare the way for love?

C: Yes. Yeah. And that image of being prepared to sit in the darkness and, you know, your story of your friend who said, well, if you can be with me in the darkness, walk with me in the darkness, maybe we will one day walk into the light. But the very fact of you being there was bringing the light. 

M: Yeah.

C: And bringing solace in the middle of the darkness.

M: Yeah. Without me doing it.

C: Yes.

M: My presence was enough. Without me doing anything. Like we're, I suppose we're so hell bent on thinking we have to do something that we don't realize that just being there may actually be the biggest gift of all.

C: And being there without fear.

M: Yeah.

C: I'm thinking of a time in my life when things were really tough. I spent some time going to see a psychotherapist and it was her being with me. She was so much Christ for me in those months. Being with me and because I tend to laugh about things if I possibly can. And I was making a bit of a joke about an incident and she just sat and she refused to laugh it off, which frustrated me at the time. But just being there made a difference.

M: And who she was being. Like who she was. 

C: Yes.

M: I am with you.

C: Yes.

M: Well, stop. Nothing more. Like what she was saying by her presence is I'm with you. You are not alone.

C: Yes.

M: You are not alone.

C: Yeah.

M: It's who I long to be, Catherine. It's like, more than anything. Number one, I want to be that whoever I'm with knows that they're not alone. But I also want to be that I am not alone.

C: Yeah.

M: Like we are not alone. I mean, my life, I suppose, has been dedicated to belonging and to community as much out of my own desire to be a companion and to have a companion or companions, like not just a life companion, but just people who walk with us. Maybe if we can find a space where we can be so vulnerable with each other that we don't have to pretend that it's funny or it's grand or I'm on top of the world or I have it all together. And I'm here to help you who doesn't. But there's something about meeting in our shared humanity, our shared longing for belonging, our shared longing for not being alone. I sit with someone knowing that it’s you today, it's me tomorrow. Like it's not. There's a lovely phrase in the Irish language. And I don't know that I'll do it justice, but I'll do my best. It's “Ní huasal ná íseal, ach thuas seal is thíos seal.”

So what it means is ‘it's not to be a noble man or a peasant, but ach thuas seal, but up for a while and down for a while’. So it's not, ‘I am up and you are down’. It's that ‘I am up for a while and you are down for a while. And then you are up for a while and I am down for a while’. It's a lovely sense of ‘we accompany each other without expertise’. There is no expert in this relationship. There's just two humans on a human journey.

C: Yeah.

M: Or 10 humans or... I mean, can you imagine a whole church community living in that reality that we are nothing other than humans on a human journey together? And there's something about the Magi who become that, don't they? For a moment, they stop being kings and they're on their knees before a small baby.

C: Yes.

M: And they bring their gifts. And the gifts that they do bring are the gifts that only a king could bring. But in the, in their way of being present, their actual posture, everything about them is not that of king. When I lived in France, I loved the thinking around Advent, which was core to the word itself, which was Avenir. It was trusting in that which is to come. And I I'm absolutely certain that the future we see in front of us. Shapes where we are today, more than the past that is behind us. So if I can create a future in which love – I suppose I'm reminded of my mum, the future my mother lived into. She used to say it in one phrase. She used to say the sacred heart and in the Catholic tradition, the sacred heart. The people have a devotion to the sacred heart, which is love really. The sacred heart of Jesus was the loving heart of God. She used to say “the sacred heart of Jesus never let me down and he never will.” So the future that she lived into was one where she would always be okay, where God would always look after her. And she lived and died 100% true to that future. She wasn't afraid. And she had plenty good reason to be, Catherine, in terms of family and, you know, everybody's family has their own story. But I sometimes, now that she's dead, I sometimes think about her and say, Mom, if I could have even a tiny bit of that faith, it would be enough. I suppose the question for all of us is to have enough faith to trust in the future, to trust in such a way that we can live into it without fear.

C: Yes. Understanding that as we walk down that avenue that you were talking about at the beginning, that there is love at the end of it always, always love at the end of it.

M: Always. Even if we can't see it, it is there bringing us into love. Do you know, so it's nice to think about that coming into Christmas, isn't it?

C: It is, it is, yes.

M: When we're looking at those cribs in churches and there's a beautiful crib in the village of Ross Trevor, I've just seen them putting it up this week actually, or putting up the structure itself. But I will look at that this year, remembering today's conversation and remembering that that crib is both behind us 2000, over 2000 years, but also ahead of us, also to come to us. That intimacy that the crib represents. So I'm going to be looking into a future where I will always have those I need when I need them.

C: Yes. Well, thank you so much, Maria.

M: Oh, thank you, Catherine. It's like I feel like I've entered into Advent because of this conversation. So thank you.

C: Oh, that's wonderful. Thank you.

M: And hopefully we'll be in touch again in the new year and we'll be able to have stories of where love walked in.

C: Yes, that would be good, wouldn't it?

M: Where we saw love, yeah.


[music] Hope you enjoyed this episode of the Loved Called Gifted podcast. If you'd like to get in touch, you can email You can find a transcript of this podcast at And that's also the place to go if you're interested in the Loved Called Gifted course, or if you'd like to find out about spiritual direction or coaching. Thank you for listening. [music] ♪

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