Letter from Wonersh : July 2019

By Peter Murphy

At the recent national youth event Flame, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh only had to sing four words ‘O Lord, my God’ before Wembley Arena continued as one ‘when I in awesome wonder’. There are some hymns, such as How Great Thou Art and As I Kneel Before You which, regardless of our age, seem to run through our Catholic veins.

I was recently reminded of another hymn that could easily be placed into this category – I Watch the Sunrise. However, it was not the sunrise that I was reflecting upon. While visiting friends on the Welsh coast, the weather was unusually warm and pleasant. Therefore, in the evening we decided to sit out and watch the sunset. Despite the fact I grew up at the seaside, I had never previously made the time to sit and take in the beauty of this event. The sun was slower to set than I had expected, but this meant there was time not only to enjoy conversation but also for some personal reflection. It was then that those words which I have sung many times really began to resonate:

I watch the sunset fading way,
lighting the clouds with sleep.
And as the evening closes its eyes,
I feel your presence near me.

One of the best forms of prayer I have picked up during my time at seminary, the Examen, is very similar to this experience. At first I thought the Examen was simply thinking about any mistakes or sins that I may have committed over the course of a day. However, having read The Examen Prayer by Father Timothy Gallagher OMV and discussed this form of prayer with my spiritual director, I came to realise that this experience of prayer was something much more profound. The Examen gives us the opportunity, in the presence of God, to reflect back on the past day and notice how God has been truly present in each of the joys and sorrows, the successes and failures – no matter how big or small.

During this month many of us will experience the sun beginning to set over another academic year. I hope this time might serve as a chance for us to reflect back on each of the events of the past year, and in prayer begin to make plans for how we might ‘start again’ when September comes. At the end of this month I will join the Archdiocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Please be assured that I will remember you and your families at the Grotto.