Well, we were put in our place—but nicely, as it was God himself gently reminding us that he is the vinedresser and all fruitfulness comes from him.
We were on the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes and had closed the house for a week.
On day two, we received a grateful email from a woman who had come for a day of prayer three months earlier. She was so taken with our home and hospitality that she told her husband over and over again about the beauty and peace of the place.
Finally, he suggested they just come up to see us, bringing donations and lunch. Unfortunately, we were across the channel.
Finding our house shuttered, they tucked in to a wonderful meal in our garden. It was a warm sunny day, with flowers and birdsong for company, and they were content.
Just then our neighbour came to check the property. She invited them inside for a tour, so our friend could show her husband the chapel and the room with the view of the North Sea. They left at peace, happy with their visit.
We hadn’t said a word or showed them a thing. In fact, we weren’t even there.
If ever we thought that our apostolate and its fruitfulness depend on our brilliant words or hard work, this was God’s subtle correction: He is the one consoling, inspiring, strengthening his people.
When people walk into our home and feel peace and love, it is his presence they are sensing. (We know this because they seem especially blessed when we are harried and tense and perhaps at odds with each other).
If someone is touched by a talk we give, it is the Holy Spirit whispering a word that pierces their heart. This is reassuring. God will have his way of love with those he brings here, sometimes in spite of us!
As I pondered this one day, I was shot through with joy in the realization that the same is true of my inner heart, my prayer life. I may be so busy serving others that I am too tired or distracted to “pray well.”
I may be in interior darkness, sensing no movement whatsoever and may spend my chapel time in agitation. I may feel utterly unable to love. But God will not be thwarted.
He can sit in the cool of my garden and enjoy its fruits (cf. Song of Songs 4:16) and wait for me. I don’t have to “be there” with words or great insights.
My conscious mind can be busy with other things, but my heart can be with God. I can be fast asleep, but my heart is with God. I sleep but my heart watches (Song of Songs 5:2).
So God kindly put us in our place that lovely summer day when we were in Lourdes. He is the vinedresser, the Consoler, the Divine Lover, and we are privileged to live in his house and watch him at work.