Kevin Melody

 

 

A brother's story: Life isn't always easy - I still have questions

Three phrases often come to my mind when I think of my life and the presence of God in guiding me; two are biblical and one is from an Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh. When I joined the Carmelites in 1996 I had little idea of the reality of Carmelite life but I did have a strong sense that I had met a group of people who shared similar values to mine and with whom I believed I could live. Even today when people tell me that they are interested in a particular vocation in life, I often ask them if they think that they can live with those they meet. However beautiful the spirituality of the Order may be, life in Carmel is lived with a very human group of men with their many gifts, talents and humanity in all its firms. Nonetheless, when I met many of the friars before applying for the novitiate, I believed that I had found a group of people who had something that I wanted and who inspired me to follow the call.

"It is good that we are here" were the words of Peter to Jesus on the mount of the transfiguration; words that belied a deep sense of fear of the unknown. There Peter was with the man whom he believed was going to liberate the people from Roman occupation and all of a sudden Moses and Elijah are present. Peter's immediate reaction was a mixture of fear and wonder, and he didn't want the moment to pass despite the immensity of the experience. How often in my own life am I caught in a similar quandary. I find myself in a ministry or community that I am comfortable with and don't much want to move on. When I made my profession in 1997 I was sad to be leaving the novitiate but looking forward to studies; three years at the Missionary Institute in London studying theology gave me a certain security that I would have liked to stay with. Moving into a community with an active, external apostolate was never going to be a gentle transition. It was easy to say with Peter, "It is good that we are here", simply because being elsewhere would have meant change and change isn't always easy. However, after six years in the parish of Walworth I find myself saying it and believing it as strongly as ever.

Carmel is a good space to be in despite the fact that it is a reality that has many uncertainties and insecurities. One of the things that attracted me to Carmel was the realisation that we are called to serve the Church and the Realm of God in particular places for a particular time; we are never tied down to one way of being Carmelites, but we change as time goes by and the needs of the people of God change and grow.

After the events of Good Friday, two of the disciples ran to the tomb in response to the message of Mary of Magdalene; one went in and we are told that "he saw and he believed". I often wonder at this, as it seems that what he saw in many ways was nothing; he saw the emptiness of the tomb. Another who saw the empty tomb believed that Jesus had been taken away. This disciple, because he loved so much, saw beyond human visions and accepted the truth; God's presence was stronger than any human pain. The seeming failure of the events of Good Friday had given way to the unspeakable joy of Easter Sunday's resurrection experience. Often in my life I seem to be looking at an absence rather than a presence and it gives me hope and strength when I can believe that perhaps I am looking at a resurrection scene. God is doing things for me and my ministry that perhaps I am unwilling to do for myself. Seeming failures can indeed bring forward new life and hope. How often do any of us look into the darkness of human life with nothing to move us on other than the faith that God has to be there somewhere?

Patrick Kavanagh, in his poem "Advent", speaks of the wonder of childhood and the approaching celebration of Christmas. In it he reflects on the possibility that perhaps when we don't know everything, then we should be grateful. Knowing all the answers will not give satisfaction; sometimes we need to look into the depths of mystery and stand there accepting that we don't have nor need all the answers. "We have tasted and tested too much, Lover / Through a chink too wide, there comes in no wonder" the poet tells us. Indeed often when we search too hard the answers we find are not the ones that satisfy us. Rather we are invited to have the childlike innocence that accepts that God sometimes doesn't want to give us all the answers. I'm looking at the future and I don't know where it will take me. Maybe it is part of my nature to want to know more, to be more sure about myself and where I am going, to be more confident that despite my inadequacies God is revealing enough to me at the present time. I slowly come to realise that at time I do seek to "taste and test too much".

Yes, I am happy that God has given me the joy of life in Carmel, but I would like more certainty about where I am going. Ten years ago I never expected to be ministering in inner-city London. Now my feeling truly is that "It is good that we are here". More than that, I have to believe that I am where God wants me to be. Maybe one day I will have the strength and courage to accept it. Life may not be always easy, I may still have many questions, but I do believe that God reveals enough of the resurrection in my life to keep me doing what I am doing, being what I am. I have many questions still but I also have one answer. The gift of faith is the gift that I need more than any - faith to see and to believe.