Monday, 24 September 2012


Since the change in the school syllabus for upper school students, which has done away with coursework and returned exams to a single test after two years of study, we 'elders' have been revisiting some of our revision and memory tricks from long ago. After a lifetime of being told that they would never have to remember very much - as information is both readily available and quickly obsolete - this has come as something of a shock and created some challenges to the students' understanding that, now, knowledge is a thing to be laid down and built upon. Of course, some of the older folk in the staffroom are nodding sagely that it all comes round to basics in the end. As my love of technology is tempered by a reticence to rely on it -  I was - mostly-  nodding along too.

At the beginning of the summer holidays I was nodding with enthusiasm to a talk on another 'back to basics' study. A week's study and workshop with two Jesuits, on the positive values of Christian Virtues in the world today. Supported with moral theological considerations and psychological studies, the Virtues were presented as a 'back to basics' guide to almost every part of life. They are an antidote to an ever-increasing narcissistic society that appears to be evolving out of an extremist understanding of self-esteem and a media-fed belief that the right thing to do is the choice that suits us best.

Maybe it's the time of year - the time of the Crone - and I have my grandmother head on.  Surely human beings are not meant to treat themselves as  techno' hardware; always looking for an upgrade? Surely human beings are not meant to live with a binary code of me first? We are wondrously made from the moment of our conception and our individual names are there, tattooed onto the Father's palm.  So, for us to reject our own gifts and talents; our own sense of right and wrong; our own sense of connection to a God who is eternal,  so as to rely on what the market provides; to stand in lines of desire  for the next big thing and be consumed by media driven need, makes no sense to me.

Dionne Warwick - now I am showing my age - sang the lyrics -

'I was born to love you,
 and I will never be free,
you will always be a part of me'

That's our relationship with God -to love, to know we are loved and so to love others. Jesus gives us the two Great Commandments and tells us - that's basically it. And how complicated we have made it.

These two experiences have resulted in this mnemonic;- 

V - alue - who you are; who other people are; where you are; what you are. There is no way of knowing what difference an act or word or thought may make to you or to another. The virtue of Wisdom urges us to see the good  and to reflect on where God's hand is in every situation. As Jesus says; we hold the pearl of great price - treasure it.

I - ntention - Something the Olympics seemed to shout out to me was the benefit of having a dream - from the theatrical fantasy of Danny Boyle to the volunteers sewing on buttons and moving hurdles; the greater vision made the most mundane act important. So in life - every random act of kindness is a step towards the Kingdom; every word of encouragement; every hand up.  As Gandhi says - be the change you want to see in the world. The virtue of Courage helps us to take the risk; carrying the cross because we want to.

R - elationship - Faith is the spiritual virtue that helps us build relationships with other human beings especially people we don't know; the gift of hospitality. I know I have trouble loving people the way Jesus asks me to; I need Jesus to hold my hand. The depth of my relationship with Jesus deepens other relationships; even fleeting relationships. A smile at the sign of peace; taking the time to ask how someone is and listening to the answer; praying with those in need; celebrating with those in joy. When Jesus calls us friends he also means - of each other.

T- rust - The virtue of Hope goes very well with Trust. God is God... but..... and it is always the 'but's' that get me. Trusting God to love me; to hear me; to guide me; to be there when I'm at my worse; to be there for those that I am called to love - and no 'but's'.

U- nity - The great prayer of Jesus that we all will be one will be answered, not by God but by us. We share in the desire of a just and merciful God; It is for us perform the great works that will outdo even what Jesus achieved -  working against judgement, exclusion, fear and discrimination until there is unity. The vision of the Trinity, to me, isn't only one of completeness but one of invitation - there is always room for one more. There will always be room for one more.

E - nJoy - Temperance sounds the least likely pathway to joy. But joy is the delight in a righteous life; in the awareness of God in that life.  The quick fix of fulfilled desires that are self rather than God centred may bring happiness but not the deeper, spiritual contentment of joy. Spend your life well.

And all in Jesus' name 



claire said...

Thank you for inspiring me to be virtuous :-)

Lynda said...

Thank you very much for the mnemonic. With your permission I would like to use it in a talk I'm preparing for RCIA. This post is very inspiring.

Word in the Hand said...

Claire - hope it inspires me as well!

Lynda - it would be a privilege. God bless your ministry and thanks for your support.

blessings to you both x+