A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Waihau Bay Reflection

We packed up all our cares and woes and drove out of Hawke Bay into Poverty Bay and up the coast. We were heading out of an awful year into what we hope will be a kinder time. With two new granddaughters under our belt the prospects are looking good.
It is our second drive up the coast and so there are no diversions or sense of discovery. Scooting around the corner from Hicks Bay we glide on into Bay of Plenty and once again are struck by its beauty. Here we will rest and be thoroughly lazy. Waihau Bay has warm, clean sea, a rustic motel in the trees and no cell phone coverage, land line or television reception. A sport free, text free time awaits me.

I am a person who knows how to be idle. In ordinary time it bothers me sometimes just how idle I can be. This seems rather naughty in a Church which is wearing itself out with ceaseless activity. I was not always idle. One cannot bring up four children, work part time and be idle. No, idleness has come upon me as a sort of art form. I did not seek it. It was returned to me. I had left it in childhood.

Waihau Bay is beautiful. Beauty contains a great deal of truth about life. On approaching the Bay one is looking at its face so to speak. This face says to the world, “ I am Waihau Bay, I am beautiful, this is the way God made me, do not change me, just enter into my beauty.” It is piece of paradise that is comfortable with itself and that ease has everything to do with projecting beauty into the world. It does not need improving, it is a finished creation and that too is characteristic of beauty. To appreciate beauty and enter into its truth one has to see God as a thing or person of beauty. To gain that appreciation one must search for God diligently.

It comes to me in Waihau Bay that this search is an uncomfortable undertaking, perhaps because it is a journey only I can make. One must move out of the progressive world with its characteristic need to improve, then improve the improvements and move into a deeper world where change means conversion. This change means learning about love, forsaking pride. I must shift towards facing my imperfect self and putting myself before God who is quite comfortable with being God and does not need improvement. The inequality of two persons in a relationship is refreshing coming as I have from a world in which equality is sought at the expense of difference. It is I who needs bettering, finishing off. This finishing off is a humble beautifying of the person I am. It is a contemplative activity and very Catholic I think. The search for God, the entering into God’s beauty would be frightening if it were not for the person of Jesus Christ, the support of the Church over the ages and the love shown me in the present day circumstances of my life.

Here in Waihau Bay there is not much to do and plenty of time to do it. It is quiet here. That is good for beginning a search for God. There is a pleasant silence and in it one must think how to pass time. Away from family and friends, job and parish it is sometimes hard to find things to do to pass the time of day. Cast adrift from support people and business, one is aware of just how small and insignificant one is the scheme of life. This smallness is pleasing to God but quite hard for me. I like to be someone, to be noticed. God notices me of course but I cannot feel that sort of notice. I like to feel useful and that means lots of service to others. There is no service to be performed here except to serve God by being his little friend.

Silence is good for looking into one’s soul. It stirs up thoughts of God. This stirring is sometimes uncomfortable and is hard to tolerate for any length of time and so there must be ordinary activities which one can go about quietly to ease that discomfort. At Waihau Bay, reading, swimming, walking and daytime dozing are some of these mindless activities. An extraordinary activity but a worthwhile one is praying. Praying is the best action to take one out of the progressive, problem-solving world and into God’s beauty. I have forgotten my Bible but there is one in the drawer by the bed. I have my little Rosary beads. These are the best aids to prayer for a Catholic. Meditating on the Mysteries, reading about the life of Jesus in the Gospels are easy enough activities.
I do not need to think too much about which mysteries to pray. The Church has kindly done that for me. All I need to do in this timeless place is remember which day of the week it is!

The best thing about praying is that it can be done anywhere, and so to the beach I go with my dilapidated but serviceable chair. And when I have finished praying I reach for the novel or the crossword I have brought and life idles on effortlessly, seamlessly. Then it is time to cook the tea and have a glass of wine. A whole evening of reading is ahead of me.

…Soon we are passed the halfway mark in our holiday and its end comes towards me rather than the beginning stretching out in front of me. I will be pleased to be home. It has not seen much of me in the past year. It is not ‘back to reality’ for me. This time in Waihau Bay is reality. It is peaceable but so too is home. It is silent, so too is much of my time at home. It is more idle however and that just has to be good for the soul.

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