A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Mangrove Reflections (3)

Pā Piripi Cody sm 2

Pā Piripi Cody sm

We had a brief pruning session. In fact, there was not too much to do, just a couple of dead branches. Then untangling some seaweed and freeing up the leaves. I felt quite a temptation to shape her and continue pruning to what I imagined might be a better shape! Then the realisation that it is more important to let things be. The Mangrove had learnt from the regular wind and tide. My challenge was to let her be, to accept and live with her shape and not to control or fix it!! Quite a lot of my retreat centred on letting myself sense the weathering of life. To accept and surrender into the reality of my life, rather than to wriggle out of it and hope for some better cards to be dealt sometime.

The Mangrove was utterly at home with the tides, changes and patterns of life. There was no fighting against the height of the tides or her lack of control over them. As one wise person said (you may know who it was), ‘Bloom where you are planted’!


Mangrove and incoming tide

That is not easy, especially in a time of transition for an individual, a family or community, or even for the Church. A lot of wisdom and peace is needed. And here the Mangrove was bearing much fruit. A sense of peace, wonder and awe deepened in me. ‘You know you really are beautiful,’ I said. Did I hear her say the same to me?

One day, sitting next to Mangrove, I put my hand on her trunk to find it covered in mud from the out-going tide. Eeek! My first reaction was to clean it up. Then, I thought, ‘well, mangroves like mud, so be it.’ Philip, don’t clean up what is meant to be. Don’t FIX it!

Mangrove bearing fruit

Mangrove bearing fruit

That became a big theme in the retreat: accept things, don’t keep trying to fix them. In a transitional or liminal time of my life, especially as I get older and signs of aging show themselves, try to do less and instead be more present. Did someone mention that word, retirement? Well, semi-retirement sounds better! In all this, a challenge to rest into, and surrender into the situation, to accept the change, mud and all.

Mary, Mother of Tenderness

Mary, Mother of Tenderness

This process was helped by an icon of Mary, the Mother of Tenderness, kindly given me by a friend. It shows a young Jesus tenderly stroking his mother’s face and Mary tenderly holding Jesus in her arms. Despite the serious times ahead of Jesus, this was a preparatory moment of holding in tender love. From that basis Jesus would face what was to be done. Mary, Mother of tenderness, help me and each of us to rest in God’s love and mercy and from there know how best to be present.

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