Years ago, when we lived in Montgomery, Alabama and I was a young mother of little girls, I had a friend named Susan Cooper who lived across the street. She was a dear person – kind, generous, easy-going and fun, and she got a big kick out of my children. (I loved that, and I loved her little girl, too.) Susan grew up in Talladega, Alabama, and had a slow-rollin’ southern accent. One of her favorite expressions was, “You never can tell…” I wish I were able to describe today the inflection of her voice as she’d say it (I can’t) but I can tell you that in my memory I see her big smile and I hear the cadence of “Well, Cath, you never can tell!” Now I say, “how true!”
If you’ve read my memoir you might recall that one of the things I loved about attending Mass in Latin as a young girl was that the Mass was being said in the same language all over the world. I’d imagine children like me, spiritual pen pals, attending Mass in other countries like Brazil and France and Ireland. I had a similar feeling back in 2010 when Never Tell was released in the UK and Charlotte Cole at Ebury contacted me with the news that it had become a bestseller. And then recently, when Regina Paulose explained to me what the United Kingdom Child Sexual Abuse People’s Tribunal (www.ukcsapt.org.uk ) was and why she hoped that I would accept their invitation to participate, I felt again the very strong sense of an expanding spiritual community – ‘guess I need to add England, Scotland and Wales to the above list!
In the Catholic tradition that I was raised in, Lent is a time of prayer and reflection and fasting. Year after year, children and adults decide what to give up from Ash Wednesday until Easter. Often they choose to give up candy or cake or ice cream, or their Starbucks coffee. But there are many kinds of fasting; it’s not meant to be exclusively about food. Some people fast from TV for example; others might fast from criticizing. Somewhere around the time that I began writing my memoir I picked up a holy card while on a retreat and it had these words about fasting on it:
“This is the fast that pleases me:
to break unjust fetters,
to let the oppressed go free,
to share your bread with
and shelter the homeless poor.
If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness.’
I kept that card on my desk during the years in which I was writing my memoir. Reading it helped me to get grounded in the work, and helped to motivate me when I felt like giving up.
I just wanted to share all that today, because Susan was so right. You never can tell. You never can tell what your telling may do.