Conroy Canon Gerry
Father Gerry Conroy

By Father Gerry Conroy, parish priest of St Patrick’s, Dumbarton

It is always nice to see the sun shining brightly in the mornings, somehow or other, it seems more welcome in these days. There is something about it that seems to pull us outward, inviting us into the sun. I think our souls respond to that, they feel it also: it’s like a pull out of ourselves, a sense of awe and the power of beauty I suppose, especially when spring is becoming much more alive and inviting. It’s not just in what we see, something is also stirring in our souls. Beauty, like goodness and truth, are divinely inspired to be food for our souls and God has placed within us an innate and universal hunger for it.

St Peter said in that second reading that Christ is the guardian and shepherd of our souls. I think most of us have become more aware of our souls in these days of confinement and fear. Maybe not as we would expect. Sometimes when people speak of our body and soul it’s as if they were two separate parts of us, divisible into two separate things. The Church has never understood us in that way, preferring to talk about us as a unity of body and soul. With these restrictions that have been placed on us, we can begin to see more clearly the truth of that. The restrictions on our bodies are reflected in our souls. The restrictions of these days in some way make our souls feel restricted, make us feel restricted. The simple beauty of a sunny day that causes our souls to rejoice, is us rejoicing, a joy we feel in the depths of our being.

One of the things I have noticed in this period of lockdown is how often we look to distract ourselves from the feeling of the absence of that beauty in our souls, that freedom from our lives. Video games, or television, or the internet may be great distractions, but they are not the same as the beauty we see around us, or the beauty of loving human contact. These days we seem to feel more keenly our souls reaction – its emptiness, I think that’s because our attention is not so fully taken up by the usual distractions.

When Christ talks of himself as the shepherd, it is to our souls that he is speaking. The nourishment that our souls need, that aspect of us that is not satisfied with distractions, that cannot be satisfied with the distractions because there is more to us than the satisfying of our physical needs and we feel that in the boredom of these days, we feel it in the pull of beauty outward.

We can take all the things we do, whether its video games or television, all the things that pass the time, but unless they feed our souls with beauty, unless they give us a sense of peace, they are the thieves and brigands who come to kill our souls, and destroy who we are. In normal times, the truth of that can escape us, but in these times of enforced isolation we experience more clearly for ourselves what gives life to our souls and what drains life from them. 

When Christ says he has come to give us life, it is not only eternal life he is speaking of, not just the resurrection from the dead, he is speaking also of that beauty that feeds our souls and brings us a true sense of peace. He is the shepherd and guardian of our souls, the one who will show us the way to life and make our souls tremble with life and fill them with an eternal hope and joy and peace.

It’s like a pull out of ourselves, a sense of awe and the power of beauty I suppose, especially when spring is becoming much more alive and inviting – Father Conroy. Pictures by Heather Greer

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