One day a man walked past a camp of elephants. Looking closer, he was surprised to see that these mighty animals weren’t held in cages or kept in chains. The only thing stopping them from escaping? A thin rope tied from one of their legs to a simple pole in the ground. Confused, as to why they didn’t use their strength to break the rope, he asked the trainer why they weren’t attempting to run away. To this the trainer replied, “As baby elephants, we use the same system. But, at that age, the rope is strong enough to stop them from escaping. They grow up like this, believing they can never break the rope, so even as adults they stay put.” In other words, these powerful, magnificent and intelligent elephants didn’t believe they could free themselves, so they never tried. Our personal beliefs are powerful beyond measure and often dictate our outcomes. They can work for or against us. Identify your limiting beliefs so you can push against them.
As we journey in life, often of our greatest struggle, is to find ourselves in the present moment. How many of us are burdened and carry too much heavy baggage, because of past events and unresolved issues. How many of us may be overwhelmed and full of worry or anxiety, regarding what may happen down the road. In fact, very few are blessed with the freedom and contentment to live in the present moment. When I am present in the now, I am not consumed by what happened yesterday or fearful regarding what may occur tomorrow. The great St. Padre Pio, had a powerful spirituality regarding living in the present moment. Towards the end of his life, a life, that contained a huge amount of personal suffering, he made a profound prayer of serenity, rejoicing in his liberation, for being blessed just to live in the present moment. His prayer is a gift for all of us as we walk our daily pathway. The best pathway, proven by the wisdom of the elders, is one that takes one step, one moment at a time. Saint Padre Pio said, “My past life I give to your mercy, O Lord, whatever may happen tomorrow, I hand into your providence, Today, let me live in your love”.
“Lead, Kindly Light”
I’ve been reading a biography of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman recently. I offer one significant moment of his life to ponder this week. In 1833, several years before his reception into the Catholic Church, he travelled to Rome. Then, on his return voyage, he became seriously ill and, at the same time, the ship was becalmed in the Mediterranean. That is, the winds ceased and the ship was more or less stalled, drifting, until the winds came back.
Newman’s life coincided almost exactly with the 19th century — he lived from 1801 to 1890. It was a time of great advances in scientific knowledge, in mechanisation and industry. Political upheaval was widespread as well; old dynasties fell and experiments in new forms of government began. In all these fields, persons seemed to grasp a greater mastery of their own fates. And yet, even with all humanity’s new knowledge and power, one could still be “becalmed.” Nature could still do something that simply made you stop. On this occasion, while at sea, Newman wrote the poem “The Pillar of the Cloud,” better known by the informal title, “Lead, Kindly Light.” It has been set to many tunes, and has become a well-beloved hymn.
There isn’t room for the whole text, but here’s an excerpt:
Lead, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom
Lead Thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home —
Lead Thou me on!
Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene — one step enough for me.
It’s a great expression of trust, and of patience: he doesn’t ask to see “the distant scene” — the end of this road, wherever it goes. “One step enough,” sufficient grace for the present, is all he asks. Both afflicted with illness, and unable to go anywhere, Newman put his faith in a Light, a Light he knew was kindly disposed to him, and was leading him to safe harbour. May the light of hope and peace bring us all great serenity and acceptance….
Fr. Paddy Byrne P.P.