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Loud and Proud

We are just about to start our annual retreat, so there will be no blogging or tweeting until next Sunday unless the Spirit moves us. Three things, however, seem to have come together in an unexpected way and are (hopefully) worth commenting on before we go into silence.

Everyone in Britain and America at least will know that today is Father's Day (or should it be Fathers' Day?). There will be lots of households where "Dad" will be remembered in that affectionate, half-embarrassed way we are all so good at: the jokey card that tries to say "I love you" without actually using those words, and the weird and whacky presents Pa will be forced to wear/use with something approaching good humour. So, Digitalnun has posted a new podcast with a few thoughts on the spiritual dimension of fatherhood. Let us pray for all fathers, and for the blessing of our Heavenly Father upon them.

Yesterday some friends came to visit. Both are retired army officers with a strong commitment to Help for Heroes. At some point we began talking about the forthcoming Armed Forces Day (Saturday, 26 June) and appropriate ways of marking our appreciation of Service Personnel, whatever our opinions about the war in Afghanistan, etc. Conversation then took a (to us) surprising turn, when quite naturally and thoughtfully, one of them began to talk about the spiritual dimension of healing post traumatic stress disorder and the crucial role, as he saw it, of monasteries in providing exactly the right mix of relaxed welcome and structure to enable people to process some of their distress.

To be honest, I had never made the connection. When I was younger, I did register that monasteries seemed to have quite a lot of former servicemen and women in them but I had attributed that to a more general phenomenon following the Second World War. I am now wondering whether there is a specific contribution that monasteries can make to helping men and women scarred by their experiences of war. The silence and beauty of monastic life can be balm to the wounded while the monastic tradition of spiritual fatherhood (which is not confined to the male sex) has within it a tremendous power. Those who are gifted with it (and by no means every monk or nun is) are able to listen with great love and sympathy to the most terrible recitals; and because they are men and women of deep and persevering prayer, are able to open channels of healing medical science is often reluctant to recognize.

We are asked to be loud and proud in our support of the Armed Forces. Let's not forget that we need to pray, too. Fatherhood, whatever form it takes, is for life. The duty of care never ends.