One Year Later

By Kate Bishop, 1997

A personal account of the Sibyls weekend at St. Katharine's --- October 1997

It was a bright, sunny Friday evening. The lady smiled as she looked out of the window of the Docklands Light Railway train as it headed eastward from central London. She had just finished work and could still hear her colleagues' warm wishes for a good weekend. It was a weekend that she was very much looking forward to.

Her heart skipped with excitement as she glimpsed The Royal Foundation of St. Katharine from the train window and her smile broadened.

One year earlier a shy, nervous, fledgling TS had gone there for a day visit and received her first communion. It was hard to believe that this confident career-woman had come from that person.

After a short walk from Limehouse station, the large front door of St. Katharine's swung open. Welcoming smiles from people whom a year ago had been recent acquaintances but had since become dear and trusted friends. Jay came forward and they exchanged a big hug. It was a true homecoming. She knew she had arrived.

Like all good things the weekend went by quickly and in a whirl. New faces and familiar ones. Much laughter and several tears along the way. But good tears, tears of relief, tears of joy. Warmth, kindness and love seemed to pervade the very air.

She had much to reflect on but she knew she also had to give. That was the only way that those who had given so much to her could be repaid. A chain of souls, moving ever forward, holding tight as they helped each other along the way. And not making a big fuss about it either, just getting-on and doing it.

Her personal chain of souls had not all been Christians. Many were, but equally many were not. They had included atheists, agnostics and even a few Pagans. All had been special and had given her genuine love in their honest desire to help. All had appeared at exactly the right time and provided the things she had needed. "Needed" is the right word mind you, not "wanted". She had seldom got the things she had wanted.

There had also been moments of what can only be described as religious experience. Moments of absolute simplicity that gave her the certainty that she was fulfilling her destiny and that somehow, somewhere, some good would come of it.

But, like her friends, those moments could not be described as necessarily Christian or of any other particular religion for that matter. The thought troubled her.

Her reflection was interrupted by the prayer leader saying "Please turn to Psalm 100".

She turned the pages of the book and found a small card inserted next to the 100th Psalm. It read "Everything exists through the love of God" (Mother Julian).

What some would dismiss as chance or pure fluke was for her a moment of revelation. It endorsed her own destiny and the destinies of those around her, at both the present time and during the course of her life --- but particularly the last year.

She had her answer. She was troubled no more.

She excitedly read the card aloud to the group. They looked surprised, bemused, puzzled even. They had not got it --- but then how could they have understood? They had not seen her train of thought.

And yet she knew from their faces that they too had been given some answers that weekend. At different times and moments, maybe through the prayers, or during the communion or just from talking to each other. She was content.

Soon it was time for good-byes. Hugs and kisses were exchanged and the door of St. Katharine's closed behind her. Back to Limehouse station, back to a noisy, turbulent world. Like once again leaving the womb. But this time around she was ready to face it.

Footnote: Why have I written this account in the third person? The lady was myself, the story is my experience. Yet, in a strange sense, the story is not mine alone. In at least it's feeling and tone, this story has belonged and will belong to many others. I do hope so.

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