the reality is

Aug 21, 2021


A few years ago at the end of a weekend retreat one of the participants commented  “well, now it’s back to the real world”.

We understood the comment. We had spent the days together in a peaceful place, away from some of the regular demands of life, without cell phones and internet, and now we were returning home.

But that man’s comment got me thinking about life and about reality.

The more I pondered this the more I realised that my retreat days had in fact been an engagement with reality at a greater depth than my regular non-retreat routines allowed.

As I considered this I began to see that most days and weeks I am buffeted about by the expectations and demands of others, and by my own disordered internal motivations, giving in to the compulsions which regularly leave me settling for an existence on the surface of life. Yes every now and then there are those deeply satisfying moments, the conversations that inspire and sustain me, but too many days and weeks pass in a blur that feels artificial.

I was left realising that when I take time to be still and silent, to walk in the hills and to sit in silence and stillness seeking awareness of Jesus, in these retreating moments I feel as though I am truly alive.

So when I take time for “retreat” like we did that weekend, I am not retreating from reality but instead i’m stepping back from what is superficial and trivial, so that I might engage with what is real, and to encounter the God who comes to me in the heart of my reality, in the midst of how and where I am.

This thought has been with me as the pandemic unexpectedly locks us down again in Aotearoa New Zealand, brought home again by yesterday afternoon’s extension of the level four restrictions.

The anxiety and the uncertainty that we feel cannot be overcome with the power of positive thinking. There is a threat and it is real and if we feel it then we are alive and we are healthy.

The temptation is to anaesthetise the anxiety with behaviours or substances, or (even more acceptably) optimistically distracting ourselves with the power of positive thinking.

Let’s not be afraid to live the reality, since this is where Christ encounters us.

I am encouraged by the recent reflection of Julian Carron (often quoting Luigi Giussani:) in his recent book “Is There Hope.”

“The circumstances through which God has us pass are an essential and not a secondary factor of the mission to which he calls us.  If Christianity is the announcement of the fact that that Mystery has become flesh in a man, the circumstance in which one takes a position about this in front of the whole world is important for the very definition of witness” (L. Giussani)

We all know well what these circumstances are that have challenged us throughout this year: the economic crisis, the many forms of pain which have caused us to reflect . . . seeing a world collapse in front of our eyes, with laws that no longer know how to defend the good of life or of the family, finding ourselves more and more obliged to live our lives without a homeland, dramatic personal and social circumstances from illness to trouble to the loss of work, if not in fact the loss of everything . . . So these circumstances through which God has us pass, says Father Guissani, “are an essential and not a secondary factor of our vocation.”  For us, then, circumstances are not neutral.  They are not things that happen without any meaning; that is, they are not just things to put up with, to suffer stoically.  They are part of our vocation, of the way in which God, the good Mystery, calls us, challenges us, educates us.  For us, these circumstances have all the weight of a call, and thus are part of the dialogue of each one of us with the Mystery present.

Life is a dialogue.

“Life is not a tragedy.  Tragedy is what makes everything amount to nothing.  Yes, life is a drama.  It is dramatic because it is the relationship between our I and the You of God, our I that must follow the steps which God indicates” (L. Giussani).  It is this Presence, this You that makes circumstances change, because without this You everything would be nothing, everything would be a step toward an every darker tragedy. But precisely because this You exists, circumstances call us to him.  It is he who calls us through them.  It is he who calls us to destiny through everything that happens.


  1. Plenty of food today…lockdown day 4…
    ‘For us, these circumstances have all the weight of a call, and thus are part of the dialogue of each one of us with the Mystery present.’

    • Life is a drama that makes my faith more intense like if I felt something wrong like health situation , work related, relationships with family and friends I really pray hard and go to church more often… it was always a surprise that Christ answers my prayers more than I ask for.

  2. Thank you for this FFF encouragement…

    Let’s not be afraid to live the reality, since this is where Christ encounters us.


    • I love, L Guissani’s quotations .

      Thanks be to God for my education.

  3. Our God calls us to Himself through every possible event in our lives and we respond with our heart to His heart and
    acknowledge Him as the Author of all!

  4. “When I encountered Christ I discovered myself a man.” Yes, and we can live the circumstances with intelligence as offering, small and painful they may be.

  5. I am sitting in our little cabin,
    Watching the birds go about their
    Daily living, they never waver, always faithfull to all they do,never being diverted to a false blinding
    Pleasure journey. Even the beautifull wildlife our GOD gave us, is a
    Sign,to ‘be still and see GODS LOVE
    Thankyou for FFF


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