By Matthew Woolford
Travelling to St Ann’s RC Church one weekday for my pre-Covid habit of afternoon Mass, I heard a passenger lament, as the taxi was making its way around the Queen’s Park Savannah, that Trinidad was once a lovely place, and that once the love has gone it could never come back.
I found these words to be profoundly worrying and untrue. On more than one occasion, at Sacred Heart RC, Port of Spain, I have heard Fr Cockburn said in his homily that God exists in Heaven, He exists in the Eucharist, and He exists everywhere. If God is love, and I do believe He is, then love must also exist everywhere.
Whilst listening to Catholic Focus Answers, a Catholic apologetic podcast out of the USA on the Stitcher App, the host was interviewing Dr Pia Matthews, author of God’s Wildflower: Saints with Disabilities, and I remembered the blessing of my own disabilities.
She mentioned, to my education, that Pope St John Paul II wrestled with Parkinson’s disease to his last day. She also mentioned that St John Vianney had a learning disability. These crosses have helped men and women much greater than me in their stewardship, and my disability has probably had some usefulness in my life as well.
For most of my life I have struggled with the deadly sin of anger. To use the Pauline phraseology, I had a thorn in my flesh (2 Cor 12:7).
Whilst at university, a counsellor once advised me that anger was a secondary emotion and that I needed to find the primary one in order to overcome it.
My brother advised unsolicited, that he thought I needed love. I have come to realise that the counsellor was entirely true in her assessment and that my brother was only partly true in his.
What was helpful in my paradigm shift was the realisation that I was not disqualified or excluded from this sacred quest for truth and happiness. In fact, I was just as invited to the wedding feast as the next transgressor. After all, we have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).
Some have mused that anger is love disappointed. I do not know for sure if this is a conclusive presumption for everyone, but I do know that this anger was a force that often consumed me.
I did identify and wrestle with the primary emotions of hurt, disappointment and fear, and I must admit, these are very difficult to own up to. Sometimes I felt I was actually worshipping at the altar of this beast.
Anger brings with it a very powerful expression, and for many of us who do not feel or think that anyone is listening to us, we may be tempted to see this as the only platform from which we could be heard.
Others have suggested that love is a choice. I am not comfortable admitting this either, at least not in its entirety, and this is a personal, non-prescriptive belief. I am open, however, to believing that love does give us options. It lays bare the truth, delightfully, and shines a light on the myriad of opportunities in which we may find progress. And this was where love found its way with me.
Have faith and do not doubt
In Matthew 14: 23–24, my patron saint recounted that the boat was very far from land and was dangerously rocked by the waves for the wind was against it. This is how I felt for many years and still do from time to time: unanchored. It was only when Jesus got into the boat did the wind drop (Mt 14:32).
In the middle of this passage, Peter got out of the boat and walked toward Jesus. I see this as a remarkable feat! A man, Peter, for a brief moment in time, conquered his fears and other primary and wild emotions, and demonstrated the placidity and calmness that Jesus perspicaciously recognised as rock solid ground.
Peter began to sink and cried out, “Lord, save me!” He did not cry out to the other eleven who remained in the boat. Jesus stretched out His hand saying, “Man of little faith, why did you doubt?”
In The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo, we see Adam recoiling from the Hand of God. In St Matthew’s Gospel, we read of a cry for help and an immediate response. What a prayer composed by St Peter: “Lord save me!” If only I would say this more often and what reassurance from Jesus: have faith and do not doubt.
I find it best, personally, to not do too much dwelling on Peter’s sinking in the water. We know that Peter was a fisherman and accustomed to the sea and its unpredictable weather, and we know that Peter could swim (Jn 21:7).
What was remarkable about Peter’s prayer was, given his expertise, he still did not lean onto his own (mis)understanding but chose instead to trust in Love. What a beautiful portrayal of Divine Mercy!
I am no expert on any of the topics mentioned in the paragraphs above, but I do recall having an epiphany when I first played the song mentioned in the title of this piece, and these were some incredibly chosen words by Jamaican reggae artist Dennis Brown.
Love had not so much found me as much as I had grown in my capacity to recognise Him. I had overcome the shame handed down to me from Adam and was getting better at staring unabatedly at Love as He continues His orientation in my life.