Nada te turbe.
Can we agree that children are among the most amazing of graces that the world has ever seen?
I mean all children, every child, even the squirmy ones, the screeching/whining/possessive ones, the potential bullies. Most are grace-filled in their lithe, resilient bodies, their untainted innocence and trust, their natural wonder at the marvels of the world in discovery. If there is some regret to the life I was offered and accepted, it is the children that I was not able to father, that most amazing grace. And yes, I know I romanticize the gift. I am aware that children (grown-up, especially) do not always appear to be graces in your life.
I arrived in the city of Santander--that Santander, like the bank--on a ferry, the last leg of the day's walk, and I was overwhelmed with all the children. Everywhere. Eating ice cream, holding hands with their mothers, playing in the streets, going round and round with the merry machine. What was this all about?
It's a festive day here in Santander. Most of the stores are closed--the way it used to be in the US on a holiday--and everyone is out with their families and their children relaxing, eating, playing, listening to concerts, enjoying one another's company. I didn't realize that Galicia, the region in which the city (and the bank) of Santander are situated, celebrates St James day today. He is the patron saint of Spain, and his bones are at the end of this pilgrimage in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and of course, James is my name too (though my family calls me Jimmy). And since I have never been in a land that celebrates St James, I thought I should take some time today and tip my hat to the man.
By my count there are 18 national and regional holidays in Spain honoring 1) Christ, 2) the Mother of Jesus, and 3) the communion of Saints. This in a land where 67% of the population self-identifies as Catholic Christians, but only 14% report that they attend Mass regularly. I'm not sure what these holidays mean to most Spaniards, but at least I was celebrating St James today! And I assume that the party was really rocking over at Santiago de Compostela, maybe with a bit more of a spiritual twist.
No matter. This was certainly a day of graces for me. The weather was a perfect 75 degrees, there were refreshing breezes off the harbor, the city was filled with families.
I have been in Spain a bunch of times, and I have always marveled at their lived perspective of life. Unlike our own country, the Spanish are not obsessed with a culture of economic growth--personal and national--at all costs. They still choose to stop work at 1:30pm, and join their husbands, wives, mothers and fathers-- and of course their children--in the middle of the day to share food and family graces with one another. And on holidays, it's not about going to the mall for the big sale or scheduling a competitive sports match for the children. Being together with family and friends is a value that trumps just about everything else.
I have to admit that I was annoyed that the supermarkets were closed. How was I to get my nightly food rations for the day? Would I be forced to join the rest of the Santander family who were eating at the multitudes of outdoor cafes and festival food courts?
It became clear that my nutritional desires were unimportant, considering the graces that were unfolding all around me. I spent hours observing this city-wide family get-together, and it was food enough.
And it was especially the children--their children, and actually all of our children, that had me thanking God for enabling me to see what really matters in life.
As I wandered around the city, exploring the ongoing party, I came across a church that has the words "Nada Te Turbe" prominently displayed on its side.
They are the first words of the famous poem/prayer of St Teresa of Avila: "Let nothing disturb you". Teresa was an inspiring Spanish mystic, and a nun, who lived in the 16th century.
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things pass away:
God never changes.rel
Patience obtains all things.
He who has God
Finds he lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.
Children are such a grace to us because they remind us that we are all of us living in dependence on Someone Else, and sometimes even if we don't admit it, we rely on the gift of our next heartbeat and our next breath. And that's OK, nada te turbe.
Thanks to God for children who love to travel in circles, perhaps reminding us of the great circle of life of which we are all a part?
In gratitude for fathers who father and mothers who mother grace.
In celebration of the unmeasured joy of childhood, for children who show us that life is about play, and being with one another in God's good world.
For the gift and grace of celebrating our lives, however imperfect we are in them.
With great thanks for the gift and grace of St James, or as I prefer to call him, St Jimmy.