View of Benbecula at sunset

I have not long returned from a holiday in the Outer Hebrides.  As I reflect upon it now, it was an exercise in ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ in which I was aware of God taking me deeper into His simplicity, showing me what really matters and the place in which things really ‘happen’: in the present moment lived as love.

I set off – or rather, fell into – the holidays as the next in a long series of events.  Living in a Focolare[1] community my life is full, and fulfilling, each day being a new start in seeking to live out Jesus’ words:

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13: 34-35 (NRSV)

Whilst the aim is to live a balanced life all year round, I knew I was ready for a break by the fact that I was seeing life in terms of actions to be ticked off on a list.

The journey to the stunning beaches, vast skies and rugged, sparsely populated terrain of Benbecula was in itself a leaving behind of all that is familiar and routine. However, once the three of us had arrived at our friends’ croft, I was reminded that although our surroundings may change, our relationship with God and our neighbour has to be in constant growth; when you are on holiday your ability to listen to that ‘still, small voice of calm’[2] perhaps comes even more into relief.

One of our group was very keen to see a seal.  Happy to go along with the search, all three of us set off on a cloudy, drizzly day to the Isle of Flodda, our boots frequently sinking into mud.  I would have been content with the sight of seals on a distant shore, but as my companions trudged on, determined to persevere until seals were much closer, I realised that I had to throw myself into this expedition with more heart-felt enthusiasm. Eventually, there was the joy and excitement of seeing two seals leaping from the water, disappearing and then their heads suddenly popping up within a stone’s throw of where we were standing. I was relieved that the aim had been achieved and was looking forward to a cup of tea back at base, but had to admit that I too was happy and satisfied.

Later, the friend who had been supporting the seal project all along spoke of what she’d experienced whilst staring into the dark water of the loch, anxious to see a sign of life.  To start with all she saw was a sheet of water, but then she noticed the different colours, currents and ripples.  This helped her to understand that the more we are fixed in living each moment, the more we discover.

Now that I’m back in Glasgow, people have asked ‘Did you have a good holiday? Do you feel rested?”  I reply that I did and I do.  Why? My friend’s explanation of living the present moment helped me to appreciate and enter into the natural beauty all around us even more, so much so that I feel it’s now within my soul. This in turn enabled me to experience the greatness of Jesus’ words “Where two or three are united in my name” – in my love – “there am I in their midst” (Matt. 18:20). We had been able to take ‘time out’ in breathtaking surroundings, but it was actually ‘time in’. Time in which God showed me what is essential to our daily lives and to rediscover it in a new way – time in God.

[1] The Focolare Movement is one of the new ecclesial movements within the Church, having its origins in 1943, during World War II in Trent, Northern Italy. Its aim is to contribute towards the fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer, “Father, may they all be one” (John 17:21).  Christians of various denominations, the faithful of many world religions and many people who want to collaborate in working towards a united world are guided by the Focolare’s spirituality of unity.

[2] “Dear Lord and Father”, The United Methodist Hymnal, Number 358

Liz Taite
Coordinator of PCT-St Nicholas Care Fund

Liz Taite is the coordinator of the PCT-St Nicholas Care Fund, a charity of the Archdiocese of Glasgow which supports small, local projects helping to meet specific social needs. Prior to that she was the Ecumenical Officer for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Scotland. Liz moved to the Focolare Movement’s community house in Glasgow five years ago, having previously lived in community houses in London, Liverpool, Welwyn Garden City and Loppiano, near Florence. She is increasingly grateful for her Scottish experience.