A Tiny Rudder

I have a new role model for ministry, Monsignor Bienvenu. I have been familiar with Victor Hugo’s Miserables for years but I am finally beginning to read it. I have fallen for the character the Bishop. Hugo writes of him “He respected learned men greatly; he respected the ignorant still more and, without ever failing in these two respects, he watered his flower-beds every summer evening with a tin watering-pot painted green.” In that sentence I picture a man who has a love for: orthodoxy (a commitment to ‘right understanding), orthopathy (a commitment to right relationships) and orthopraxy (a commitment to right practice). This strikes me as the balance I need in my life, if I am to successfully follow Jesus. All of these ortho-virtues are humble virtues. Pride it seems is the great enemy of fruitfulness.

James writes about the power of the tongue and compares it to a spark that sets a huge blaze or a small rudder which turns a great ship. There is power in littleness dedicated to God. As I contemplate my relatively new ministry as Community Chaplain I have an image of where I am called to lead it. I am tempted sometimes to come in like a dictator and by dint of brawn and will impose this vision but Victor Hugo and God remind me that my power to change things relies in being a small rudder rather than an oarsman. I need to constantly remind myself that I am in this for the long haul and that over time the tiny rudder has more effect than a fatigued burnt-out rower could ever hope see.

This attitude requires constant attention for I am my own worst enemy. Here to the Bishop is helpful. He says “Let us never fear robbers nor murders. Those are dangers without, petty dangers. Let us fear ourselves. Prejudices are real robbers, vices are the real murderers. The great dangers lie within ourselves. What matters is what threatens our head or our purse? Let us think only of that which threatens our souls.”  Of course Jesus tells us “What does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his own soul?”

I admit that I can be an introspective person (that is probably why I enjoy the discipline of writing a weekly blog.) but I am more and more convinced that such introspection guided by the Holy Spirit is key to fruitful life. It is in this kind of, dare I say Examen, that we find ourselves firmly attached to the vine (Jesus). Abiding in Him without examination of self is tenuous at best and so cannot be fruitful.

God always has the end in mind. People who only look at the ‘now’ question his wisdom but time is moving toward an end that He alone knows. I too want to work from an end and as a small rudder set a course to get there. I may have to do a lot of tacking on the way but I feel the winds of God today!


2 comments on “A Tiny Rudder

  1. Amen! I love that character in Les Miserables, too. He authentically re-presents the grace and unfailing love of our Lord. I’ve never been brave enough to tackle the book, but I love to watch the movie version starring Liam Neeson as Jean Valjean. So appreciate the way you share your heart and thoughts so transparently. God bless you, and please say hi to my old friends at the Chaplaincy, especially Theresa and Ray and John if they’re still around.

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