The track of Sean - prayer soothes the weary soul

Fr Jason Murphy brings us another beautifully written reflection, this time showing how regular prayer in one's life can be a familiar friend and comfort...

The brown and orange flowered patterns of the linoleum were worn away in the spot beneath the chair where he sat at one side of the range in the kitchen he had known all his days. It had been the acid of the silage that had clung to the bottom of his boots when he came in from work on his farm at Killybandrick that wore away the decorative layers of the floor covering, marking out the spot where he sat and dozed next to the heat of the turf fire of an evening, his collie dog asleep by his side.

This chair had been a place of respite for him, year on year, in the kitchen that welcomed him after long days of work; shoring the land with shovel and spade, lining the miles of ditches with flat slithers of stone he had cut away by hand. The light that waned in the early evening and shone brightly through the window on the back street in the early morning changed with the passing of the seasons and reminded him of the rituals of farming he must embrace as the light increased and waned with the ephemeral nature of the year.

St Brigid’s day and the green shoots of the daffodils appearing above the peat-filled skillet pot at the back door reminded him of the long nights of calving that would soon begin in earnest.

He had worked so very hard all his life, scarcely a rush to be seen in any field, his hands a testament to the toil he had known, bent and curled from all the stones he had gathered from the hilly fields he had re-seeded over the decades. The beads at night were gently rolled between his forefinger and his thumb as he dwelt for a fleeting moment on each of the prayers in the decades of the rosary as they passed. She gave it out and he answered, part of the pattern of his every day no matter how busy the passing hours had been, first his mother then his sister, a thread of prayer never broken from one generation to the next.

They remembered how once the kitchen was filled with sound of children’s voices answering the prayers as the whole family gathered of an evening after their days work was done, now it was theirs alone to carry on this unbroken bond with their childhood, beneath the dresser that looked on for near a hundred years.

Theirs was an idyllic life, a life lived in the midst of the familiar and the ordinary where it seemed to others that nothing really happened but, therein, was a life that was precious - a life governed by the passing of the seasons, with the rising and setting of the sun, sprinkled each day with prayer as a leaven.

These were a gentle people, a people who had a garnered a serenity from the well pool of stillness that become part of their everyday and, though in his latter years when the mind that had served well him for near on nine decades began to wane like the winter sun, his chair beside the range became a constant place of refuge, a reminder of all that was familiar, the heat of the fire, the dog at his side, the worn out spot in the polished patterns of linoleum that covered the floor. Here he sat in the midst of prayer that soothed the mind, now not in boots but in bedroom slippers as Bernadette gave out the litany and he answered in return. For prayer soothes the weary soul, it's a balm for the mind in the everyday, a gift from God for those who worry and fret about so many things; in the silence of the heart, in that communion of mind between person and God, we find stillness, a hush in the busyness of our everyday.

God is forever. He is steadfast, unchanging. He remains the same over time, it is we who change in those moments of hush. For prayer changes the mind and heart and brings peace to the soul. In a world where everything around us is in flux, for both young and old, we all need something or someone who remains steadfast. We all need moments of stillness to pause and reflect in this busy world.

As I visited the warm kitchen in Killybandrick in the bright January days just past and noticed the green shoots of the daffodil plant emerging in the skillet pot, I thought on Sean as I entered in and looked to the track of his boots beneath his seat beside the range, the track of Sean on the polished patterns of the linoleum covered floor, a testament to the oneness between this ordinary man and God.


Thou who changest not, abide with me