Bishop: Trauma can knock us or give us a real purpose in life

Bishop Tom Williams offers a thought-provoking Easter reflection looking at his own journey of faith, recovering from challenging times and looking to a positive future despite the devastation of COVID-19. The constant is the Lord and the Lord is good.

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Hello again.

I was just reflecting on one of the prayers at the offertory. It’s a simple prayer. I’ll just read it to you.

Grant, we pray, that we may always find your light in these Easter mysteries so that the renewal, constantly at work within us, may be the cause of our unending joy.

Only a Christian who believes in Christ and the resurrection can say a prayer like that. And it made me think about my own faith and what it means for me.

And why, to ask a question I’ve been asked many times by many people, why did I want to become a priest?

I give many answers – and there are many different reasons why. But the further I go back – the furthest I go back is when I was six – I remember coming home one day with a pain in my groin. And before I knew it, I was in Fazakerley Hospital for five weeks with suspected polio. I ended up in an isolation unit. Actually, as a six year old, it was quite fun. It was different – the food was awful – but it was different.

I remember one lady that came in, and my childish memory just remembers her smelling of talcum powder and she had big red lips and a flowery dress. I remember her saying to me ‘what a lucky boy’ I was. I didn’t understand what she meant. ‘You could have ended up with an Iron Lung’, she said. ‘And when you come home, and you’re cured, you’re going to thank God. But you’ve got to change the way you live. You’ve got to be happy and positive.’ I thought she was nuts.

But the real joy I got out of that experience was getting a bike – I could exercise my legs. But the more I looked back on it, the more I realised I did change. I did change. Maybe I didn’t fight with Jimmy as much – I didn’t fight or argue. I got more reflective about things. The horror of what could have happened stayed with me. And I always thought – well, realised – that it was better to be positive than to be negative. To not just think of what happened to me, but of how I can help others.

It’s been a long journey and vocation is something I think every one of us has. It’s just a matter of applying it. The thing is, that prayer is important. The first Christians are thought of as nuts because they were positive.

If you think of the resurrection story of Emmaus… the two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus were miserable at first thinking about all that had happened.

They were ‘woe is me’ and ‘we’ve lost a good friend’ and ‘wasn’t it a waste of time’ and ‘why did this happen?’

Well, at the breaking of bread, something happened – the penny dropped and they realised it was what the future held – not the past. It’s about the future. It’s about what we do.

If you drew a cartoon of that road to Emmaus story, there would be big question marks and bubbles over the disciples’ heads as they went along the road. Going back, they ran. Those bubbles of question marks were replaced with bubbles of exclamation marks.

The future is bright. We will work our way out of this COVID-19 trauma – and it is a trauma. Just this week, I’ve lost four friends… four… I remember them. Tomorrow, hopefully, there will be a short service for my Uncle Jimmy, who died a few weeks ago. It’ll be short. It won’t be a funeral. We will do that later. But it’s important that we look to be positive and look at what people have been for us.

Trauma can affect us in two ways. It can knock us down or it can give us a real purpose in life. Please choose the second.