Andrew Procter describes his arrival to spend a month in a L’Arche
community in France — with hundreds of flies
The foyer (community house) looked gorgeous from the outside. My room was
the oratoire (prayer room), converted to a bedroom for my stay. All the colours
were subdued. I felt it was going to be a place of seclusion and peace. My
heart lifted when I saw it.
In fact, I was to have a difficult time in that foyer. It wasn’t as clean as
it looked. The showers worked only if you held the shower rose over your own
head, and then not very well. The attractive-looking wooden settles in the
lounge were abominable to sit on.
And the flies! I got a shock after coming in from my first long, hard day in
the vine fields. I opened my door, and immediately set a-buzzing some hundreds
of flies. My clothes were covered, too. All through my stay I was to do battle
with them. I took to avoiding that otherwise lovely room. I never could get
comfortable somehow in that place.
After a fortnight, I was ready to come home. I remember telling Elizabeth so
one night, and sensing her groan inwardly at yet another volte-face from her
mercurial husband. But something happened to save me. The night before I was
due to leave for a quick visit home for my daughter’s graduation was 14 July —
a big night in the French year.
I had been out, and got back to find the place deserted, except for someone
I had not met before. Everybody else was at a fireworks party. She was Audrey.
She was about 30. And we had a good conversation. It was as simple as that. We
sat on those settles and talked. About important things.
It was so pleasant to be doing what I do best — listening to people talk out
their troubles, and supporting them. I realised with a shock that I had been
comfortable. Not just in my body, but in my spirit. I had somehow arrived. It
felt warm and soothing. I knew then that I would return and complete my month.
The following morning was brightly sunny. I found myself sat on the bench
outside surrounded by a laughing group who now seemed friends. I smoked a
cigar, and drank in the ambience of belonging. Something difficult had been
overcome. Some process had been gone through which had been worth the
Thought for the day
Think over your experience to date. Can you spot any breakthroughs
similar to mine? Has God taken you to the wire before you made it to the other
side of something? Have there been times when a moment of despair about
something has proved also to be the moment of release or victory? This could be
in matters small like mine, or matters great, such as overcoming an illness.
If you can relate to times like these, then value them. They reflect a
pattern frequently found in the scriptures. And, of course, the greatest
despairing cry of all, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?", came just
before the greatest breakthrough of all.
If you are in such a time of difficulty that you cannot feel this message of
hope, then, I suggest, simply hold on to what you do have, even if it is bitter
— and help will come.
O God, I am such a shallow creature. I soon despair. I am like a
child who throws aside a task at the first hurdle. And I whine. I decide now to
endure. I remember your words from St Mark’s Gospel, that whoever "stands firm
to the end will be saved". I thank you for the fearful symmetry of suffering,
endurance, and then character. I am awed by the pattern of crucifixion then
resurrection. I am frightened to be involved in it. But I accept it. And I
dare, foolishly, I know, to ask you to etch your death and resurrection more
deeply into my life. Amen.
Hagar (Genesis 16), Moses (Exodus 5.22-23), and Paul (Acts
18.5-11) all have times when they wanted to give up. In each case, it led to
breakthrough and blessing.
"When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know my way"
This is an edited extract from A Month Among the Vines:
Daily devotions based on time shared with a L’Arche community in France
by Andrew Procter (Redemptorist, £7.95 (CT Bookshop £7.20); 0-85231-309-8.
To place an order for this book, contact