NEARLY TEN HOURS at the desk today. Sometimes I have to tie an ankle to the leg of the desk, you know – ? – and just get down to it. Concentrate. Stick to it. Clearing the backlog. Emailing. Letter writing. Doing the thinking, planning, phoning. Poetry in the coffee breaks. Preparation. Praying – yes, praying for the loved ones, near and far, who are as much a part of my daily life when they don’t know it as when they do. And reading. And writing. And bank statements. Catching up with the 1001 things on the to-do list. Odd that a job primarily concerned with the things of God should fairly frequently involve being desk-bound? And yet, as with all things of God, not so very odd …

As it turned out, some concentrated graft at the desk today became something of a desktop retreat. For it’s sometimes in taking stock of all the little details of life that one discovers richness. God-ness. I’m struck by the huge number of people with whom I relate every day. Struck by the number of people who pray with me, and for me. Struck by the miracle that – notwithstanding the ups and downs of life as a parish priest (and there are some of those!) – I’m still enjoying it, and being challenged by it, after 32 years. Each of the hundreds of books on my library shelves has an associated story – a life and a meaning all of its own. And the letters in the filing tray, and the hundreds of emails, and the blogs “to read later”, and the photos propped up at the back of the desk – all add up to perpetual recourse to the prayer “Thanks be to God”.

Nearly ten hours at the desk. Time to call it a day for today. Perhaps it was just such a day that caused Rainer Maria Rilke (translated by Leonard Cottrell) once to say – or perhaps to pray –

Near here is the land
That they call Life.
You’ll know when you arrive
By how real it is.
Give me your hand.

from God Speaks to Each of Us