Father Paul Murray, an Irish Dominican from the North of Ireland and a close friend of Father Barron, visited the Word on Fire office yesterday on his way home from giving a two-week retreat to the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee.
You may remember the “Update from Rome”
on the Word on Fire Blog wherein Father Barron met up with Father Murray in the Eternal City. He spoke of Father Murray’s connection with Mother Teresa, acting as her spiritual director in the later years of her life and writing a book on her “dark night of the soul,” which is entitled I Loved Jesus in the Night.
In another of his books, A Journey with Jonah: The Spirituality of Bewilderment, Father Murray goes into great depth on the spiritual and theological significance of the biblical figure of Jonah, drawing out the details of the “type’ of Christ that is on display in this interesting and bewildering character. Here is in insightful passage from the book, which speaks of “illusory” versus “real” religion:
“…the third century martyr and bishop, Methodius, in a fragment on Jonah, states that ‘the ship in which [Jonah] embarked, and which was tempest-tossed, is this brief and hard life in the present time… And the storm and the tempests which beat against us are the temptations of this life… And being swallowed by the whale signifies our inevitable removal by time. For the belly in which Jonah, when he was swallowed, was concealed, is the all-receiving earth, which receives all things which are consumed by time.’
But what of the Christian experience? What of life in Christ? As believers can we not expect to enjoy the security, the serenity, of faith? Are we not protected from ‘the shocks that flesh is heir to’, and from the storms of fate? We are protected, I would say, and we are not protected. Life in Christ – true religion – does not take the cross out of our lives. It does not render us immune to great suffering or misfortune. And yet, no matter how relentless or terrible the storm might appear, because Christ himself is at the heart of the storm, and because, as our Redeemer, he lives within us, and we in him, we have no reason to be afraid.
Here, I think it is necessary to make a distinction between what John Macmurry has called illusory religion and real religion: ‘The maxim of illusory religion runs: “Fear not; trust in God and he will see that none of the things you fear will happen to you”; that of real religion, on the contrary, is “Fear not; the things that you are afraid of are quite likely to happen to you, but they are nothing to be afraid of”!’
Of course, it is also true, thank God, that we are given wonderful gifts in this life, gifts of family-life and friendship, of individual talents and vocation, gifts of adventure and discovery, of places to visit and revisit, and also—not to be forgotten—gifts of happiness and success in our work. But not all of us—it has to be said—are blessed with these gifts. And none of us can hold on to them forever. For whether you are rich or poor, believer or non-believer, busy business executive or contemplative religious, whether you are young or old, handsome or ugly, weak or strong, life in this world—given its suddenness and mystery, its beauty and horror, its puzzle, uncertainty and risk—is a bewilderment.”
 Paul Murray, OP, A Journey with Jonah: The Spirituality of Bewilderment (Dublin: The Columba Press, 2002), 40-42.