“Abba, all those you gave me I would have in my company” (John 17:20)
“Here in the West, Christianity is a thin cover.” “The Field”
The Movie, “The Field” starring Richard Harris, tells the story of a field tended by generations of a tenant family whose latest patriarch (Harris) takes pride of ownership (in his own ways) in the creation of a fine green field in the middle of Connemara – that ruggedly beautiful yet agriculturally wasted land of mountains to the sea. Word has it the widow who owns the Field wants to sell and the old man is ready to buy expecting noone stupid and silly enough to challenge him.
But an American back for a funeral gets it in his head that he will buy the field and cover it with concrete so that he will “develop” it for economic advancement of the area. He confides in the local priest his surprise and shock that the community and this one stubborn old man would not want him to own the field.
Generations of the tenant family have pulled seaweed from the ocean and over mountain ridges to force fertility from the earth of the field. And the old man will not allow this field to be in any other hands than his family.
The priest responds to the American when he says the Church should intervene and speak to the people of the wonders of development. The priest says, “Here in the West, Christianity is a thin cover.”
A thin cover over what, you may ask. Well, the ancient beliefs hold sway over this come lately religion called Christianity. Owners are only caretakers. And when they leave the territory they have the obligation to see to it that the people keep the land. This Field is of the earth and of the people.
A thin cover indeed. Don’t cross over only to discover that a wide world of custom and retaliations live under the cover.
The old beliefs are full of thin lines of experience. The people call places where one discovers the other worlds of dead ancestors and the memories that flood through such places - They are the “Thin Places.”
Thin places open us to spirit worlds. In the Christian realization of these thin places they were renamed Holy Wells, St. Brigid’s Stream, St. Patrick’s Rock.
Here one may find God and a spiritual world of wonder, comfort, and also danger, and struggle. Thin places have such wonderful stories attached to them, a veritable motherlode of tales.
We know of such places. Look no further than Holy Hill – our local Carmelite monastery on top of one of the highest hills in southeast Wisconsin. People go there for discovery of God’s ways. But truth be told Christianity is only a thin cover over this thin place. The spiritual connection we feel to the touch of God in such places is for us to make sense of. Christian teaching may help, but the spiritual reality that is tapped in thin places has more to do with one’s own deeply personal connection with God.
Today we celebrate such a Thin Place in our recalling the Names of our Deceased Love Ones. In this place we call their names, we remember them, and we connect with them in hopes of renewing our bonds of love just by the mention of their Names.
Over this place, a thin cover is not so bad, so long as we restore ourselves in this place across the spiritual boundaries of the Fields of our shared lives. After all, it is Jesus himself who prays at his deepest “Abba, all those you gave me I would have in my company.”