Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pier Pressure

I finished up work Tuesday afternoon around three. It was more like arriving at a stopping point, a good place to stop and pick up again. Pressure washing. Something that I don’t mind doing. But this house involved a lot of ladder work and I was pretty exhausted.

I had been preparing myself for the beginning of Lent, this season of reflection, recollection, and repentance. On the drive home I was thinking particularly that Wednesday would be a day of fasting and abstinence. Ash Wednesday. Not a Holy Day of Obligation but, still, an important day in the life of the Church. Much more than just another opportunity to live up to the Catholic reputation of eating fish.

Thanks to a couple of cast nets, we enjoy a nice supply of fish. Throwing a net is a pleasurable thing to do. It’s also something that demands some physical exertion, something that I was thinking about avoiding after working all day. There’s fish in the freezer. No. I’d go try to catch some fresh even if it meant throwing the net, pulling it in, and then cleaning fish once I got them home.

I usually plan my net fishing around what the tide is doing. By minding the tide I do, more times than not, catch fish. This time I didn’t check the tide chart. I just loaded my stuff in the truck and went. When I got to the fishing pier I met three older fellows. Likable locals and it was obvious that drinking intoxicating beverages was as much a part of their outing as fishing. They had been much more successful at getting bent than they were at catching fish. One had caught nothing. One had ruined his net on a snag. One had caught one fish.

He had two fish in his bucket. One had been given to him by someone earlier. They were picking up and getting ready to leave and before they left he put his two fish in my bucket. I was grateful and expressed my appreciation.

Net fishing is usually productive at this spot when the water is moving in or out with the tide. It was almost still. I worked my net for a while without any success. Another fellow joined me on the small pier. He worked his net. Nothing. I was beginning to think that I’d put my two gift fish into his bucket and pull out some frozen fish to thaw overnight.

As I stood there with my net made up and ready to throw I began to think. My thoughts were more in the form of prayer thought, thought directed toward God. I thought, “Lord, we are trying to be faithful to the expectations and ideals of the Church where fasting and abstinence on Ash Wednesday is concerned. And we are trying our best to provide our food through our own labor. It would really be nice to catch some fish.”

I threw my net. It opened nicely into a perfect circle, hit the water, and then settled to the bottom. I felt something bumping in the net as I pulled on the hand line. When I hauled it onto the pier it held 4 nice fish. I was humbled and grateful for the provision.

Fishermen. It seems like we are never satisfied. Hey. If I caught these 4 maybe I’ll catch 4 more the next throw. Friday’s coming. I’ll need fish for Friday. More fish. I need more fish. Keep throwing the net. And I did. Throw the net. Pull the net. Numerous times without netting another fish. Thinking all the while that maybe, just maybe, grace for the day was already in my bucket. Accept that grace, be grateful for the enough that you have, and hold greed at bay.

I felt convicted. It wasn’t a gripping and arresting conviction but conviction nonetheless. I stuffed my net in the bucket and came home. There’s plenty of time for fishing between now and Friday.

“Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvelous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of gratitude.”[1]

Deo Gratias.

[1] From a sermon by Saint Leo the Great, Liturgy of the Hours, p. 60