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January 29, 2010
Look at this, I said to Ben, turning the computer screen so he could see the photograph Cindy had sent me. Wouldn't you like these nice fish?

Ben opened his eyes and gazed at the screen in silence for a moment. The fish were in a wooden carton in one of the stalls at the Cascine, the open air market where everyone in Florence goes for a bargain. Then he closed his eyes again.

I believe that Ben misses Italy. Of course, I believe lots of unlikely things about the cats' emotional lives: as do all pet owners, I imagine that they are like me. But there was much good for a cat to do there: the stalking of bugs and the occasional lizard in the rectory garden, the ongoing hot-and-cold war with the sacristan's cat, the managing of church meetings, which was done by leaping onto the table and walking its length, quacking loudly, when he judged that a meeting had gone on long enough. There were visits to the undercroft and the occasional solitary vigil in the chapel. Until Italy, Ben had not been much of a churchgoer -- he was always more the once-a-year-on-St-Francis-Day type of Christian. Get your blessing and get out, was the way Ben looked at it. His energetic attendance at St James represented something of a religious conversion. He never goes to church back here -- he can't, really, as it's across the street, where he's not allowed to go.

People's spiritual lives change when their temporal lives change. Get married or retire, get sick or change jobs, move house or graduate, and your practice may well alter. The new baby doesn't know how important centering prayer is to you. There's no door on the cubicle you now occupy instead of your old office, so you can't close the door and do intercessory prayer at lunch anymore.

These changes are not your fault, and nobody should feel guilty about having to make them. They're just signals to find a new way of praying that fits with a new way of living. God may be eternal an unchanging, but human spiritual practice is human, and change is part of all human things. Fortunately, there are many ways of prayer from which to choose: evening prayer instead of morning, music instead of journal writing, an audio bible while driving home instead of the book in your chair at night, and expanded grace before and after a solitary meal, and many more. Talk to a spiritual director about them. Or just find someone whose spirituality you admire and talk to that person, to make a beginning. Because two heads are usually better than one.

What does that mean, Ben wants to know. He has awakened from the day's fifth nap, and is reading over my shoulder. Two heads are better than one?

I means to consult with others about the things we do.

Consulting with others makes you grow another head?

No, no, it means thinking.

Thinking makes you grow another head?

No...never mind. It's not anything you'll ever have to worry about.

But Ben was already asleep.
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