Many years ago, my friends Monica Brown and Hilary Musgrave introduced me to the whole experience of sacred clowning. Hilary and Monica lead retreats all over the world and the sacred clown ‘Naofa’ is an integral part of their unique approach to spirituality. Sacred clowning has to be experienced because trying to define or explain the concept is difficult and risks trivialising something which is very profound and moving.
While the unannounced arrival of the sacred clown into a gathering can cause shock and laughter in equal measure, he or she is not a party clown or a trickster who comes to embarrass or even entertain. As those present gradually experience the sacred clown’s depths of silence, gentleness and vulnerability, they feel less threatened and are able to connect with this most unexpected visitor.
The clown draws them, through his or her silence and reverence, into a deep and sacred place and manages to highlight what is most important and significant.
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the sacred clown as I followed an interesting storyline in the popular soap, Coronation Street. I wonder if it is intentional on the part of the writers, but over the years I have been intrigued how the most silly and flaky characters in Corrie turn out to be the most responsible and sensible in times of crisis or when a moral dilemma occurs.
Gemma (Winter) certainly qualifies as ‘flaky’ and recently she discovered that she was pregnant with quadruplets. Naturally both she and Chesney (the expectant father) were terrified. The consultant in the hospital suggests to them that they might consider “multifetal pregnancy reduction” or “selective termination”. This would mean aborting one or more of the babies particularly the ‘weaker’ ones so that the stronger ones would have a better chance of survival.
What was really interesting was how Gemma dealt with this proposal. While she is terrified about bringing four babies into the world and has real doubts about her ability to be a mother at all, she ultimately decides that she cannot say goodbye to any one of her four unborn babies.
In a conversation with Chesney she relates a story from her childhood about her relationship with her twin brother Paul. They were apart one day and suddenly she sensed that something was wrong with Paul. She rushed to where he was and discovered that he had fallen and badly injured himself. If that is the bond between twins, what must the bond between quadruplets be like, she reflects.
She cannot choose to terminate and decides to give them all an equal chance to live.
An interesting moral dilemma and many might have expected Gemma to take the ‘easy’ way out but yet again the vulnerable sacred clown surprises and causes us to reflect a little deeper.
Good Liturgical Music!
A priest was completing a good old fashioned fire and brimstone sermon on the evils of drink: with great expression he said: “If I had all the beer in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”
With even greater emphasis he said: “And if I had all the wine in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.”
And then finally, he said: “And if I had all the whiskey in the world, I’d take it and throw it into the river.” He sat down.
The choir leader then stood very cautiously and announced with a smile, “For our next song, let us sing hymn # 365: Shall We Gather at the River.
A summer prayer
May you breathe in the beauty of summer with its power of transformation…
May you seek and find spaces of repose during these summer months…
May these moments refresh and restore the tired places within you…
May you be open to times of celebration and recreation that are so much a part of summer…
May your eyes see the wonders of summer’s colours…
May these colours delight you and entice you into contemplation and joy…
May you feel energy of summer rains penetrating thirsty gardens, golf courses, lawns and farmlands…
May your inner self be refreshed, restored, and renewed…
May you enjoy the unexpected and find surprises of beauty and happiness as you travel the roads on summer holidays.
– Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr