We are into the season of awards – the Golden Globes ceremony took place last Sunday, the nominations for the BAFTAs were announced on Tuesday, and the Oscars can’t be far away. These glittering occasions remind us of the achievements of our celebrities, those public people who inhabit our screens and magazines. But what about the achievements of those who are not celebrities – our next door neighbours, the good deeds done by members of our own family?
As a priest, one of my responsibilities is, of course, to conduct funerals. Although this is part of my “job”, I count it as a great privilege. Before a funeral I’ll always sit down with the family to plan the service, after which I ask if it’s OK to talk about the deceased, so that I can make what happens in church more personal. They always agree, because they’re often very relieved to do so.
What happens next is like an artist painting a portrait. As we chat, a picture emerges of the person’s life, family, work and interests. Finally I ask them about who they were. It’s at this point that I get the feel of the real person, and often it’s now that the most remarkable aspects of their life comes out. Often I have to scribble fast as I learn about the wonderful achievements of ordinary people. Like the son who told me very recently how his mother couldn’t understand why not everybody will travel miles and miles by bus to visit a sick acquaintance like she did, even in her advanced years.
Now there’s nothing worse than a funeral which depicts someone as an impossibly perfect saint. But learning about people and their fascinating lives, and then being able to share that at a service, means that each funeral can become its own award ceremony. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said “Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.” So Golden Globes and Oscars are not for everyone, but the love and care we show in day-to-day life – small things done with great love – is so often heroic. And if we take a moment to think about people we know – it’s happening all around us.
Fr Matthew, adapted from “Wednesday Word” 10th January BBC Radio Wales