Friday, 25 May 2012
And it is a word which she herself certainly lived to the full. There was the overflowing generosity and zeal with which the young Sophie longed to give herself in prayer and service - either as a Carmelite or as a missionary. This was followed by the actual lived generosity of several decades spent entirely in France or Italy (with a single visit to England), whilst she sent others to found convents in mission territories in other continents; the generosity of a woman who, right to the end, was tremendously busy administering an international congregation, but never too busy for time with God and writing endless personalised letters.
This is how my dictionary defines the word 'generous':
1. willing and liberal in giving away ones money, time etc; munificent
2. free from pettiness in character and mind
3. full or plentiful (a generous portion)
4. (of wine) rich in alcohol
There's certainly food for thought in those four definitions, and a tall order in embodying them all - and yet, a truly generous person wouldn't want to hold back! And really, they are inextricably interlinked: what would be the point in being munificent and available and giving God my all if I still hold on to slights and petty matters? But I have to say, it's the fourth definition - precisely because it's the most unexpected - that has most held my attention: and yet for Sophie, daughter of a wine-making family, this extra nuance would have been familiar.
A generous wine is full of spirit and strength; it is stimulating, exalting and expressive. It is warm and rich, open and "honest", in that it doesn't play around or hide its true self; unlike alcopops it doesn't masquerade as something else. It can be sweet and mellow, or fiery and robust; it's strong, but enjoyed in moderation it can be lovely! This, after all, is what it was made for - to bring joy and warmth, and to sustain, especially during long, hard winters.