Boys in Prison

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          I had a strange dream this morning. In it, my immediate family and I spent 3 different days visiting boy inmates of a prison. The other visitors to this prison comprised strangers and even members of my extended family. This dream was like a reel of snapshot moments, focus sharpening on certain scenes, on certain individuals. The dream raised no alarm of distress within me. It was even a little vague, as details I remembered during the dream immediately faded out when I awakened. For me, that is always a sign – those details were not to be focused on.

          The dream showed roughly 4 main groups of visitors –

my family and I,

a cousin, her sibling and his wife,

an aunt and her family, and

another unknown woman, somewhat wealthy, and her brood of many kids.

It appeared that we were all visiting different inmates. Except for the cousin’s family, I was either told or shown who the other inmates were but I was not detained there.

          In the dream, on the first day, it appeared as if I was visiting my son. This was not clear – I never actually saw him in the prison cell, just that it was vaguely alluded to. Visiting there too were all the others as mentioned above. In reality, I am extremely close to those members from my extended family. But in the dream, while they were aware of my presence and scooted over to make place for me on the visitors’ benches in front of the cells, and despite the fact I could sense their compassion, their focus was totally upon whoever it was that they had come to visit. That told me that each group was there for only one person.

          The next thing I was very clearly shown on that first day was that other wealthy mother. She was visiting an incarcerated son who didn’t seem to much appreciate the visit. He wore that bored, disinterested look so many kids have, totally impervious to his mother’s busy efforts to secure his release. And busy she certainly was, moving swiftly here and there to get his papers in order, yet oddly at ease with the system.

          Interiorly, I knew that she was used to the drill. That it wasn’t her or her son’s first time in jail.

          She was also the only one there at this stage of seeing to the release documents. So, her son’s time in jail was coming to an end. Yet, looking at his insouciance, I thought to myself,

The kid doesn’t care. He’s taking his mum’s efforts for granted.

          The dream then folded into the second day. We were all there again, each group sitting on those benches in front of a specific cell. There was a lot going on for that other woman again. This time, I could see the assortment of release documents she held. They were ready. Her boy was walking out of his cell when suddenly, his release hit a snag. A commotion  ensued – although the mother remained unperturbed. She took it on her chin and moved on quickly to undo the knots.

Her son didn’t do a thing to help.

He was indifferent to her buzzing around, with all his much younger siblings following her like little ducklings. He had no interest in them either, no interaction whatsoever.

He was a kid who clearly lived for himself. And it looked like he was going back in.

          Then, came the third day. This time, my husband and I were driving up to the jail and parking in its tiny porch. As we alighted from our car, our son got out too. So, it meant he was no longer incarcerated. There was another family in their car beside us and they were leaving, their car in reverse, when all of a sudden, their car battery died. The husband tried to get the car started but each attempt failed. My son, normally shy and reluctant in social settings, suddenly went up to this car, then turned towards me to indicate I should help that family to jumpstart their battery.

Oh no, I groaned. Trust him to get us into this.

Interiorly, I communicated to my son, I can’t help them. We would miss visiting hours.

          I know how it sounds but that response is uncharacteristic of me. If anything, I’m impulsively compassionate, often being where I shouldn’t be. And yet, this time, it was clear that I was not called to this need, that it was more important to me that we not miss the prison visit time. As if to confirm the correctness of my decision, yet another car leaving after a visit came into view, indicating that those occupants would offer the help needed now. And so, we hurried inside the prison.

          This time, in the first cell previously occupied by my son, was a new, unknown occupant. It was told to me that he had been anxiously waiting for me. This desperation was conveyed by the fact that he had used a thick, long  wire to snag the prison drop-down door and forcibly keep it open. He wasn’t trying to squeeze out from under it and escape, though.

          Instead, as I moved to go past this cell, this unseen occupant reached out from beneath the metal doors and caught my feet – in an abjectly pitiful gesture – of begging. In an instant, I understood that he was begging for prayers. That he had no visitor, no mother or father or relative keeping vigil on the bench before his prison cell, thus no one who’d pray for him – unless I did.

          Then, I woke up, a grey morning misted in rain, peering in.

          Immediately, my thoughts went back to the dream. It didn’t leave behind any residual emotion which I could use as an indicator of how to move forwards. Must have been last night’s movie, I shrugged, and dismissed the dream.

          But it wouldn’t go away. Like a gentle wraith, it stood close, quietly and firmly.

          I went to my morning prayers. At my home altar, I looked up at the Crucifix. At that moment, I recalled that 3rd day and the unseen boy begging for prayers. Movie-induced dream or not, at the very least, I was dutybound to pray for this soul. And so, I offered him up to the Heart of Jesus.

          And continued to offer him up several times more through the morning grocery shopping as I puzzled the dream out. At one point, waiting for my husband to return to our car from a quick errand, I opened my copy of In Sinu Jesu and began to read. The words gently floated by, evading my spirit’s open window. All except this,

I have saved you, through a particular intervention of My Most Holy Mother, from the fate the Evil one was preparing for you   ~  In Sinu Jesu, pg. 53

          But since my heart did not discernibly react to this, I shrugged off the words.

          For someone who shares everything with her husband, this time I had no urge to tell my husband about the dream. And I definitely wasn’t going to tell my son who was facing important exams and already so stressed out over them, that I had dreamt of him in a prison cell.

          But in the afternoon, a strange nudge pushed me towards my son and I found myself telling him what I had been shown. Far from being upset, he listened alertly and intently. I confessed that I wasn’t at all sure what he was to do.

          Then, recalling that wealthy woman and her ungrateful son, an answer from heaven came. I gently suggested to my son that perhaps he needed to work on his gratitude and thankfulness. Facing such an important exam, it was easy to lose yourself in them and shut out the rest of the world. It was easy to be so focused on yourself and on your academic struggles and to think little of the burdens others carried.

          And it was possible that he hadn’t given God the thanksgiving he needed to offer for the depth of support we and his siblings were giving to help him prepare for his exams.

          The minute I got that out, it was like a key which unlocked the next door of discernment. I suddenly knew who that unnamed, unseen occupant of the cell was: it was an acquaintance of my son, a boy who had made me very angry over the weekend by lying and trying to cheat me. Honestly, I had always disliked the boy. He was sly, honesty and sincerity not part of him. Since the weekend, I had been praying for guidance on how to deal with the situation involving him – whether to tell the boy what he had done was plain wrong or shut my mouth about it. I was veering towards letting it go because seeing how angry I still was about the incident with him, I’d likely say way more than I should. Like my son, this kid too was facing exams and I didn’t want to upset him in any way. Besides, after the exams, they’d go different ways, that would be that. He’d be someone else’s problem.

          Still, my conscience didn’t quite rest.

          The very next moment, my prayer was answered. In a 180º turn from what I intended to do, I saw another way to deal with that situation – and it was the best! Gentle yet calling sin exactly what it was – a sin – and then, giving the boy hope by showing him the way forward.

          It was then that I recalled the morning’s In Sinu Jesu reading. And I understood it. I had narrowly avoided falling into satan’s traps of indifference and of biting anger. Who knows what both actions would have led to –  for the boy, for myself?

          From the moment I spoke of my dream to my child, I understood all the other aspects of the dream as well. Never before has discernment of a dream come as swiftly and as clearly.

          The dead car batteries of the dream referred to dying faith. This is different to faltering faith or faith struggles. For some reason, while God has called me many times to be there for others who are struggling, He somehow holds me back when it involves faith that is dying. Even when He has shown me those whose faith is dying, it is never about me undertaking intense intercessory rescue efforts; all He has asked is that I call others to minister to this need.

          And that I resist feeling guilty about walking away. Because it is never about indiscriminate compassion, spreading ourselves thin running to jumpstart every dead or dying battery. It is never about occupying every visitor bench outside every prison cell. Working in God’s vineyard is always about obedience to Him – not to the dictates of others, not to the impulses of the heart.

          As I write this, the date of the dream, October 28, tugs at me. It takes some time before I realise it is the Feast of St. Jude – the very saint who told me exactly 3 years ago, to Pray for Others. In that dream, he had shown me that all those I had been praying for at that time, family mostly, had been prayed safely into the Church. It didn’t mean the job was done; just that they had been passed into the next pair of hands. And that it was time for me to move on, to pray for others.

          Today, on his feast day, he came once more bearing this call. St Jude had slipped into my morning, to bring me a boy from prison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

About to Unfold

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I will not abandon or forsake you. I am faithful. I have chosen you and you are Mine. My blessing is upon you and the designs of My heart are about to unfold for you. You have only to trust Me. Believe that I will keep you as the apple of My eye. You are safe under My Mother’s mantle. I will hold you close to My wounded Heart. Trust that I will bring about all that I have promised you.   ~  In Sinu Jesus, page 42

 

          A week ago, in the happy silence of a still church, I felt Jesus speak those words to me. It was not my imagination, nor was it desperate hope. Just a quiet confidence that my Lord was addressing me.

          Work has been tremendous, the ante upped as it usually is towards the ending of a year. The only difference is that this year, we are being led by cruelty. Masked by the outward appearance of dedication and concern, cruelty is running the show at work. Stooped backs are being further bent by force of work. Weary minds in a chokehold, forced to remain in pursuit of someone else’s goals.

          And yet, a secret flame burns somewhere within the folds of my spirit. Most days, I am so tired that I think I cannot walk another step. But from its hiding place, a mysterious energy flows into the dry gullies of my being. Somehow, I can go on – and go on well!

          And I am quietly happy, mirth in easy bubbling at the slightest tickle.

          On this grey morning, as robins sweet~note from rain~pearled boughs, my mind returns to the recent days. Days of rainbow after unexpected rainbow, willing me to recall God’s Word to my heart,

The designs of My heart are about to unfold for you.

Trust that I will bring about all that I have promised you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approaching

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MAKER of all, eternal King,

who day and night about dost bring:

who weary mortals to relieve,

dost in their times the seasons give:

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day,

and calls the sun’s awakening ray,

the wandering pilgrim’ guiding light,

that marks the watches night by night.

Roused at the note, the morning star

heaven’s dusky veil uplifts afar:

night’s vagrant bands no longer roam,

but from their dark ways hie them home.

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er,

the foaming billows rage no more:

Lo! e’en the very Church’s Rock

melts at the crowing of the cock.

O let us then like men arise;

the cock rebukes our slumbering eyes,

bestirs who still in sleep would lie,

and shames who would their Lord deny.

New hope his clarion note awakes,

sickness the feeble frame forsakes,

the robber sheathes his lawless sword,

faith to fallen is restored.

Look in us, Jesu, when we fall,

and with Thy look our souls recall:

if Thou but look, our sins are gone,

and with due tears our pardon won.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,

our soul’s dull slumber drive away:

Thy Name be first on every tongue,

to Thee our earliest praises sung.

All laud to God the Father be;

all praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;

all glory, as is ever meet,

to God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

 

          Exactly 2 months ago, I came across this beautiful hymn written by St. Ambrose. Its rousing verses lit a sudden rush of hope inside me, especially the lines

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er

New hope his clarion note awakes

          In the weeks that followed, many a time I returned to those verses. Each time, they silvered life into weary gullies.

          As October began to bloom, St. Francis of Assisi came twice through the sign of the Blue King to tell me to reduce my busyness, to quieten myself.  But those early days were wound tight around endless work and responsibilities. I went gasping from one assignment to the next, with little rest and sleep.

          Still, St. Francis’ sign was before me and in brief moments, I tried hard to slow down, even if for a few minutes. It was then that I began to sense something.

A strange, secret prickling of joy. A tiny silver trickle within me, yet hidden from me.

          It came and went, this sudden shard of joy. It was playful, teasing. It never came at my bidding. It never showed itself whenever I watched for it. Like some shy, mythical wood~nymph, it always came from behind, lancing my heart when I least expected it.

          But always and only in moments of quiet and recollection.

          What joy is this? I pondered in curious puzzlement. The more I turned it over, it didn’t seem like the random pulses I feel at times. It’s somewhat human, I suddenly realised.

This joy is like Someone approaching.

          This morning, a dipping into my prayer nook brought forth the St Ambrose hymn once more. Happily, I went to it, eager to rest in its hope once again.

          Instead, new lines sliced my heart.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,
our soul’s dull slumber drive away:
Thy Name be first on every tongue,
to Thee our earliest praises sung.

          I return to the thoughts of recent hours. This unknown joy. This approaching of something, someone, I know not what nor who.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,
our soul’s dull slumber drive away:
Thy Name be first on every tongue,
to Thee our earliest praises sung.

          Are the verses pointing to the Illumination of Conscience? And the mysterious joy – the herald of the Light to come?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dawn Comes Early

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          Looking out of my window very early today, I was taken aback to see the hidden sun already at work, quietly rose~ing the velvet skies. Never in my life have I known the dawn to come so early, defying even the science of forecast.

          And yet it had, this Rosary Sunday, eve of the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

          Pink and gold spilling across the skies, I hurried outside to rest my soul among the smiling blooms in the garden, the zinnias growing impossible tall and luxuriantly, wet from the blessings of dew the night before, the roses sweetly unpearling their petals to greet the new day.

          Pondering the surprise of the early sunrise, I thought of God’s promise to me during Lent, 6 months ago,

God will help it at the break of dawn.   ~   Psalm 46: 6

          Is this it? Is this never before early hour of dawn the silent herald of help coming from heaven?

Then the LORD answered me and said:
 Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets,
 so that one can read it readily.
 For the vision still has its time,
 presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint;
 if it delays, wait for it,
 it will surely come, it will not be late.   ~  Habakkuk 2: 2 – 3

 

 

 

 

 

Proclaim on Distant Isles

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Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.   ~  Jeremiah 31: 10, 13

 

          It has been three very intense workdays, like a whole week crammed into them. Long hours, the feeling that you can’t do one thing more.

          And yet, amazing strength. Laughter and cheer. Calmness.

          As calm as a saint.

          From yesterday, her feast day of October 1st, my thoughts skip over ever so often to St Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus, because the St Thérèse roses, as I have named them, by my window, have put out gentle, pink blooms. Ever since the sign of some years back, when I see roses come forth from the plant, I think of her and I know that she’s thinking of me too. And this calmness since yesterday is not mine, I can assure you.

          Today, on the Feast of the Guardian Angels, the other rose plants clamour to rise their blooms too. Suddenly, the garden is blooming and laughing like never before.

From heaven I will send down a shower of roses   ~  St Thérèse of Lisieux

          Oh joy, she certainly has kept her word!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return to the Old

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Thus says the LORD:

Stand by the earliest roads,

ask the pathways of old,

“Which is the way to good?” and walk it;

thus you will find rest for yourselves. ~   Jeremiah 6:16

 

          A set of old books which I read every year without fail would be the Anne of Green Gables series written by Lucy Maud Montgomery in the early 1900s. When times are rough, as they have been these past 12 years, each book is sometimes read twice each year – for they impart to me a deep comfort, their pages a place for my soul to rest.

          More importantly, the Anne books return me to a time in the old when life was lived as it should be.

          I always take leave of my reading moments somewhat wistfully, for returning to an unpleasant reality is never welcome return. Yet, I return in renewed strength and vigour to the calls of home and hearth. After each sojourn to the kingdom of Anne, I am a better mother and wife, my rough edges smoothened down.

So, which is the way to good? I ask

The old Anne~roads, I answer myself

Where people rose early to greet the bloom of a new day, consecrating their hearts to the God they knew and feared, yet loved. Their hours spent in hard, honest labour, busy yet not imprisoned, free to smile at heaven even in the midst of occupation. Never too caught up in doings to rest spirits in the chant of winds and merry blooms, never so overcome by hardship or hurt so as to forsake neighbour.  Their hours set to chimes of cheer, hope and faith, scented by graces received in humility and joy, each day is lived and bequeathed to God and to God alone.

Stand by the earliest roads,

ask the pathways of old,

“Which is the way to good?” and walk it;

thus you will find rest for yourselves

          God is telling me to take my family in hand and return to the days of old. To return even if echoes of derision follow us – for some may never see the wisdom of our choice. The call to return is placed in every heart, awaiting only the obedient response,

Yes, Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blessing in Disguise

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          We have loved zinnias for a long time. They stand for a time of joy. For the time before sorrow visited us.

          We used to have a whole bed of them, every colour, different varieties. They were our special flowers. We had them at a time when orchids were the rage for many of our neighbours. Every morning, going to my window for a brief respite from milk feeds, porridge and diapers, my zinnias had smiled for me in the glory of sunny mornings.

          Then, came a time when our hearts no longer sought them in the joy we once knew. We did try to grow them again and for a time, they flowered. Yet, something was just not the same anymore.

Our zinnias no longer smiled.

          We made an attempt at comfort by trying to grow them elsewhere, but the plants gently refused us. The meaning of this was lost on me in those grey years, but today, I understood:

Our zinnias would not live in the soil of sorrow.

They were, for us, joy, and so, only joy and hope could nourish them to bloom in beauty once more.

          Yesterday, we reeled from a yet another blow. In the church courtyard, I sat in my car, gripping the phone in anguish as my husband told me of a verdict our whole country had been waiting for. Adding to the mountain of injustices and religious bigotry, was yet another racially charged judgement.

          Cut up, I went into church and went before my silent Jesus. I placed before Him our pain and the pain of our country. I placed into His heart our embattled Attorney General. In quick strokes, I laid bare our collective grief, Will things ever change for this land?

          My morning quiet time earlier had been rushed and a trifle harried. Hence, not having had the time to do my Daily Readings then, I went to them now, in the silent church, its stillness untroubled.

…the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:
Tell this to the governor of Judah,
Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,
and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak,
and to the remnant of the people:

Who is left among you
that saw this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes?
But now take courage, Zerubbabel, says the LORD,
and take courage, Joshua, high priest, son of Jehozadak,
And take courage, all you people of the land,
says the LORD, and work!
For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts.
This is the pact that I made with you
when you came out of Egypt,
And my spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!
For thus says the LORD of hosts:
One moment yet, a little while,
and I will shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land.
I will shake all the nations,
and the treasures of all the nations will come in,
And I will fill this house with glory,
says the LORD of hosts.
Mine is the silver and mine the gold,
says the LORD of hosts.
Greater will be the future glory of this house
than the former, says the LORD of hosts;
And in this place I will give you peace,
says the LORD of hosts!   ~  Haggai 2: 1 – 9

          I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

But now take courage, Zerubbabel,
and take courage, Joshua,
And take courage, all you people of the land,
For I am with you,
My spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!

          Take courage! Take courage! Take courage!

Do me justice, O God, and fight my fight
against a faithless people;
from the deceitful and impious man rescue me.   ~  Responsorial psalm – Psalm 43:1

          Do me justice, and fight my fight, O Lord, I murmured over and over, faith tightening its bands around my heart. Looking up at my Silent Jesus, remembering His promise to me last week,

I shall speak to you, I shall speak to your heart, so that you may hear My voice for the joy of your heart

I requested once more in quiet expectation, Speak to me Jesus.

          Immediately, I felt these words written in my ears,

A blessing in disguise.

          I sat there, staring at the words within. A blessing in disguise. It didn’t seem possible. All that was certain was further entrenchment of injustice and evil triumph. And yet, Jesus had whispered a message of contrarian hope,

A blessing in disguise

          I look out now at the bed by the fence, our first zinnias of the year. No longer downcast, unsure of staying. But a profusion of colours in wild and giddy bloom, resolute yet clearly happy in the dance of the late morning’s sun warmed blue~breeze kisses.

A blessing in disguise

          The last vestiges of doubt fled. I believed with all my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scent of Humility

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          The humble man approaches wild animals, and the moment they catch sight of him their ferocity is tamed. They come up and cling to him as their Master, wagging their tails and licking his hands and feet. They scent as coming from him the same fragrance that came from Adam before the transgression, the time when they were gathered together before him and he gave them names in Paradise.

          This scent was taken away from us, but Christ has renewed it and given it back to us at His coming.   ~  St. Isaac the Syrian

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say Yes

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          I went to my Friday Eucharistic Adoration like someone who had had a bad fight with her best friend. It’s not that the week had been bad – it was alright, even with the travelling and workload.

          But then, Wednesday came along, and with it a meeting, where it felt like few cared about the responsibilities entrusted to them; compassion and empathy had no home there during those hours. There were laughs around the room, with plans even, to add on work to already overburdened staff, little thought spared for the spirits that they were going to break.

          I somehow knew that with God’s help, I would weather this, but I worried for the young ones, trees already bent from the force from winds. They had no voice, the defenseless never do and my shouts were going unheard in the soulless canyon.

          Hence, I came to Thursday, not angry, but with a weariness that had reached in and taken all for itself. I had prayed big prayers but I felt that God’s graces were too little, too slow. Apologizing many times for rushing and directing God, I tried to contain myself. But with each heaping that came, it was harder to hold my heart above the water.

          So, I let God know what I thought of His ways – for me. And then I prayed,

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

          On Friday, I travelled to church with a grudge against God. Sitting right in front inside the still and silent church, I warily eyed Jesus on the Crucifix.

          I’m sorry, Lord, I said, looking everywhere except at the Crucifix.

          Then, as if He didn’t already know, I felt the need to clarify my apology. I’m sorry if I hurt You – but I’m not sorry I did it.

          Emboldened suddenly, I raised my eyes to the Crucifix and plunged. Why can’t You speak to me as You did Your friends back in the Nazareth days? Directly and clearly and promptly? I know I have no right to ask You this, I know I have no right to place myself on the same level as St. Faustina, but still I ask that You speak to me like a friend, like a Father to his daughter, only speak to me.

          Suddenly thinking of the many unseen wolves standing at the ready to impersonate the Lord, I added on, And give me the grace to know the difference between the voices of heaven and that of earth.

          In the next hour, against all hope, I heard a voice move.

I shall speak to you, I shall speak to your heart, so that you may hear My voice for the joy of your heart.

In answer to the prayer for my child facing the exam of his life, working so hard, yet losing confidence day by day,

The loss of confidence in himself 

Hidden graces

          And finally, for the strange observation this past week, that the head of the Crucified Jesus on my home wall crucifix has been increasingly drooping,

…of My head bowed to say “yes” to the Father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sealed in La Salette

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          Why must we suffer? Because here below pure Love cannot exist without suffering.   ~  St. Bernadette Soubirous, seer of Lourdes

 

          On this Feast of Our Lady of La Salette, I sealed my heart in the Tabernacle of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of La Salette, as an act of Adoration even when I am occupied otherwise. This night, I am deeply tired and worn from looking out for hope. The affairs in my country, my workplace, Brexit, and even in my own family, took enough out of me today.

          If I searched for faith in my heart tonight, I found none. Nonetheless, I prayed listlessly the prayer of the past week,

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

          As I sealed my heart in the holy tabernacle of the shrine of La Salette, 2 white lights pulsed brightly before me, one after the other.

          I don’t know what it means, except that someone must have heard me.