Unheeded

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“It’s important that we listen for the voice of God.”

          Those were the words of the pilot of the plane that safely took off from Palu Airport on the island of Sulawesi, Indonesia, minutes before the horrific Sept 28 earthquake and tsunami.

          Pilot Mafela had been feeling uneasy all of that Friday before he landed the plane on that island. He was so troubled that he recited the 23rd psalm and began to loudly sing songs of praise as he taxied the plane to a landing.

          Then, his anxiety unabated, he requested permission to take off 3 minutes ahead of time. He cut short the turnaround time to 20 minutes and didn’t even leave the cockpit during that time. As they were taking off, the pilots saw the runway bend and wave like a curtain blowing in the wind.

          They were 3 minutes ahead of schedule and those 3 minutes saved them.

          But Captain Mafela is more specific. He credits the prompting of the Holy Spirit for this miracle escape.

“It’s important that we listen for the voice of God.”

          That twin tragedy of earthquake and tsunami occurred on the 28th of September. On the 28th of October began a storm devastation like no other in parts of Italy. Flash floods took lives, large swathes of forest land were flattened and hundreds of cars at a port awaiting export caught fire and were destroyed. Long time residents say they have never experienced such a thing in their decades of living in those places. Listening to survivor accounts, from Indonesia to Italy, some adjectives echo.

Apocalyptic

Unexpected

          But I believe that in both countries, there would have been those, like Captain Mafela, who heard a whisper in their spirits. Who heeded that whisper. And escaped. Not all would have heard – some because that whisper never came to them, others because noises dulled its pleading.

          But those that did hear and who obeyed were either saved themselves or the whisper in their spirits was that they warn others whose lives were ultimately saved. People lived because someone had listened and obeyed.

          This year, especially from August, I’ve had one upheaval after another. This is no way compares to the natural disasters experienced the world over. But reading the signs meant for me in Indonesia and in Italy specifically, I suddenly see that the losses I have suffered from August were in fact a removal of noise.

          Chances of career advancement were diminished. I lost a turbulent friendship of 20 years. I am losing my place of belonging at my workplace.

          With each loss, I sink deeper into the earth. It feels like I am leaving the light and being forced into shadows and darkness. But suddenly today, it’s beginning to dawn on me that I am interpreting it all wrong.

          I am being removed from the noise.

          Because noise doesn’t just come from stress, distractions and unnecessary busyness. It is also in initiatives to reach out to those who do not want our help or who demand of us in order to abuse. Noise in found in destructive friendships. In bullies who take over our ears and diminish peace in us. Noise also comes from seemingly good aspirations such as to earn money for the family, to seek a place or position where we can contribute better – but which are not willed by God for us.

          Noise is created when I hold on to what is not willed by God.

          And when God cuts me off from a person or a place or a hope, if I rebel in sorrow over that loss, I create a deafening pandemonium within my spirit.

          It builds up and drowns out what I need to hear.

          And the Spirit’s soft whisper goes unheeded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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An Early Quiet

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          Early yesterday morn, before the long trek to Sunday Mass, I wrote to a friend that I would be praying for November direction at Mass that day. November is traditionally the Catholic month for the Holy Souls and there are prayers and novenas towards that intention. But as the Fatima Rosary month of October for me turned out to be about Angels, I thought I’d just ask God to point me in the direction He has willed.

          Of course, being who I am, the minute I arrived at church, I promptly forgot about that intention. I was so focused on some friends who had asked for prayers and on taking the Holy Souls along for Mass, that November Direction never crossed my mind.

          Until about midway through Father’s sermon. I’ve one or two struggles with my parish priest, one great one being his sermons. Father’s the reflective sort but much like a bunny in bursts of hurry. He scurries everywhere in his sermon and I mean everywhere. You’d get mentally breathless trying to keep up. Since I have  the unfortunate  penchant of dreaming off, I’m always playing catch up and almost always, the minute I reach one point he is at, before I can even unpack it, Father would have hopped off in a totally different direction.

          At one point, trying to quell the rising tide of irritation and trying to be more charitable towards Father, Someone took my eyes and turned me towards the right side of the altar. It is the practice in my church where the various residential area groups named after saints take turns to animate the Mass. The animating group for the week will have a banner of its patron saint up to the right of the altar.

          And that day, it was St. Francis of Assisi. My saint of the Blue King call. The very one whose presence for me means, Quieten Down, Listen Up.

          He had come near that recent visit to our families’ resting place. And here he was again before me, right in the middle of Father’s sermon.

          I wondered if it meant St. Francis was asking me to quit wriggling and to pay attention to my priest. Chastened, I quickly ran back to Father’s sermon and tacked myself there till the end of it, from time to time, casting wary glances at St. Francis ‘in the corner’. But by the end of it, I wasn’t any clearer on what it was that I needed to hear.

          Undeterred, I remained on full alert now. I wondered if St. Francis wanted me to read something and meditate on it for November. That appealed to me and by the end of Mass, I was certain there was something for me. I thought I’d ask Fr. He was sure to have a book on St. Francis.

          We went to Fr as a family as Fr stood at the church doors after Mass, chatting with parishioners and I asked Fr if he had any books on St. Francis.

          And right in front of the kids whose ears were all pricked up, Fr replied that he was searching for the book on St. Francis’ love affair with St. Clare.

          I wanted to stuff wool into my kids’ ears and hustle them out of the church. I don’t sugarcoat the church to the kids. But after a morning sermon that included ‘sex’, ‘sexuality’, ‘hiding sexuality behind doors’ and ‘let kids eat what they want’  but leaving all those ends hanging, not tying them up, I wasn’t in the mood to clean up after Fr.

          We hurriedly moved on before Fr revealed any more interesting nuggets. Obviously, no matter what I felt or how strongly, I admitted to myself that Fr wasn’t likely to be part of November Direction.

          My husband and I had planned to get a head start on Christmas shopping as we did last year so that it didn’t interfere with the quietening Advent calls us to. But my husband squeezed in an unscheduled errand. As a result, we were late getting to the mall and plans didn’t work out. If we lived within minutes of any mall, it wouldn’t have been frustrating. But our home was a good two hours from the city through pretty treacherous stretches of roads. Any shopping, anything to be done in the city had to be planned carefully and of course, timing was imperative. Any delay and we’d be stuck in town till very late and then having to make the return journey along badly lit roads. So, I was deeply annoyed with my husband. When I get that way, I have to let the molten lava out or it’ll explode at some point during the week.

          But this time, searching for the inner plug to release my anger, I couldn’t find it.

          Instead, within me, I sensed a firm, unyielding quietness. As if someone was already there in charge and anger had no place on his watch.

          After a few more pokes that yielded nothing, I decided to focus on my family instead. So, we went to a less crowded mall. In a pleasant turn of events, we got good stuff there at good prices. It took hours to get things for everyone and my feet and back were killing me but they were hours of giggles and laughter and patience.

          That was a little miracle. Having kids with very firm ideas on what they want and don’t want, we’re always short of patience on shopping trips. But that wasn’t the case this time.

          The quiet within didn’t allow any of us to venture into steaming geysers.

          Awakening today to a rain-soaked morning of shy sunlight peeking through the dew~blessed greens, some part of my spirit must have asked God about November.

          In answer, my memory was gently turned to the note I sent my friend early yesterday. We had been talking about prayers we were now being called to. He was saying the Novena of Surrender. I told him I didn’t feel called to it. My spirit wasn’t done yet with Pull It Out By The Roots.

          And then I wrote that what I did sense was a quietening. A quiet that was slowly silvering into the folds and creases of my heart in busy November. 

          A quiet coming early this year. For some reason.

 

 

 

They Are In Peace

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The souls of the just ..
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.   ~ Wisdom 3: 1 – 3

 

          We made the trip back to our families’ resting place amidst a strangely profound sadness which I kept hidden in the folds of my heart. I had spent the previous night reading about a terrible, terrible, tragic incident where a young married couple had been killed. They had fallen off Taft Point in Yosemite, plunging 800 feet to their deaths.

          I was affected by something beyond the sorrow and tragedy of it, I’m not sure what. Maybe it was because they were so young and had their whole lives ahead of them. Maybe it was because they seemed so very, very happy and carefree in their many pictures.

          Maybe because the wife had previously posted on social media about struggling with depression.

          She had wondered if she was a source of life or a burden to her loved ones. It was a question I too had asked myself countless times many years ago.

          Some shadow stayed over me as we travelled the wildtree-fringed roads, as the grey~white clouds above chugged towards secret destinations.

          At the secluded resting grounds, I was surprised to see it empty of others. No one besides us had come to visit that day. Only one family who had now moved to the city miles away had come earlier and placed flowers on their family graves. As we wiped and cleaned our loved ones’ places and my husband tenderly cut and arranged flowers in the vases, the hush of the surrounding forest embraced us while the greenwinds gently weaved their way between the slumbering. Even the birds muted their robust song as I sorrowed over lives lost. Looking up at white graced skies of a hot gold~blue morning, the anguish over that young couple pierced deeper, making me cry out to heaven,

          I bind them to the Angel’s heart. May every prayer I pray to the Angel be a prayer for their souls.

          We walked around saying our prayers and goodbyes, laying them on the breast of those in silent repose. But my sadness clung on; something about that couple held on to my heart, unwilling to let go.

          Please tell God to forgive them, I told the Angel. Forgive them for any wrongs they had no time to make amends for.

          It was time to leave. Something moved in me. I pressed one last prayer into the Angel’s gentleness.

Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they do.

          As I made my way to the old gates wreathed in wild vines, suddenly a kingfisher called out. I’ve never, not once, in the many long years we’ve made sojourn after sojourn here, ever heard the call of a kingfisher. This is a place where birds are free to drench the still air with their melodies, and they have always sung with gay abandon. Pigeons, turtledoves, robins, and sometimes, an eagle.

          But never the Blue King, the emissary of St. Francis of Assisi.

          Listen, I thought. He’s telling me to Quieten Down, Listen Up.

          As we drove away, the miles coming between us and the spirits who now play and sleep in a world that will one day be ours, I felt the sadness give. Tendril by slow tendril. How shallow my grief for that couple, I mused, unhappy with myself. How easily I forget the Poor Souls’ pain.

          There was no denying it. My earlier sadness was definitely  melting away. I blamed it on my fickle loyalty.

          Today, however, maybe I have the reason for it.

They are in peace.

          And Someone wanted me to know it.

 

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By the Roots

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Certain little voluntary attachments of self-love must be cut through, and then we must dig round them, and then remove the earth, till we get down deep enough to find the place where they are rooted and interlaced together.   ~   St. Philip Neri

 

          Two nights ago, waiting for sleep to claim me, I began to recite the Blood and Water prayer. I pictured my place of work and began to pray over it.

          As I did, the someone’s face came to me.  Someone who annoys me occasionally in the way she dispenses her duty – which affects all of us. A surge of anger shot through me as I recalled some unfairness she had meted out to some of us through tardiness in her work. As I was dwelling on it and seething a bit, a different mist began to rise off the centre.

         In that mist, I saw only my sin – in the way I become angry with people. In a split second, I went from anger against my colleague to riveted attention on my wrong.

          All the while, in the background, I was dimly aware of

Blood and Water

Heart of Jesus

Have Mercy on me.

          In that unexpected shifting, I didn’t feel the thrust of remorse, nor of guilt. But what I did feel was a firm, quiet intent to make amends for that wrong. Nothing else mattered.

          And so I did.

          I pictured my anger. And a quiet little prayer found my heart,

Lord, pull it out,

Pull it out by the roots.

          In the remaining days of this aging October of winds and rising swells of seas, on this Feast day of St. Jude who once told me to seal within his heart those I had previously wept over and prayed for and to now Pray for others, I am called to turn inwards and clean.

          Rid my inner abode of old roots.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approaching the Throne

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For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.   ~   Hebrews 4: 14 – 16

 

          What would I do without the faithful hearts of friends? Those hurt and bleeding from their own wounds, bent from the weight of their own crosses, yet who immediately and unhesitatingly reach out to help brethren pilgrims who have fallen and cannot get up. Who leave their own wounds to tend to mine. Who carry my cross when I can’t.

          Who give from their own poverty.

          Where would I be without these souls who in love and tenderness mirror our High Priest, Jesus?

          Where would I be without this love born of pain and suffering?

          For it is this love that shines the light I need to see the Throne of Grace. When I would have shied away in doubt and anguish, it is this love that in loving insistence takes my hand and firmly sets me before Grace and Mercy supreme.

          It is time to approach the Throne for them, my brethren bound to me through the shared journeys of grey and gold, sorrow and joy.

          Jesus, I place these souls in Your Divine Heart. Grant each one the graces most needed for what lies before them, in the hours, days and years to come.

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

 

 

 

 

Shine Through Me

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Dear Jesus, help me to spread Your Fragrance everywhere I go. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Yours. Shine through me and be so in me, that every soul I come in contact with may feel Your Presence in my soul: let them look up and see no longer me – but only Jesus.   ~   St. John Neumann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood and Water

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          When the angel placed my eyes upon the Divine Mercy prayer, Jesus, I trust in You, it was the hardest prayer for me to pray, on that day and especially, in the days that followed. I had gone instead, to every spiritual pool I knew, to every saint’s door, begging for discernment,  for relief, for strength, as Jesus, I trust in You stood by resolutely. I searched in so many places, yet, nothing reached out and caught my heart.

          As I dithered, waiting for another nudge, a commenter told me to read Psalm 102 – the Psalm of the Afflicted – and to say Jesus, I trust in You, at the end of each verse. So, I read it and made the offering each time. While some of the lines encapsulated what I was facing now, at the end of the reading, what remained was, again,

Jesus, I trust in You.

          Heaven was being very firm with me; I had to say that prayer – regardless of how I said it or how I felt.

          And so, I began. I said the prayer every time the breath of despair swept close to my heart. Every time desolation threatened to take hope away.

          There was no answering strength that I discerned, no bloom of light.

          But late, late in the depths of night, I suddenly felt I had spent too much time among the stones of lament. I had left Jesus out in the cold, alone with the sorrows of the world. Wanting to make amends, I went to console Him.

          Taking up my Rosary, intending to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Someone slipped into my heart a prayer I had forgotten – The Divine Prayer of Conversion,

Blood and Water that gushed out from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.

           As I stared at the prayer, something gently folded around my Rosary beads, and I slipped into

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

          Over and over, like with the Hail Marys, my spirit nestled into a quiet, resolute rhythm,

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

In place of the Mysteries, I placed before my heart the images of places, people and practices that hurt and wound my family and I. Around each image, on my rose~beads, I wove Blood and Water, Heart of Jesus, I trust in You.

          At dawn the next day, I saw the word, Emissaries. Recently, I learned that for me it indicated the close presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Mother of those in battles. Barely had my thoughts gone there, when from the dark green breast of trees awakening to the touch of shy sunrise, I heard a sudden burst of baby~bird melodies. I’m accustomed to hearing the little tweets of bird~lings, but today, it seemed like many little bird babies lifted their voices to joyously sing, spilling diamonds into the night sweetened air awaiting the embrace of the sun.

          A melody never before fallen on my ears.

          I went to work later. The hurts and the wound-ers, in their usual positions,  as solid as ever. The night’s prayers and sleep hadn’t lit strength in my soreness; nothing seemed different.

          But I saw immediately that the blade of anger sheathed within my heart was blunted.

          I think I understand. My anger takes me into a battle that serves no purpose. It takes me away from where I am most needed – the Guadalupe Battle.

          The battle for the conversion of souls.

          Through that unexpected avian hymn of unearthly sweetness, Mother of Guadalupe had sent Her emissaries again, to tell me that The Rosary of Blood and Water was Her answer to my anguished seeking.

          It is Her wish that I wield it for Her in the battle for souls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Light in the Mists

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          I was very determined that we get to Mass last weekend on the 13th as it was the anniversary of the Fatima apparitions and the Miracle of the Sun. I had a couple of things riding on my heart – the Holy Souls, a by-election that worried us, and thanksgiving – and I wanted to get to church to lay my prayer cart down before God.

          I don’t know what happened once we entered our pew. I prayed but it felt like I hadn’t. I forgot the prayer cart and I forgot God. I usually spend some time gazing at the Divine Mercy image to the left of the altar, but that day, I clean forgot. I could barely still myself. The air-conditioning in the church was turned up and the kids jostled to sit as close to us as possible. Then, they nudged and poked and squirmed in their seats  – even the ones old enough to know better. Trying to stifle my own giggles, I played referee out of the side of my mouth  until Mass began.

          When Mass began, I was disappointed that I hadn’t stilled and emptied myself as I usually do. It had been a hard work week and harder ones lay ahead. I needed to empty myself of me and be filled with all of God for the challenges and battles that awaited me. Instead, I allowed myself to get distracted. I felt I had squandered the precious minutes to immerse myself in God’s stillness. I ‘went into Mass’ with my heart left outside the door. I couldn’t ‘feel’ the Readings nor the prayers.

          When Father’s homily veered towards our church finances, I smothered an impatient sigh and kept my attention riveted on him and his words.

          But an Unseen hand took my chin and turned my face towards the Divine Mercy image off to the side of the church.

          It happened twice.

          And twice, I saw not the image of Jesus. My eyes only saw the words,

Jesus, I trust in You.

          Today, it’s been just 2 work days since Jesus told me to trust Him but they have been 72-hour days in terms of skirmishes, struggles with myself and the sheer amount of work. Just 2 days but the number of times I’ve asked, God, where are You? has surely exceeded the number of hours in those days.

          Each time, like a light trying to shine out of a deepening fog, Someone pushed these words before my heart,

Jesus, I trust in You.

          I’ve gone to quite a few of my usual spiritual pools but none have yielded an answering strength. I don’t exactly feel the strength from Jesus, I trust in You, but somehow, something in my spirit tells me I have to fix my heart upon that.

          Because with each day, despite my cheer and energy, despite the work that gets done, there’s no ignoring the fact that my workplace situation is worsening. I’m not sure how long I can hold on. I have no place else to go without uprooting the whole family. It’s hard to hold on to hope when you’re chained to the gates of Hell.

          But that wan Light, Jesus, I trust in You, is still being shone through the shifting twilight mists, willing me on, despite every stumble and fall.

 

 

 

 

 

My Angel Heard Me

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          My angel was beside me today and he heard me for sure.

          There’s this beautiful site I discovered a few years ago after prayer to find an online Adoration chapel. Since I live far away from a church and certainly no chapel close by for Adoration, my best recourse was an online adoration site. I visited a few but nothing caught my heart till I found the Divine Mercy Chapel in Poland that offers a 24-hour transmission. This famed chapel houses the original, miraculous painting of the Divine Mercy. From thousands of miles away, before it I’ve knelt countless times, in seeking and in rest, in calm and in tears, in times of anger and in times of fear.

          Each time, my prayers have been answered.

          A visit here became part of my daily morning prayers. I felt the difference on the days I didn’t stop by.

          But there was something more that I sought. I wanted a chapel close to my place of work. Early in my working life, I had worked at a place tucked away from the bustling street, situated practically on church grounds because that St. Francis Xavier church was a mere one-minute trot away. I was going through heartbreak at that time, and the little church, with its green and sedate pre-War cemetery beside it, was where I went to bury my tears. I guess I first learned about Adoration there – without actually knowing anything about it. 

          Now, decades later, I sought this same stillness for my work hours. I sought a church-by-my-heart to escape the relentless, unending sprawler’s revelry that has taken over my office. I wanted the quiet hush of the presence of the True God, a place to get my breath back every time the tenets my colleagues adhere to choke the life out of me.

          Not being tech savvy by a long mile, the obvious didn’t occur to me. Until this morning. I had just read about a priest having so close a relationship with his guardian angel that he conversed with him as he would a close friend, obeying every prompt in faith. Aspiring to this same relationship, I was led to pray the Angel of God prayer,

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
to whom God’s love commits me here,
ever this day,
be at my side
to light and guard,
to rule and guide.

          After this rose the old wish for a chapel. It was then that the light fell upon me. To load and bookmark the live-streamed Divine Mercy Chapel site on my phone home screen. So every time life got too much, every time I felt myself veering towards prohibited roads, on this First Saturday of the Rosary Month, I finally have a chapel a mere touch away.

          The Angel’s answer to my prayer. His way of saying,

Indeed beside you I am, 

to light and guard,

to rule and guide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If You Have Nothing

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If You Have Nothing

If you have nothing: laurel leaf or bay,
no flower, no seed, no apple gathered late,
do not in desperation lay
the beauty of your tears upon the clay.

If you have nothing, gather back your sigh,
and with your hands held high, your heart held high,
lift up your emptiness!   ~  
Jessica Powers, OCD