Loader of the Prayer~Cart

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          My weekend began with an examination of my conscience, and a doubting of the path I was now on – to empty my prayer~will. To empty it (of petitions) – for God to fill it. Off and on, through the weekend hours, I kept going back to this – Was it the right thing to do?

          Then, my mind wandered over the changes and happenings that had ensued from the new prayer.

          There had been power. Strength. There had been joyous, unexpected  happenings.

          And yet, I continued to nibble at the certainty, slowly ragged-ing its smooth edges. What if I was wrong? In these days of fake news and lies and distortion and illusions, had I veered off the True Path? What if I was wrong to empty my prayer~will?

          On the Feast of the Divine Mercy, I went before God. You have to answer me, I insisted.

          The first reply came through Susan Skinner’s post, If You Seek Healing. Of the many things that lit up in her piece, this caught me firmly – once you have emptied all of you, you can be filled up with God.

          And I learned yet again that the emptying of my prayer~will was the Will of God Himself. It was not a hardening of my heart, as I feared. It was not a callous disregard of the entreaties of others.

          It was another step in the journey of Surrender that I first began almost ten years ago. One I veered off many, many times, and returned to as often. And now, with the emptying of my prayer~will, I was tentatively opening myself up even further, laying everything of me at His Feet, to be used as He pleased. During Lent this year, my spirit got caught in the Call of the little Consoler, the Fatima seer, Francisco Marto. As I began to try to offer up little beads of Chaplets and Rosaries, solely to console the Wounded Heart of Jesus, like the little Shepherd had done, I learned of this little by-path the  emptying of the prayer~will was leading me to.

          But my learning was in no way over. Something else of Susan Skinner’s post remained in me: humility. When the eyes of my heart turned to it, I found it in a little pouch, its strings fastened such that I could not undo them to understand what deepened meaning Humility held now for me.

          But meaning came soon enough. That night, I read the words of a niece of the soon to be canonized little shepherd-seers. Jacinta Pereiro Marto said, “God chose my uncle and aunt because this is what He wanted, so much that my grandfather used to say that the Virgin wanted to come to Fatima and she chose his children, but that we didn’t deserve anything.” Because of this attitude instilled in the family by her grandfather – father to Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto – “we always lived very simply because God chose, and He chooses who He wants. We don’t deserve anything.”

          Her humility, the humility of that entire family despite understanding the import of the apparitions in Fatima all those years ago, was like a flower bursting into bloom for me. I realized that the erasing of my will in my prayers was a deepening of humility. To understand that it was not for me to ever occupy the driver’s seat of prayers. And not even to decide for myself which prayers to load onto my cart to take to Heaven.

          For the God who chooses me to drive the cart, is the same one Who will decide whose need gets onto mine and whose goes to another prayer~cart.

          Although I still do not understand why I have been brought to this point of placing even this freedom to pray for others in His Divine Will, for now, I feel a deep security in the Marto wisdom, God chose, and He chooses who He wants.

          The same God who chose my prayer~cart, will fill it with the needs He chooses.

 

Lent 40 ~ Fear Not, He Is Risen

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I was with Him when He rode into town
And crowds gathered ’round Him like a king
Their smiling faces joined a sea of branches waving
Though they were masquerading in the end.

And my heart rose in my throat
When I heard them sing
Hosanna in the highest.

We went upstairs,
Broke the bread and drank the wine
From the only living vine that we would taste
And I watch them take Him up the mountainside
Where He was crucified though innocent
And they mocked Him
And cursed Him with their mouths
And told Him to come down if He was God.

And my heart broke in my chest
When I heard Him say
Forgive them, it is finished.

I remember in the garden
When He sweat like drops of blood
And how He begged the Father to let Him pass the cup
I can still feel the anguish
When they pierced Him in the side
And how the ground beneath us shook
Upon the very moment that He died.

Three days later we found an empty grave
And the stone was rolled away where He had been

Tears of joy streamed down my face
When the angel said,
Oh, fear not, He is risen
Oh, fear not, He is risen. ~ Sean Carter, Passion Song

 

Lent 39 ~ Memories

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          Hours upon hours of stillness. A world frozen. A world in motion. One has ended, the other in a flow that barely paused. Voices filter through the bars, laughter even. Huddled in spots, people gather for the news, casting for details they might have missed. Mouth to ear, word by word, a story gets told.

          Almost forgotten is a mother, whose heart beats in the shadows of anguish. Surrounded, yet alone, travelling the length of remembers.

          Of a Baby She held to Her Heart, a life loved, a life lived, lit by lamps of a million memories. Thoughts and words, so many, many, tucked into each crease of times gone by. Old yet fresh, anguished yet tender, in its unveiling.

          Held again, this Mother Her mutilated Son, in farewell poignant, one last time. Released now as Light to the world.

          That life may live again.

Lent 38 ~ For Love

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Love never abandons.

The Blessed Mother walked each step of Calvary.

As He wet the rugged stones with His Precious Blood,

She wet it with Her Holy Tears.

Stone by stone they traversed, Son and Mother,

As before

As always.

He wiped the blood from His eyes so that He could look again at His Mother…

Till the very end, His Mother in His Heart.

She receives His Body from the Cross

Asks for the Blessed Weight against Her once last time.

Memories

Of a Baby held against Her shoulder

Tight and comforting then,

The leadenness of Him against Her now

Knives score Her broken Heart

For She was as much a mother like us,

as she Is the Mother of God

She weeps for the Son She gave up

That He may belong to us all,

Love,

Love everlasting.

 

 

Lent 37 ~ Pressed to His Heart

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          When our Lord announced to His Blessed Mother what was going to take place, She besought Him, in the most touching terms, to let Her die with Him.  ….She did not weep much, but her grief was indescribable, and there was something almost awful in Her look of deep recollection. Our Divine Lord returned thanks, as a loving Son, for all the love She had borne Him, and pressed Her to His heart. ~ Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

Lent 36 ~ Water from the Wounds

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          Since Sunday, I have been trying to get the family to reduce the hours we spend on ourselves, and instead, carve out minutes for the Lord through an additional Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Throughout the course of each day, when school and work ends and we come home, we slip away to our nooks for a bit, and offer a decade as often as we can.

          It’s not much, I know. Not when you compare it with the greatness of what many others offer the suffering Lord in this most holy of weeks. Not when churches are being bombed and lives being snatched away. Not when even those short minutes we give Him are pock-marked with distractedness and hurry and so many other mottles.

          But small it may be, it is willed by heaven for us. And I know it because I am not capable of pulling this out of my own head. It wasn’t until some days into it, that I realized that we were, in fact, consoling the Wounded Heart of Jesus. It has given me much joy to be able to at least offer this; greater joy that the family is part of it too for the first time. All we offered were our minutes. We didn’t ask for anything in return. 

          And yet, the short days we have lived since Sunday are different. There’s a depth and gentle peace overshadowing the tired hours. Despite the hectic work-calls. Despite the little pricks of hurt and humiliations that form the fabric of every life.

          I put out my hands and receive this grace of Holy Week peace and strength with deep joy. And with sadness too because what we have received is so very much more than what we have given. Jesus had no one with Him in those terrible hours of Agony. Today, so many lifetimes later, my family and I timidly approach Gethsemane; sometimes we reach out and touch Him, often we stay among the shadows of busyness and self.   

          And yet, He holds it not against us, but sears us with His Love, far beyond the worth of our blighted offerings.

          This love which I suddenly feel with a new keenness enflames my heart with a yearning to go beyond our Gethsemane offerings, to do more for the Suffering Jesus. This too is new for me. I do not belong to the company of those who willingly suffer for Christ. Spiritual timidity renders me a shabby candidate for this esteemed group who love their Lord with all their soul to the point of death. The prayer to escape suffering must be, by far, the prayer I most often pray.

          Hence, the wanting to suffer for Him now takes me a bit by surprise. Do what? I wonder. Almost instantaneously, I see a situation unfold itself before me. It is a work situation with several very unpleasant people. People bent on making other lives a misery. People who thrive on the pain of others. And I sense Jesus wanting me to go forwards and face this lot for Him. Not to run away, to avoid them – even if it is to keep the peace. But to bravely face them if need be and to be genuinely sweet about it. To do it for Jesus.

          I wanted to run and hide instead.

          I didn’t want to see these arrogant and rude people, much less be sweet about it, because I know who they are and what they were capable of. I didn’t want to be punched in my face, so it didn’t make sense to go looking for a punch.

          An hour later, striding into work, hoping not to be asked to be sweet, I saw a familiar form on a nearby seat. There she is, I thought caustically, my sour little owl, praying rain on everyone.

          Then I heard my own voice in my head, Do it for the Wounded Jesus.

          For my Wounded Jesus, I whispered obediently. Before I could even process that, I realized I was smiling at the woman.

          I got a sullen stare for my efforts, and I’d be lying to say it didn’t hurt because I’ve never done such a thing to anyone. But I whispered again, For my Wounded Jesus, although I felt no love in my heart for that woman.

          That was the only test I faced today, and in the later hours, I did wonder why there weren’t more. After all, I didn’t fare that well; my heart wasn’t flooded with love. Not for that person. Not for the Cross either. It felt more like failure than anything else.

          It wasn’t until I stumbled home from work, bone-weary, very late in the day, that I realized something had happened as a result of the single For my Wounded Jesus. From that moment of suffering, tiny though it was, a gentle and cheery patience had begun gurgling and bubbling thorough my spirit like a happy brook, silvering its way through quiet fields. Despite the tough work day, on and on that little stream went forth, spilling its diamonds into one weary riverbed pocket after another.

          Again, for one paltry offering, an overflowing of grace in return.

          The eyes of my heart go to the Divine Mercy. The stream of comprehension slowly reaches me. Rays of Blood and Water emanating from the Holy Wounds.

          I realise what I have received today. Water from the Wounds.

Lent 34 ~ Stone by Stone

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          There have been times when an element has come up a lot for me in a period of time. Last year, and last week, it was stones. Everywhere I turned, stones turned up too. Metaphorical stones.

          Stones that hurt and kill.

          Stones that shield and protect.

          I cannot be sure what it means. I have both wounded others with stones I had hurled against them, and I have been wounded by stones others have trained on me. On the eve of the Feast of St Francis of Assisi two years gone, I was shown stones – smooth, uniform ones, stacked up together to form the walls to a safe house, a refuge, that was said to be mine.

          On Sunday last week, after the day before was spent in deep prayer, with nothing to precipitate it, no disturbance, no wounding, I felt a sudden change.

          I felt stones in my spirit. And the petitions I had been praying dried up inexplicably.

          Stones were being stacked up, the wall going up higher and higher. In a slight panic, I fought them. I didn’t want stones in me. Not after a night of prayer. I wanted to pray more, but I couldn’t anymore. I ran after every prayer need that had hitherto been entrusted to me, and I tried to carry them back to the altar of God.

          But they all tumbled away from me. And soon, I could no longer even summon the memory of them. Because the stones had begun to go higher around me.

          I was being walled in.

          Yet, there was no anger, no sin I could discern. Who was this, doing this to me? I wondered. Try as I could, I could not make out the mason. I began praying, Lord, tear down these walls, Lord, tear down these walls, Lord, tear down these walls.

          All through the hours, I prayed that prayer. And then, it slowly came to me. I could still pray. I could pray the Rosary. I could pray other prayers. Wall of stones or not, there was no impediment to prayer! What had changed was that I could not summon a need or a plea to those prayers. I could pray as long as my prayers were emptied of my petitions.

          That illumination sobered me up. I didn’t like it any more than I did before. But I was no longer agitating over what black nail I was hanging from. It was willed by God.

          Nonetheless, the stacking of stones continued undeterred. I understood the new way of praying God wanted of. I understood that it could go on for any length of time He had willed.

          But I didn’t understand the stone walls. Why was I being walled in?

          The illumination didn’t come till now.

          I think I am being placed in a room away from others. For now, I think it is a room with tiny openings. Too small for others to enter; big enough for God.

          I cannot be totally sure, but I suspect I am being called to an inner hermitage. Walled in against distractions; yet, walled and sealed to the Church. In days of old, this was what a hermitage was like. Those called to this were known as anchorites. A religious rite, almost a funeral rite, was performed as a sign that the consecrated soul was now dead to the world, but living in God and for God totally. And then, the anchorite would be walled in.

          I’d be a downright hypocrite if I didn’t say I am relieved no funeral rights have been performed upon me. I belong to that unfortunate group with nine of ten toes still firmly and happily stuck in the world, sparing only one for God. This is why I think, I just think, that I am not being called to the level of asceticism of an actual anchorite.

          But it is a journey that will lead me away from myself, towards the Light I seek. The walls of stones rising within me portend an inner seclusion. How long have I yearned and prayed for an inner cloister to escape to, just to be with my God.

          That prayer is now slowly being answered, stone by stone.

          Just not in the way I had imagined.

 

Lent 33 ~ Blue

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For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked! ~ Jeremiah 20:13

 

          Lord, rescue the poor from the wicked. I say this prayer today for children everywhere. The little ones Jesus loves so much. Those who have no real voices, who look to us adults to keep them safe from harm. I say this prayer today for the young who are taken advantage of, abused and maimed in every way, by the very ones entrusted with the care and protection of them.

          I’m saying this prayer to battle the rising anger in my heart. I’m saying this because I feel helpless. But I don’t want to feel helpless. That would mean I was conceding defeat and opening the gates and letting in the very people I should protect children from. 

          No, I want to spirit away these little ones and flee to the mountains where they are safer. But too many are against me; they stand at the ready to thwart every rescue attempt.

          Their numbers shake me; their vengeance and darkening hardness of heart, even more. These shepherds charged with the care of the young sheep are unmasking themselves.

          They are no shepherds. They never were. They have always been wolves. Lord, rescue the poor from the wicked.

          I pray the prayer over and over, willing myself to believe in the hope Jeremiah has brought this morning. Yet, nothing changes within me; doubt still laps at the shores of my heart.

          I tell my God, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. 

          Still in a knot that refuses to go away, I go to my window, to look at the waking skies and to leave my prayer in His hands. Rose-tipped clouds ribbon out from the sun’s old bed of slumber. Dully, I rest my eyes on the rousing vista. My heart remains troubled.

          And then I see it.

          A wide swathe of the most still of blues, in the skies west to the birth of day. No one looking at it would see anything out of the ordinary in it. And yet, it was a blue that fell straight into my wavering spirit.

          The instant the blue touched my spirit, I crossed the break.

          Gone was the fear. Gone was the anger. Gone was the doubt. 

          The blue felt like a light to my soul. It was a blue that was still, deep, quiet.

          It was a blue that held in its expanse a strength beyond compare.

          In that searing joy, I knew that the prayers prayed for children by every one of us have been received.

          I know because I know that blue.

Lent 32 ~ Priests

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Some visitors were one day discussing in her presence the faults of a certain priest who had been forbidden to say Mass. Jacinta began to weep for sorrow and she said that people should not talk about priests but they should rather pray for them. She herself often prayed for priests and asked others to do the same. ~ of Jacinta Marto, Fatima seer.

          I am tired and worn out by the week, yet able to pray, but unable to pray for others since the past Sunday. The only prayer allowed me as I reach for the Rosary is the prayer of an emptied vessel. Since Sunday, it feels as if I am only allowed to approach God in this way.

          Yet, it is not a form of spiritual dryness. Despite my physical weariness, my heart sings in a skip of joy. It’s just that although I cannot pray for anyone, the feeling is Someone is assuring me that those of my old prayers are all taken care of. And this was one of the messages in a double dream I had last year on the feast day of St Jude.

          These puzzling developments in my prayer life take me back to an October 28th dream of a huge white map in the sky. A map that showed Africa especially, a bit of Europe and to diminished extent – Asia. A blank, brilliant white map of Africa. In the dream, I chose to ignore the map in the sky. As I walked on, I saw a big statue of Our Lady of Fatima. When I saw it, I looked back up at the map suspended in the sky above, and I was filled with a deep, deep fear.

          Right after, the second dream began. I was at a St Jude church, where I saw people crammed into a little green church. Happy people.

          They seemed well take care of. Spiritually well taken care of.

          I had the sudden feeling that they were those I had prayed for. And that they were secure in the Arms of God. Sensing my work there was done, as I moved to leave the church grounds, I felt a voice write this on my heart ~

          Pray for others

          In a way I cannot explain better, I knew immediately, the exhortation was linked to the dream of the white map in the sky. That I was to leave the old petitions behind, and move on to the new.

          Since that dream in the old October of 2016, I’ve gone back to its core over and over again, wondering especially at the call to leave behind the old prayers and to move on to others. As often as I’ve wondered, I have looked out for new causes and tried to pray about them too.

     But it has not been entirely successful. I kept getting pulled back. I didn’t understand why it was that I couldn’t move on. I didn’t understand why God didn’t help me if that was what He wanted me to do.

          It was pretty frustrating.

          Yesterday, I had wanted to journey with Blessed Francisco Marto, one of the Fatima seers. I wanted to keep him close to me and to console Jesus as he did. But it was a tough and busy day, and Francisco got lost in the hours. I arrived at the humid night chimes, annoyed with myself.

          Before I went to bed, I made one last stab to place my heart close to Francisco. I prayed that he and Our Lady of Fatima come and be beside me.

          I believe they did.

          When I awakened, the October dreams appeared before me. Suddenly, I realized why the white brilliance of the map had seemed familiar. It was the white of Our Lady of Fatima. Something of Fatima was going to touch and completely envelope the continents. Beginning with Africa. But for the spirit of Fatima to take root in hearts there, I think pain might have to come first.

          As my mind stayed with that illumination, another was brought – the second dream and the call to leave behind old prayers and to move on to new calls. My previous efforts hadn’t worked because I had wrongly interpreted the timing. I had erred in assuming that I was to heed the call immediately. And so, I had thrust forward of my own accord, but because the timing was not in His will, my efforts went up against a wall.

          I wasn’t meant to move on then; but I was to, now.

          That was why the petitions were being dried up since Sunday. Petitions were mine. Even if they were about people I cared for and needs close to my heart, they were ultimately mine.

          God was now asking for a complete surrender of my prayer~will to Him. He would allow prayers as long as they were emptied for Him to fill.

          As the light dawned brighter, my eyes were turned to that account of Jacinta Marto who had been upset that people preferred to tear down a priest, however justified it seemed, than to turn to the mercy of prayer. As I read the account again, I knew it was no coincidence that I was led there because I had lived that same experience.

          Ten years before, I had been with a seriously sick child in a hospital room. A child who had feared our then parish priest because of his terrible, uncontrollable temper. Some visitors came to visit us in the hospital room. Like it had been with Jacinta, with us too the conversation steered towards priests, that priest in particular.

          And the conversation was far from charitable.

          Although I didn’t contribute any morsels to the character assassination, I disliked the priest immensely. In fact, I feared him for his ability to hurt.

          As the conversation wore on about this priest, I began to sense an odd, odd sadness. It was a sadness deep and heartbreaking.

          One spirit glance at it and I knew it was not mine. It was coming from elsewhere.

          In the next instant, I knew it was this very sick child’s sorrow. This shy, gentle child so very much like little Francisco Marto.

          This little one with me who feared this priest and his violent anger, was grieving over the way the priest was being torn down.

          The realization seared and shocked me then.

          And today, after a night kept in counsel with Francisco Marto and Our Lady of Fatima, the pearling of the dawn skies brought with it the discernment of old dreams, and the understanding of what I am to do next.

          To withdraw from malice. To pray for priests.