Lines in the Sands

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          Wary of what a Saturday can bring, after the experience of the previous weeks, I greeted the morning of the new day reluctantly. I looked out at the dark sky, still blanketed in the purple~blue of a sleeping night, and a lone star chimed its flickering light at me.

          I thought of my youngest children and our present struggles with the school head, which began in January. New to her position in the school, from the first day of school, the woman had introduced a new rule: every time a child ran back to the class after the midmorning break, the whole class would be caned – as a deterrent and a warning to both offender and would-be-offender, and an exhortation to students to correct their classmates and stop them from….running. As parents we immediately protested against the unfairness, stupidity and cruelty of such a rule, but we were ignored. Then, my husband and I sat down to draft complaint letters to the relevant education and Union authorities. It didn’t go well. We found ourselves in a Babel situation, both of us misunderstanding each other on certain points. Frustrated and angry, the final draft of the letter was a mess of facts and hurt and pleas.

          A few days after that, I received a Word, that our actions were wrong – because they were motivated by wild anger against this head of the school.

          And by an unspoken desire to hurt her back as much as possible for hurting our innocent children.

          When this happened, I had been reading my friend’s book~gift, Left To Tell, by Rwandan genocide survivor, Immaculée Ilibagiza, and I felt God speak through the words in the book – to take our pain to prayer, and to let the power of God work through the prayers to distill our actions of the sin of anger and revenge. We reluctantly acquiesced and for a few weeks, every thing quieted down.

          But on Friday, the downcast wee faces were the first indication it had begun again.

          And this morning, staring at the new Saturday sky, I began to feel the familiar wellings of anger.

          But something had changed. There seemed to be something holding down my anger, like a Hand held up against the inevitable red tide because our defenseless little ones were hurt. Despite the dark welter of emotions I knew I had stocked somewhere, revisiting the Sodom and Gomorrah of my wounded-ness was no longer an option.

          Into Your Hands I commend my spirit. Not trusting myself, I nevertheless prayed my spirit into heavenly safekeeping. Then, I hunted for a Novena to God the Father. I wanted to place our family’s wounds into our Heavenly Father’s Hands and to seek His help. It was dark and we needed the Light more than ever now.

          I found the prayers and sank my heart desperately into them, burying our family’s wounds and wills into the word~vessels, willing them into the refuge of the Heart of the Father.

          Then, I prayed a prayer I did not in the least want to: Father, You love this woman who is hurting our children; please help us to love her too.

          I badly longed for a tender sign that He knew how much it had cost me to pray this. I wanted my Father’s comfort to tell me all would be well now.

          But there was none.

          I moved on.

          And suddenly felt myself plucked off my intended path by Our Lady of Fatima, and taken to the most unlikely of places: Ancient Eucharistic Miracles.

          The stories of those miracles were so removed from what I was going through. I didn’t see the connection, I still don’t. And yet, they shook me to the core. I knew it was by no accident that I was taken to read of these particular Miracles that happened hundreds of years ago, miracles I had never before heard.

          Miracles wrought by Sacrilege redeemed and purified through repentance.

          After I read them, I spent the hours in prayer even as I worked around the house. I beseeched heaven for discernment. I knew it was no coincidence that I was led to read about those miracles – I clearly felt the Hand of God taking me to them.

          I didn’t understand why, yet, yearned to. While the younger children wreathed the home in laughter and giggles, I prayed to understand why those Eucharistic Miracles were so important, and I also prayed for the solution to my children’s school problem.

          And then, I tacked on, Lord, Tell me what to do.

          In the afternoon hours of rain~misted breezes, I received a reply that seemingly contained no answers. It was from St Pio, and he told me, Go Ahead.

          God has drawn lines in the sands. They form a path, with signposts I do not yet see. I understand none of this- what they portend, where they lead to.

          But I know what I have to do.

          So, here they are, those 4 Eucharistic Miracles I was taken to after I put my heart into God’s. Miracles that transformed the sin to Good, from Glenn Dallaire’s website, Miracles of the Church:

Three extraordinary miracles of the Eucharist – Santarem, Amsterdam & Offida

The miracle of the Eucharist in Santarem, Portugal (1225) -An ongoing miracle
Around the year 1225 there was a woman living in Santarem, who was very unhappy with her marriage. She was convinced that her husband did not love her, and was unfaithful. She initially tried numerous things to win back the affection of her husband, but to no avail. As a desperate last attempt, she went to a sorceress. The sorceress promised the wife that her husband would return to his loving ways, if the wife would bring her a Consecrated Host.

This of course greatly frightened the woman, because she knew it was sacrilege, but nevertheless she finally gave in. She went to Mass at the Church of St. Steven, and received Communion, but did not consume the Host. Instead, she left the Church immediately, and took the Host out of her mouth, putting It into her veil. She then went to the sorceress.

Along the way, the Host began to bleed inside the veil. The wife was not aware of it until passersby brought it to her attention, thinking she herself was bleeding. Panic struck the woman and instead of going to the sorceress’ house, she rushed home. She then put the bloody veil containing the Host into the bottom of a trunk, not knowing what else to do. When her husband came home, she said nothing.

Later in the night they were awakened by mysterious bright rays of light coming from the trunk, penetrating the wood and illuminating the entire room. The wife then confessed her sin to her husband and both of them knelt in adoration for the remaining hours until dawn, when the parish priest was summoned.

News of the mysterious event spread quickly and attracted countless people who wanted to contemplate the miracle. Because of the furor, an episcopal Church investigation was promptly organized.

A miracle upon a miracle
The bloody Host was taken in procession to the Church of St. Stephen, where it was encased in wax (to contain the blood and the Host) and secured in the tabernacle. Some time later when the tabernacle was opened, another miracle was discovered. The wax that had encased the Host was found broken into pieces, and the Host was found miraculously enclosed in a crystal pyx, along with the precious Blood. This was later placed in a gold and silver pear-shaped monstrance with a “sunburst” of 33 rays, in which it is still contained today.

After the investigation and approval by the Church authorities, the Church of St. Stephen was renamed “The Church of the Holy Miracle.” The little house where the miracle occurred was on Via delle Stuoie in Santarem.

From the time of the miracle until now, every year, on the Second Sunday of April, the incident is re-enacted by local actors. The actual Eucharistic Miracle is processed from the house, which was converted into a Chapel in 1684, to the Church. Miraculously, after 750 years, the precious blood still remains in liquid form, defying the natural laws of science. The Host is somewhat irregularly shaped, resembling real flesh with delicate veins running from top to bottom, where a quantity of blood is collected in the crystal.

The miracle of the Eucharist in Amsterdam (1345) –Thrown into a fire, the Eucharist miraculously is not burned

In 1345, Amsterdam was a tiny fishing village consisting of four streets and a few alleys lined up along the main canal. There were small modest fishermen’s huts, a church, and a monastery. The monastery was the largest building in the city. The Eucharistic Miracle given to this tiny village on March 13, 1345, was the beginning of the growth for which Amsterdam is now famous. In fact, on the 600th anniversary of the miracle, March 13, 1945, the Dutch Catholics attributed all the growth and progress of their city to the Eucharistic Miracle which we will now present.

The Eucharistic miracle occurred in a house on Kalverstreet where a fisherman named Ysbrant Dommer on his deathbed called for a priest to come to his home to give him the last rites of the Church and Holy Communion. After having heard the man’s confession, the priest blessed him with the oils of Extreme Unction, and gave him Communion.

The priest had no sooner left than the sick man began coughing violently. His wife ran over to him in an effort to help him, but the husband, gagging and choking beyond control, vomited the contents of his stomach, including the Host, still intact. The wife reacted instinctively. She swept up the Host and threw It into the fireplace. She soon realized her grave mistake, but the fire was raging, and she was not about to put her hands into it for fear of burning herself. That night she slept fitfully, tossing and turning. She was afraid she had committed a terrible sin and had nightmares about the Sacred Host that she had thrown into the fire.

The following morning, as soon as she got out of bed, she went over to the fireplace. The fire was not extinguished yet, and the coals were still quite hot. She stoked the coals, looking for the Eucharist. To her amazement she suddenly saw the Host sitting atop a burning ember. It was not burned at all. It had not even turned color. The Host was fresh and brilliant, lying among the coals. She immediately snatched the Host from the fire, and carefully wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in a chest for safekeeping.

She then called the priest who had been to her house the previous night and told him the story. The priest then placed the Host into a pyx and washed the cloth in which it had been wrapped. He then carried the Host to the parish church of St. Nicholas. The priest thought it best not to tell anyone about the incident, so as not to stir up gossip involving the woman or her husband. He took the Host, wrapped in the cloth, and returned It to the church, where he placed It in the tabernacle.

The following morning, the priest found the pyx empty to his amazement, but the Host was soon discovered by the same woman when she opened the chest to remove some linens. She was stunned and confused as she knew the priest had taken It away the day before. Had she committed such a terrible sin, that the Lord brought back the proof to punish her with the sight of It? She ran to the Church, and explained what had happened to the priest. Again the priest placed the Eucharist into a pyx and returned it to the church. Then, after yet another disappearance and discovery, the priest contacted other members of the clergy for consultation. All agreed that the occurrences were a direct proof of God’s intercession, and apparently a sign that the miracle should be openly honored. Jesus wanted to use this miracle to awaken His sleeping people. The Miraculous Host was a light which was to shine all over Europe.

The priest told his fellow friars about the miracle, and the story of which soon spread about the town and the surrounding countryside. When the priest formed a procession to go to the fisherman’s house for the Sacred Host, a huge crowd followed him and his fellow priests. They carried the Sacred Host back to the church of St. Nicholas affording Our Lord the honor He deserved for giving such a rich gift to these humble people.

Another wonderful element to the story is that the fisherman who had been dying, the one whom the priest brought the Eucharist on that first night, didn’t die. To the contrary, he recovered, thanks be to God. However, when word of the miracle reached the ears of the townspeople, and those from other villages, they all went to the fisherman’s house to see where the miracle had taken place. It soon became sort of a shrine, and soon afterwards, a Chapel.

Official inquiries were made by the civil magistrate and also the city council, and upon investigation all were satisfied with the truthfulness of the witnesses. They affirmed the occurrence as fact and also endorsed the miracle in official City documents. The Church authorities, too, headed by the Bishop of Utrecht, held an extended inquiry before permitting the clergy to spread information about the event.

In a Pastoral letter, the Bishop officially declared that an authentic miracle had occurred in the little town of Amsterdam. In the same pastoral letter, he authorized veneration of the Eucharistic Miracle of the Host. The little house of the fisherman was soon converted into a Chapel, called Nieuwe Zijds, or Holy Place and the Miraculous Host was placed upon the main altar, for the adoration of the people. The fireplace of the fisherman’s hut was kept intact, and became a permanent part of the new shrine.

Miracle upon Miracle –The second miracle of 1452

A second miracle took place 100 years later. Amsterdam had grown considerably in the century since the first miracle had taken place. On May 24, 1452 the entire city of Amsterdam was engulfed in fire. Most of the buildings were destroyed by the blaze. When the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (the former fisherman’s hut) caught fire, some of the parishioners made an at¬tempt to save the Miraculous Host from destruction by the flames. They tried to force open the tabernacle. The Host had been placed in a beautiful monstrance, which was inside the tabernacle. The heat of the Church was becoming unbearable. The workers worked feverishly, but to no avail. The heat of the fire had made it impossible to get the door open. As the roof of the Chapel began to cave in, the men ran out of the Church to safety, their mission a failure.

The entire Church collapsed and burned to the ground, including the tabernacle. Upon seeing this, there was a great sadness among the faithful of the city, especially those who had tried in vain to rescue the Eucharistic Miracle. The next day, they sifted through the ashes of the Church, hoping against hope, that something remained of their precious Host. Their grief turned to joy as soon they spotted the Monstrance, completely unscathed, there among the ashes of the Church. Even the silk veil which covered the Monstrance had been saved from the fire. So, once again the Lord saved the same Host from fire in the same house in Amsterdam.

Soon afterwards, a new chapel was built, more elaborate and more beautiful than the previous one. The fame of the Eucharistic Miracle of Amsterdam, now recognized as a twofold miracle, spread beyond the Netherlands to all of Europe. The Hapsburg Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Maxmillian, went to Amsterdam in pilgrimage to the Eucharistic Miracle. He prayed for a healing at the shrine, which was granted to him because of his faith. He showed his thanksgiving by donating beautiful gifts to the Chapel of the miracle. Amsterdam and the Eucharistic Miracle became a major place of pilgrimages and processions.

In 1665 the city council authorized Father Jan Van der Mey to convert one of the houses of the former convent of the Beghine into a chapel. After completion, the precious monstrance was transferred, but unfortunately was shortly afterwards taken by unknown thieves. Even today there is perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in memory of the miracle. The only objects that remain from the Eucharistic miracle are the case that contained the Sacred Host (pictured in the photo to the left), the documents that describe the miracle, and some paintings housed in the Historical Museum of Amsterdam. Every year there is a silent procession (Stille Omgang) in honor of the miracle on the eve of Palm Sunday.

The miracle of the Eucharist in Offida, Italy (1280) –The Story of Newlyweds, a Sorceress and a Mule.

The Eucharistic miracle of Offida actually took place in the city of Lanciano, the site of another extraordinary miracle not related to this one. This miracle, which is now kept in Offida some 60 miles north of Lanciano, occurred in 1273 to a newlywed couple named Ricciarella and Giacomo (James) Stasio, their mule, and a witch.

The Eucharistic miracle of Offida has similar beginnings to that of Santarem Portugal as they both involved wives who were seeking to get more love and affection from their husbands. Unfortunately the newlyweds marriage was not off to a very good start as Giacomo was not very affectionate towards his new bride. Ricciarella, the wife of Giacomo Stasio, was deeply afflicted by her unhappy marriage, and she tried everything possible to win the love of her husband. Finally someone suggested she seek the advice of a nearby sorceress. who claimed to know of a way for her to achieve the marriage that she desired. The sorceress gave Ricciarella the following advice for a “love potion”:

“Go to Communion, but don’t swallow the Host. Take it home, put it in the stove, and burn it. Take the ashes, and throw them into his wine or soup. Then let me know the effect. You’ll see that he will immediately become more affectionate and loving towards you”

This description of how her husband would react to the potion gave Ricciarella just the incentive she needed to justify committing this sacrilegious act. She knew, of course, that this was wrong, and how she must have wrestled with her conscience before she made the decision to perform this horrible act. Eventually she worked up the courage and she set out for the church to take part in the Holy Mass. In desperation for relief from her sad situation, Ricciarella received the Eucharist, and secretly let the Host fall from her mouth into the top of her dress. After taking it home she placed it on a coppo, which is a semi-circular tile. She then placed the tile over a fire. As soon as the sacred Host was heated, instead of turning into powder it began to turn into a piece of bloody flesh. Horrified at what was taking place, Ricciarella attempted to stop the process by throwing ashes and wax onto the tile, but without success. The tile soon bore a huge smear of blood, and the flesh remained perfectly sound and blood came forth from the Host turned flesh.

Understandably Ricciarella panicked. She didn’t know what to do. Frantic for a way to dispose of the evidence of her sacrilege, Ricciarella took a linen tablecloth decorated with silk embroidery and lace and wrapped it around the tile and the bloody Host. Carrying the bundle outside, she went to the stable and buried it in the place where garbage from the house and filth from the stalls were heaped.

When her husband returned home that evening accompanied by his work mule, he noticed that the mule was acting more stubborn than usual. The animal did not want to go into the stable. Giacomo tried pushing the mule, and then slapping him, all to no avail. Finally he got a whip and began beating the animal. The pain being more than the mule could endure, he reluctantly went into the barn, all the while staring at the dung heap. The animal fell prostrate near the dung heap, almost in a position of adoration.

The mule had never done such an extraordinary thing before and Giacomo knew for certain that something was causing this mysterious behavior in his mule. Giacomo then accused his wife of placing a spell on the stable that made the animal fearful of entering it. Ricciarella, of course, denied everything and remained silent about the cause of the difficulty.

For seven years the Blessed Sacrament remained hidden beneath the garbage, and for that period of time the mule and the other animals went in or out facing the dung heap, keeping their attention to the heap of refuse. For Ricciarella, this was the beginning of living hell. She felt great pangs of conscience for her sin. She came to realize more and more the seriousness and consequences of her actions. She was instead tormented day and night with remorse for her sin. Finally she decided to confess what she had done to a priest from the monastery of St. Agostino in Lanciano, Prior Giacomo Diotallevi, a native of Offida.

After Ricciarella confessed her grave sin to the priest, he accompanied her back to her home. They went into the stable, and dug through the dung which had accumu¬lated over the seven years. When the friar pulled the table cloth out, and uncovered it, he found that the contents of the tile, the bleeding Flesh and the Host, had remained incorrupt over the years.

He took the tile and the table cloth containing the Host with him and he returned to his monastery. Initially he told no one of the incident. Ricciarella was relieved because her scandal would not be spread all over the province, and her deteriorated relationship with her hus¬band would not worsen. No one is sure what the friar’s motives were but he wanted the Eucharistic Miracle taken away from Lanciano, that is known. Was it because he was sincerely afraid that if the miracle were revealed, Ricciarella would be implicated? Or did he want the glory of an incorrupt Eucharistic Miracle to be given to his home town Offida?

On a pretext, the Friar received permission from his superiors to leave the monastery. He left Lanciano in secrecy a few days later. He took the Sacred Host to a Fr. Michael Malli¬cani, who was the prior of the Augustinian monastery of Offida. Father Mallicani embraced the miracle as the property of Offida, and immediately created a sanctuary for It in that town. This was in the year 1280, seven years after Ricciarella had committed the Sacrilege.

Father Mallicani moved quickly. He and another friar went to Venice in the same year to have a beautiful reliquary built which was to become the home of the Eucharistic Miracle. They commissioned a silversmith to do the work under secrecy. For this reliquary a large amount of silver was donated and it was decided that the reliquary would be made in the shape of an artistic cross, and it was to contain not only the miraculous Host, but also a piece of wood from the true cross of Christ.

After he had finished the beautiful reliquary, and the priest had placed the Eucharistic Miracle inside, the friars left by boat to return to Offida. It was then that the silversmith decided to tell the local Duke of Venice what had transpired.

The Duke, anxious to get hold of a genuine Eucharistic Miracle for his own province, ordered a ship to intercept the one carrying the two friars back to Offida. But in the end it was the Lord who intercepted! As the Duke’s ship was about to overtake the friars, the Adriatic Sea became violent, allowing the friars to disembark at Ancona, and return safely to their monastery in Offida. The reliquary was installed in the Church in Offida and it remains there to this day. And so it is that today atop the main altar of the Sanctuary of Saint Augustine in Offida, also known as the Sanctuary of the Miraculous Eucharist, is found silver cross containing the miraculous Host. The tile on which Ricciarella heated the Host, still showing the smear and splotches of blood, is kept in a rectangular glass-sided case. The tablecloth in which the tile and the bloody Host were wrapped is also kept under glass. Paintings depicting the events of the miracle can also be found within the beautiful Church.

 

Tearing Winds

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          It hit without warning. Just like the last time. But this time it hit with a violence that had me gasping.

          On the morning of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I awakened very early to an unearthly silence in my heart. And an unsettling feeling, but nothing I could put my finger on. It was not a premonition, no uneasiness. Just a fleeting troubling of inner waters. Of something riding in on the crest of slight waves – there, yet not making itself seen.

          Within the hour, a terrible wind had been loosed in my heart.

          It smashed and rammed against every part within. In its immense power to cow and subdue, these winds tore and ripped my spirit to shreds. On and on and on, it hit and hit, keening from one corner to the other.

          And I could only sit in stupefied silence, frozen in shock at what I was sensing. I scanned every landscape of action and inaction, sin and prayer alike I had crossed in recent days, searching for the abyss from which these ferocious gales awakened. But I could find no discernible start point. No actual fall that unleashed them.

          And then, it got too hard to even think or recall; the ripping inside was horrendous.

          Suddenly, in the swirling dark, I found my prayer~will. Or rather, what tatters that remained of it. Clutching at them, I gasped out prayers: the Hail Mary, snatches of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the 7 Dolours, even my own chaplets.

          And every one of those prayers were unfinished, snatched from my heart by those howling winds.

          For hours the struggle played out.

           This was so different. Different from anything before. It was tearing, tearing at my soul. The world around me was in its usual motion. As far as I could see, what was happening with me wasn’t affecting anyone else. The calls to work and home and life – chimed in normalcy. No madness there. And in it I was functioning normally, efficiently even. No one looking at me could have seen a difference in me. Chores got settled, work got seen to. All that needed to be done got done, and no shadow of delay fell across my hours. No meltdown, no tears, no daze either. The shock and tumult I was experiencing within was hidden; I did not even need to make a stab at concealment – the storm inside was not visible to eye. It was as if I tread two worlds, one visible, and one not and that to do it was normal.

          I thought of the words I received the previous week – Flee to the hills. Did I fail, I wondered? It certainly felt that way. It didn’t feel like I had reached the sanctuary of the hills. I didn’t feel safe. It was more like I had been caught in the very winds I had been told to flee from.

What winds were these? 1 Kings 19 came to me:

          Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.

…..a strong and violent wind ….but the LORD was not in the wind…

          So, in all likelihood, this was not a wind from heaven. Thank God for that, I thought. But it didn’t feel like something unleashed from hell either. The spectre of dark malevolence was missing from it.

          Deeply weary, I had reached the point where I did not know what to think. And I did not care to probe further. But for some odd reason, always having been one to flee things, I did not even want to escape this.

          I just wanted the prayer for it. All that mattered to me was that I be given my weapon for it. In addition to the others, I surmised that there had to be another prayer – for the present moment.

          While waiting, I kept on with the Hail Mary’s. And repeatedly invoked Our Lady of Lourdes – I knew She could hear me. If it was a dark wind, it was after my spirit, and I didn’t want victory to go to the dark.

          That was when an old, old prayer fell into my heart like a light.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

          Stunned for a split second, I lunged for it. In a relief so deep, I repeated it, over and over.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

          Suddenly, the mad, tearing tumult stopped. In a heartbeat, the winds had died down. I was stunned. It had been stopped by the Prayer of Spirit Safekeeping that I was led to through the doorways of the Holy Rosary and the Chaplets.

          It was late in the following day when I felt a soft whisper alight on my heart, but didn’t stay long. I hadn’t recovered from the tearing of the previous day; everything felt painfully empty inside. So, I wasn’t in the mood to go over what had happened during the hours of Lourdes.

          And yet, two to three more times, that silken gentleness came to caress my spirit. Finally, I turned to it. I saw someone’s face in my mind.

Tell her.

          I was to take this experience and press it into this person’s heart.

          I groaned. The person concerned had enough on her plate without this madness added to it. I wanted to give hope to others, not burden and weigh them down.

          And yet, once more, it came: Tell her.

          In the dark sable hours of the night, I walked back to the experience and found the words for it for an email. Halfway around the world they went, to this beautiful soul. She read it and immediately brought clarity and understanding of the experience to me. God’s emissary told me I had been given a foretaste of what is to come. It was not of the past nor the present. This was why when I examined my conscience, I could find no open manhole to blame.

The tearing winds were from the future.

          When one is led through such a troubling, there’s a heavy weight of responsibility attached to it, because nothing happens without a reason. When you are given a glimpse of the future, it is so you act in His Will in a way you might not, under normal circumstances. As I read this golden soul’s words again and again, I knew with a certainty that whatever was coming, was coming for our spirits. That was the ultimate prize. In no way was this a new revelation. From the birth of the word of God, this has been the siren sounded to man: the alerting of a vicious ripping away of souls, an alerting repeated through the approved Marian apparitions around the world.

          Up till now, I had only heard and read of this coming terror. Maybe the experience of 12 Nov 2015 had something to do with it too. But on the Feast of Lourdes of 2017, I truly felt its outer winds.

          It is no mere suffering that is coming. Even severe suffering might not suffice to explain what lies ahead. This is different.

          It is the Warning. And it will rip and tear our spirits beyond what we can ever imagine.

          Having understood this much, this time I flee. No backward glance. But I flee not to save myself alone; I try to carry others. I flee and fall into the prayer Jesus taught me on Sept 14th, 2015 – on the Feast of Triumph of the Cross – Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.  His own words on the Cross, but it was now to be prayed to His Beloved Mother – Mary.

          Back then, the prayer was just for me. Now it was for every soul on earth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flee to the Hills

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          It had been a good two days. Days of prayer and recollection despite the busyness.

          I awoke this morning and looked up at a white mackerel sky. Some streaks of blue~white, but mostly shades of white. It should have brought me happiness to feel the breeze dance of the early morning. I tried to open the windows of my spirit to inhale the breeze blessings.

          But something else touched it.

         A light sense of foreboding. Very light. Touch and go. Here, then gone.

          I shook it off. I had my hand in my Father’s. There was a vineyard to go to. Work to be done.

          An unseen cloud followed me.

          Some hours later, the winds in a high dance, I saw the headlines from various sources. Tumult. Force. Harshness. Denials. Disdain. Protests. Nothing that hadn’t been there in recent days, but today, they took on a darker edge.

          Something began to choke my ribcage. I was overwhelmed, feeling a rush of dark. I felt my breath being crushed, yet, instinctively knew it was not physical. I floundered and struggled for a moment. I could sense screams, unseen hands reaching out in desperation. But they were not the entreaties of Holy Souls that I am familiar with, that I can recognize in a flash. This was different.

          I felt like I had touched Panic. Wild fear. But I didn’t know whose it was.

          Stumbling backwards, I fell on another headline. It didn’t make sense and I didn’t feel that I was called to understand it. But one word stood out like a lighted beacon:

Hill.

          The clamour I was sensing worsened. I had had enough. I backed away to put some distance between that strange fear and myself. I stumbled to my usual spiritual haunts, places – blogs, forums – that I visit seeking God’s voice. And I came to a psalm I had posted some weeks before to calm a sorrowing soul.

Psalm 121
Assurance of God’s Protection
A Song of Ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills
from where will my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.

          The very moment I saw the word ‘hills’ again, the crushing sense of someone’s terror eased. The desperate grip on my spirit loosened. Lift eyes to the hills. The abode of God. I needed to keep my eyes on God. I wasn’t sure what it meant with regards to the screams I had felt. Were they the screams of the wronged righteous? The disdain from the headlines – were they as wrong as they seemed? Was force justified?

          Whose terror had I touched?

          As I watched the winds from afar, from the relative safety of the foot-Hills, I looked for the serpent’s tempest. Did I sense cheating, lying? Was there a hidden undercurrent of subterfuge? Was something being whipped up, crafted to undermine a good? I searched and searched.

          There was none. No lying. No pretense. The flood of emotions were real. The suffering genuine.

          My spirit remained with the memory of the pain I had touched but I asked the Hills, What do You ask of me, Father? What action? What prayer? They are calling for help, Father. Tell me what to do.

          From behind me, from the hills, I receive an answer I do not expect:

Flee to the hills.

 

 

 

Rise and Return

          This long road of my hope and faith breaking must have begun months before – when the struggles began to add up, and consolations were few and far between, and perhaps, too little, too mild. Heartache over political situations, problems with kids, work issues. Trying to get over one rise after another, rather than face it head-on, I might have inadvertently chosen to blank out some of my disappointment that God hadn’t shown His hand in a stronger way. And bit by bit, that hurt must have grown and widened to the sorrowful proportions I am now forced to acknowledge.

          My faith is tattered and broken in places. It’s not a complete breakdown, but every tear, however minute, needs fixing.

          But it is beyond me. This is not any random fabric. This is the silk~spread of faith, woven from grace, triumph and loss by a Master Weaver. I neither know how to weave nor mend. I am not He, and never will be.

          I am trying to be strong but just cannot pretend hope tonight. My jug of oil is empty. I am spiritually weary. So, I will rise and return to my Father. At His feet I will kneel. One by one, every thorn and nail I will name, and into His Hands I will place, each weep and tear unshed. Where will this emptying take me I do not know.

          But I must start somewhere.

Vigil of Broken Faith

          After doodling in the sand for a time, after the uncomfortable silence that I tried to ignore but couldn’t quite, heaven’s window opened a little, and I understood that I was to stay by the water’s edge.

          And quit chaffing at the bit.

          For even by the lake shores where weeds grow in wild abandon, there was work to be done and work being done. I had to learn patient submission – because to meddle, to saddle up and force a journey, was to interfere in the Spirit’s work.

          So, retreating to the sun~shadows among the water grasses where the wounded  gather, I tried to press Jesus into wounds through the Memorare novena; I was determined to not be caught in spiritual idleness – whatever else my failings.

          But whenever the rains fell and rippled diamonds on the lake waters, I’d look across the wide expanse with a wistfulness. For a while, I didn’t understand myself. Whenever the pace got wild and frenzied, I grumbled about how much was taken from me; yet, when the tempests stilled and I was left alone, untroubled, I longed for…action.

          I gave myself a shake. What did I want? Was it really eagerness to be about my Lord’s business – as I tried to convince myself? Or was this restlessness about something else?

          This morning, Someone sat by His door waiting for me. The minute I arrived, He opened the scrolls,

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, 
you endured a great contest of suffering.
 At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; 
at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated.
You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison
and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property,
knowing that you had a better and lasting possession.
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence;
it will have great recompense.   ~  Hebrews 10:32 – 35

          Do not throw away your confidence. The words fell into my heart. And with it, crept in a soft, worn sadness. A lantern had been held up in the darkness of my yearning, and I saw the faltering faith I was trying to hide, and hide from. My impatience was not a saintly longing to toil in my Master’s vineyard. I was not being impatient to do my Lord’s will; I was impatient for a Sign that the end to suffering was close by. I wanted Jesus to come, and to come right now. I wanted Him to hurry up!

          And because my Lord didn’t seem to be in a hurry to do my bidding, I wanted to storm across and drag Him to my place of waiting!

          My chastened spirit fell before that enlightenment. How many more holes would I continue to worry into the fabric of my fragile faith? When would I ever learn humility and patience and spiritual perseverance?

          Making a tentative step towards contrition, this consolation quietly came:

You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what He has promised.
For, after just a brief moment,
He who is to come shall come;
He shall not delay.   ~ 
Hebrews 10: 36 – 37

Gales must blow wild and fires rage

Water must churn and swell,

earth in fury shake its molten fist.

And aridity and desolation root firm and unflinching,

before the winds dip

and the air still

in homage

to the King.

          For every summit reached, there might be a valley whose deeps await us in yet another testing. For all our sureness that we have read the signs right, we might reach one threshold after another in breathless anticipation of a King’s coming, only to cross into disappointment and dismay.

          Despite all that has been endured, much must still pass before He comes. Till the Time, we must endure and not throw away our confidence. Even when the beauty of life loses its allure for us, and light~dances dim in their glimmer, keep the vigil of faith we must.

          However broken and disfigured that faith becomes.

Wait by the Water’s Edge

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          Every year since 2010, after the old November and December months of listening and learning have been bound and put away, my spirit has always been eager to go forth into the new year, ready for the path beyond the bend in the road. Ready to put the learning to use. Whatever looms in the new year, whether my human-ness has shrunk away from it in fear or gone forth in bravado, my spirit has always followed its own lines, led by the notes of an unseen Piper piping His song, calling spirits to bend and yield to a Higher force. Every new year since 2010, the gates have sprung open after Advent folds in its leaves carefully, and my spirit has acquiesced to a call it has been made ready to obey.

          Every year except this one.

          This year, I am ahead of my spirit. I have gone just beyond the gate of the old year, scanning the hills and valleys ahead, trying to make out their unfamiliar ridges and bends and dips, readying myself for the journey. About to go further, I sense I am alone; my spirit has lagged behind. Undeterred, I tug at it.

Come, I call, it is time.

It is not, returns the spirit.

          For weeks, I refuse to believe that a journey that has always begun on the first day of a new hope~weave is not starting yet for me. I search every prayer and line read for the Call that I must have missed or misheard. Every quiet time is probed and twisted here and there and turned over this way and that, seeking the pearl~whisper that might have fallen unawares, unheeded, in the busyness of the year.

          But the still and silence within me is unyielding. There is no word. No stirring.

          I roam the plains of my heart gates restlessly. I cannot believe I am to remain where I am. This is not how it has been.

          This morning, I disconsolately turn pages of life on earth, looking, yet not really looking. Vaguely searching for a chime, a tinkle of far-off bells. I come across a picture.

          Horses by the water’s edge.

          I am about to move on when something holds me firmly to my place. My eyes return to the picture. Rider-less horses, untethered and free, yet in no wild gallop of impatience across the plains.

          No racing towards an unnamed destination. Instead, in calm wait by the water’s edge, being nourished by the cool water, the still air and silent world.

          Allowing a feeding.

          I feel something come over me for the briefest seconds.

          This is not an empty time, however barren the air feels. Something is happening, something is at work in the world, in hearts. Something beyond human wisdom and understandingWading into the waters is not the call for me. Neither is making the crossing. Even by the water’s edge, even in the absolute quiet of watchful winds and leaves stilled in their dance, there is something to be done ~ allow this stillness, however frustrating it may be.

          The illumination is gone before I can touch it. But an answer has been pressed to my seeking.

          I am not to wrestle. I am not to chart a journey.

          But wait by the water’s edge.  

Words and Thoughts

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Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before You,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.   ~   Psalm 19:15

          These lines fell into my heart over the weekend, and they fell in a way that told me I had fallen over these sins, and fallen many a time. Always being one who goes headlong into things, my words and thoughts rule me too often in a way that puts me in a constant shadow.

          For when I burn, I rarely seek the Cross through humility and meekness. 

          Submission to any suffering is not one of my virtues, but the hardest for me must be the Cross of holding my thoughts and words to the standards of purity and sweetness my God wills of me. I used to have a tongue that ran away from my will; it has been tamed much now through age and innumerable humiliations. Yet, what used to be uttered aloud have now found dark life as thoughts hidden in my bosom, lighting fires at will.

          The Lord has now trained His purifying Light upon my words and thoughts and I have been found wanting. From the Atonement prayers I have been struggling to pray, has come my God’s prayer for me ~

Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before You

ATONE

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          Wild gales marked the opening of 2017 for me. Almost every day has been a whirlwind of duties and tasks and meetings and deadlines and I’ve been skidding from one port of call to another. There have been pockets and deeps of happy days. Days when blue~gold morning winds played elfin tunes as they darted between tree arms and fingers green. Even the sudden showers we’ve had were lovely, the darkening of skies bringing a delicious quietening within my heart.

          But the pace has been wild, and its first victim – prayer life.

          Specifically – our night time family Rosary.

          This year alone, I’ve missed more Rosaries than I ever have since we began it in earnest in 2012. No amount of resolutions and adjusting of timing helped. If we made it one day, we missed the next two. It gnawed at me, for I knew just where we were headed with this – right back to before 2012 – when missed days led to missed weeks and then, months marked by endless tearing and scratching of spirit. That was one rutted path I did not ever want to go down again. I needed climb back up the wagon, and get on with it.

          But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

           Trapped by an odd malaise, I felt caught in a vice of tiredness, frenzy and muddled thinking. My will abandoned me. Something needed to be done to arrest the slip, but I felt like I had been rendered…. stupid.

          One night, after we did manage the Rosary, yet without the conviction that we were back on track, the days’ stress having curdled my spirit, I decided to sink my heart into some much needed spiritual dew. Opening my precious Christmas gift from a more precious friend, the book – Left To Tell – by Rwandan genocide survivor, Immaculée Ilibagiza, I returned to where I had left off from a previous reading. It was when the machete-armed Hutus were descending upon Immaculée’s helpless and defenseless family and thousands of other hunted Tutsis like them, with the sole intent to slaughter and massacre them all. All escape avenues cut off, no weapons except some spears and stones against the enemies’ machetes, guns and grenades,  Immaculée’s father, Leonard, rallied his fellow Tutsis:

“Let us use the time we have to repent.”

          It was past midnight, and finding that I could not read on anymore, I called it a night. But before I went to bed, I reached for my alarm clock, and did the unthinkable (by my pathetic standards of willpower) – I set it back to 4:40 a.m., from my usual 5 a.m. wake up time. Already sleep deprived, it sure wasn’t something I had planned; something just took over me.

          By 5 the next morning, I was ready for my Holy Hour, and Left To Tell was far from my mind. I didn’t feel like my usual prayers, though. It might have been tiredness. I wanted to pray something different. Then, I had the sudden thought to pray the Rosary. Not as a replacement for our nightly family one, but an extra one, an addition to the night’s one. Just me and my beads. I thought I’d use it to ask for forgiveness for all the times I had missed. About to recite the first Mystery, I felt someone whisper in my heart,

Atonement Rosary

          I went still for a moment. My mind returned to a night last year, when I had been in the car, waiting for my husband as he ran an errand. I had felt the sudden urge to pray to St Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy mystic, to ask her to come to me, to journey with me. And the very second I did, I felt her presence close to me.

          My soul was then filled with a strange sadness, but it was not mine. I somehow knew immediately that it was St. Faustina’s sadness, and asked for its reason, but she chose not to answer my question. About to revisit my own considerable list of sins to find the culprit, St Faustina stepped in and stopped my thoughts with the knife-slice of a single word:

ATONE

The word left me with a cold that reached to the pit of my stomach.

          I knew now that I could not in any way lay claim to the urge to say the Atonement Rosary. It was not from me. It was not a mere whim. I was led to it by unseen hands. Why, I briefly wondered. It should have been obvious, but I never seem to learn. The answer came before the next breath. Immaculée’s father’s words in Left To Tell came back to me:

 “Let us use the time we have to repent.”

          Use the time we have. Repent. Atone. The Divine Mercy call. The call many heard last year. The call we might have forgotten with the closing of the Year of Mercy, and with the Christmas rush. The call renewed in some hearts yet again this year, with a deeper, more powerful urgency.

          In the time we have left,

Atone.

 

 

 

 

 

Home I Have Come

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          My Christmas surprises came a little late this year – they came this week. Little things longed for, but on which I didn’t dare linger in yearning too long, lit up my tree the first week of 2017. Little gifts, left to surprise, in misted pockets along my path.

          So, it has been a happy week. Tiring but happy. I flew to duties, I flew to tasks, with an energy I hadn’t felt in a long while. And it felt good to see things work out. It felt even better to see how I handled life when the road dipped unexpectedly around the bends.

          I should have been up in the sky of a hundred blues, twirling next to the shy gold sun.

          But I wasn’t.

          Something was missing. I missed my Lord’s voice.

          I missed Him in the press of spirit I sometimes feel when searching for Him. I missed Him in the unseen Hand on my will, holding me back from something. I missed Him in the songs sung by unseen voices somewhere deep within me.

          This week, it certainly felt like He had released me to skip along my own path in wildflower meadows hiding a thousand surprises of light and joys. And skip and dance and spin I did, for it was great to feel light and unburdened for once.

          Yet, I came to the quiet sunset of the week, feeling a slight emptiness, despite the successes and happiness of the busy days past, no sorrow or suffering casting their shadows. I didn’t feel abandoned. But I did feel as if my Lord had skipped town for a bit.

          And the lights dimmed for me.

          That was when I realized that as much as I longed to be carefree and in a perpetual jolly frolic, I only felt anchored to my God in suffering – whether it was through my own suffering or through the pains of others. In the days past, Heaven had blessed me with the freedom to wander unrestrained amongst dancing grasses and singing blooms, and even as I sang happy ditties, my spirit ached from an odd loss. The missing of something that had always been there. That should have been there, but it was not. It was much more than an attachment to something.

          I was feeling the bereftness that binds a life lived away from the sun of suffering.

         Today, I came late to the morning hours birthed from a cloud-festooned grey~blue sky. Hence, I missed my usual rest by God’s door, and that poked more than a bit at my heart. I didn’t like missing my morning Holy Hour of sorts. It wasn’t much, by any standards, and to not keep even that was to sink to a low I was not comfortable with. But there was no chance to slip away.

          Deep in chores I had offered up in lieu of my still~time with Him, I sent God my yearning:

I want to pray. Not like this, on the go, but to really immerse myself in prayer.

          The wish had barely left my heart when I heard unseen voices, singing a familiar song in a somber timbre. I leaned in to listen. It was the Litany of Saints. Sung by a choir hidden from sight. I recognized the tune, but while the voices were clear, the words were oddly muffled. I immediately wished I knew what the response was to each saint mentioned in the litany, because, while I didn’t know the Litany off by heart, but I knew enough saints to be able to concoct my own litany. I just needed to know what the response was. I could then pray as I worked.

          On cue, the voices sang, St…Pray for us.

Pray for us. That was it.

          About to begin the prayer, I felt an imperceptible tug on my spirit, like Someone was holding me back a wee bit. So, I stepped back from the choir, and tried to discern the message – if any. I thought perhaps it was to understand what to pray for, or to focus on a specific saint.

          Instead, I felt I was led to focus on the hidden voices singing the litany. The mystery choir.

          Who are they, I wondered. Angels? It didn’t seem so. Monks or priests singing it on recordings I have surely heard many times before? Quite possibly, yet, it didn’t feel that way.

          I leaned in deeper. 

          And made out a quality of sorrow in their voices. Unmistakable notes of pleading woven through the grave cadences. Something familiar about them.

          And once I had reached that, I felt my attention led to the next lamp:

Pray for us.

Angels wouldn’t ask us to pray for them.

          And then I knew. Those were the voices of my friends, the Holy Souls.

          When I had expressed the wish to pray deep, it was to sink deep into my friends’ and their children’s prayer needs, those I had been informed of. I had their faces before me, and I wanted to be there for them.

          But it was not to them that God turned me to; He instead led me to the most loyal of my friends, the ones I love, yet, often forget. The ones in the deepest pain – the Poor Souls.

          I had asked to be able to pray, to touch the pains of my friends and loved ones, for Jesus. And so, He answered me by letting the pleading prayer of the Holy Souls fall on my ears, so it may be my prayer too. To their suffering I was led, their song I joined.

          And there I found Jesus. Home I have come.

 

 

 

 

When The Greatest Was Before Me

family

For all the times I’ve

taken my family for granted,

carped for no good reason,

soured the day for them with my selfishness,

postponed hugs and kisses;

For all the times I’ve not run to see

the flowers they planted

or the purple ribbon clouds in a sunset sky that ensnared a child,

or the drawers tidied unasked, un-nagged,

or the card trick perfected;

For all the times I’ve

not closed my eyes and allowed their laughter to wreathe roses around my heart,

not sent them off on their day with a prayer,

not overlooked the trivial but magnified them,

not loved them the way God meant them to be loved,

Lord, forgive me.

I press each head and heart into Yours,

Each weep and giggle and whispered secret to You I give,

For gifts to me they are,

Though many I’ve left unopened

Chasing rainbows man held out to me

Seeking gold in mines not meant

When the greatest was before me.