Words for the Red

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          From the joyful red~shine of Advent days here, rose a red of a different kind, one far removed from joy and hope. It is an insidious thorn that rears its head at the end of almost every year since my husband and I started a family life moons ago. I had assumed that with the deep, illuminating spiritual journey that this year was, my husband and I would be in a better place in this largely lively and joyful marriage. Then came the morning and a thoughtless, dismissive statement and we were right back where I thought we had left for good. Granted, my grievance is nothing in comparison to what many people  are facing. Many would even consider it laughably trivial and so might I some distant day, but that reasoning fails to stamp out the red flames today.

          I try to turn away from the hurt. I try to shrug it off and fill the sun~dappled morning hours with home chores and yard work. But the red follows in waves and dips. As soon as I have crested one, as soon as I dare to think the hurt has gone, the next rise comes.

          But there’s a difference to my anger. It is not rage. There is no wild slant to it. The sadness it evokes in my heart burrows deep. It brings to life old disappointments and frustrations that I had assumed were in our past.

          As hour spills into hour, I struggle with myself. I struggle to not return to twisted ruts of old. Nonetheless, numerous retorts, rebuttals and accusations march steadily and stormily though my mind.  Snatches of speeches and choice words I conjure.

          The very second they form, I force myself fight them off, to turn my back on them. And then I realize, they need to come out. They are all reactions to my hurt that must have some place to go. So, I give them to Jesus, saying, I chose You, Jesus.

          On and on I battle until I am overwhelmed. I tell God I cannot do it anymore. I cannot pretend, neither can I overlook. I place my husband in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You take over, Lord. I can’t.

          Hours later, the flames have died. In their place an odd quietness – which I put to the test immediately. No, it is not of wanting to forget and make up. Yet, the stillness within me tells me that I am no longer in control of my spirit. I am no longer in control of anything or anyone.

          Someone else is now in charge. I am content to let that be. For once, I do not want to lead. I am tired. I can barely make out the path in front of me.

          My chores for the day done, I cautiously open my door to God. Although my injury is real, in my struggle to overcome my hurt and in my inability to pray in humility for my husband, I am not sure that I am walking in the will of God.

          Timidly, yet with a strange certitude, I ask my God, Lord, give me my prayer. 

          The Almighty’s response is swift, as if He has been waiting for me to ask. His prayer for me is unexpected.

          Prayer of St. Anthony of Padua

          O Light of the world, Infinite God, Father of eternity, giver of wisdom and knowledge, and ineffable Dispenser of every spiritual grace; who knowest all things before they are made, who makest the darkness and the light: put forth Thy hand and touch my mouth, and make it as a sharp sword to utter eloquently Thy words. Make my tongue, O Lord, as a chosen arrow, to declare faithfully Thy wonders. 

          Put Thy spirit, O Lord, in my heart, that I may perceive; in my soul, that I may retain; and in my conscience, that I may meditate.

          Do thou lovingly, holily, mercifully, clemently and gently inspire me with Thy grace. 

          Do Thou teach, guide and strengthen the comings in and goings out of my senses and my thoughts. And let Thy discipline instruct me even to the end, and the counsel of the Most High help me through Thine infinite wisdom and mercy.

 

          Oh no, I groan. The last thing I want is to speak. Words have had no effect on this situation that arises without fail every year end holidays. Same fight. Different words. Same failure. Year after year. And now God asks me to pray, put forth Thy hand and touch my mouth, and make it as a sharp sword to utter eloquently Thy words?

          I begin to think that I may have been mistaken about the prayer being for me. That’s when St Anthony, a saint close to my heart, steps in swiftly and takes my eyes directly to the line,

Do Thou teach, guide and strengthen the comings in and goings out of my senses and my thoughts.

          That closes the door on my doubts. That prayer line directly addressed my struggles with my emotions since the morning. It told me God saw the back-and-forth, the tug-and-push, and that He was with me. He understood my hurt. He saw my struggle to contain it and cope.

          I was not alone. That realization suffices.

          I raise my eyes to heaven. Give me Thy words, I pray.

          Not mine but Yours. 

 

 

 

         

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Little One

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          I am one of those who strongly believes in the power of the Rosary and yet struggle mightily to recite it daily. It is the simple issue of lack of discipline. But I know my family and I are intrinsically  bound to the Rosary.

          Reciting the Rosary as a family has been a struggle since years and years before, perhaps worse back then because the kids were younger and a lot harder to handle and I myself wasn’t in a good place –  emotionally,  mentally and spiritually.

          But if I thought those were hard times, worse was yet to come. One day, a knife cut through my soul. I knew I was going to fall but I no longer really cared. If I lived at all, it was only for my husband and children. A lot of life didn’t matter much anymore.

          At that point in time, I had in my possession, a rosary made from small sandalwood beads. It was a child’s rosary, gifted to me by someone  I didn’t particularly like, who couldn’t differentiate between a child’s rosary and an adult’s. I had received that sandalwood rosary during a Christmas visit – which meant shutting my mouth and swallowing any remarks I would have made otherwise.  As I already had a pretty, gold rosary which I had received when I was a child, this little new rosary was made into my ‘spare rosary’ – its smallness made it handy to have around when I was travelling.

          Years later, I faced the worst test of my life. I struggled with a dark I have never before been seared by. Oftentimes, it felt as if I would drown and never live again. I was far from home, facing a severe darkness and all I had with me was the little brown rosary. I held it tight and prayed incoherent prayers and hoped God had heard me.

          One day, I had to travel even further away. In the rush and worry and fear at that time, I misplaced the little rosary. I went to my Gethsamane without my beads. Although my relatives visited me at that time, I didn’t mention this, so no one knew. I didn’t feel like asking any one of them to get me another rosary either. I just didn’t want to receive a rosary in this way.

          It was at this time that an old aunt, very close to God, visited me and placed a white~bead rosary in my palm. It was the heaviest Rosary beads I have ever held, yet there was a strange comfort in the polished smooth heaviness of it. She told me she had bought it on a pilgrimage to India when she herself had been close to death a long time before. But she had come back to life. I knew she devoutly said the Rosary every day. Through joy, illness, heartbreak or even worry, this simple woman with a heart of gold recited the Rosary every single day.

          Yet, my aunt never told me to pray. She didn’t blithely tell me to say the Rosary and that all would be well. She just placed the rosary in my palm and with her eyes, willed me to hope on.

          That lonely night, when my aunt and everyone had returned home leaving me to face my sorrows and fears alone, I gripped my old aunt’s rose~beads and went in weeping search of Mother Mary. For many weeks after that, through highs of hopes and lows of shatterings and piercings, I held on to those smooth, white beads for life. Some days I could pray the Rosary. Often I couldn’t. But every day, often more than once a day, I tightly gripped those beads as I screamed and wept and that was the only prayer I could muster.

          Then, one night, my family and I were in the car. For a brief moment, a strength out of nowhere surged through me, and I began to speak about how great and good God was. I had just faced the worst test of my life and more was to come. The waters were still churning around me. I was by no means healed and safe. Yet, with that strange power coursing though me in the dark car, I began to speak about the greatness of a God who had just given me the worst Cross ever.

          I cannot recall what exactly I said but I know these were my ending words in the dark:

We had to go through all of this in order to return to the Rosary again.

          No sooner had the words left my mouth when my toddler son exclaimed that he had found something. He placed it in my open palm.

          I didn’t need any light to tell me what he had found. Even in the dark confines of the car, the minute I felt it, I knew he had found the small sandalwood Rosary given to me five Christmases ago. The very same one I had left in the car that hurried, harried day and forgotten about. Left it in a car I had cleaned thoroughly many, many times, and yet, never came across.

          The moment the eyes of my heart saw how we had to be taken through flood and fire to return to the refuge of the Rosary, the moment I proclaimed this truth to the others with us that night, an Unseen hand had brought back the small beads. I barely thought of the person who had given me the rosary; that was not important.

          What shone through was that a child had given me the rosaryThe child was now pointing me towards something in the Rosary.

          And so began another chapter of our lives. Through the valley of death we walked, my husband, my children and I. We held each other up. We leaned against each other. In joy and in tears, we walked through the weave of years upon years. We didn’t always know what we were doing. We didn’t always do the right things. But we tried to recite the Rosary every day. Sometimes we could, sometimes, we failed. But again and again and again, we got up and went to it.

          Since the sandalwood rosary returned to me, all my rosaries for years since then were recited using it. Yet, I always kept my old aunt’s gift of white beads with me, in memory of her steadfast love for God and for me.

          But close to decade later, more than a year back, the small sandalwood rosary began to ‘slip away’ from me. Every time I reached for it, I’d see the white beads and I’d feel a longing for them mist over my heart instead. If I ignored this and took up the brown beads, I’d sense something amiss but I could never understand it. After several times, sensing something was at work, I stopped fighting it, and switched rosaries. But I kept the ‘little one’ beside me each time.

          One day, little one went missing. I was not perturbed, though. I just knew it would come back. For some reason, my Rosary had to be said with the white beads now. And again, I could not understand beyond that.

          More than a year passed. Two months back, I suddenly began to search for the sandalwood rosary again but to no avail. I still remained undisturbed but every time we recited the prayers, I now wondered where the little one had gone to.

          And I wondered why. Deep down, something was beginning to stir in me that the rosary had been taken away. Taken away by the same Unseen hand that had brought it to me that day in the car when I had given praise to God in a time of deep sorrow. I didn’t get the feeling that it was due to some wrongdoing or failure to fulfil some responsibility.

          But just as before, the humble brown beads had made way for the queenly white one.

          This morning, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, I awakened to a blue mist binding my heart. I wasn’t sad or depressed or in a fit over something. But there wasn’t any joy in me either. I was feeling dead and empty and this morning, I just wished it weren’t so. Christmas was coming and I wanted to feel that special joy and to quiver a bit in anticipation.

          As I was musing over this, I recalled a line from a prayer I had just read:

A Cross is a perfect gift from a God whose Love is perfect.

Then, someone passed a thought through my mind. What if this touch of blue in my soul was this perfect gift from a God whose Love is perfect? If so, to pray it away was not in the will of God, never mind my yearning.

          I didn’t try to bargain with God this time. I got off the ground and dusted myself. If He had willed that I should not feel joy, then I would embrace this Cross for the sake of others – for those contemplating suicide and for those struggling with grief and other unhappiness. I had been in those valleys before. I knew what they were like. So, I asked the Holy Mother of God that these sufferers instead be given the joy I had prayed for.

          Then I quickly got busy before I regretted the prayer.

          Dressing to go out for the day’s errands, I caught sight of a backpack I normally take on holidays. I had just used it and I knew it was now empty. Yet, for no apparent reason, I picked it up and absently ran my fingers down its inner compartments.

          I touched something. I didn’t need light nor sight to tell me what it was.

          Little one had been returned.

          I must have asked why. No answer did I receive, no reason did I get. Yet, a soft mist passed over my heart.

          And then I knew. A door has shut behind me, a page has now been turned.

 

 

 

 

I Choose Jesus

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On awaking, enter in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and consecrate to It your body, your soul, your heart and your whole being, so as to live but for Its love and glory alone.   ~ St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          This was set before me on this First Friday of the last month of this old year. And with it, my journey from yesterday became very clear. Upset over my niece’s choice of life partner and her increasing distance from the Church and Catholic values, upset that novenas for her and others haven’t yielded positive results yet, upset that I had given till I had nothing left to give and the journey was not over yet, an odd thought had come to me yesterday ~

Choose Jesus for those who won’t

          It came and it took root and it wouldn’t go away. I didn’t for the life of me understand what it meant or how I was to go about choosing Jesus for those who had not the slightest inclination to. Forcing someone to align their beliefs with mine was distasteful to me. I don’t even do it with my own children. But here I was, hearing it loud and strong in my heart, my spirit in waiting readiness to obey the call.

          So, I got started. When I saw dishes in the sink that needed washing, although I honestly wanted to leave them right there, I thought of my niece who couldn’t keep a small room clean and I fought my wee bit of tiredness and got the dishes done, saying, I choose Jesus for… When Rosary for the day seemed much harder than usual, when I didn’t feel like that extra prayer for the Holy Souls, I dragged myself to them for the sake of everyone else with the same struggles, saying, I choose Jesus.

          Throughout the remaining hours of the waning, wet day when the skies took to sobs in fits and bursts, I tried to do what I least felt like doing, each time with a resigned sigh and the prayer, I choose Jesus… Even then, I didn’t know if this was actually what I was meant to do. But I figured I had to start somewhere and this was my wobbly, Yes to God. He would take it from there.

          And He did.

          This morning, when I saw the words from St Margaret Mary’s quote that meant to consecrate my living for the glory of the Sacred Heart and to live for that glory alone, I suddenly saw before me:

Reparation

          It was then that the bean slid into its pod. Choosing Jesus for someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t, through my daily, mundane life choices or through tough decisions made solely for the glory of God – was REPARATION.

Reparation is the repairing or making up for the offenses against God. This covers a wide variety of areas from the fact of Original Sin to our own personal sins and even to the sins of others no matter how large or small the offense might be. (What is Reparation, Fr Robert Altier, http://www.courageouspriest.com)

          For the first time, I understood with my heart what reparation was. I saw that it went beyond selfless sacrifice, itself great and honourable,  because it meant ‘marrying’ my own struggles to those of others. It was not made from the lofty, snooty perch of superciliousness that saw and judged only the failings and weaknesses of other people. It was certainly not about the hidden smugness that might be present when we sacrifice for others.

          I finally realized that reparation was to atone for both my failings and those of my brethren pilgrims.

          Something else tugged at me once I reached this point. Apart from a few searing occasions, it is never easy for me to atone for my own sins. But yesterday, in joining my sins with those of others, I remember being infused with a subtle strength to atone. Strength that had not quite been there before. A strength born from acknowledgement  and purpose. Acknowledgement of my own sins. Purpose that came from wanting to make amends  – for myself and on behalf of others.

          The skies slowly part their cloak of white and grey fleece for the sun as he moves slowly across his court. The hours of the day tendril out before me. Hidden in its tucks and joints lie moments that await I choose Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choosing Jesus for Those Who Won’t

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          This year, Advent will open for us in a way I’d rather not have. A niece will be getting engaged to a young man who we fear sees her as a cash cow and is merely using her. He’s not Catholic, not even a Christian and shows no interest in the faith. But the worse sorrow is that my niece is, of her own will, moving away from the faith of her birth.

          In her choice of life partner, she is not choosing Jesus.

          In recent weeks, I’ve given my all in prayer. In addition to the prayer need above, I’ve also increasingly heard about distressing mental issues and sufferings and oppressions. Suicides – not just of individuals but of entire families – father, mother, children. It seemed like everywhere we looked, we saw the family and marriage under severe attack – just as Sr Lucia Dos Santos of Fatima had warned.

          With each troubling, I’ve loaded everyone and everything into my prayer cart and gone before the Miraculous Image. I have struggled and struggled to marshal every fibre of my being into prayer lines, for the weeks have been tough and I didn’t always feel like praying.

          Yesterday, I became aware of a word that has been coming up everywhere I turn:

HOPE

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a thing before. Every few hours, in the least likely circumstance, HOPE came before my eyes.

          I believe it is an exhortation to persevere and not give up. HOPE – because wishes may be long in coming true. HOPE – because spent and tired as I am, maybe there’s a lot more of the difficult road that needs to be journeyed down. HOPE – because

You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains.   ~  Matthew 24: 6 – 8

          All these are the beginnings of the labour pains. I feel the sting of tears behind my eyes. There is much, much more to be endured. The journey is far from ended. And I have nothing left to give. Nothing at all.

          I think of the hymn the angels sang into my ear at daybreak – This is My Body, Broken for You ~

This is My body, broken for you,
bringing you wholeness, making you free,
take it and eat it, and when you do,
do it in love for Me.

Do it in love for Me. I am running on empty. I do not know how to feel hopeful because the bite of disappointment in a world unravelling even faster is deepening. Yet, Jesus says, Eat My body. Eat it in Love.

          To persevere, to hope, is to get up from the ground and continue my journey for the love of Jesus. If my niece chooses a self-absorbed, materialistic man over Jesus, if despairing parents choose suicide over perseverance and endurance, if bullies and tyrants and narcissists seem stronger and more powerful than ever, then, no matter how tired I am, no matter how broken I feel inside, I must love by choosing Jesus on their behalf.

          That is the meaning of receiving the Eucharist. To eat the Body of Christ is to say to my Jesus, I choose You. To become one with my Jesus. To feel His pain. To suffer with Him.

          And to say, I love You, I choose You – for those who do not.

 

 

 

 

 

Day of the King

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          What joy is this? Wisps of diamonds silvering into my soul, like angels tiptoeing in bearing mystery gifts. What joy is this? Fed by the laughter of children, gentle smiles of husband. Even the sable grey storm clouds chugging across wind~tossed skies come bearing joy in their rainpearl giving. What joy is this that even the tiny purple wildflowers know, passed from beak to beak in the secret, mad  twittering of birds unseen?

          What joy is this? Will the secret whispered in the mystery language of birds and flowers, trees and winds, come to rest on my soul, that I too may share in that knowing?

          My heart smiles at the question, for I am not troubled nor knotted up. I see signs before me which I cannot read, yet I remain at peace, knowing that my knowing is in God’s hands.

          The garden calls to me and I find my seat beneath the purple tiara~ed green boughs of the star~tree. A lone bird comes to rest on a wire. As the warm sun-scented afternoon breezes seek playmates among tree arms above me, the little bird turns his head slightly. It is the emissary, the Kingfisher, come to remind me that the Feast of Christ the King beckons. Indeed we shall celebrate it, for it is the cause of these strange joy~strands that wind through each member of my family, through the very breast of nature in its joyous plumage.

          I busy myself with flowers for the altar vases. The King must have flowers. Looking towards the rose trees that smile gently in the winds that dart about them, I ask, Have you no rose for your King? Faithful have been their pink offerings of cherub~roses in recent weeks. But for the Feast of Christ the King no gift do they hold up for me.

          How could you, I gently reproach them. Nothing for the King on this day foretold to me ten years ago? When I did not believe joy was ever possible again, the Angel had wiped my tears and whispered in my ears, Christ the King! Christ the King! And my sodden heart had thrilled to the promise of joy that would some day be mine again.

          The rose~trees turn away from my displeasure, but not before I see the smile on their leaves. They too know! I think.

          My thoughts placidly wind their way back to the Isaiah verses rested on my eyes that morning ~

Raise a glad cry, you barren one who did not bear, break forth in jubilant song, you who were not in labor, For more numerous are the children of the deserted wife than the children of her who has a husband, says the LORD.

For He who has become your husband is your Maker; His name is the LORD of hosts; Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, called God of all the earth. 

Fear not, you shall not be put to shame; you need not blush, for you shall not be disgraced. The shame of your youth you shall forget, the reproach of your widowhood no longer remember. 

This is for Me like the days of Noah, when I swore that the waters of Noah should never again deluge the earth; So I have sworn not to be angry with you, or to rebuke you. ~  Isaiah 54: 1, 5, 4, 9.

          I placed those verses beside the one given to us for the Day of Stones ~

Though the mountains leave their place and the hills be shaken, My love shall never leave you nor My covenant of peace be shaken, says the LORD, who has mercy on you. ~  Isaiah 54: 10

          I turn the words of the verses over in my heart. My love shall never leave you. The King has spoken. He has made known His heart, His promise. He now awaits my move forwards. He awaits my trust.

          I trust You, I whisper. I am afraid still. But I trust You, my Jesus. I trust You.

          In Christ I trust.

          Christ the King!

          Christ my King!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retreat

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          Friday should have been a happy day for me. An arduous work week had come to a welcome end. Rain clouds had burst briefly over our home before parting in barely disguised pride to display a bright sky~breast of the most joyful blue. I spent some long minutes at my window this afternoon, resting my heart against sun warmed breezes that played about before retreating into the waiting sunset.

          But on this day when I so wanted to celebrate with the happy nuances of the wind and skies, I felt as if joy was holding me at arm’s length. This was a day when my heart  could not go past vile headlines involving innocent children and family. This was the day when images and words stayed and did not depart.

          I tried to pray. Tried to discern the whisper in the winds, if they held a message for me. But something inside me had suddenly wearied. It was not me, not my will that could be blamed this time.

          The weariness came from much deeper. It leeched strength and joy from me. It took away purpose. It took away energy. Again, I tried to pray, even for those who were dead now, but who had lived vileness when alive once before. But the prayers were barely shaped before they were gone.

          In that deepening emptiness came a prayer I have never seen before.

May the Three enfold you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Hold you safe and hold you strong;

May the Three encompass you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Encircle your life each day and night;

May the Three protect you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Guard your door and keep each gate;

May the Three watch over you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Still your heart and calm all fear.

 

          May the Three guard your door and keep each gate. Still your heart and calm all fear. Was something approaching us? Something, someone so leeched of God and godliness?

          My thoughts went back to July 2015, when I had shot out of sleep in a terror so wild and deep. I had been out with the family. It was night, a small bright moon lit the starless skies. Suddenly, soundlessly, the moon unanchored itself and slammed violently into a mountain top. People around me screamed and scattered in a mad panic. I grabbed my children’s hands and retreated under a whitewashed, white-lit porch. For some reason, I knew we were safe there, under that open, windowless, door-less porch. I wanted to call out to others who were racing about in terror. I wanted to tell them to come in as well.

          But I couldn’t. I could only watch. And for some strange reason, no one saw that white porch and the safety it offered.

          Since that frightening dream of 2015, whenever I look at the gentle luminescence of the motherly moon, I always remember that one day, she will signal the beginning of a violent time.

          From that old memory, my thoughts travelled on. I was not afraid, not troubled as my mind went over a more recent dream, where a gentle, quiet, unknown man had come to warn me to get off the street, retreat inside my home. I looked at the other people still out in the open. I had heard his warning, but had they? I had felt his warning wasn’t loud enough. Why didn’t he repeat the warning to secure ourselves? I had asked in the dream. But he merely replied,

The warning will only be given once.

          So, whoever heard it, heard it. Those who didn’t – would never know. I thought of the number of times I had heard the words, Prepare, and Be still. They were no mere words. They were sirens, steering me away from distractions, lest I miss the warning that will only be given once.

          I turned back to the Prayer of Three. I could sense it held something in its heart. I began to pray it.

          I had whispered it a few times to the dying inside of me, when one of my children, firm of character and not given to emotional slides nor spiritual highs, matter-of-factly informed me,

I dreamt of the moon last night. It was spinning.

          Hours later, when I had breathed in the cold new morning air and asked the Mother of God to fill me, I understood the message of my child’s dream. I understood the timing of the Prayer of Three.

          The time of the moon was near. Just as I had done, countless unknown souls must be praying the Prayer of Three for others everywhere because something lies beyond the bend.

          And it may not necessarily be a physical event.

          It was time to hold the hands of my family. It was time to hold tighter than ever before.

          And retreat.

 

 

Thrust Out

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          I go to begin another tough day and I begin with a grumble – too much work, too little time, no quiet space, I mutter to myself. It’s been raining ever so often, the capricious skies wet~greening trees with pretty rainpearls. How I love driving past sodden trees, freshened and nourished from rain baths, beautiful beyond compare.

          But I am too much in a rush to prolong Nature’s embrace. Too much work, too little time. I begin the day with a grumble.

          It comes to me that I should take my discontent to the Lord. To ask that my hours  be painted another colour. For a soft moss~bed among flowers for my weary head and heart. After all, I deserve a break as much as anyone else.

          And so I do.

          But this was God’s reply:

May we love our neighbours as ourselves,
and encourage them all to love You,
by bearing our share
in the joys and sorrows of others,
while giving offence to no one.  

~   Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi

 

          No ear for my whine. No pillow for rest. But a firm thrust to go back out unto the highways and byways.

          To gather the poor and the broken for the wedding feast, by loving them as Christ wills me to.

 

 

 

 

The Blush Bloom

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          I didn’t return from a good work day today. It certainly felt like I had been torn and scratched and clubbed – with more to come in the weeks ahead. I had to bring home work as well, and it threw a pall over the weekend joys I normally look forwards to.

          All that saved the rest of the week from spoiling was the promise of good, wild rain coming shortly.

          Given what is happening in so many parts of the world where terrible winds and rain are bringing so much sorrow this year, it might seem terribly remiss of me to want  the rain~winds to blow strong.

          But this wasn’t the hour for rational thinking. All I wanted was a storm that matched my mood and troubled heart.

          The angry clouds rushed to do my bidding, pouring down silver~grey torrents in a determined fury. Yet, I didn’t feel them fall upon my storm-tossed spirit; my heart had been caught elsewhere.

          When the rains started, my son had insisted on running out to the flower beds being battered by the stream of water pellets. He had planted a rose plant some months back, and it had borne him his first bloom. She had raised her blushing head in the pale sunrise hours before, and calmly took in her new home in the passing hours. In the blinding rain that was coming down now, the little rose no longer held court in grace and serenity. She was bent and trembling against the violence of nature.

          My son rescued her and brought her in, wee rose wet pink from the pelting. He gave her a home by our statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The storms raged on outside, resuming a few hours later after a brief late sunset respite.

          But my heart and my worries were no longer snagged in the vortex of the rain madness. A calm had slipped in. Not strength. Not optimism for the coming tough days. Just a slow gentl-ing of the sharp shards of emotions within.

          In this newly formed oasis, I found the will to go into my kitchen and cook a hearty dinner for my husband and children. I found the patience to empathise with my husband, himself frustrated and hurting from work wounds as well. I found the heart to laugh and cuddle and banter.

          I didn’t think to ask why. To ask where this stream of gentle, living water had come from to douse the flames. I didn’t ask – for the week had been hard and I was too tired to think. All I did was to open the gates of my heart and let the cold silver in unhindered over seething ridges.

          It was night, the clouds quiet and spent from its weeping, when I realized Someone had watched my return home from work worn, angry and frustrated. Many years ago, on a day clothed much like today, she had caught the eye of my spirit and touched me with the bloom of a pale, pink rose, to let me know I was not alone in my struggles. That she understood how hard the hours had been.

          Tonight, when I read Ellen Fassbender’s post on St Theresa the Little Flower of Jesus, when I read the little prayer to the Bloom of Jesus ~

Saint Theresa, the Little Flower,
please pick me a Rose from
the Heavenly Garden and
send it to me with a Message
of Love.
Ask God to grant me the
Favor I Thee implore and tell
Him I will Love Him each
day More and More.

 

….I knew then that the saint who resides among the roses understood the pain that comes harder on some days. While I waited for the storm to fume and rage and match my troubled stirrings just so I was assured I was not alone, St Theresa, just like that old day years back, chose to soothe my hurt by sending that bloom of soft blush of baby pink into my home, into my heart.

          To lean against Our Lady of Fatima. And by that, to gently beckon that I rest my wounds in Her.

 

 

 

 

 

November Offerings

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          There’s a vigil of a different kind after life on earth ends. It is the Vigil the Poor Souls keep, a vigil that differs greatly from any we experience as long as life flows through us. I’ve come to understand that theirs is an uninterrupted waiting, with no relief of distractions. No excitement of personal pursuits or work concerns and family needs which we grumble over, to take their minds off the waiting to be received into heaven.

          For the Poor Souls, there is none of the respite of tethering in verdant pastures away from sufferings. Longing for heaven burns in them. It is a burning they cannot turn away from. It is a suffering that burns away every trace of love for self, manifested through the various droughts of love of God and neighbour.

          And yet, it is precisely this burning that makes the Poor Souls love as few of us ever can. In Purgatory, they are now in a place that allows no love of self, no dilution of sin. No excuse, no convenient forgetting of God’s will to love Him and neighbour.

          They are now where they are free of earthly binds. They are free to learn to love as they should. This is what Purgatory means to me.

          I know this from what I have read over the years. I know this from the dreams I have had of loved ones who have crossed the shore. Those who had before hurt us with their thoughtless behaviour and callousness; now through death, are emptied of themselves.

          But filled with a new yearning that those still on earth – be saved.

          It is this new yearning born of flames that touches me deeply. It is a yearning that I have seen in their sorrow-shadowed eyes as they move from point to point, place to place, in a journey that seems so strange for it is devoid of sights and objects familiar to me. I’ve felt this love-after-death of the Holy Souls in the brevity of their spoken word, the glances that never linger long, the warm touch of their hand on mine.

          In their tireless chanting to warn me away from the precipice that falls to the rocks below, I have been touched by a love so achingly pure that even my greatest act of charity seems woefully selfish by comparison.

          It is this love shown by the Poor Souls that makes me ache in pity for them. This love of theirs in turn lights a love I can never muster of my own accord. It is this love that tugs at my spirit beseeching me to do what I can to help them to heaven.

          I look into my life~basket. There I see the blooms of Masses, the November Rosaries and devotions.

          I also see the trials I may face this month.

          I see the days to come and its little calls to work, patience and compassion for others, especially when it is hardest to bequeath.

           Each and every one, an offering for souls in a place where they can pray for us but can no longer pray for themselves.

          I know that despite my best intentions, there might be days when life will pound at me in a crescendo that deafens to me to the pleading of those grieving souls. Yet, every offering, be it Masses or prayers or piercings, I pledge for my unseen friends, more faithful than any others. Because I have this day. I have this hour. To live this life of opportunities the Holy Souls no longer have. 

          In the will of God, may my November offerings dry the tears of the Poor Souls, pearl by weep~pearl.

 

 

 

Vigil of Repentance

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          On a quiet day this week, just as a gentle dawn was rising from its east, I was sliced through my heart. I had a dream. In it, someone called me Widow.

          I shot out of the dream in severe shock. The minute I awakened, I felt a wall come up between my present hour and the dream. For a long time, that has been God’s sign to me, marking the difference between a dream that is a warning and one that is a premonition of a coming, certain reality. Yet, this time, it gave me no comfort. I held my sleeping husband, weeping silently, begging God not to take him. But I couldn’t hold in the silent screams for long. A wild restlessness tore at me.

          I rose and ran to God. Weeping and weeping, in deep fear, I gripped my Rosary and buried my torment in the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

For the sake of His Most Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Please, don’t take him, Lord,  Please, don’t take him,  Please, don’t take him.

           All through the first decade of the chaplet, I pleaded and begged for my husband’s life to be spared. I distinctly heard voices from the side asking me what right did I have to ask not to be widowed when so many others had suffered this same grief. Did I think I was so special that I could choose my Crosses?

          Even in that mind-numbing sorrow of what I saw in the dream, guilt taunted me. Was I rejecting a Cross God wanted me to suffer for His sake?

          Who was I to think I did not deserve that suffering? asked the voices.

          Then, somber, old lights began to stream before me. Memories of odd happenings recently – all related to marriage and family. Things I hadn’t understood. Things that had worried me. Did they all portend this terrible, terrible grief?

          Fear rose like a black storm and began to violently pound my heart.

          Desperately, I clung tighter to the Chaplet prayers. Then, I saw the millions of times I had sought to save my own peace and left my husband to his struggles. The times I had little patience for him. The times, uncountable number of times, I had taken his love and sacrifices for granted. And now, that love was going to be taken away forever.

          I repent.   I repent.   I repent.

          Forgive me, O Lord, I have sinned, I sobbed to my God who had given me the greatest gem in the man I had married so many years ago. A man I loved with all my heart, yet took for granted as deeply too.

          Praying the Divine Mercy chaplet before the Miraculous Image on my wall, praying it like one demented with fear and grief and remorse, I went into the second decade.

          At the tenth, a personal sign, these words streamed before me ~

 The Illumination of Conscience

          That precise moment the words unfurled, the black wave of fear receded. In its wake, a sudden stillness.

          I raised my head and looked at the Miraculous Image before me.

          Was this what this was about? The Illumination of Conscience. The Warning. I thought of the unknown, unseen feminine voice I had heard in the midst of a Rosary a year ago – The event of the Warning will begin with the Annunciation. I was not told the year, but I recalled how I had forgotten the Feast of the Annunciation this year, only to be reminded of it by angels. On and on their bells had tinkled until I took notice and asked why. Why was I reminded? Was it merely to observe the Feast?

          Or was it because, as the voice had spoken, it heralded the beginning of the falling of a Luminescence beyond words – into hearts?

          In a way I cannot explain, terrible, horrendous though my morning dream and subsequent suffering was, I just knew that was merely the first rays of that Day of the Sun. The first rays – and yet the nails that tore at me were severe beyond words.

          As I sat, stilled and in thought, in that unlit pool of revelation, no relief flooded through me. It was as if my frightened spirit had moved beyond that primal seeking. Comfort didn’t matter anymore. Instead, every part of me stared at my sin of ingratitude.

          Slowly, stealthily, I sensed a stirring from the side. Other memories sidled into my consciousness. Voices from the past. Warnings to be financially prepared. The naming of beneficiaries. Writing of wills.

          I turned my gaze away from my sin and looked to my side.

          Suddenly, suddenly, the black tempest of minutes before tore back into place, wrenching and spinning my heart in widening circles of freezing, choking fear. Gone was the stillness of the tenth. Gone was the calm. In its place, the madness that only abject fear can invoke.

           It was the ravaging of sanity that comes when we take our eyes off the Cross.

          I reared back, stunned. My spirit stared at the two contrasts – my inner state as I stood by the Cross and wept over my sins. And the other – when I turned and moved away from the Cross.

          I knew immediately that the practical preparedness of putting our combined finances in order – which seemed so right – was wrongIt was right, it had to be done, but it was NOT what God wanted me to keep my gaze on now. And yet, it was what the voices from the side were calling me to.

          Immediately, I wrenched back the eyes of my spirit from the side it was distracted to. I returned to my rightful post – by the streams of remorse and repentance. Here, despite the crushing pain over my falls, I did not feel as if I was being whipped and flung around in an unstable  vortex.

          I held my rose~beads resolutely once more, determined to face His Light and have it burn away my ingratitude for the gift of my husband. As I begged God for forgiveness,  God placed other sins before me. He showed me the dark extents I had allowed my anger when hurt to stream out into.

          He made me face the very many times I had wished the same pain of loss I had suffered upon those I had tried to love but who had hurt me when I had done no wrong to them.

          God placed face after face of my victims before me. Those who had knifed me when I was at my lowest. Those whom I had wished  would come to know the same sorrow that had pierced my own soul ten years ago, and to know the violence of that grief to its fullness. I had wished this upon others despite knowing it by its name – REVENGE. I had wished it not out of mere spite. Not because I couldn’t bear their joy while I walked the valley of grief; I had wished it so they would weep as I did.

          And so, stop hurting me.

          But in the eyes of God, that didn’t change the name of my sin. That others had struck me first. That I was merely reacting to their wounding. It didn’t mellow its stain on my soul. It remained as REVENGE.

          As He unmasked the dark inside me, I heard the words of my dream again, saw the reel rewind and play back. But this time, I felt the pain I had wished upon others.

How terrible that pain felt when it befell me.

          In my anguish at what I saw, I felt God was not unmasking enough. And so, I went within deeper, uncovering more and more victims of my particular anger. It was as if I was baring all to God, saying to Him – There are more, there are more!

          I’ve always struggled with an entire chaplet of the Divine Mercy prayed in one sitting but this morning, I went through two. Suddenly, nothing was too little or too difficult for expiation of sin when I was given a taste of the agony I wanted others to feel.

          The bitter morning dream had come on the last day of my novena to St Joseph – to plead that my heart – and the hearts of all I carry within mine – be prepared for the Illumination of Conscience. The dream was St Joseph’s answer to my prayers. But it was not a gentle answer from the Gentle Spouse of Mary. The dream felt like a spear through my heart. Because no other gentler means would have wrought this vital repentance. 

          I now repent, heart and soul, for what I have done to others in the secret of my heart.

          I repent for the times I led others down the dark path by my example of anger.

          And I repent of the way I treated my beloved husband. 

          Because of the dream, life will never be the same again. There will now be a shadow where there was none before. I will henceforth always look to coming hours with fear. I will fear delays. Fear the unanswered calls. Anything which separates my husband and I, even the most innocuous, will be a steel band that cuts into my heart.

          I will fear if everything is the last of lasts.

          Becoming a widow is no longer something I can block out. It will from now become the shadow that follows me everywhere. But I know I am not called to mere fear. That is a call that comes from the side. That is distraction. Even if the ice of dread manacles my heart from this day on, I am called to a different vigil to await the Illumination of Conscience.

          For by this dream, I have been given a foretaste of God’s judgment of my sins in the coming Illumination. My place is by the Cross of remorse.

          My vigil has begun. My vigil is that of Repentance.