When Nothing Stands

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          Some days ago, looking over my day, I felt I hadn’t lived it as well as I should. Yet, it wasn’t enough that I saw my less-than-perfect reactions to situations; I wanted to feel its burn deep in my soul. I wanted to really feel remorse for any wrongdoing.

          And so I prayed for that.

          Instead, the answer I received from Jesus was,

Console Me.

O Jesus, Divine Saviour, deign to cast a look of mercy upon Your children, who assemble in the same spirit of faith, reparation, and love, and come to deplore their own infidelities, and those of all poor sinners, their brethren. May we touch Your Divine Heart by the unanimous and solemn promises we are about to make and obtain mercy for ourselves, for the world, and for all who are so unhappy as not to love you. We all promise that for the future:

For the forgetfulness and ingratitude of men, we will console You, O Lord.
For the way You are deserted in Your holy tabernacle, we will console You, O Lord.
For the crimes of sinners, we will console You, O Lord.
For the hatred of the impious, we will console You, O Lord.
For the blasphemies uttered against You, we will console You, O Lord.
For the sacrileges that profane Your Sacrament of Love, we will console You, O Lord.
For the outrages against Your divinity, we will console You, O Lord.
For the injuries of which You are the Adorable Victim, we will console You, O Lord.
For the coldness of the greater part of Your children, we will console You, O Lord.
For the contempt of Your loving invitation, we will console You, O Lord.
For the infidelity of those who called themselves your friends, we will console you, O Lord.
For the abuse of Your grace, we will console You, O Lord.
For our own unfaithfulness, we will console You, O Lord.
For the incomprehensible hardness of our hearts, we will console You, O Lord.
For our long delay in loving You, we will console You, O Lord.
For our tepidity in Your holy service, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your bitter sadness at the loss of souls, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your long waiting at the door of our hearts, we will console You, O Lord.
For the heartless scorn that grieves You, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your loving sighs, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your loving tears, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your loving imprisonment, we will console You, O Lord.
For Your loving death, we will console You, O Lord.

Let us pray: O Jesus!  Divine Savior, from whose Heart comes forth this bitter complaint, “I looked for one that would comfort Me, and I found none,” graciously accept the feeble consolation we offer You, and aid us so powerfully by Your grace, that we may, for the time to come, shun more and more all that can displease You, and prove ourselves in everything, and everywhere, and forever Your most faithful and devoted servants.  We ask it through Your Sacred Heart, O Lord, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit one God, world without end.  Amen.

 

          Since that day Console Me returned, the Angel has led me to His tabernacle at the unlikeliest times. I use the word ‘led’ because I know it’s not me. Every time I awaken in the middle of sleep, I immediately remember, Console Me. When I have a few stolen minutes between tasks, in the sudden quiet that descends, Console Me instantly looms before my heart. This is improbable of me. And certainly not at a time like now when I come from work so tired I can barely think, when my head is so full, my hours too short.

          And yet, the second Console Me calls, everything that matters falls away, fading in a suddenness.

          In that instant, nothing of this earth stands.

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday Summons

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          Today, first Friday of the new year, I received a firm summons to the Lord’s Heart. Upon being reminded about First Friday devotions, I felt led to bookmark this page for my prayers – https://americaneedsfatima.org/Our-Lord-Jesus-Christ/the-nine-first-fridays-devotion.html. The devotion called for 9 first Fridays to be offered up for reparation. Last year, I was called to a similar ‘novena’ – 9 first Tuesdays for reparation. Just as it was that time, I knew that with the memory I have, and even with smartphone reminders, I’d fall off the wagon pretty soon.

          So, once more, from today till the end of September, for a period of 9 months, I will recite the Reparation to the Sacred Heart prayer every Friday, not just the first 9. I also told God that I offer my prayer as not only from me, but also from all those I have attached to my heart. This is a beautiful and indeed helpful way to remember to pray for many people. Instead of naming them individually or trying to remember who to pray for or even having to always consult a prayer diary, we can attach to our hearts the people whom the Spirit always moves us to pray for in a special way. So, every prayer we pray, covers those ‘attached’ to us as well. Melanie Jean Juneau taught me this. With a memory like a leaking sieve, I am forever grateful to her for this wisdom.

          I’m taking this attachment one step further this time with the Friday Reparation prayers: that as I pray this prayer, others attached to my heart echo it as well – whether they are aware of it or not. I believe this is possible because I’ve learned that prayer is not merely confined to words; prayer can be many things – silent suffering, sacrifice, obedience when it is hardest, a day lived in pure service to our neighbour.

          With so many prayers being prayed and lived, may graces flood the souls who need them most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Pruning

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         Right in the midst of our Christmas family gathering, I heard the call of the dove clearly. Nothing new, but significant because the state of busyness I was in, it was near impossible to have heard this gentle, unobtrusive call. And yet, I heard it.

          Immediately, my thoughts went to the verses that follow me everywhere,

… the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one,
and come!   ~   Song of Songs 2: 11 – 13

          Every line promises light and sun and happiness. You could almost hear the wind sing through the trees and the warmth of the sun dance on your skin.

          But one line strays from the sunny promises,

the time of pruning the vines has come

Even if pruning is needed in order to increase blooms and fruit, sorrow before joy, it is still about pain. That makes the verse different from the others. Different in a way that makes me shrink back a little because I am so tired of pain.

          This morning, out in the sun~warmed breezes that sang in giddy glee, a wee dove hiding in the star~tree clucked out its little verse. I left what I was doing and went to sit beneath that tree. Searching for the little one, willing her to tell me what this all means, I found her. She hopped thoughtfully along a branch, muttering to herself. I watched her until the gold~green breezes tickled the leaves that hid my little dove.

          Noticing for the first time the thick foliage that hid this little one, for the first time too, I thought about the time of pruning.

The best time to prune grapevines is during late winter, usually February, while the vine is dormant and before growth begins in the spring. – Jessica Strickland

Late winter.

Usually February.

While the vine is dormant.

 Before growth begins.

In the spring.

          February. Month of Lourdes. 

Humble, holy, hidden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual Winter

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How to Survive a Spiritual Winter

by Sara Hagerty,

Sept 4, 2018

 

A tree doesn’t survive the winter without healthy roots. Neither do we.

I remember that bleak February morning when my husband and I loaded up our car and drove through the stripped-bare forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains to move into my parents’ basement. Everything felt cold, including my heart. Weeks earlier, my dad was diagnosed with a fast-growing brain cancer which we were all still dazed by.

I left their house only for brisk runs through Ohio’s suburban sprawl, and I came home to more winter as I watched my dad decline. I couldn’t escape this season. I had entered into a spiritual winter.

A Holy Season

What I didn’t know then was that this was a holy winter. God was doing something underground that I couldn’t see.

In our early thirties, our friends were taking active steps towards impacting the world for God: sharing the gospel with neighbors over shared meals, moving into impoverished parts of a city with their hammers and prayers, and starting foundations to release women from bondage. This, while I was cooking tomato soup and playing euchre in my parents’ kitchen, watching my once-strong daddy die.

It all seemed so unfair.

When God saved me at fifteen, I responded by pouring myself into evangelism. Then, in my prime, I was unable to alleviate the pain for the man who’d raised his little girl to believe that life had no limits. My offering was now a cup of soup.

Yet it was in the dark basement of my parents’ home, listening to my dad restlessly putter upstairs through the dark night, that I started to see winter as holy.

A Tree in the Cold

Psalm 1 talks about the man who meditates day and night on the Lord:

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. (Psalm 1:3)

The deciduous tree knows seasons. It shoots out nascent sprigs of life and verdant leaf in spring. They and their accompanying fruit unfurl under the summer heat, lush and alive. In fall, the mossy-green alights into gold, but only for a flash before brown takes over and winter starts her pull. This tree is disrobed in winter, but not dead. Motionless, with roots resting and waiting, it ever so slowly grows.

The tree prospers in winter, fulfilling its God-intended purpose. Though, to the unknowing eye, it sure looks barren.

Without recognizing seasons, we might only see that barrenness. We see a prospering life in God akin to the opulent tree in early spring, with leaves and fruit intertwined. We forget that this blooming comes forth because of the preparation that winter provides.

Blessed Are the Thirsty

That holy winter — when I felt hidden, unseen by friends who weren’t familiar with long hours of care-giving, passing my days without visible accomplishments and apparent fruit — I started to see that I could cultivate an unseen, private life in God. My roots were still alive, albeit concealed.

In the basement, underground seasons of my life, His Word and His whisper became fresh to me. I wanted it, not so that I could teach it or share it or sermonize it, but because I was thirsty. So thirsty. During my daddy’s restless nights, I needed God to highlight a phrase from His Word to sustain my little-girl heart.

I wasn’t changing the world; I was changing my parent’s laundry. But through it, God was changing me. With his word cracked open on the counter, he whispered words of encouragement and promise: “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death . . . my cup overflows” (Psalm 23:4–5).

The blessed man, likened to the tree in Psalm 1, found his delight meditating on God, day and night (Psalm 1:2–3). Meditating on God’s word — singing it, crying over the pages, taking my angry heart to his word for answers and asking for a surprise rush of his Spirit’s lifting — took on new meaning when I was winterized.

In the winter, I fell in love. He became my delight — because he was all there was. His whisper, my winter song back to him. And this was to his glory.

New Practices for Cultivating Roots

For those who are in winter (perhaps even a prolonged winter), there are some reminders that might help sustain our roots:

1. Receive your season.

Rather than giving your energies towards wishing for another. The surrender, although painful, positions us to receive all that God intends for that particular season much better than if we fight against it. God is always oriented towards our growth, even in our winter. This is a truth given to us in John 15.

2. Create new spaces.

Find areas where you can fall in love with God afresh. Seemingly barren seasons might convince you that your roots are hardened. Not necessarily so.

Thwarted opportunities are a fresh chance to see God through His Word in ways you haven’t before. Start a new habit of engaging with His Word in the middle of your thwarted day. Write songs from His Word. Take walks with your earbuds out, praying a verse back to Him. Ask His Spirit to direct your eyes to the ways He is working in the small areas of your life. Winter is a time when the inside can be nourished even when what is outside feels barren.

3. Don’t forfeit your dream for fruit.

Our culture is largely oriented toward action. But dormant dreams are not dead dreams; they are often further opportunities for dialogue with God. He created you to desire fruit, and He desires fruit for you (John 15:8). Winter is a time to take those desires to God in prayer. Winter can also be a season where dreams are cultivated.

Thankful for Winter

My seemingly barren winter started even before my dad was diagnosed, and it lasted years beyond his death. But during that very long season, I had this single verse on a notecard, propped behind my kitchen sink:

“I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 45:3, NKJV)

Now, during a kind of spring, I see that it all proved true. He cultivated my roots in winter and gave me treasures that are still producing fruit within me. And it wouldn’t have happened without my winters.

 

This Vigil Night

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Watch with me Jesus, in my loneliness:
Though others say me nay, yet say Thou yes;
Though others pass me by, stop Thou to bless.
Yea, Thou dost stop with me this vigil night;
To-night of pain, to-morrow of delight:
I, Love, am Thine; Thou, Lord my God, art mine.   ~   Old and New Year Ditties, by Christina Georgina Rossetti

 

          In choosing these verses as my sign-off for the old year, I am keeping vigil with someone who is dying of cancer. It’s a miracle that he’s been able to see Christmas, but I wish there’d be more miracles. Everyone who knows him is already hailing him as a saint, even packing off petitions to him, for when he gets to heaven. They have made him their personal saint. Their personal postman, taking their mail to heaven.

         I can’t help but wonder if this adulation isolates him even more, in his seclusion of loneliness, aloneness and unimaginable grief at having to leave behind his wife and nine young children, one just a baby. Everyone is playing God, praising him for his spiritual preparedness. May it be as they praise this man loved by God. May this not sadden him, for the closer we are to the end, for some, we know it gets harder. The road narrows, the skies darken, silence deepens. People will speak but the dying one will not hear. The written word may no longer make sense.

          His eyes, ears and lips are closing against his will.

          Woe to us if we have added to a dying man’s sorrows.

          Watch with me, Jesus, is the prayer of all who keep silent vigil with this soul as he whispers his farewells. Amidst the tinkles of wine glasses, the laughter and glee, amidst the joy and love and hope, many hearts remember this brave man.

          In the deeps of our own joys, we withdraw from the banality of misplaced blythe.  We withdraw from the mob that assumes a dying man should rejoice as we place the crown of glory on him.

          In our hearts, in every corner of the world, rich and poor alike, keep vigil with a man who welcomes a year whose end he will likely not see.

For Mac, New Zealand

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Light Falls

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          On Christmas Day, I was reminded of a dream in October, of losing a member of my extended family. Awakening from that dream, deeply distressed, I pleaded with God for this person’s life. In exchange, I told God I would not ask to be released from my workplace Cross. I wasn’t the greatest when it came to carrying my Crosses. No matter how many lessons of the Cross I learned, I never seemed to remember them long enough.

          But for the sake of this precious life, loved so much by his family, for the sake of his elderly mother who cannot be asked to bury her son, I decided I’d grit my teeth and carry my Cross as best as I could.

          Towards the end of November, as Advent busyness began to wrap its festive ribbons around us, I clean forgot about that dream – until the Angel nudged it back on Christmas Day. On Christmas Day, I had prayed for this relative and his family to be with us during our family gathering. He had informed us earlier that work commitments were keeping him from coming; but I was praying for a miracle that he’d be able to make it here at the last minute.

          However, when the Angel reminded me of the dream where this person had died, I was shocked into remembering. Then, I flailed, trying to take back my prayer. No gathering, however important, equaled in value to a person’s life. Under stress, possibly exhausted, I didn’t want him to drive all the way here. I began to instead pray that his work smoothens out and that he accomplishes all that he needs to. Then, once more, I asked forgiveness for my earlier prayer and prayed for his life to be spared.

           Just as I was praying, the warm aurelian rays of the setting evening sun shone into the living room. They shone through the trees and fell upon portions of the wall just above our front door.

          On that wall, hung a picture of Jesus and Mary, the Heart of God and the Immaculate Heart, superimposed upon one another. Two Hearts beating through each other, beating as One.

          And the sun’s last rays caught that picture. But not the whole of it.

          Just the hearts.

          In the painting, the dull red Heart itself was bordered by a light yellow area, indicating the kingly power of the Heart of God. The rays of the sun fell on the Heart. But the Heart did not take on the expected sheen of gold.

          Instead, the Heart now glowed bright red, while the yellow periphery glowed pure, sharp white. The rays fell on the wall on either side of the picture. It fell on the Heart. But on the picture, it appeared to come from behind the Heart, shining through the Heart.

          At that moment, I recalled the Christmas message I had texted to family members earlier. I normally give a lot of thought to that message. And I write from the heart. But this Christmas, something was off. My head was not where it should have been. I was slightly unwell, tired, sluggish. Hence, I rushed off the first thing that came to my mind.

May the Light fall into your heart.

          Fall into your heart. Sheesh, I thought. But I sent it out anyway.

          Now, hours later, looking at what the sun was doing to the Heart of Jesus in the picture, I wondered if that message had been me at all.

          Then, another thought came quietly to me.

          Jesus is showing me the Illumination of Conscience.

 

 

 

 

 

And Dove Makes Three

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          A frustration in the morning, my mood darkened. We had received news earlier that some Christmas wishes would not see light and I ached for my family as much as for myself.

          Yet, travelling to Mass, on this bright morning of golden sun and cherubic clouds, I decided that this was not the way I wanted to go, this was not the way I wanted to be on the breath of Christmas week- hurt by those who couldn’t care less for family.            

          I decided I wouldn’t pretend I wasn’t hurt either. I wouldn’t pretend I was alright with their actions. I wouldn’t pretend I understood why. Yesterday, I had read a story about offering up brokenness to Jesus as a gift for Him. So, like Pepita in the legend about poinsettias, as the clouds slept close to the roads, I offered up my loved ones’ disappointment, the ones they hid and instead tried to be brave and cheery about. I placed my hurts as well as my failings in faith and charity, by Jesus’ crib. Every hope that didn’t come true, every fear, the ill-formed trees of my faith, I gave Him all.

          Then, as mile folded into mile, I recalled the Triduum I had read about, for the 23rd, the 24th and the 25th. 3 days.

Faith for the first,

Hope for the second, and

Charity for the third day.

Today was the 23rd, the first of the Triduum. I didn’t want to think about my faith – I wasn’t sure how much there was for this present situation. And charity for some family members was a tad beyond me today. 

          I sensed that for me today was more about Hope.  Not so much hope for the future or hope in Jesus, as it was about leaving my hopefulness in Jesus’ heart. It was a little hard to deal with disappointing news so close to Christmas. I just wanted someplace safe to keep all that was precious in our hearts.

         At a traffic stop, a Blue King flew to a point close to me – something that has never happened to me before, not the closeness of the bird, not at a busy city intersection.

Quieten down, Listen Up,

he reminded me before the lights changed.

          As we travelled, cloud after dark cloud chugged across my thoughts, and I took each one to line the Crib of Christ. Amazingly, I didn’t have to even fight or force myself. Something stronger than I had taken kingship over my heart.

          Soon, a miracle began to unfold its wings. A gentle hymn found its way into my heart. Not joy. But a simple serenity. To test this serenity, I looked over the hurts once more.

          The peace swelled even more. I found that I could tease and laugh and joke!

          We met with extended family after Mass and our hearts gained a few more nicks. But where flesh-and-blood had cheerfully scant need for us, unexpectedly, another warm, old heart rejoiced in our visit. That love from a kindly, sickly parishioner who shared her widow’s mite with the needy, was like wine that warmed our own hearts. Every rough edge of the day was smoothened down by this old lady’s love.

          And suddenly, my little disappointments no longer loomed large in my heart. Suddenly, all I wanted was to pray for this beautiful soul who chose to love.

          At any other time, I would have viewed this as merely a surprising and pleasant turn of events. But today, the gentle healing earlier and now the suddenness of wanting to pray and love an old lady glowed in my spirit as only a miracle could.

          Two miracles and I was a happy soul and so was my family. Together we left church, our disappointment still present, yet without casting a shadow upon our hearts. It meant so much to hear my husband and children’s laughter and to feel the gentle call of the lark in their happiness.

          We had one last stop to make before we left town. The resting place of our loved ones. For 11 years now, we’ve come, every single Christmas, my husband, my children and I, to love with flowers, where once we touched and talked, hugged and kissed. It was a day beautiful beyond compare. A grey dove alighted on a light post just as we turned in. He’s come to welcome us, I thought as I smiled.

          The sun shone his love upon us, yet he burned us not. White cloud carriages silently made their way to Christmas destinations, gently and languidly led on by sweeping gold~breezes. All around us, everything swayed in the gentlest of motions. I looked around at the many sleeping, lives once lived now come to this earthly end and thought of the hearts each soul had left behind. It has always been so peaceful here, but today, every green and brown crease of hollow, leaf and earth, was perfumed with a peace that surpasses understanding.

          In that peace, we kept tryst with unseen spirits who smiled their joy into the golden air of that blessed hour, and each of our hearts found a prayer for those who lived on beyond the veil.

          As we drove away with full and happy hearts, I farewelled the angel~clouds on their journeys. As I watched them, I couldn’t help but notice that on this day, the white, jolly clouds especially, bore much resemblance to the picture in my previous post.

… the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one,
and come!   ~   Song of Songs 2: 11 – 13

          As I recalled the words,

and the song of the dove is heard in our land

a dove swooped down and perched once more on the cables above us.

          To any birdwatcher, this likely kindles no interest. But it did me because I’ve only seen doves in flight or walking on the ground, never perched above me. And never twice for sure, to welcome and then to watch in farewell. Now here in this place where earth and eternity hold hands, the third miracle – of doves coming in a way I’ve never known them, to bid me listen to them,

          The winter is past,

                                                         the rains are over and gone;

Arise and come!