Lent 21 ~ Words on the Heart

Take with you words, and return to the LORD ~ Hosea 14:3

          Yesterday, in the story about St John Vianney and his mystical response to a woman whose husband had taken his own life, the saint said that the deceased had been spiritually saved because of the last prayer he had uttered: the Act of Contrition.

          For some reason, I felt I needed to give the words of that prayer to others contemplating various deaths. Not to physically send the prayer, nor to tell them to pray it. But to pray the words for them who cannot. To say the prayer on their behalf.

          To write the words of contrition on hearts that would otherwise never contemplate them.

          As ever the Doubting Thomas, I did wonder if what I was doing was right.

          But there was no time to be lost. I went ahead anyway, due to the exigency – I was saying the Act of Contrition to stop deaths by human will.

          Today, the verse from Hosea 14:3 holds my spirit as I drift by.

Take with you words, and return to the LORD

          I know it refers to my own penitence.

          But could it mean too the prayers we pray in the waters of love and mercy – which give the words of contrition to be written on dying hearts?

Lent 20 ~ Between the Parapet and the Water

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From the book, Cure Of Ars

There was a woman who told St. John Vianney that she was devastated because her husband had committed suicide. She wanted to approach the great priest but his line often lasted for hours and she could not reach him.

          She was ready to give up and in a moment of mystical insight that only a great saint can receive, John Vianney exclaimed through the crowd, “He is saved!”

          The woman was incredulous so the saint repeated, stressing each word, “I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition.”

          It is the morning after Westminster. I don’t know how many lifebooks will close this day through human will – those who don’t want others to live; those who themselves don’t want to live.

          But I am alive and living and wanting to live.

          And I want others to live as well. In this life and in the next.

          So, for the remaining hours of the day, I offer the Act of Contrition for the world. For all those contemplating ending lives – theirs or others’.

          It saved that man in the story. It will save others too.

ACT OF CONTRITION

My God,
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against You
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with Your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God, have mercy.

Lent 19 ~ The Stars of Past

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          In our family, the past lives with us like another family member. Almost every day, the past is resurrected. And yet, we are a family that revels in the present. My husband and I have hearts somewhat worn down by hurts and loss, so when our gaze goes beyond the horizon of what is before us, we are understandably more reticent in our hopes. But our children, growing up and facing life’s curves and dips with their hearts firmly in ours, see no clouds beyond the repose of the sun.

          The past comes alive each day when the kids awaken, and some are still young enough to want their morning kisses and cuddles. My husband and I have pet names for each, and while the older ones might look a tad askance when we use them, the younger ones sometimes refuse to answer to their given names, preferring their pet names. I think it’s like a security blanket for them. Or perhaps those funny little names comfort them that they are something special to us that they are not to others.

          I believe my children have grown ‘watching movies’ of their childhood because of the constant airing that childhood narratives get in our home. Not a day goes by without someone purposefully steering the dinner conversation towards tender reminiscences of  growing-up tickles and mischief.

          Is it any wonder that our dinners can go on to close to two hours?

          These precious conversations have become the soul of the family. As we chat and listen and sometimes, argue with one another, the past sits with us, like an unseen guest. He listens in earnest as my husband and I weave for our kids our sharings and teachings about present day issues, from the harbor of the days and lives gone by. Being very much people people,  we are a storehouse of endless family anecdotes.

          Indeed, we have rich earth to draw life lessons from.

          The words from yesterday’s 1st reading is gentle entreaty for a preservation of these ways of ours ~

However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children. ~ Deuteronomy 4:9

          Those verses tell us that the past must always be allowed its living. Not to haunt or torment and to take life away, but to burnish the life now and that which is to come.

          For just as it has the capacity to bring death, the starlight of history and memories bear also the supreme grace to heal, to nurture, and to light the way ahead.

 

Lent 18 ~ Never

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          Yesterday, I read of someone’s silent aching that took her from sleep. When the pain got too deep, she reached out for God’s Hand, and He came to her through Isaiah 41:13 ~ For I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Fear not, I will help you.

          A True Father’s Love.

          I learned of that love, for the first time, close to ten years ago when I had reached a point of brokenness I could not depart from. I had given all I had in me, but it didn’t satisfy some. I was derided, blamed and hurt for the loss I seemed to have brought down on others. I had loved to emptiness. But to the vulture-hearts gathered around me, I hadn’t done enough; my sins had caused the troubles.

         They said my misfortune was God’s punishment for my sins.

          And I believed them.

          For a whole year, I struggled. For a whole year, I sought God.

          But every time I came near, I hid from Him.

          Because they said I was to blame.

          And I believed them.

          One night, it was time for another farewell. So, I went to the only Treasure Chest there is for the gem of the greatest value to be bequeathed as a final gift.

          The page fell open to Isaiah 54:10 ~

The mountains may depart and the hills be moved,

but never will My love depart from you

          I wept and wept at the words. Every mountain and hill in my life had been levelled. I had come to know a tearing so great and deep, I felt I could never again love.

          But in the nighttime of my deepest emptying, through the words, never will My love depart from you, my God told me He loved me.

          And for the first time, I believed Him.

 

 

 

Lent 17 ~ Spilling Sunshine

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          The kind of life we lead these days – the traffic chaos we navigate, the endless stress from deadlines and workloads, running the home, caring for the family, homeschooling, helping out at church, observing prayer times – the list of to-do’s never end. It’s probably worse for many others. This is the kind of life that has us running here and there, running lists through our heads. Almost every day, from our morning greeting of the day, would likely be about what we can accomplish this day, what can be crossed off those lists.

          I have that sort of life. My husband does too. And so do many we know. Yes, we get tons done. But something is often missing.

          Two days ago, on a sultry evening while the leaves thrashed restlessly in the hot breezes, I made up a batch of spicy fish cutlets. On a whim, I packed and sent some over, piping hot, to my next-door neighbour so she’d have one dish less to prepare for their dinner.

          The rest of the night sped past in a flurry of activities. I had been feeling tired before this but soon felt a new surge of energy. Despite the swelling heat, I felt contented at bedtime as I stood by my window, gazing out at a night sky fleeced in clouds, veiling distant stars winking slyly.

          Today, I read posts by a blogger, Jean, who holds sway at Molly’s Folks. There was one which caught my eye. A keen knitter and skilled at all things needle, she had made many little embroidered hearts, decorated with pretty baubles, and sent them out to various people. She could have sold them and made money off them, but she didn’t. They went to little girl homes. They went to the poor. They went to lives facing a bit of a chill.

          She was spilling little bits of sunshine here and there. Tumbling joy down where the cold sometimes never leaves.

          How often do I do that? I might do a lot for others, bring them the relief they need. But sometimes, we all need more than that. We need to know we are loved.

          We need that little dewdrop of gold sunshine, tumbled into a busy hour. We need that little goldpearl of love to be tucked into our weary spirits. We need that little tickle to turn us away from chills and heat for a while, to rest a bit in merry sunshine.

          We get that when others choose to love us more than their own selves. We get that when we choose to love others more than ourselves.

          That sudden lilt in my step that hot night was gifted me when I took time off to warm the heart of my busy neighbour. And I can imagine the delicious drizzling of joy in the spirits that received Jean’s love through her pretty handstitched hearts.

          We all need dimples of sun spilled into our everydays. When our Lent is so much to do with cleaning and cleansing, gifting love-through-joy where it is most needed can sometimes get buried beneath the busyness of our spirits.

          I’m going to try and spend more of my hours spilling sunshine into yearning burrows. Because the more tired our hearts get, the greater the need for sun~joys.

Lent 16 ~ Form Their Hearts

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For any parent who intimately knows the struggle to raise our children right

O glorious St. Joseph, to you God committed the care of His only begotten Son amid the many dangers of this world. We come to you and ask you to take under your special protection the children God has given us. Through holy baptism they became children of God and members of His holy Church. We consecrate them to you today, that through this consecration they may become your foster children. Guard them, guide their steps in life, and form their hearts after the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

St. Joseph, who felt the tribulation and worry of a parent when the child Jesus was lost, protect our dear children for time and eternity. May you be their father and counselor. Let them, like Jesus, grow in age as well as in wisdom and grace before God and men. Preserve them from the corruption of his world, and give us the grace one day to be united with them in Heaven forever.

Amen.

 

 

 

Lent 15 ~ A Shifting

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          A year ago, in the week before Lent 2016, I dreamt of a coming flood. A terrible, terrible rush of angry, filthy, muddy water. And the word given to me later by St Joseph, the Discerner of Dreams, was – Prepare. This call was repeated a few short months later.

          Since then, though I’ve often pondered it, I’ve not been told about a flood again. No more dreams of such a thing, either. Still, that didn’t keep me from wondering, What kind of a flood was it? From a terrible rain? A sea surge? An earthquake leading to a tsunami?

Or a spiritual flood of some sort, as many are speculating as well?

          Yesterday, I received an email from a humble, loving and deeply devout lady. She had reason to recall my old dream – she had been recently hearing of people once more having premonitions of a tsunami.

          I had nothing much to offer in my reply to her; there had been no recent stirring of my spirit in this regard.

          But as I ended my reply, I told her,

We must stay close to prayer. I am sensing a shifting.

          I don’t know where that came from. And I didn’t think much of it either as I sent off the email.

          Only today has it come to me that a tsunami is caused by a displacement of a large amount of water.

          Displacement.

          A shifting?

 

 

Lent 14 ~ Sigh of the Prisoner

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Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You,

with Your great power free those doomed to death. ~ Psalm 79:11

          Last year, I wrote of one of my superiors at work who has the unfortunate disposition of crushing hearts and spirits. He doesn’t do it unknowingly; he does it with cruel and calculated intent.

          I’ve been his target for the past 12 years. One day last year, he broke me finally.

          Deeply hurt, I turned to God.

          And the God I turned to turned me decidedly towards praying in mercy for this man. No retribution plea He allowed. No arm about me, no flooding of heavenly comfort into my heart either.

          The balm for my pain lay in the mercy prayer for this man’s soul.

          And so, I prayed. Of course, it didn’t come easy. Revenge can be as strong a manacle of my heart as it is for this man who hurt me. The only difference is I seldom act on it. But revenge maintained a malevolent vigil even as I forced myself to pray that this man be saved.

          I was taken through several prayers as I went from one level of healing to the next. When I first began, it was a simple yet powerful, Blood of Christ on him, Blood of Christ on me. The angels tinkled the prayer chimes every time I saw him at work. Every time he entered my thoughts. I said the prayer when my heart softened from time to time. I said it when my heart hardened in anger every time bitter memories won out.

          And after a time, I was led to the Divine Mercy Chaplet for him. By this time, there was no more inner struggle to pray for him. I didn’t have to be dragged to the prayer. I said it with some dedication too.

          And whenever I slipped in my routine, God sent me dreams of the man and his power to hurt, He allowed little nips at work too – to take me scurrying back to the Cradle of Grace, seeking life for the man.

          I have read to some extent of the immense power of prayer. It can work in ways we least expect.

          Great imagination that I have, it failed me with regards to this man. Despite all my reading and experiences on the miracles prayers can obtain, I couldn’t fathom how my puny prayers this time were going to save his soul – because he barely changed. I finally reached the point where I stopped caring about where my prayers for this man were headed, and how they were going to be answered. I was called to say them, and I did.

          I placed whatever disappointment I had in the lack of signs of conversion, in Mother Mary’s heart. And while I continued to pray for him, in this way, I moved on too.

          Then, one day at Mass, through one of the readings, I heard a voice tell me that this man could not change because the dark pride in him went back a long way; his bloodlines had been contaminated from a long time before.

          I was stupefied. What did it mean? After all my effort, this??!! God let me puzzle over this for many long weeks.

          And then, a tiny bud began to bloom. An Unseen Heart gently drew me to the Prayer of the Holy Wounds. For a reason I have no explanation for, two weeks ago, I began to determinedly place this man in Jesus’ Holy Wounds. I put him and four others in Christ’s sacred Wounds, I imagined them there, deep within, and prayed for the Blood of Christ to flood them all, cleansing every bloodline, helping each one to love God more than themselves.

          Every day, I offered that same Prayer of the Holy Wounds at the start of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Each time I prayed it, the prayer became a little less about me, and more about saving him.

          Then, at the beginning of the new week, these lines of the Responsorial Psalm caught my heart ~

Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You;
with Your great power free those doomed to death.

          At any other time, reading those words would have made me immediately see myself as that Prisoner, because I have too much of mercy for myself.

          But this time, this time was different.

          The moment I saw the words, I saw my superior’s face.

          I knew then that while I only saw him as a sneak and a bully and all things negative and unpleasant before this, in God’s compassionate gaze, this man was a prisoner.

          And by extension of that, if I held on to my negative perception of my superior – however justified it was, but without the compassion of mercy and forgiveness, – then, I was being his jailer.

          Slowly, ever so slowly, the flower of comprehension began to bloom more petals. The Prayer of the Holy Wounds was as much for me as it was for that unfortunate man.  Christ’s Sacred Wounds had freed me from being the jailer of this soul. 

          And I now know with a deep certainty that my Jesus’ Wounds will now free this man’s soul.

          As often, as deeply  and as selflessly as I continue to place this man into the Holy Wounds, this prisoner will be freed to begin to seek the only God there is.

          And the conversion will begin.

Lent 13 ~ I Refuse Thee Nothing

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          Some hours ago, I stopped by one of my favourite blogs, Veil of Veronica, by blogger Susan Skinner, and there I read what I wished I’d never read – the closing of the Lifebook of Eva Vaughan, a friend very dear to Susan.

          Susan had brought Eva to us through various blog posts. Through her posts on Eva’s battle with pancreatic cancer, I saw my smallness and my empty heroism, the way I took my own health, motherhood, and other gifts, for granted.

          Today, I read that Eva has folded her earthly wings and gone Home.

          I promised Susan Masses for Eva’s soul- which I can only do this coming Sunday when we go to church. I want to do something for Eva in the days between now and Sunday. I try to offer prayers for her soul, but it’s like pricing away nails deeply embedded in wood.

          It’s a day when prayers don’t come easy.

          But I don’t want a burning, humid day when the breezes forgot to play, to be the reason to leave a soul waiting.

          Yet, an unpleasant inertia takes hold of me.

          But I press on. I’ve got to do something.

          In a quiet moment, rare in the sultry night here, Nancy Shuman brings me Heaven’s answer ~

Have you ever tried giving God just one day in which you refused Him nothing, a day of absolute generosity? ~ Fr William Doyle

          I’m not in a giving mood, to be honest. A nagging shoulder injury and the heat of the day, coupled with kids determined to be like ants on your leg, have taken me amongst briars. I just want the pain to go, the kids to be quiet and the rains to fall.

Have you ever tried giving God just one day in which you refused Him nothing, a day of absolute generosity?

          What if God asks me for something I just cannot give? I know the Giver of Every Good Gift Who fashioned me, body and soul, would never ask me to cross terrains for which no grace is available. Yet, in my sinfulness I hold back. My reluctance tells the pathetic tale of my lack of faith. I am afraid to trust Him today.

          But what if this is what Eva needs? And if she has no need of my prayers, but someone else does, can I knowingly withhold this giving? Is it right for me to do so, so brazenly and selfishly?

Have you ever tried giving God just one day in which you refused Him nothing, a day of absolute generosity?

          I have never. Even now, I don’t want to.

          But if this is God’s decree for me, I must. Because I have made a promise to obey. With all my heart and with all my soul.

          And so, I take the plunge ~

God’s Will be mine. I refuse Thee nothing.

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Lent 12 ~ Wounds for Glory

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          I have been trying to stay faithful to my Atonement Rosary ~ The Divine Mercy Chaplet. Lately, through dreams and other experiences my family and I have faced, I know that as Sr. Lucia dos Santos of the Fatima Apparitions revealed, the family is the latest battleground. The family is under attack.

          And I fear for us.

          I wish I could be stoic and unflinching, with an Abraham-esque faith. Unshaken by storms and uncertainties; clear-minded and loyal to every asking of God. But I have too much of Peter in me. One squall and I’m ready to jump out of the boat.

          This morning was no different. Because of my working hours, I have now taken to reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet during my dawn Holy Hour. In the past week, I have begun to pray for the family’s persecutors. I wish I could say I pray the chaplet with love for my fellow men.

          I do not.

          I pray it with fear. No matter how many times I kick myself over it, whenever I pray for my husband and children’s protection, I still pray with no small amount of trepidation. What we have been through in years past, what we have recently faced, they make me afraid of what else is in store for us, and if our walls will hold.

          This morning, I went to the Chaplet with the same agitation. After the 2nd decade, at the start of the 3rd, about to petition for protection for my loved ones, I lost the prayer.

          It was slipped away from me. In its place was:

Give us the courage to bear our wounds that God’s Glory may shine through them.

          The minute the prayer got out, I twisted and flailed to pull it back.

          I didn’t want wounds. We have had enough for two lifetimes. We are a family that struggles with wounds and woundings; it would be sheer insanity to accept, to ask for any more. So, I quickly tried to tack on a couple of caveats.

         But an unseen hand had once more swiped the prayer out of my staining reach. I felt like I was down below, gazing up at my prayer held high, away from me.

         I completed the decade, and went on to the 4th. Again, at the beginning, the same attempt to pray for protection. And yet again, it was gently taken away and replaced ~

Give us the courage to bear our wounds that God’s Glory may shine through them.

          God’s Will Be Mine, I finally whispered, the fight gone out of me. I don’t know how we’d cope with any more lashings; we don’t stand among the strong, for sure. But suddenly, my wobbly love for God wins out. It is along those lines that my heart falls into peace. We may not be soldier material, but we have always loved. And if love calls us to bear our wounds for others, just like Jesus bore His for us, then my family and I must – no matter how afraid and spiritually timid we are. Because the Miracle of the Glorified Cross shines brightest through wounds borne for Love.

          Because to bear our wounds is a sacrifice. To bear our wounds is to praise God.

          And to offer praise as a sacrifice is to glorify God.