Eagle of Mexico

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          Last Friday, when warm joy began to flow through me once more, thawing the ice of old winter, my daughter pointed out two eagles perched atop a swaying fir branch. They were so far away and we were in the car, moving fast. Yet, my girl saw those beautiful creatures and was able to point them out to me. And I had enough time to gaze in awe at their beauty.

          They were indeed very far away and I don’t have that great eyesight. But something about those twin eagles stirred the depths of my spirit. I felt a silence fall into my heart. A peaceful silence.

          The next morning, deep in the breast of a golden~blue sky, a single eagle soared and called out from the heavens. I watched him for a while, enjoying him, for eagles are a rare sight here. The following day, again, an eagle soared and called out once more in the eastern skies readying for night’s welcome slumber. It could have been the same eagle. Or not.

          It didn’t matter, because by then, I was aware of something: every time I saw eagles, everything in me and around me stilled. And I was filled with the deepest peace, even as my spirit straightened in awe.

         Who are you? I asked the soaring magnificence.

          That night, I set about to find out about the symbolism of eagles. At a Christian website, its author, himself intrigued by eagles, had written about this great bird’s characteristics.

          One characteristic which reached out and caught me was the eagle perching for days even, awaiting the right wind conditions for it to soar in the sky. Because of the heaviness of their wings, it is imperative for an eagle to soar – to fly without flapping its wings, as much as it can, in order to preserve energy. To soar, the bird requires wind thermals – a big gust of wind – and so, the eagle sometimes has to wait a long time for them.

          They are patient, I learned. I had always thought of eagles as business-like, focused but I’ve never equated them with patience.

          After that revelation, I never saw another eagle in the sky.

          But soon something else caught my heart. Mexico. When that name was laid upon my heart, I felt gentle arrows of joy once more embed themselves into me. Why this joy over Mexico? I wondered. It didn’t make sense to me as anytime Mexico made the news, it was rarely positive. Earthquakes, drug cartels, gangs, corruption, drug wars, murders – all those were associated with Mexico for me. Yet Mexico for me was also about the warmth and love of family, the strength of old and tested faith.

          On a whim, I looked up pictures of Mexico, to get a deeper feel of that country. I was taken aback when I pulled up an image of the Mexican flag.

 At the centre of it was an eagle.

          It became clear then that someone was trying to tell me something.

          I decided I’d let it rest, and that I’d rest myself too. God would make things clear in His time. No sooner had my head touched the pillow when I suddenly recalled why Mexico is special.

          It was the home of the Guadalupe Marian apparitions. I myself have a special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe because whenever I’ve struggled with Islamism, She has been close by.

          Her presence has always indicated that particular battle.

         Guadalupe, I breathed. Guadalupe and its personal significance, coming when my family and I are praying the special Muslim fasting month Rosary. It was no coincidence. My thoughts went to Jesus’ words that touched me some weeks back, I alone know what lies beyond the bend. I thought about the way I knew those words were meant to mean something to me, and yet, I could not feel it when I first heard them. But this very day, I recalled those words once more, and this time, they stirred the depths of me.

Something lies beyond the bend, my spirit intoned.

          And a strange, quiet excitement took hold of me, even as I sensed there would be trouble of some form ahead.

          What does this mean? I pondered.

The eagle

Mexico, Guadalupe

Something lies beyond the bend

          I decided to write to a friend strong in the faith. She replied, telling me eagles were often associated with contemplation. Yet another thing I hadn’t known. I pondered that too.

Eagle. Guadalupe.

So … contemplate Guadalupe?

          Although I felt I knew pretty much all there was to know about the Guadalupe apparitions, I looked them up anyway. Imagine my utter surprise, when I came across something I didn’t remember reading before. That the native name of the poor, humble man who saw the Virgin of Guadalupe in the 1531 apparitions was Cuauhtlatoatzin.

Which meant talking eagle.

          I could sense my spirit still inside me once more. This was the path I needed to take. St Juan Diego.

          So, I went to learn about St Juan Diego, the name the humble Aztec native took upon his conversion to the faith.

          And the second surprise of the day awaited me.

          During the apparitions, when Mother Mary asked Juan Diego to take a message to the Bishop, asking for a temple to be built on the Tepeyac Hill, the simple man had hurried to obey. However, after listening to the message, he was turned away by the Bishop. Returning to the Lady, he told Her all that had happened. Reluctant to return to the bishop’s residence, he pleaded,

“I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf.”

          I must have read about those apparitions many, many times. And yet, only today, did I learn of that anguished utterance from a heart so humble.

I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf.

          Again, I turned all this over in my heart. I could sense a door open all through this discernment and that door had not yet shut, indicating I was to go on deeper. Then, I came across something.

Juan Diego had died on May 30.

          Was this Diego journey, begun yesterday, to be a 9-day novena, ending on the 30th?

          And then, I saw what else was to be celebrated on the 30th of May.

Ascension of our Lord.

          For some reason, the Eagle of Mexico has come to take my hand. I have none of his humility, none of his steadfastness of faith. I crumble easily. Although I can love deeply, patience is a virtue very much in want in me.

          But he has come. His hand I will take, his voice I will listen to.

And the message of his heart I will learn.

 

 

 

 

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Winter’s End

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          Many sunny hours have woven their sweetness throughout my recent days. For the first time, in a long, long while, I have begun to feel a happy spring flow and flow  through me, tripping and tumbling through my spirit. After so long, once more, I find joy in the gentle sway of green trees in happy winds. I see parents with tots and rejoice over their Yes! to life. Even storm clouds make my heart sing as swathes of orange~gold sunset shine through breaks of grey.

          Yet, if anyone had told me this much longed for happiness was coming, if they had told me this last Thursday or Friday, I would have found it hard to believe – because on those days, I was involved in yet another fight for my religious rights. In those smarting  hours, I didn’t have a faith big enough to ask for joy.

          All I begged of God was for peace of mind to work peaceably.

          Because when troubles are deep, when life is difficult, we need peace to get from one day to another. In many places like mine, where religious intolerance and skirmishes are escalating, even a sliver of peace each day has immense power and I have learned to value it. That was what I was experiencing since that odd silence came into me, and I was so grateful for the strength and help God rendered to me. 

          But then suddenly, came this unauthorized ‘addendum’ on an old leave application for Good Friday way back in April. With one slice of someone’s dark sword, silence – and peace – went. My leave had been approved by my superior and submitted a long time back, and the leave taken. Yet, suddenly, weeks later, a clerk in the state department, not even a higher ranked officer, took it upon herself to place extra conditions on my leave application, threatening to void it if the conditions – her conditions – were not fulfilled.

          I only saw a red mist at her audacity. Suddenly, with all that has been happening, it was too much for me. This is why I am very wary of the Muslim fasting month here – There is something about this month of theirs that brings out the worst in them. It seemingly never fails to light and stoke the flame of intolerance and suspicion against others. It either turns people into what they weren’t before or it makes them worse.

          Please end this, God, please end this, I begged and begged, in frustration, in weariness. I am trying to endure but this is so hard. Please help me. Tell me what to do. Give me a sign, I prayed.

          On Friday morning, tense at what else lay ahead, I placed my Friday of Atonement and Reparation in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. As I said my first prayers at my altar, I saw a few flashes of light. This has happened many times before, though, not always. It is my guardian angel’s sign to me – to cheer up, all will be well.

          Really? I obviously didn’t have a lot of stock of faith at the moment.

          Then, came the next. The opening lines of Friday’s Gospel reading was,

Jesus said to his disciples:

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  ~   John 14: 1

          In a more humble and steadfast soul, those words would have pierced right through, flooding the soul with strength and hope. But I was no humble and steadfast soul; I was a steaming geyser right then, not sure if I had to grit my teeth and endure this, or pray and ask – and hope – that it be resolved.

          So, my spirit wasn’t exactly quiet and meek and humble. Because of that, I couldn’t feel His words. I leaned against the very door Jesus was trying to open to come in.

          But I didn’t give up either. Are you speaking to me, Lord? I asked. Let your heart not be troubled… is it for me? I pawed on.

          And then, I bowed my heart and asked for forgiveness for my lack of faith.

          Just as I was about to rise and go to my work day, St. Margaret Mary stopped me,

When you are in trouble and anxiety, go and plunge yourself in the peace of this adorable Heart, which no one can take from you.   ~   St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          And the words fell straight into my heart. From the doubt I had shortly before, if I was meant to endure and suffer or if I had to go ahead and fight for my rights, now I suddenly had the strongest feeling that she understood me, that she was on my side.

          More importantly, that this was a battle and it had to be fought.

          The change in me was instantaneous. I rose from my prayer mat, pierced with a sudden rush of strength at the words, Go and plunge yourself in the Sacred Heart. Gone was the inner tension. Gone was the fear of standing up and making my voice heard.

Go and plunge yourself in the Sacred Heart

          Over and over, I said the words to myself, I plunge myself into the Sacred Heart. When I thought of the absurdity and the sheer unfairness of what I was going through, I plunged it into the Sacred Heart. When my thoughts went to how this would all work out, what I needed to do, when to do it, I plunged them all into the Sacred Heart.

          Within two short hours at work, I got a call telling me the matter was settled. I had not done anything. And neither was there anything that I needed to do.

          It wasn’t mere relief that burst through my heart. It was the hymn of utter joy! I could barely understand it. I have faced far, far worse before, and while I have received God’s guidance and consolation for those times, yet, it was over the resolution of this – smaller – issue that the arrows of joy were piercing me over and over and over again in their unutterable sweetness.

          I carried this bubbling, laughing light within me from the moment of that phone call. Gone was every shadow that had taken firm residence in me for so long. Suddenly, I tasted freedom. I could lean my heart against every thing of beauty ~ children not mine, big and little, my own husband, my own children, the sacred duties of wife and mother. I ran out to greet every song the winds sang from their secret watch amongst the clouds. In a long neglected ritual, I stole minutes to go and rest awhile in the mad tangles of a little garden coming back to life, rejoicing over new shoots and baby buds. And late at night, at my window, saying good night to the world, I lay my heart in grateful rest in the gentle, solemn embrace of the mother~moon, suddenly sure of my Heavenly Mother’s love for me.

          Someday perhaps, I may learn the secret weave of this story, how each line, both visible and hidden, lived out its mission to take me from one chapter to the next.

          For now, though the road ahead lies in patient wait for my travel, I am certain of one thing.

          I have finally come to the end of my long winter. Spring has indeed come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silence

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          It’s been more than a week of a strange inner silence. Initially, I put it down to being unwell. Then, to my husband being unwell. Later, I figured it was because there was so much going on in our daily lives.

          But soon, I had to admit to myself, something else was going on, this was new.

I felt as if this inner silence was stretching my spirit. Really stretching it. I also felt as if nothing was being allowed to stick onto this silence, for whatever reason.

It didn’t hurt. It didn’t distract me from work or chores or reading. It didn’t make me crabby, primed to bark and bite. Life could go on undisturbed. But no whisper nor echo made itself heard from within me.

          At church last week, I quietly pleaded with Mother Mary and Jesus before Mass, Let me hear Your voice. Your voice alone. Yet, I was calm, not desperate, not frantically scratching at God’s door. Then, as I always do in trying to quiet my spirit before Mass, I read a little from St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul.

          Nothing stood out. In fact, the words swirled before my eyes – a sign that something is being kept from me – in order to be revealed later. Since I began having this sign – this ‘swirling’ – about 20 years ago, it has almost always been a prelude to a revelation. But this time, this odd stillness, a little like an inner death and yet not, didn’t give me much hope of ‘hearing’ anything.

          Returning to my pew after receiving Holy Communion, I looked up and was slightly taken aback to see the word ‘Silence’ projected onto the wall by the overhead projector. This was the 2nd week of it – before this, we never had quiet time after Holy Communion. Before this, the choir would have launched into the Thanksgiving hymn even before I had even thought of a word of prayer after Communion.

          But there it was, the word, ‘Silence’, the choir quiet.

          And suddenly, at that very moment, out of nowhere, I remembered that I had read something in the Divine Mercy in My Soul earlier. Something about silence.

Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul. We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back, without taking any regard as to whether it is God’s will that we should speak. A silent soul is strong; no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence. The silent soul is capable of attaining the closest union with God. It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God works in a silent soul without hindrance.   ~   Entry 477

I can certainly say that I am by no means a silent soul, neither do I possess one. I am not chatty nor talkative as a person but I do have a soul that is. And maybe that was why I felt this new silence so keenly.

I was unaccustomed to it.

          I returned to those lines in the entry, seeking some specific light. I found it,

The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul.

          A sword of silence. Nothing will cling.

          Nothing will be allowed to cling.

 

 

 

 

 

An Answer Comes

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God has answered me. Troubled by the Sri Lanka Easter Day bombings, I had asked God to tell me what to do. Exactly 3 days after my asking, He answers through another person,

Pray a special Rosary for the Muslim fasting month.

From May till early June.

Pray for conversion of Muslim hearts.

 

          When I asked Him 3 days before, I was restless and anxious. Then, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque calmed me with,

This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.  

Her words made me realise that patient wait went hand-in-hand with humility. I saw that my fretting was caused by my lack of humility – I was impatient with God; I wanted to lead. Once I saw that, I returned to doing His will in my daily life. I went to work. I cared for my family. I worked as hard as I could in quietness. When the tough hours drained me of vigour, I forced myself to be grateful for littles. Over and over, I prayed from the depths of my heart, Lord, Forgive me for I have sinned.

          And all through the 3 days, I sensed the softest, lightest breath upon my spirit, saying,

For reparation

For reparation

For reparation

          On the evening of the 3rd day, a friend’s words moved me to pray to forgive those who hurt me. I did not think of my family members. Instead, immediately, I thought of my superiors and some co-workers. And again, from the depths of my heart, I prayed, I forgive…

          The very next instant, God spoke and told me He wanted the Conversion Rosary. The Muslim fasting month presents the same danger we as Christians face in Lent – the abyss of spiritual pride. Spiritual pride that comes when we think we are great for the fasting we do each day, for the number of prayers we recite, for the various added Lenten rituals.

          But in many ways, it is harder for them. They have no Jesus who fought off the devil. They do not have Jesus’ example. They do not have His words. So, when pride assails them in that desert of deprivation, it finds an easy target.

          And they emerge from the fasting month, worse than before, for being nourished by pride.

Pride in any hands is a deadly weapon.

          But we have a weapon far greater, far more powerful – the Rosary. It is a weapon that can defeat any other because it is a weapon of love and of humility – not of pride, not of arrogance, not of hatred.

          It is this same journey of humble and loving entreaty that God is asking of me in this May Rosary. Not to demand, but in love and humility, to pray for the conversion of brethren Muslim spirits.

          That with us, they too seek to love and obey the Divine Heart of Jesus.

 

 

 

Wait

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This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.   ~   St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          After Sri Lanka, I am straining at the reins. I want to do more than what I am doing. I don’t want our churches bombed. Neither do I want the places of worship of other faiths to suffer the same. For more than 20 years, living here, my family and I have tried to witness to Christ in a way that shows others they have nothing to fear of Jesus – but that even if they will not convert, they can embrace His teachings to love one another and live differently in their faith.

          We’ve emptied ourselves in this giving. It feels as if there is nothing left in our jar of oil.

          But there must be.

         What do You ask of me? What do You ask of me? I tug and tug at God’s hem.

          But He doesn’t answer. Because God never answers an asking that doesn’t listen.

          As I prod and probe, skirmishes within the family begin. Seemingly minor things but still they chaff. A husband’s disbelief in something. A child’s self-centeredness. I continue to work for the family, to be there for them, but the lightness in my heart has gone. And when the hurting  doesn’t let up, the wound deepens. And a silence enters my heart.

          Padre Pio comes by later in the morning. Gently, he reminds me, Don’t allow any sadness to dwell in your soul, for sadness prevents the Holy Spirit from acting freely.

          But I cannot pretend the hurt isn’t there. I cannot just jump back into my happy and cheery self.

          It is Divine Mercy Sunday. I place my heart, sadness and all, in the Divine Heart. And I get on with my day, no longer pulling and tugging at God’s hem, but pondering in the silence within.

          It is late afternoon when I seek God’s word. Tell me what to do, I quietly tell Heaven.

          St. Margaret Mary answers for the saints,

This Divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.  

 

 

 

Waters of Grace

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          Yesterday, I came across a prayer by Pope Francis:

Lord, roll back the stone in my heart

          It’s Easter now. The time of fasting and sorrowing over our sins is supposedly over. The Lord has risen, and by right we are to be all light and joy.

          But here I was, stuck in an unbeliever’s world – not because I do not believe – but because something was holding me outside the circle of Light.

          The Lord has risen but I was still in the tomb.

          I went ahead and (unenthusiastically) said the prayer, Lord, roll back the stone in my heart. Frankly, I was unhappy to pray the prayer. I didn’t like to admit that stones might still be stacked up God knows how high in my heart. It’s as if Lent didn’t work out for me. Everyone else has done their spiritual cleaning and de-stoning during Lent; here I was, wondering if I was only just beginning!!

          Maybe it’s because of the Roll back the stone prayer, but last night, my thoughts returned to the hymn, He, and the refrain,

Though it makes Him sad to see the way we live,

He will always say, I forgive.

          In the last week of Lent, seeing no hope of change in my place of work, I opened my heart and asked God if it were not possible for just a little kindness. I wasn’t asking for much, I reasoned, because before, I had asked for much more. Before this, I had asked to be allowed to leave this town due to its rejection of me and my family for our Christian values. I asked to leave because it’s been 20 plus years of trying to live out our witness to our faith. More than 2 decades of welcoming the people of this town into our hearts. Of suffering with them. Of journeying with them, respectfully, in the ecumenism of different faiths.

          Yet, the long and bitter years to love as Jesus asked have not  changed this place nor its people for the better. If anything, this town and its inhabitants are becoming increasingly radicalized. They have begun turning on us for refusing to cross over to their side, for steadfastly choosing Jesus. Exhausted from navigating upheaval after upheaval, I asked to leave.

          But this year, God made His voice heard on that petition. He told me that if we left, this town would never know Jesus again.

          It broke my heart to hear that. It was not what I wanted. But I never prayed that prayer again because disappointed or not, some part of me bowed in obedience to God’s will.

          Suddenly, last night, hours after the prayer of Roll back the stone in my heart, I decided that the next new day, every time someone hurt me, every time a situation made me want to run and hide, I would face it in silence and allow it to pierce me instead.

          And I would pray, Jesus, forgive me. Even if I had done no discernible wrong, that would be my prayer for the next day.

          No prizes for guessing how the day worked out.

          I tripped the very minute I stepped into my work place. I came face to face with the colleague who’s made my life a misery for years. I don’t normally see her so early in the day but there she was, bright and early, primed for malice.

          The second I saw her, I didn’t remember anything about rolling back any stone. I didn’t remember the purposing of my day for atonement. Instead, I distinctly felt my heart inflame and harden remembering the injustices she has meted out.

          Scant minutes later, I belatedly remembered the response I had planned. Fed up with myself, I honestly wanted to bin the intention of the previous night. What was the point anyway, I never seemed to move beyond the biggest rocks in my life.

          But a promise to God was a promise. So, I bowed my heart and listlessly prayed,

Jesus, forgive me

          Although I knew I had done this colleague no wrong, although I had loved her with all my heart for more than 20 years and didn’t deserve this bulling and abuse of our friendship, once more I forced myself, as self-inflicted penance, to repeat,

Jesus, forgive me

          Then something strange began to happen.

          Kindness began to trickle my way – not from this colleague, but from others. It may not have seemed like much, but it was a lot to me. I had prayed for kindness the week before, just enough to be able to go on. Then, I had shushed myself, fearing that prayer was a rejection of my Cross.

          But strangely, unexpectedly, a pure spring now gently silvered into my day and my burdens lifted. Although almost every day before this had been difficult, now it seemed as if the walls of the day no longer bore nails to hurt.

          For some moments, I struggle to understand what I did to deserve this reprieve. And then, I realise that it’s not about what I’ve done. This is grace. Jesus was pierced as He hung on the Cross. Blood and water had flowed from that pierced side.

          The miracle of kindness I experienced today was that water of grace that came from the piercing of my Jesus’ body. As often as I pray with heart and soul, Jesus, forgive me, not the easy prayer in idle moments free of pain and hurt, BUT praying each time I face piercing, the stone in my heart rolls back further and further.

          2 years ago, at Christmas, I had dreamt of water filling a room in my home right to the ceiling. I had opened my door and the powerful rush of that clear water had knocked me down. I had then felt the words,

Momentarily overwhelmed

          I now know what it means. Opening the door means to roll back the stone in my heart. And I will be knocked down by the in-rushing waters of grace when my spirit bends in humility as I pray,

Jesus, forgive me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beyond the Bend

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          I asked God a few days back why no song has been laid on my heart for months now. At the moment of my rising today, the angels brought this old hymn. As Easter rises hollow and empty for me, I search the lines of the hymn for His Light for me.

He

He can turn the tide or calm the angry sea,
He alone decides who writes a symphony.
He lights ev’ry star that makes our darkness bright
He keeps watch all through each long and lonely night.
He still finds the time to hear a child’s first prayer,
Saint or sinner calls and always finds him there.

Though it makes Him sad to see the way we live, He’ll always say, “I Forgive”

He can grant a wish or make a dream come true,
He can paint the clouds and turn the gray to blue.
He alone knows where to find the rainbow’s end,
He alone can see what lies beyond the bend.
He can touch a tree and turn the leaves to gold
He knows ev’ry lie that you and I have told.

Though it makes Him sad to see the way we live, He’ll always say, “I Forgive”.

 

          I asked God which of those lines is meant for me. I expected it to be, He alone knows where to find the rainbow’s end, given that He has used the rainbow to buoy me on to hope for the fulfilment of His promise to me.

          Instead, this was His answer,

He alone can see what lies beyond the bend.