Wild gales marked the opening of 2017 for me. Almost every day has been a whirlwind of duties and tasks and meetings and deadlines and I’ve been skidding from one port of call to another. There have been pockets and deeps of happy days. Days when blue~gold morning winds played elfin tunes as they darted between tree arms and fingers green. Even the sudden showers we’ve had were lovely, the darkening of skies bringing a delicious quietening within my heart.
But the pace has been wild, and its first victim – prayer life.
Specifically – our night time family Rosary.
This year alone, I’ve missed more Rosaries than I ever have since we began it in earnest in 2012. No amount of resolutions and adjusting of timing helped. If we made it one day, we missed the next two. It gnawed at me, for I knew just where we were headed with this – right back to before 2012 – when missed days led to missed weeks and then, months marked by endless tearing and scratching of spirit. That was one rutted path I did not ever want to go down again. I needed climb back up the wagon, and get on with it.
But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
Trapped by an odd malaise, I felt caught in a vice of tiredness, frenzy and muddled thinking. My will abandoned me. Something needed to be done to arrest the slip, but I felt like I had been rendered…. stupid.
One night, after we did manage the Rosary, yet without the conviction that we were back on track, the days’ stress having curdled my spirit, I decided to sink my heart into some much needed spiritual dew. Opening my precious Christmas gift from a more precious friend, the book – Left To Tell – by Rwandan genocide survivor, Immaculée Ilibagiza, I returned to where I had left off from a previous reading. It was when the machete-armed Hutus were descending upon Immaculée’s helpless and defenseless family and thousands of other hunted Tutsis like them, with the sole intent to slaughter and massacre them all. All escape avenues cut off, no weapons except some spears and stones against the enemies’ machetes, guns and grenades, Immaculée’s father, Leonard, rallied his fellow Tutsis:
“Let us use the time we have to repent.”
It was past midnight, and finding that I could not read on anymore, I called it a night. But before I went to bed, I reached for my alarm clock, and did the unthinkable (by my pathetic standards of willpower) – I set it back to 4:40 a.m., from my usual 5 a.m. wake up time. Already sleep deprived, it sure wasn’t something I had planned; something just took over me.
By 5 the next morning, I was ready for my Holy Hour, and Left To Tell was far from my mind. I didn’t feel like my usual prayers, though. It might have been tiredness. I wanted to pray something different. Then, I had the sudden thought to pray the Rosary. Not as a replacement for our nightly family one, but an extra one, an addition to the night’s one. Just me and my beads. I thought I’d use it to ask for forgiveness for all the times I had missed. About to recite the first Mystery, I felt someone whisper in my heart,
I went still for a moment. My mind returned to a night last year, when I had been in the car, waiting for my husband as he ran an errand. I had felt the sudden urge to pray to St Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy mystic, to ask her to come to me, to journey with me. And the very second I did, I felt her presence close to me.
My soul was then filled with a strange sadness, but it was not mine. I somehow knew immediately that it was St. Faustina’s sadness, and asked for its reason, but she chose not to answer my question. About to revisit my own considerable list of sins to find the culprit, St Faustina stepped in and stopped my thoughts with the knife-slice of a single word:
The word left me with a cold that reached to the pit of my stomach.
I knew now that I could not in any way lay claim to the urge to say the Atonement Rosary. It was not from me. It was not a mere whim. I was led to it by unseen hands. Why, I briefly wondered. It should have been obvious, but I never seem to learn. The answer came before the next breath. Immaculée’s father’s words in Left To Tell came back to me:
“Let us use the time we have to repent.”
Use the time we have. Repent. Atone. The Divine Mercy call. The call many heard last year. The call we might have forgotten with the closing of the Year of Mercy, and with the Christmas rush. The call renewed in some hearts yet again this year, with a deeper, more powerful urgency.
In the time we have left,