Month: September 2017

Rest in Love

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NANCY SHUMAN

7 February 1946   ~   30 August 2017

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          In memory of treasured friend, blogger, ardent follower of Christ. The Cloistered Heart & The Breadbox Letters, mother~heart all lit up in love and warmth to welcome every weary traveler seeking God. Keeper of Lights who lit the pathways to God, gently taking us from one stop to the next, shining the light that we may see the God who loves us. Gone now, gone she is, crossed the bridge, to rest in Love Eternal.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

 

 

 

 

Unbeliever

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         Preparing for a moving and joyous family celebration this past Sunday, ‘something’ wasn’t happy. So, it sent its emissary – a relative – to trouble us, distract us from the miracle of the Eucharist. The person was successful in a sense, managing to upset my husband and I terribly, bringing us close to an argument on a Sunday of golden breezes, stilled spirits  and tickled hearts.

          It was a clear and direct attack on the family.

          We fought back. And our weapon was family too. We made it very, very clear that no one, not even relatives, could force us to put marriage and family on a lower rung of priorities just to accommodate the will of others.

          Given our response, this person will likely hesitate in future to go to where he had. I hope he does. Because despite being Catholic, a Communion minister at that, by what he did to us, he chose to kick Jesus into the gutter – right after Mass.

          It’s been a few days and I’m still not over it. It’s not the hurt so much as it is the utter shock of it. We never saw it coming, not from this friendly, cheery man who always had a sunny word and a stomach-in-a-stitch joke for everyone.

          Last night, the word ‘unbeliever’ popped into my mind.

          Seven years ago, after enduring years of a fun but very, very tumultuous friendship, I awakened to days and days of an unseen chorus of voices relentlessly chanting a caution to me:

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

          Day and night, hour after hour, there was no escaping the ceaseless chant. The fold of hours into days did nothing to diminish the urgency and insistence of this unseen clamour. I went to sleep and I awakened with those voices in my ear.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

          Just as it is now, so it was then. A staunch, church-going Catholic friend from my university days had fallen into a pattern of abusing our friendship. Only when the blade of her knife came too close to my family did I realize this was not how someone who loved Jesus treated others. True love does not begrudge someone her closeness to her family.

          True love will never allow one to stealthily usurp the first place marriage and family occupies in another’s life.

          I left that friendship once it sunk into me that there was nothing to go back to.

          But I did not completely understand the word unbeliever, never liked it even. In the community I work and live in, I am often referred to as an unbeliever simply because I am Christian and no one else is. Yet, seven years ago, this word was brought to my spirit as a warning.

          Now, seven years since, unbeliever has returned like mist, the reminder at once gentle and sorrowful. As if someone knows I have need to reacquaint myself with it despite the pain and bewilderment it will once more bring. 

          This time I did not sidestep the teaching.

          An unbeliever is a Christian who bears the mark of the beast. Because he has rejected Truth. I do not know if the unfortunate soul is spiritually dead, but I know with a deep certainty it means he is on his way there.

          Because he once chose Jesus and lived Christ’s life but has now disowned the Lord. Something else has entered the heart where Jesus once lived. The human will has embraced this entity but disowned our Lord and His teachings. It is not about the occasional lapses of conscience, of the random missing of the moral mark that almost everyone is guilty of. It is much, much more than that.

          It concerns a deliberate and calculated casting aside of Christ’s teachings – either through a dilution, a misrepresentation or a distortion. There’s a first time, then a second. One dismissal leading to the next distortion. And finally a rapid spiraling away from Truth towards death.

          A hardened conscience. Spiritual death.

          I believe that God has bade me understand through this connivance of our family member, that the unbeliever can be anyone who claims to be a Christian. He can even  be a pillar of the Church. He might come across as spiritually superior. Enlightened. Progressive. 

          A face seemingly set in the direction of the sun.

          But in the deepest folds of his spirit, hides the ice he swears allegiance to : that he does not accept Jesus. That Jesus’ teachings hold little true value for him because they contradict the worldly values he lives by.

          He believes himself to be a Christian. In reality, he is a Christian shaped by deceit.

          For the unbeliever, the life Christ lived which He wrote with His Blood on every human heart is no longer relevant in these modern times. Christ’s and His apostles’ lives might only be something to be recalled during Mass, read about in daily readings or an act he emulates to put on display for others his Christian-ness, but those principles are not lived in sincerity in the everydays of his real life.

           I remember a day years back, when we went to this same relative’s home. It was for a quiet get-together after a requiem Mass for his late wife, a beautiful soul, who had passed away a month before. There we caught up with his extended family, and it was a day of subdued cheer for they were a friendly lot.

          And yet, I remember a faint chill in that home. In that company. It was as if behind the smiles and friendliness and Bible-toting, eyes watched us. Eyes not theirs. I remember smiling and going along with the cheery banter, yet wanting to leave and feeling relief when we did. I thought it was just me and my social awkwardness. But it is slowly dawning on me that perhaps it wasn’t. What I had sensed that day in that home where a heart of gold once beat was not solely the chill of grief for the deceased. The pall of death extended beyond the physical. Only now do I see it.

          It was not mere loss that our spirits brushed against. It was the cold of a fading conscience.

          The beginnings of the mark of the unbeliever.

 

         

 

 

Parting the Mists

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         September brought the inevitable drying of my spirit again. I knew it had come when every time a light lit up for me and I went to it, the dry would touch me and what I thought was there would disappear. Over and over, it happened, like the touch-me-nots that close in on themselves the minute they are touched. Every prayer direction, every prayer itself, would close itself away from me just as I reached out to embrace it.

          I didn’t understand what God was trying to tell me. I am more than familiar with the spiritual aridity God has allowed for me for some years now. I know it from the signs. Exactly the desert. Devoid of almost everything.

          But this time it was different. I was being shown signs. Little lights that came and almost immediately receded out of sight. The signs stayed only as long as it took me to notice them, and then, they were gone.

          St Jude. The Illumination of Conscience. St Michael. Pray for protection. St Jude. Seven Sorrows Rosary.

          Nonetheless, I took each one and its call to heart. I followed every light in what little obedience I could summon. I followed them despite doubts. I followed them despite the absence of consolation that it was the right thing to do.

          Yet, I remained troubled at the briefness of each praying period and the quick change to another prayer. I was afraid that I wasn’t discerning the signs right. I was afraid that ‘something else’ might be fooling with me, making me tear down after each light so that I would soon be breathless, frazzled  and distracted.

          But I wasn’t. I wasn’t out of breath. I wasn’t frazzled. I wasn’t distracted. Despite the rapid shifts in spiritual calls I was seeing, alongside the inner aridity, coexisted a strange calm and deep quiet. Dryness and water impossibly together.

          Church matters required that my family be at church on Saturday. There, a complete stranger, a lapsed Catholic married to a non-Christian, sought my company. She was hurting deeply. The kids were a problem. Money was a problem. Intense business rivalry had cost her her business. She had only come to our Catholic parish to send her non-Catholic kids to a free coaching programme.

          She had interrupted me in the midst of my task and I had to force myself to focus fully on this woman pouring her heart out to me. I covertly traced crosses on myself that I say nothing to upset her further, that I add nothing to her already immense burdens and fears. As the words tumbled out of her, I was much aware of the Our Lady of Lourdes statue that loomed high above the grotto behind this woman. Glancing at the statue, I silently prayed that I be emptied of myself. Emptied so that Mother Mary could touch this woman in her sorrows through me. I asked for Mother’s words. I asked for Mother’s touch.

          Desperate to help this poor woman, I gently suggested Holy water. I gently turned the woman towards the Rosary. The sprinkling of Holy Water and the recitation of the Rosary, even just gripping it without the words, were my own, habits formed from pain and sorrow and fears much like this stranger’s. But steering this lady towards them, I felt we were going nowhere. I didn’t feel Mother Mary’s power course through me. I didn’t feel that my words had come from heaven. So, I stopped trying to turn her towards those life-savers. Instead, I said our goodbyes, I gave her my promise: I would pray for her.

          And her aching reply to me was, Don’t forget my name.

          Later, I discovered that the coaching programme this woman had come to church to send her kids to was run by the St. Vincent de Paul society members of our church. I had known of this outreach to the poor, but had forgotten about it.

          Yet, the moment I heard the name St Vincent de Paul, I felt it tug at my spirit.

          Short hours later, I entered the empty church for some quiet time. I looked at the big Divine Mercy image before me and remembered I had a load of prayer needs. So, I went before my Lord and set down my prayer cart filled with the needs and aches – both mine and of others, including the distraught stranger’s. I pressed her name to Jesus’s Heart.

          After a time, I got up to leave. About to go out the church door, I spied a small booklet tucked into one of the pew kneelers. Curious, I picked it up. It was on the various Marian apparitions. There was a brief list of them – Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Knock and Akita. The Akita apparitions caught my attention. I still had time, so I sat down to read about it.

          Instead of Akita, my searching fingers stopped at the Rue du Bac Marian apparitions experienced by St. Catherine Labouré. She had been a young nun of the order of the Daughters of Charity.

          The order had been started by St. Vincent de Paul.

          Honestly, honestly, had I not heard of the apostolate of the same name earlier, had I not left my work to give my full attention to that distraught and searching stranger, had I not remembered her name to God as I had promised, St. Vincent de Paul wouldn’t have sunk in as deeply, and I would have skipped this read and gone on to the Akita  apparitions.

          But St. Vincent de Paul had felt much like all the other lights of September, perhaps more so. Coming twice in the space of such short hours, there was a firmness to it that my spirit was alerted to. So, I read on about Rue du Bac apparitions which I thought I knew pretty well.

          It turned out I had more to learn. I was surprised when in it I found answers to my most recent queries. I had been asking God for some days if I had discerned the prayer calls right. Prayer wasn’t coming easy and the flitting from one prayer call to another had me in spiritual jitters. I had even wondered if that meant I needed to do something other than just pray, if I needed to stop.

          And there in that little book was a line that caught my heart: …..Mary offered advice to the young woman, including the need to rely on prayer

          It was a commonplace sentence but the way it fell into my heart told me those were no mere words. They were Heaven’s answers to my September seeking. It was waiting for me in that little book on Mother Mary’s appearances to those on earth. 

          I was led to it by St. Vincent de Paul.

          Suddenly, those all those little random lights of before right up to this day didn’t seem disconnected nor so little any more. Every one of those were like the touch-me-nots my lens had caught in August, steering me away from what should not be my focus, towards the vital stones that were set in the footpaths of this September that I was being called to tread.

          Those lights were not distractions. They were not misread. That was why even as I thought I was being rushed from one port of call to another, I didn’t feel torn or stretched, despite the absence of consolation that I was doing what was right.

           I went home a happy woman that day. God had answered me and I was all ready to return to prayer with a renewed and refreshed vigour.

          As the sable breezes of night began to sing their hymns, the Marian apparitions of Rue du Bac appeared once more before me. This time, I was led to Mother Mary’s appearance in the 2nd apparition.

She was standing on top of a white globe, which only the superior area was seen, and she was crushing a green serpent with yellow dots. Her hands where elevated to her hearts height and she was holding another small globe of gold, crown with a cross. The Virgin Mary had a supplicant attitude, as if offering the globe….

…..The (white) globe at Her feet: the sin of the world… The globe in Her hands: the world offered to Jesus through Her hands.        

–       http://www.piercedhearts.org/treasures/shrines/miraculous_medal.htm

          White globe…..superior area…seen…the words settled on my heart and awakened a memory.

          A memory of a dream. A dream of a huge white map in a blue sky.

          A year ago on the 28th of October, on the feast of St Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases, I had a dream of walking on a street. It felt like an old part of some European town. The streets were clean and narrow, the buildings that lined it almost colonial, clean and whitewashed. There was an old feel to the streets.

          Then, I looked up and saw an impossibly huge, startling white map of the world spread out in the bluest of cloudless skies. My attention seemed to be riveted towards Africa. After the initial shock, I rather quickly dismissed the map and continued my walk even as the map remained suspended in the sky. 

          Suddenly I turned to the back and saw a big, equally white statue of Our Lady on the road kerb behind me. Immediately, I looked back up at the white map in the sky.

          And I was now seized with a deep fear of what that map meant.

          The dream continued to a second part.

          I was in the compound of a little, green church. Interiorly, I knew it to be a St Jude parish. It was crammed full of happy, peaceful and charitable people; there seemed to be standing room only. A cousin saw me and smiled at me. It felt like she was trying to tell me all was well. After a while, I moved to leave.

          As I was leaving the church, I felt these words impressed upon me ~

Pray for others.

          Soon after that dream, I sought the counsel of my confessor. He advised me to move on from my present prayers. He told me to pray for Africa since it seemed to hold my attention through the map.

          I obeyed my confessor immediately. I lashed myself to this prayer call and gave it my all. Through the ebb and flow of almost a year, I have forced and forced myself to pray for Africa.

          Yet, every time I prayed this way, I felt an inner resistance. Initially, I put it down to reluctance to go beyond the intercessory borders familiar to me. After months of struggling, I sensed it might not be mere reluctance. It felt like something else was holding me away from the prayer. So I prayed to be guided.

          Today, I think the Rue du Bac apparitions have cleared the mists a little. The white globe in the Rue du Bac apparition is the white map in my dream.

          St Jude is the key to this certainty. St Jude’s coming to me in August through September in the quiet and prompt way he answered the cry of my heart over one of my children, is the tinkle of a silver bell. God could have sent any one of my favourite saints, or even a new one. But He chose St Jude – because he was linked to the white map of my dream. It was his voice I heard in the second half of the dream: Pray for others, telling me all I had prayed for before this were safe in his church, the little green church, and as my confessor discerned – in advance – it was time for me to move on.

          St Jude had come before October to get my attention through my family needs because he had another mission: it was time he heralded the time of the map to me.

          To seal my certainty of the links in this dream to the apparition is Our Lady of Rue du Bac Herself. I had always assumed She had appeared as OL of Fatima in my dream because She had been in white and I didn’t know of any other apparitions where She had appeared attired in this colour. However, in my dream, Her hands were not pressed together. She was in total white and her hands were spread out.

          This was how She had appeared in Her apparition to St Catherine Labouré. I see that only now. A bell is ringing through this little detail.

          At a time when the weather is raging at a world that dared to plunder and steal from Nature, at a time when we seem so broken and divided yet united in wanting to hurt one another, the dream of the white map has returned to the skies of my life. Little lights, one lit by the other, have illumined the footpath that has led to this moment.

           And I need to know what I am to do next.

          One thing is certain: It is not a knowing that I can summon imperiously. This knowledge of the path ahead will only come through obedience to fulfil in perfection the littlest of calls from Heaven.

          Just as before, it will be the depth of my obedience and humility in saying Yes to God that will light the next lamp, to part the mists of whatever lies ahead.

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fatima 5 ~ September 13

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          Despite the ridicule and jokes of the secular, atheistic press, more than 30,000 people gathered in the Cova for the September  apparition. Whether drawn by devotion or curiosity, they prayed the rosary while awaiting the arrival of the visionaries and their vision. When at last the time came they could hear Lucia say,

          “What do you want of me?”

          “Continue the Rosary, My children. Say it every day that the war may end. In October Our Lord will come, as well as Our Lady of Sorrows and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Saint Joseph will appear with the Child Jesus to bless the world.”

          God is pleased with your sacrifices, but He does not want you to wear the cords to bed. Keep them on during the day.”

          “I have the petitions of many for Your help. Will You assist a little girl who is deaf and dumb?”

          “She will improve within the year.”

          “And the conversions that some have asked to have brought about? The cures of the sick ones?”

          Some I will cure, and some I will not. In October I will perform a miracle so that all may believe.”

          With these last words still ringing in their ears, the Lady rose and disappeared in the heavens, as Lucia called to the crowd, “If you wish to see Her — look! Look!”

The Time of Littles

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          Towards the end of August, one day I stopped by the small vegetable patch we have on a wee slope at the end of our backyard, intending to take close-ups to be made into bookmarks for the kids. Everything was fresh and crowned with a vibrant green. Taking my time, I snapped two photos of the lushious vegetable plants from different angles, and delightedly went into the house to have a look at them.

          Both pictures barely caught the plants I wanted.

          Instead, staring at me from within the pool of green leaves was a tiny, pink mimosa pudica. From both angles, hardly any of the veggies I sought, but mighty clear shots of that tiny, spunky touch-me-not in its court of green, glaring up at me in all its pink defiance.

          One such picture can be a mistake; but two  – is a message.

Keep your eyes on the littles.

          I knew my interpretation was right when the next line I read was,

          Many spiritual undertones are concealed in little things.   ~   Entry 112, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.