As the morning sun rose to its throne on the First Saturday of May, sending lances of gold through the slumbering firs, I read words that would set the tone for the week.
PRAY …. SO THAT EACH ONE OF YOU BE THE INTERCESSOR OF YOUR BROTHER AND OF ALL HUMANITY.
Intercessor. It made sense. Someone’s name had just come to mind, a political leader seeking to make amends with God for past wrongs. I was going to travel to the city that day, and fully intended to spend some time before the Divine Mercy at church, praying for this man.
Then, I went to the Daily Readings.
And mistakenly read the Gospel reading for the 4th of May which I had missed.
Jesus said to his disciples:
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. ~ John 15:12
I squirmed uncomfortably.
Something was beginning to form in my mind. Love one another. Intercede. An unfortunate memory came to mind. Someone at work had infuriated me the previous day, saying something cruel about children, and I knew from experience that no amount of words could help her think otherwise. I had turned away from her immediately and she wisely said no more. But my hidden seething soon morphed into something darker.
Yet nothing is concealed from the eyes of God.
Hours later, I did go before the Divine Mercy at church, and prayed for that repenting leader as well as for my country for we face a crucial test in the week to come. But I forgot to pray for myself. I rambled excuses for my hidden anger against my colleague.
God didn’t forget, though. Returning home, I remembered I hadn’t been to my prayer nook for my daily prayer. When I stopped by, this was what was waiting for me.
Holy Infant of Prague Prayer
O Infant Jesus, I run to You,
begging You through Your Holy Mother
to save me in this need (you may name it here),
for I truly and firmly believe
that Your Divinity can defend me.
Full of trust I hope in You
to obtain Your holy grace.
I love You with all my heart,
I am painfully sorry for my sins
and on my knees I beg You,
O Little Jesus, to free me from them.
My resolution is to improve
and never more to offend You.
Therefore, I offer myself to You,
ready to suffer everything for You
and to serve You faithfully.
I will love my neighbour as myself
from my heart for the love of You.
O Little Jesus, I adore You,
O Mighty Child, I implore You,
save me in this need (you can mention it here),
that I may enjoy You eternally,
with Mary and Joseph see You
and with all the angels adore You.
I will love my neighbour as myself. The words bit deep. I stopped making excuses for myself. I stopped shielding my conscience from my sin.
The next day, travelling to Sunday Mass, I was determined to make amends – even though I still felt my colleague had provoked my anger. The call to intercede still hovered before me, my country was facing an Everest like never before, and I wanted to pray for us all. But I knew a prayer had power only when it came from a clean heart.
And mine was far from it.
So, I prayed for the grace of repentance. During Lent this year, facing a similar struggle with a lack of repentance, I had prayed this same prayer, and God had granted it. I was sure He would grant it again. I waited expectantly.
Instead, I was assailed by darts of intense dislike against my colleague. The drive to Mass was long, and mile after long mile, the struggle showed no signs of diminishing.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, I thought of St. Anne, the grandmother of the Holy Infant. It was then that a tiny bud bloomed in my memory.
A memory of previous struggle against my weakness. A struggle on Easter Vigil. That night, I had been hit repeatedly with dark thoughts about others. Initially, I had keeled over and fallen down. But then I realized I was fighting it wrong; With every onslaught of negative thoughts, I was trying to be calm and charitable – and I failed.
Until I began to fight differently. I took satan’s darts, each one as it came, and buried them into the Wounds of Christ. Over and over. And then, the battle was won.
This memory returned now, on the drive to Mass, long days since Easter Vigil. In fighting the negative thoughts about my friend, I was trying to be the saint I was not. Because of this, I was losing the battle. I was not fighting it right.
In order to win, I had to change tactics. And so I did. Remembering how St. Anne had misted out of nowhere, every time my thoughts turned dark, I placed them in St. Anne’s lap. I didn’t bother trying to be heroic. I didn’t get upset that I couldn’t love as others could. I stopped trying to be who I was not.
Although a measure of peace did come swiftly, I fought this hidden battle even past church doors as I entered for Mass. But I didn’t give up. I went before the Divine Mercy for my Sunday anointing.
Then, Mass began. In our parish, different groups – named after a saint – animate the Mass each week. The animating group for that Mass would have a stand-banner up of its saint at the left of the altar, towards the back.
I hadn’t noticed the banners from the previous weeks, but as we sang the Entrance Hymn, my eyes were led to that quiet corner off the altar. There was a banner up.
It was of Saint Anne!
The Holy Infant of Prague had answered my prayer – in a way I never expected. In doing it, I knew He was trying to teach me that each one of us battles differently. Our lines of warfare are drawn uniquely. To take the sting flung at me and to press it into the care of Someone else – was the way I am being called to fight myself.
But that wasn’t all The Holy Infant of Prague was trying to tell me. Even after this fight was over, I sensed the Child King’s presence nearby.
I knew there was more to come.