Month: July 2018

Communion of Hearts

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          Late in the evening, the waning sun closed each of its burning hot rays. We had come to this day after passing through portals of thorns and hot coals in the days and weeks past. We were expecting guests: a beloved priest and a friend, from hundreds of miles away. After a day of frantic housecleaning, I rose early again, to get a head start on cooking preparations. My back was sore. My husband and I were more than a little tired from work and the awful weather and its high temperatures.

          But we kept our minds and hearts fixed on the light ahead: Father’s visit. We hadn’t seen him in some years, and we looked forwards to time with him. We weren’t sure how we’d manage the visit. Cooking for our large family was tough enough; cooking for guests,  even only two, after a work week of endless hills and gullies, was reason enough to hold on the counter top and draw in a huge steadying breath.

          Nonetheless, I prayed that God would bless this visit and the two souls coming to us. So often, we ask and expect a lot of our priests, but we tend to forget that, like us, they too require food for their spirits and strength for their journeys, through bonding and companionship. Priests have sacrificed family life for the love of Jesus. Many minister in parishes very far away from their own loved ones. We take this love-gift for granted. We shrug and say, well this is what priesthood is about, and we expect our priests to accept it, be cheery about it and not burden us with the loneliness this great sacrifice entails.

          Some years ago, I remember reading Fr Joe Jenkins’ blog where someone asked him how his Christmas would be. His reply told of saying the Christmas Mass, of standing at the door to the church later, in the winter’s cold, wishing each parishioner Merry Christmas, then locking up the church, and going to the stillness and loneliness of an empty quarters. Fr Joe wrote simply and without seeking sympathy. But his words pierced my heart.

          For it never occurred to me until then that a priest could experience loneliness. That he and his brethren stifle this deep ache and go about their priestly duties every single day in joy of poverty, bringing Jesus to us as best as they can.

          It was this image that I kept before me as my husband and I chopped and pounded and raced from corner to corner today. I prayed that our family and our home be the blessing Fr and his friend needed.

          We might never know what wounds or needs they came with as they drove in with cheery waves and bouncy laughter. Yet, for the hours they graced our home with their quiet and their cheer and their oneness with us and our life, not a shadow crossed their sunny visages. Before us were two people who loved and respected family and in their own ways, sacrificed and worked to save family life.

          Because we said Yes to this visit, because we begrudged not our love and whatever strength we had, the fire-hot hours brought us together in this beautiful, tender communion of hearts. Priest, young man waiting for the right girl, married couple and their bouncy brood. We heard the words we needed for our own journey ahead. And in return, we hope we offered simple witness to the beauty of marriage and family life.

          As my husband and I looked up at the solemn orange moon and its muted gold aura later at night, peace settled gently into the folds of our hearts. I whispered my thanks.

          This was no random visit. Jesus had indeed come to us today.

 

 

 

 

Change of Address

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          Last Saturday, nestled in the midst of household busyness and the refrain of restless winds in the trees, an old memory returned to me. That of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, her Daily Pilgrimage to Purgatory prayer and the departed. I do remember to pray for my faithful friends, the Holy Souls, from time to time. But lately, too busy digging holes in my vineyard, I had little time to go into those prayers. However, since we were to attend sunset Mass that evening, I made up my mind to take the Holy Souls along.

          Unfortunately, as usual, I got sidetracked. It was only just before the elevation of the Eucharist that I remembered them. Some friend I was. I rushed to place loved ones and relatives who needed the power of the Mass before the altar. I usually tack on groups of others but I didn’t this time. I didn’t feel the need to. That day was all about relatives.

          Once done, my mind left them and went traipsing elsewhere.

          Early the next day, on Sunday morning, I learned anew the worth of prayers. I dreamed of a place almost like Nepal. Narrow streets, crowded poor. Women, children, mothers out and about. As I moved through them, no one seemed to see me. I made my way through the knot of people and the weave of dull, reddish-brown streets, to a wide building at the edge of that place. It was an old building, big, cheerless, yet not dark nor forbidding. Everything about that town and streets and various structures seemed aged, poor, but not neglected.

          I entered the building. It was like a big house with rooms upstairs.  It was bare and unadorned. There were no curtains on the dull windows. These windows were in need of a wash. Somehow, I sensed this was not because  they were grimy; just that they needed some cleaning for light to come through.

          As I stepped into the empty foyer, in the dream, I thought,

I hope she has packed.

          Just then, I saw two people glide quickly past me, out of the front door. I could not retain how they looked like, it was as if I was not allowed to see their faces clearly, to identify them.

          But one of them, face blurred, smiled sunnily at me as she sailed past. I somehow knew it was a woman.

And although I couldn’t make out her face, my spirit instantly knew her.

          As I turned towards the door she and the other person had misted through, I saw a big pile of small boxes. Plain, mud-coloured boxes. All of the same size, just stacked in a heap by the door.

          On each of them was printed 2 names in thick, black ink-

Betty

Jobbiah

Some boxes belonged to Betty, some to this Jobbiah.

          I don’t know who Jobbiah is but Betty was my cousin who had passed away tragically from a medical overdose some 14 years ago.

          Back in the day, Betty was very much a part of our lives and of many others’ too. She took a very keen interest in every event and detail and was always chasing down issues that didn’t need her interference. We were very fond of her but there was no disguising the fact that Betty was an inveterate busybody. She was not a troublemaker. She didn’t go around upsetting people, but neither was she someone who brought much good anywhere for all her meddling.

          Betty had a ear for everything and it kept her too busy. It took her away from duties to home and hearth. She had a husband who adored her just for who she was and he never tried to reign her in even when he should have. Consequently, Betty’s circle and depth of meddling widened considerably over the years.

          Truth be told, if ever we needed a sympathetic shoulder or an eagerly listening ear for gossip, Betty was the one to go to. She was the sort to moan and weep with us. Not as likely to always rejoice over others’ good fortune, but she was good natured for the most part.

          No matter what, I loved my cousin. That old February day she died, I lost someone I cared for and who cared for me as deeply, perhaps even more than I would ever know.

          Since her death, I’ve tried to pray for her but I could sense that my prayers were being blocked. They would not travel far. After a time, I stopped trying to pray for Betty. Not out of a lack of charity. But because I trusted that as there is a time for everything under the sun, when the time of prayers for Betty came, my spirit would know it.

          That dream of Betty and the boxes tells of the worth of every form of prayer we offer up – Masses, of words, of sacrifices. They go to places far, far away, cross distances beyond our imagination. Our prayers go for people we know as well as to those unknown to us.

          The dream tells me that Betty has packed up and is ready to leave that place of brown~grey emptiness because of the various forms of prayers of us here on this earth. We have been taught that while the Poor Souls can pray for us and journey with us, they can no longer pray for themselves after death. Their change of address depends to some extent on our efforts to plead the Mercy of God for them.

          Even if there was a period of time when God would not ‘allow’ my prayers for Betty, it did not mean He held up His hand against others’. Every Mass we offer up, every sacrifice for the Holy Souls, every prayer even by stranger-hearts, goes towards a common trust for these Souls, to be released when willed by God, to secure a new home for a soul.

          Happy though she was, I sense Betty still has some way to go. Heaven is not her new address yet, for I’ve seen souls in heaven, as well those about to leave the fires of anguish forever.

They are clothed differently.

          And they carry with them no boxes, marked with their name, of sins yet to be fully expiated.

Lend For A Little Time

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TO ALL PARENTS

“I’ll lend you for a while a child of mine,” He said.
“For you to love the while he lives and mourn for when he’s dead.
It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three,
But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for me?
He’ll bring his charms to gladden you, and should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories as solace for your grief.”

“I cannot promise he will stay; since all from earth return,
But there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.
I’ve looked the wide world over in My search for teachers true
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes I have chosen you.
Now will you give him all your love, not think the labor vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call to take him back again?”

“I fancied that I heard them say, “Dear Lord, Thy will be done!
For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we run.
We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may,
And for the happiness we’ve known, forever grateful stay;
But should the angels call for him much sooner than we’ve planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.”   ~   Edgar A. Guest

 

 

 

July 13 ~ Children in the Mist

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          Very early this morning, I did something I don’t normally do. I was up before dawn and decided to give the car a quick wash. Stepping outside, I briefly glanced up at the sky. A stream of fat, low clouds were unevenly illuminated by some unseen silver light. I assumed it was a low moon. I suppose it was, for I couldn’t see, as it was too low, blocked by a roof and trees.

          But my curiosity led me to the chair I keep handy just outside my bedroom windows. I sat down and gazed at the silent sky and the silver shaded clouds. Above me, a swathe of distant stars diamonded the pink breath of skies unwilling to relinquish its night slumber. A light mist veiled its bride of the skies.

          I might have prayed a little, but I can’t remember. I was exceedingly tired from work this week. And perhaps, I knew within me, that when clouds watch you, no words are needed.

          Several hours later at work, moving from one building to the next, I was caught by surprise. A soft, thick mist had suddenly descended low upon us. It hadn’t been there the hour before. Many people suddenly came out of nearby buildings, milling along corridors, gazing out at the open, at the sudden mists. It was at a busy time. It was surprising that people actually noticed the change; more surprising that a body of people actually came to have a closer look – because the people I work with – they’re not that sort. Very little in the heavens stirs or moves them.

          For brief seconds, a stillness enveloped us all.

          I had a strange, inexplicable feeling that everyone had been drawn out of their rooms to come and see but that they didn’t know what to look at.

          That they looked but could not see.

          I don’t know how I even knew this. But I am sure it was not from a lack of charity.

          Still later, the mists had gone, but glancing up at the skies, I saw clouds dressed in grey. If they portended rain, it would be much welcomed. I always love rain on a Friday. For me it is a fitting end to a work week, washing away the grit, soothing the spirit.

          However, the somber clouds lay unease lightly upon my heart. My thoughts went to an Irish friend, deep in a struggle. Fearing for him, I pressed him into prayer again, even as I went about my day.

          As the evening veils began to dip lower, the text came in.

          Telling of a baby, much loved, gone on to breathe in a world beyond us. We had all prayed so much for him, willing him to defy the odds and live on. I thought of the day God had chosen for this little one to return to where he would live on. This 13th day of July, Feast of the Mystical Rose.

          Just as my thoughts went to it, the image of the crowd from this morning, alerted to something, returned to me. I remembered the strange, thick mist. The gentle silence it wrapped us all in for scant seconds.

          Then, I remembered the dream on Good Friday morn. Of a thick mist rising from a high river. A mist of children. Children long gone, returning.

         Though darkness covers the earth,

and thick clouds, the peoples,

Raise your eyes and look about;

they all gather and come to you…

          The mist of the morning, come to bid a baby home. The mist that brought so many out, to wave a farewell they could not have known but intuited.

          What did we see and yet, not see?

 

 

 

 

 

I Will Speak

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Thus says the LORD:
I will allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak to her heart.   ~   Hosea 2:16

 

          These were the lines from today’s 1st Reading. The answer to my lament of yesterday – Why won’t You speak?  But what wilderness will I be led to? Of deeper peace or of worse sorrow?

          Every year, sometimes twice, I read L.M. Montgomery’s Anne series. Every one of the 8 books. They have an effect on me that no other book ever has or will. They remind me of all that is pure and unsullied. Each time, I am strengthened and freshened.

          Each time, I leave wistful and longing for an old life gone by that was not even mine to begin with.

          Last year, though, the longing stirred by the stories in those books pierced deeper than ever, and for the first time, it hurt deeply. For a time, I struggled with stranger~emotions. Then, I learned the reason for that new yearning:

I had touched heaven.

Again. And returning to this life I now lead, filled me with a terrible heartache for what I grieved I would never have.

          I revisited this yearning again in the past weeks. It’s not something I conjure out of my head. It’s not something I can summarily summon from the folds of leaves and vines. I cannot even anticipate which of the 8 books, which of its chronicles, would reach out and grab my heart as my eyes pass by.

          I do not choose this pain. It chooses me. And it chose me yet again this time. Caught my heart and wouldn’t let go. Its grip tighter than before, it wrung from me a grief that was deepened by old sorrow that always visits in July.

          Last year, when it came, it evoked a subdued, What do you ask of me? This year, nothing could restrain me. I wanted to know why this torment was before me again. I wanted answers but only from my Lord.

Why show me heaven, only to take it away? I asked in many different ways.

          He answered with silence. Over and over, I asked Him. He painted pictures before me, spilled pink over orange-stained skies and ribbon-ed drowsy clouds with purple and amethyst. He wove breezes in a hundred different ways through the embrace of leaf, grass and bloom, and sweetened the winds with birdnotes that laced the air unhindered.

          I wanted words but no words did my Lord give me. Every asking led me back to the gifts of land, sea and sky fashioned in silence.

          But today, as if speaking to a messenger, He says,

I will lead her to the wilderness,

I will speak to her heart.

 

 

 

 

Why Won’t You Speak?

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          Why won’t You speak? I ask my Lord today. Why won’t You pierce my heart with Your truths as You have always? Why this silence, why this distance? You told me once before that You will withdraw so that I do not become so used to Your voice that I cease to care and treasure it. And I accepted it, trying to be obedient for once.

          But it’s been long, long weeks. Yet, I know I’ve not been abandoned. The door has not closed. Throughout these past days and weeks, answered prayers and a spirit at peace are the testimony to the nearness of my Lord.

          But it suffices not. 

          For I want to hear Your voice.

          I’ve watched for it in the reddening rose of sunrise, trying to make out words as the sun slips its warmth upon the stream of clouds. Like the translucent pink blooms of the cosmos that border our fence, I’ve raised my eyes and heart to blue seas of the skies, whispering Your name. I’ve listened out for heaven’s whispers in lulls and rush of winds and green breezes in their dance amongst the trees and boughs. Every time the Blue King called his notes, I’ve paused and stilled for Your Word.

          But my Lord has been silent.

          Again, I ask, Why? Why won’t You speak? What would You have me learn from this new silence? I’ve tried to welcome it, to make it a trusted companion. I’ve searched and sought Your teaching Voice through Your Word.

          But this silence remains unyielding, unpliable to my probing. Words come and fall just to above seeking waters, before the winds bear them away. Day after day, night after waiting night.

          Why have You gone silent, I ask my Lord. Why won’t You speak?