Abuse

Leave the Old

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One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience, and not injure his health.   ~   St. Ignatius of Loyola

 

          Work From Home took effect once more last week, and by the look of things, we could be in for the long haul as Covid cases surge out of control.

          At work, back in March, we were put on a new schedule and it was very demanding. I could barely move from my seat and within a month, I felt and saw its effects. Then came April and a return to my work place. I coped better not having to stare at a screen so much – but the relief was short-lived. When a close contact at work contracted Covid, I was forced into quarantine and soon, our workplace was shut down once more. It made everything so much tougher and that new schedule sure didn’t help things.

           May was a repeat of April in some ways. After another brief time at work, Covid began to overwhelm our nation and soon, we had to shift back to WFH which began last week. After experiencing the fallout from that unforgiving schedule, I knew this time I didn’t want to repeat some mistakes. The awful schedule was going to stay – but I needed to make firm changes to how I handled the workload. I needed to deliver yet manage my health and sanity too.

          We had a short break a week into May and for the very first time, I didn’t touch a single work-related task for those few days. Although travel restrictions meant we could not even go on family drives, not even peeking at my work files and folders gave me such a deep and joyful rest. That short holiday was like a romp in a sunny flower field. There was so much fun with the family. Even the most simple joys delighted me no end. Although I still cooked and cleaned, everything was done at a calm and leisurely pace.

          Around this time, Someone began to remind me about all the little lessons I had learned about coping and living and being happy. 

If today is the best I can make it, the lifetime will take care of itself. If this hour, right now had kitty petting, dinner cooking and book reading in it, and the next had a bubble bath and a call to my mom, and the next had painting with a cup of tea, an old movie and a walk in the woods, if I put all those hours together, what a lovely Red Letter life that would make.   ~  Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

          Reflecting on this deliberate layering of my day hour-by-hour, I felt led to another life-lesson:

That the time for me to be completely involved and absorbed in one specific thing for hours at a time had passed. More than 2 decades of such commitment had taken so much out of me and I was no longer able to maintain that level of work.

          But neither was this the time to completely shut down and let go. We cannot afford for me to retire early. Neither do I have the luxury of getting more help with running the home. Somehow, I have to still continue working long hours, running the home and still take care of myself.

It was now time to incorporate a bit of everything into a day, whispered a small voice within me. Time to shut out work when it has overstayed its welcome, to firmly ignore the endless beeping of the phone as my superiors text orders and instructions all hours of the day, pushing deadlines on us even at night.

To instead make my day a collage, of not just the tough things which just have to be done, but also of things which sweeten the hours and bring me peace and delight.

          When that dawned on me, it was like light suddenly pooling bright in my mind. I should not wait to live only on weekends or on holidays.

It was time to fight to really live each and every day.

          So, I returned to work after that short break, determined to take charge of my life, to take it back from that terrible schedule first. From Monday till Wednesday last week, I interspersed formal work with work around the home. I began the day very early with my laptop and files and ear plugs stuffed into my ears – but I made sure to get up and move around every few minutes and not become a slave to the laptop. I spent more time in our garden than I ever did before. Granted, it was never much to begin with in the first place. But I learned what so many others have long known – that having even a simple garden routine was a discipline that wrought a lot of good. It was good for my body and certainly good for my soul. A hidden strength and serenity always follows a good  commune with the winds and the sun, the trees and the flowers.

          Those 3 days of the work week passed and I was so pleased with myself. I felt strong and in control. My work schedule had not changed and yet, I had gotten so much done and still felt good.

          Then, came Thursday, Friday, and everything changed. Since March, those have never been good days. A ton of reports is always due on Friday so Thursday is a day to slog. I found myself struggling. On Thursday, I made a lame attempt to be in the garden. On Friday, I just couldn’t.

         It wasn’t that I had fallen off the track or gone back to my old killing ways; I could see no other better way to do things.

          I was disappointed. It was so important to me to learn to work differently and to stay on this new course. So many things were tied in to that. If I failed yet again, then there was little chance to hold on to my job, to win back my health and happiness.

          I wondered if there was something I should have done or not done in order to have lived those days better.

          Just before I fell asleep on Friday, I asked God to speak to me. If there was something that needed to be changed and could be changed, I needed God to lay it out clear and straight for me because all I saw was a hard, high wall in front of me.

          As always, God’s reply was the last thing I expected.

One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience, and not injure his health.   ~   St. Ignatius of Loyola

          The moment I read that quote, I backed away from it.

I was not ill.

That was not the quote for me.

          But those words pursued me gently and silently, like a little friend who loves you and who knows what you need even if you could not admit it to your own self.

One who is ill…

          I am not sick and I will not pretend to be. But for years, I have pushed and battered my body in the mistaken belief that I didn’t deserve any better. While others took breaks and rested, I listened to voices I should have instead shut out, and forced myself to go on working. I worked because I loved to work hard but I also worked to make life easy for others, believing that when you suffer in life, you have to try and keep others from suffering the same. While that might be true and good in many respects, it is not an absolute. In my case, unfortunately, I ended up spoiling some people into believing that I would always be there to pick up the pieces for them. That they could drop things on a whim and yet count on me to finish their job and watch the house, so to speak, while they took time off for hobbies and holidays and rest and rejuvenation.

One who is ill…

          A couple of years back, when it became apparent that something was going very wrong inside me, I tried to get help. I thought it would pass but it didn’t. For a while, meds and herbs helped but soon it was clear that something had been started and my body was set on a path it would not turn away from. Now, I can no longer spend hours scrubbing and cleaning and polishing the house, then, find an extra pair of legs to run after the kids and later, do a good amount of cooking. I will be 49 this year but in a couple of months, I’ll know if I am in menopause. I’m not even 50 but so much has changed within me, little of the old remains. When I compare photographs of myself now and from 10 years before, the deterioration is painful to see.

One who is ill must not wish to do the work of a well man; let him compensate by moderation and patience…

                  There’s something in the Bible about how Love pursues, and those words of St. Ignatius did just that. Wherever I turned, whatever I did, those words from the quote never left me. Soon, I stopped turning my heart away and quietened myself and lay my head upon Jesus’ lap. What do you ask of me, Lord?  

…compensate by moderation and patience…

          There is no point in getting upset over the passing of the old days when I seemed to have endless amounts of energy. I have already mourned that. It is now time to accept the inevitable and move on to learning to do things differently. While I cannot keep to the old pace, I can still do so many things – in fact, I can do a lot – just slower and differently.

          A bit of everything in a day. Work. Gardening. Laundry. Cooking. Cleaning. Teaching the kids. Not for long hours like before but in short spurts. Bit by bit. Or brick by brick as Linda Raha wrote in her beautiful, compelling post.

        …compensate by moderation and patience…

          My Jesus is calling me to gentle living. Even in the midst of the roaring seas that life is now in this country, He is leading the way down a different path, one whose turns and bends I am less familiar with. He wants me to learn that gentle living is not just when I’m on a break or during weekends but that He calls me to it every single day.

          Even if on some days work will not allow me this, I must somehow learn to take back some hours each day to move in God’s meadows. 

          I must learn to let my body teach me how to work. To listen to it as I seldom have before, for more than anything, the body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. It makes no sense to punish or mistreat this sacred vessel.

          My step will be hesitant and unsure along these new roads. There will be Thursdays and Fridays. I will trip and fall.

          But slowly, by moderation and patience, in adhering to the new discipline of keeping things simple, I will make my way to new meadows.

          And leave the old behind.

 

Room for a Miracle

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          I awakened early Friday morning for work, and found 2 song lines tipped into my heart,

Is there room in your heart

for God to write His story?

          At my altar for early morning prayers, I was too tired to think, so as I sealed my heart in Jesus’ Heart, I told Him that my prayer of Adoration today would be the work I did this day, given as an offering for Him. It turned out to be a gentle, unremarkable day lived in the happy slowness that Friday sometimes brings. I didn’t rush nor push much. I went from sweetness to sweetness.

          Yet, by afternoon, I was deeply exhausted. With an apple cake waiting to be baked for several days now, there was no putting it off; the kids were waiting for it and what better way to celebrate the end of another work week than with a lovely cake for tea?

          I planned to begin the baking right after lunch but being so tired, I went to lie down a bit to get my energy back.

          And I had a dream. I dreamt that one of my superiors at work was in my bedroom. She had come to check on my preparations for a programme she was overseeing. She had brought along someone else and she came to make sure that person was settled in my bedroom. In the dream, she wasn’t entirely pleased with my efforts but I wasn’t in the mood to appease either. I was clearly tired, fed up and couldn’t care less as she set about impatiently making up the extra bed as it should have been done. When she finally left the room, I didn’t bother to see her out. Instead, I stood in my room, agitated about having a stranger in my private abode, wondering too how I had allowed this woman to bring her work right into my home.

          What was the dream saying to me? That if I didn’t make room for God, trespassers from work would push their way further in? But I was making room for God, I knew I was doing all I could under the circumstances. What more was God asking of me?

          Again, this strange exhaustion washed over me. Why was I so very tired today?

          It was well after dinner that night that I made the connection between the afternoon dream and my overwhelming tiredness. This brazen woman inside my home, worse, inside my bedroom, dictating who else should be given access and how the room should be prepared, showed how emotionally and physically invasive her projects have been, this year especially.

          Her insane year end project, most of all, had trespassed right into my home life and stolen my rightful rest. I had been working on it for several weeks now, giving my very best. Now, I had 2 more days left of it. One – on Sunday – which broke my heart because working with Muslims, all my life I have refused to work on a Sunday to make it clear to them how important Sunday was to me. But now, with no one else willing to give up their Sunday, I was up against the wall with no hope of a slot exchange.

          My final slot in this woman’s programme was on the last day of work for the year for me. I sign off at 1 in the afternoon on Friday the 18th but despite knowing that, my superior had gone ahead and scheduled me for an entirely needless and taxing evening programme with her.

          My thoughts returned to the afternoon dream. Why had God come to point out the obvious? What was God asking of me?

          Discussing it with my husband, I came to a decision. I had already quietly rescheduled the timing of my Sunday programme, making it an hour earlier so that I still had 2 hours of my Sunday morning afterwards for my Lord.

          Then, I made a final decision. I would cancel the final programme on Friday. By scheduling it, this woman had trespassed into my rightful rest. She had no right and I wasn’t going to allow her, come hell or high water.

          That night, I slept soundly.

          A Saviour King who had no home
Has come to heal our sorrows

Is there room in your heart
Is there room in your heart
Is there room in your heart
For God to write His story?

          I awakened to a soft moss green morning misted by rain~breaths, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Am I not here, I who am your Mother?

          The moment I recalled Mother Mary’s words to St. Juan Diego worrying over his ill uncle, a little thought bud to life.

A Saviour King who had no home
Has come to heal our sorrows

Is there room in your heart
For God to write His story?

          What if the lines in the song weren’t meant to be a chiding? What if it wasn’t about what I hadn’t done and still needed to do?

What if it was an announcement?

          Had my angel sung those lines by the lip of my ear to announce a coming miracle?

          A miracle beyond compare, so huge and magnificent that it would stretch the room of my heart to its limits to contain it.

                 

Learn To Live Again

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I walked back through the front door of Holly Oak and everything seemed different, almost hollow, quieter than it had ever been. I’d been immersed in the book for so long, I had to learn how to live again.   ~  Susan Branch, Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams

          I had come to near the end of Isle of Dreams, to the author emerging from a long journey of writing and working on getting her first book published. To the line, I had to learn how to live again. And my eyes were placed squarely on it.

          Therein lay the unvarnished reality of much of my problems – living so much of life trying to scrub myself clean of failure, I am finding it difficult to function on my terms alone.

          Like so many adult survivors of narcissistic abuse, much of my life has been built on the jagged rocks of condescension; I was raised to internalize that I was nothing and would have amounted to nothing had it not been for the intervention of others. Thus, I grew up and grew older having a keener awareness of my weaknesses and failings than of anything else. However much I learned otherwise about myself, the inner voice that always had my ear was the one that sniggered at my efforts. So, even as I walked further and further away from my old cage, one hand always remained on its door.

          Even with the grace of awareness and strength to break away and start anew, one shadow has followed me all the way – that of guilt. In my life, there has always been only 2 ways to beat guilt down.

Break away from the source.

Or appease it to the point of silence.

          Appeasing was the main option when guilt attacked at work. No matter how much I did, how hard I worked, I was never good enough. Not for the many suspicious people around me. Certainly not for the hidden past that was somehow always present.

          And so, I just worked harder.

          More than 2 decades passed in this fashion. As work pressure built up over the years, I had another load on me that no one saw –  a hidden demon that goaded me to the darkest depths of professional overreach.

          Then, the pandemic came. After the initial euphoria of working from home, with the heady happiness that comes from the freedom to feed my spirit with the wine of home and all its loveliness in the midst of official work, that gnarled hand returned and silkenly lured me back to the path I swore to leave. Quietly and compellingly telling me people needed me. That much more was needed to prove myself since it was WFH.

          And I let myself be led by it. What ensued were two major mistakes made as a result of exhaustion from working till the wee hours.

          Stumbling to bed, desperate for sleep, I suddenly realised that the need that drove me was mostly a mirage. There was genuine need – but I had not been called to every layer of its depth.

          Lesson learned – but I feared, for a time only – because what many NPD parents bequeath their children is the curse of lifelong guilt that nothing we do will ever be enough.

          I’m sorry, Lord, I whispered as I fell into exhausted sleep. Never again, Lord.

          I awakened scant hours later, with a strange energy coursing through me. I knew immediately that something had happened in the night as I slept.

Someone had heard me.

          Later in the morning, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque paid me a brief visit.

God has shown you His lights. You know what to do.

          But a later search for the exact quote came up empty. I could find no trace of it. And yet, on and on it echoed through the hours,

You know what to do

You know what to do

You know what to do

          All through that sun~scented Thursday, the robins and sunbirds sang, their lilting hymns piercingly clear. I leaned in and listened. Something had changed even here. I was hearing them differently now. Every time, it brought a smile to my heart.

          And all through that Thursday,

You know what to do.

           No, I don’t, I countered each time. I couldn’t understand. How could St. Margaret not know that I had no idea how to escape this shadow called guilt.

God has shown you His lights, she insisted.

          What lights? I wanted to ask, but that wouldn’t have been completely honest of me. I understood some things. Last year, through a dream, God had shown me I was headed for a major burnout. I took immediate steps to break the fall. But with WFH, I figured that I was having sufficient rest and since I had been cut a huge break from unnecessary work commitments, I could afford to work a little harder in other areas.

          But then came those 2 back-to-back mistakes and the searing epiphany.

          God has shown you His lights

          Night brought the needed clarity. After night Rosary, waiting for the house to fall silent, I reached for Martha’s Vineyard, Isle of Dreams.

          In one of those final pages, someone put a finger under the words,

I had to learn how to live again.

In Transition

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          The week began with 3 distinct nudges to pray for an awakening of the spirit.

          It started with In Sinu Jesu, read in obedience to the quietest of calls to leave my laptop and phone and instead, Tolle lege. Phrases like outpouring of the Holy Spirit, hearts will be opened, miracles and graces abound, synonymous with this Easter period moving towards Pentecost, suddenly reached out and caught my heart without warning.

          Just like that, I knew I had to pay attention.

          The next bell tinkled with a message from my godmother about a virtual Pentecost Pilgrimage. While the details didn’t tug at me in a deeper way, someone held my eyes a little longer on the word, Pentecost.

          The last chime came late on a Wednesday night. A story about a WWII vet who was now a pastor. He had been ill and had asked God to take his life, but God told him he was needed on earth and it was to gather people together to pray for a spiritual awakening. Because of Covid-19, that gathering had to be a spiritual gathering.

A meeting of praying hearts.

          And with that, it became clear what I had to do. While it was nothing that hadn’t been done before, initiating it was a first for me. I texted my godparents and we worked out a time to pray together from wherever we were. We didn’t need to thresh out any details beyond that, how we’d do it or for how long. Just that we would pray in our own ways for this awakening, hearts joined across 2 countries.

          The rest of the day was busy with work, mingled with a slight anxiousness that I’d miss that prayer meet. I also pondered what prayer I was called to. Did I just say whatever came to mind or was there to be a specific prayer for me?

          The answer came quickly enough. My prayer for the awakening was to be the Conversion Prayer in the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

O Blood and Water that gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus,

as a Fount of Mercy for us,

I trust in You.

          Late that Thursday night, waiting for one of my children to finish up for the night, my thoughts wandered to the Heart of Jesus, and from there, to the Wound in His side. I thought about the centurion who had inflicted that final wound on Jesus. Blood and Water had flowed out. Repentance and purification. A moment of searing revelation and utter contrition. An illumination.

Truly this man was the Son of God!   ~  Mark 15: 39

          Longinus was the name given to the centurion who had pierced Jesus. Tradition tells us that nothing had been the same for him since that moment of illumination.

          I slept deeply that night, awakening early on Friday morning. The moment I awoke, from a deep, unknown distance, I heard the lines of a familiar hymn,

I go before you always.
Come, follow Me, and I will give you rest.

‘         On and on, those lines wound through me, but still, as if from a great, great distance.

          I looked up that hymn and imagine how I felt when I saw its title,

Be Not Afraid

          Then, I read about its composer, Fr. Bob Dufford, and about his journey in creating that hymn and the journey the hymn took him on later.

I learned that God used that hymn to ease transitions.

          When I finally went to my Readings for Friday, my heart went still, for it was John 14: 1,

Jesus said to his disciples:
Do not let your hearts be troubled.

          I hadn’t known beforehand of the Gospel reading for Friday – but someone clearly did and had sung those lines early to lead me.

          From what I read, that hymn, Be Not Afraid, had a lot to do with transitions and fear of them.

          On Saturday morn, praying for the awakening, I recited the Conversion Prayer in my garden. Threading the prayer through quiet minutes scented by the white~gold of the sun, I watched unhurried, bees busy among the blooming flowers, and let the gentle breezes hold me in their sweet embrace.

          These weeks of the stay-home order have changed me, maybe even in ways unknown to me. Yet, I have little reason to believe that my workmates and superiors have changed for the better. How could I go back, how do I go back changed – but to a place and values still bound to an old where the sun doesn’t rise? To where I am welcomed one day and rejected the next, because I am an outsider. Not of their faith. Not of their race.

          To work alongside and beside the woman who does all she can to make sure I am aware of her hatred for me.

Be not afraid,

I go before you.

          Then, go before me, Jesus, I prayed that day. I thought about the woman whose jealousy and hatred draws from wells that seemingly never run dry. I cannot love her, Lord, I whispered. If love means to think good of her and to love her like I do my husband and my children, then it was beyond me. All I was capable of was to fight myself in not wishing her ill –  and even at that, I fall a hundred times. I imagined Jesus sitting in her place. Not Jesus in her – that was too much for me – but Jesus in her place, instead of her.

          I smiled at that. If only…

          A few short hours later, I learned that I had to return to work next week. Although the short notice caught me by surprise, I was surprisingly calm and resigned.

          Then, I learned that a new schedule had been put in place. That we would work in the office in teams and in shifts.

          The woman was not on my team, not on my shift.

          I thought of my imaginings earlier that day, under the arching majesty of the sun. Of Jesus beside me at work.

Be not afraid,

I go before you.

          Indeed He had. Things are changing. More than what is visible are the secret stirrings beneath the earth of our daily lives, all moving towards something. The inner call to pray for conversion of spirits, the new normal-s in every layer of life, are just part of this new journey of change.

Be not afraid,

I go before you.

          Jesus had come to tell me that it was time to rise and set out.

          We are in transition.

Song of the Wee Child

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On December 9, 1531, a Saturday, just before dawn, Juan Diego was on his way to pursue divine worship and to engage in his own errands. As he reached the base of the hill known as Tepeyac, the break of day came, and he heard singing atop the hill, resembling the singing of varied beautiful birds. Occasionally the voices of the songsters would cease, and it appeared as if the mount responded.   ~  The first Apparition, http://www.michaeljournal.org

 

          Since Thursday, the song of birds. Little birds, young ones. Sometimes, in a lilting, bell~chime chorus. Sometimes, the lone song of one intent on speaking her heart. Each one reminded me of children. Children lost to death. Abortion. Murder by parents, both sane and not, for whatever reason.

          We are horrified when children are killed by parents. We call for penalties and punishments. Someone must pay, this must be stopped, such is our heartfelt anguish that a life was ended. In our own ways, we fight for that child who can no longer speak.

          And yet, we support abortion. The deformed baby. The child of incest. The child of rape.

          Even the inconvenient baby.

          Have they no right to our impassioned defense of life?

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do Not

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Make it your rule never knowingly to say what is not strictly true.   ~   St. Francis de Sales

 

          A struggle from yesterday. And yet it is not a new one. It is a struggle I’ve known since my earliest memory. It is not the struggle against deceitful lying. It is the struggle of every adult survivor of narcissistic personality disorder abuse.

          It is the struggle against saying words and offering gestures that do not come from the heart, but uttered and done only to placate and appease.

          Words and gestures rooted in fear of an oppressor.

          Although this old fear has not made a captive of me yet, I can already sense its shadows inching closer. This time, it’s changed tactics. It is attacking me through one of my children. My child is being bullied by the daughter of a bully at my workplace.

          It is indeed no joke when they say the apple does not fall far from its tree!

          I gently but firmly counsel my daughter to put her heart in Christ’s. To resist fear and to step away from the shadows of a narcissist. As she obeys and struggles, as a mother, I want to further protect her.

          I want to appease the bully-mother – in the hopes that my child would be left alone. But knowing it is wrong, that it in itself will be the beginning of another hell, I resist.

          And yet, I struggle against this, because I see my child hurting and I want it to stop.

          Late in the evening yesterday, as the moans of the winds crested the hills, a blue kingfisher perched awhile on a fir branch. I’ve seen kingfishers everywhere around our property, but never on the firs. This one stayed there long enough for me to note its presence and to know in my heart that it was a sign.

          To ask a silent, Why? because whenever the kingfisher catches my heart, I know it is St. Francis of Assisi’s call to me to Quieten Down, Listen Up.

           I have my answer today – from another St. Francis.

Make it your rule never knowingly to say what is not strictly true.

          I understand his words. Do not lie to put the Beast at ease.

 

 

 

 

Lines in the Sands

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          Wary of what a Saturday can bring, after the experience of the previous weeks, I greeted the morning of the new day reluctantly. I looked out at the dark sky, still blanketed in the purple~blue of a sleeping night, and a lone star chimed its flickering light at me.

          I thought of my youngest children and our present struggles with the school head, which began in January. New to her position in the school, from the first day of school, the woman had introduced a new rule: every time a child ran back to the class after the midmorning break, the whole class would be caned – as a deterrent and a warning to both offender and would-be-offender, and an exhortation to students to correct their classmates and stop them from….running. As parents we immediately protested against the unfairness, stupidity and cruelty of such a rule, but we were ignored. Then, my husband and I sat down to draft complaint letters to the relevant education and Union authorities. It didn’t go well. We found ourselves in a Babel situation, both of us misunderstanding each other on certain points. Frustrated and angry, the final draft of the letter was a mess of facts and hurt and pleas.

          A few days after that, I received a Word, that our actions were wrong – because they were motivated by wild anger against this head of the school.

          And by an unspoken desire to hurt her back as much as possible for hurting our innocent children.

          When this happened, I had been reading my friend’s book~gift, Left To Tell, by Rwandan genocide survivor, Immaculée Ilibagiza, and I felt God speak through the words in the book – to take our pain to prayer, and to let the power of God work through the prayers to distill our actions of the sin of anger and revenge. We reluctantly acquiesced and for a few weeks, every thing quieted down.

          But on Friday, the downcast wee faces were the first indication it had begun again.

          And this morning, staring at the new Saturday sky, I began to feel the familiar wellings of anger.

          But something had changed. There seemed to be something holding down my anger, like a Hand held up against the inevitable red tide because our defenseless little ones were hurt. Despite the dark welter of emotions I knew I had stocked somewhere, revisiting the Sodom and Gomorrah of my wounded-ness was no longer an option.

          Into Your Hands I commend my spirit. Not trusting myself, I nevertheless prayed my spirit into heavenly safekeeping. Then, I hunted for a Novena to God the Father. I wanted to place our family’s wounds into our Heavenly Father’s Hands and to seek His help. It was dark and we needed the Light more than ever now.

          I found the prayers and sank my heart desperately into them, burying our family’s wounds and wills into the word~vessels, willing them into the refuge of the Heart of the Father.

          Then, I prayed a prayer I did not in the least want to: Father, You love this woman who is hurting our children; please help us to love her too.

          I badly longed for a tender sign that He knew how much it had cost me to pray this. I wanted my Father’s comfort to tell me all would be well now.

          But there was none.

          I moved on.

          And suddenly felt myself plucked off my intended path by Our Lady of Fatima, and taken to the most unlikely of places: Ancient Eucharistic Miracles.

          The stories of those miracles were so removed from what I was going through. I didn’t see the connection, I still don’t. And yet, they shook me to the core. I knew it was by no accident that I was taken to read of these particular Miracles that happened hundreds of years ago, miracles I had never before heard.

          Miracles wrought by Sacrilege redeemed and purified through repentance.

          After I read them, I spent the hours in prayer even as I worked around the house. I beseeched heaven for discernment. I knew it was no coincidence that I was led to read about those miracles – I clearly felt the Hand of God taking me to them.

          I didn’t understand why, yet, yearned to. While the younger children wreathed the home in laughter and giggles, I prayed to understand why those Eucharistic Miracles were so important, and I also prayed for the solution to my children’s school problem.

          And then, I tacked on, Lord, Tell me what to do.

          In the afternoon hours of rain~misted breezes, I received a reply that seemingly contained no answers. It was from St Pio, and he told me, Go Ahead.

          God has drawn lines in the sands. They form a path, with signposts I do not yet see. I understand none of this- what they portend, where they lead to.

          But I know what I have to do.

          So, here they are, those 4 Eucharistic Miracles I was taken to after I put my heart into God’s. Miracles that transformed the sin to Good, from Glenn Dallaire’s website, Miracles of the Church:

Three extraordinary miracles of the Eucharist – Santarem, Amsterdam & Offida

The miracle of the Eucharist in Santarem, Portugal (1225) -An ongoing miracle
Around the year 1225 there was a woman living in Santarem, who was very unhappy with her marriage. She was convinced that her husband did not love her, and was unfaithful. She initially tried numerous things to win back the affection of her husband, but to no avail. As a desperate last attempt, she went to a sorceress. The sorceress promised the wife that her husband would return to his loving ways, if the wife would bring her a Consecrated Host.

This of course greatly frightened the woman, because she knew it was sacrilege, but nevertheless she finally gave in. She went to Mass at the Church of St. Steven, and received Communion, but did not consume the Host. Instead, she left the Church immediately, and took the Host out of her mouth, putting It into her veil. She then went to the sorceress.

Along the way, the Host began to bleed inside the veil. The wife was not aware of it until passersby brought it to her attention, thinking she herself was bleeding. Panic struck the woman and instead of going to the sorceress’ house, she rushed home. She then put the bloody veil containing the Host into the bottom of a trunk, not knowing what else to do. When her husband came home, she said nothing.

Later in the night they were awakened by mysterious bright rays of light coming from the trunk, penetrating the wood and illuminating the entire room. The wife then confessed her sin to her husband and both of them knelt in adoration for the remaining hours until dawn, when the parish priest was summoned.

News of the mysterious event spread quickly and attracted countless people who wanted to contemplate the miracle. Because of the furor, an episcopal Church investigation was promptly organized.

A miracle upon a miracle
The bloody Host was taken in procession to the Church of St. Stephen, where it was encased in wax (to contain the blood and the Host) and secured in the tabernacle. Some time later when the tabernacle was opened, another miracle was discovered. The wax that had encased the Host was found broken into pieces, and the Host was found miraculously enclosed in a crystal pyx, along with the precious Blood. This was later placed in a gold and silver pear-shaped monstrance with a “sunburst” of 33 rays, in which it is still contained today.

After the investigation and approval by the Church authorities, the Church of St. Stephen was renamed “The Church of the Holy Miracle.” The little house where the miracle occurred was on Via delle Stuoie in Santarem.

From the time of the miracle until now, every year, on the Second Sunday of April, the incident is re-enacted by local actors. The actual Eucharistic Miracle is processed from the house, which was converted into a Chapel in 1684, to the Church. Miraculously, after 750 years, the precious blood still remains in liquid form, defying the natural laws of science. The Host is somewhat irregularly shaped, resembling real flesh with delicate veins running from top to bottom, where a quantity of blood is collected in the crystal.

The miracle of the Eucharist in Amsterdam (1345) –Thrown into a fire, the Eucharist miraculously is not burned

In 1345, Amsterdam was a tiny fishing village consisting of four streets and a few alleys lined up along the main canal. There were small modest fishermen’s huts, a church, and a monastery. The monastery was the largest building in the city. The Eucharistic Miracle given to this tiny village on March 13, 1345, was the beginning of the growth for which Amsterdam is now famous. In fact, on the 600th anniversary of the miracle, March 13, 1945, the Dutch Catholics attributed all the growth and progress of their city to the Eucharistic Miracle which we will now present.

The Eucharistic miracle occurred in a house on Kalverstreet where a fisherman named Ysbrant Dommer on his deathbed called for a priest to come to his home to give him the last rites of the Church and Holy Communion. After having heard the man’s confession, the priest blessed him with the oils of Extreme Unction, and gave him Communion.

The priest had no sooner left than the sick man began coughing violently. His wife ran over to him in an effort to help him, but the husband, gagging and choking beyond control, vomited the contents of his stomach, including the Host, still intact. The wife reacted instinctively. She swept up the Host and threw It into the fireplace. She soon realized her grave mistake, but the fire was raging, and she was not about to put her hands into it for fear of burning herself. That night she slept fitfully, tossing and turning. She was afraid she had committed a terrible sin and had nightmares about the Sacred Host that she had thrown into the fire.

The following morning, as soon as she got out of bed, she went over to the fireplace. The fire was not extinguished yet, and the coals were still quite hot. She stoked the coals, looking for the Eucharist. To her amazement she suddenly saw the Host sitting atop a burning ember. It was not burned at all. It had not even turned color. The Host was fresh and brilliant, lying among the coals. She immediately snatched the Host from the fire, and carefully wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in a chest for safekeeping.

She then called the priest who had been to her house the previous night and told him the story. The priest then placed the Host into a pyx and washed the cloth in which it had been wrapped. He then carried the Host to the parish church of St. Nicholas. The priest thought it best not to tell anyone about the incident, so as not to stir up gossip involving the woman or her husband. He took the Host, wrapped in the cloth, and returned It to the church, where he placed It in the tabernacle.

The following morning, the priest found the pyx empty to his amazement, but the Host was soon discovered by the same woman when she opened the chest to remove some linens. She was stunned and confused as she knew the priest had taken It away the day before. Had she committed such a terrible sin, that the Lord brought back the proof to punish her with the sight of It? She ran to the Church, and explained what had happened to the priest. Again the priest placed the Eucharist into a pyx and returned it to the church. Then, after yet another disappearance and discovery, the priest contacted other members of the clergy for consultation. All agreed that the occurrences were a direct proof of God’s intercession, and apparently a sign that the miracle should be openly honored. Jesus wanted to use this miracle to awaken His sleeping people. The Miraculous Host was a light which was to shine all over Europe.

The priest told his fellow friars about the miracle, and the story of which soon spread about the town and the surrounding countryside. When the priest formed a procession to go to the fisherman’s house for the Sacred Host, a huge crowd followed him and his fellow priests. They carried the Sacred Host back to the church of St. Nicholas affording Our Lord the honor He deserved for giving such a rich gift to these humble people.

Another wonderful element to the story is that the fisherman who had been dying, the one whom the priest brought the Eucharist on that first night, didn’t die. To the contrary, he recovered, thanks be to God. However, when word of the miracle reached the ears of the townspeople, and those from other villages, they all went to the fisherman’s house to see where the miracle had taken place. It soon became sort of a shrine, and soon afterwards, a Chapel.

Official inquiries were made by the civil magistrate and also the city council, and upon investigation all were satisfied with the truthfulness of the witnesses. They affirmed the occurrence as fact and also endorsed the miracle in official City documents. The Church authorities, too, headed by the Bishop of Utrecht, held an extended inquiry before permitting the clergy to spread information about the event.

In a Pastoral letter, the Bishop officially declared that an authentic miracle had occurred in the little town of Amsterdam. In the same pastoral letter, he authorized veneration of the Eucharistic Miracle of the Host. The little house of the fisherman was soon converted into a Chapel, called Nieuwe Zijds, or Holy Place and the Miraculous Host was placed upon the main altar, for the adoration of the people. The fireplace of the fisherman’s hut was kept intact, and became a permanent part of the new shrine.

Miracle upon Miracle –The second miracle of 1452

A second miracle took place 100 years later. Amsterdam had grown considerably in the century since the first miracle had taken place. On May 24, 1452 the entire city of Amsterdam was engulfed in fire. Most of the buildings were destroyed by the blaze. When the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament (the former fisherman’s hut) caught fire, some of the parishioners made an at¬tempt to save the Miraculous Host from destruction by the flames. They tried to force open the tabernacle. The Host had been placed in a beautiful monstrance, which was inside the tabernacle. The heat of the Church was becoming unbearable. The workers worked feverishly, but to no avail. The heat of the fire had made it impossible to get the door open. As the roof of the Chapel began to cave in, the men ran out of the Church to safety, their mission a failure.

The entire Church collapsed and burned to the ground, including the tabernacle. Upon seeing this, there was a great sadness among the faithful of the city, especially those who had tried in vain to rescue the Eucharistic Miracle. The next day, they sifted through the ashes of the Church, hoping against hope, that something remained of their precious Host. Their grief turned to joy as soon they spotted the Monstrance, completely unscathed, there among the ashes of the Church. Even the silk veil which covered the Monstrance had been saved from the fire. So, once again the Lord saved the same Host from fire in the same house in Amsterdam.

Soon afterwards, a new chapel was built, more elaborate and more beautiful than the previous one. The fame of the Eucharistic Miracle of Amsterdam, now recognized as a twofold miracle, spread beyond the Netherlands to all of Europe. The Hapsburg Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Maxmillian, went to Amsterdam in pilgrimage to the Eucharistic Miracle. He prayed for a healing at the shrine, which was granted to him because of his faith. He showed his thanksgiving by donating beautiful gifts to the Chapel of the miracle. Amsterdam and the Eucharistic Miracle became a major place of pilgrimages and processions.

In 1665 the city council authorized Father Jan Van der Mey to convert one of the houses of the former convent of the Beghine into a chapel. After completion, the precious monstrance was transferred, but unfortunately was shortly afterwards taken by unknown thieves. Even today there is perpetual exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in memory of the miracle. The only objects that remain from the Eucharistic miracle are the case that contained the Sacred Host (pictured in the photo to the left), the documents that describe the miracle, and some paintings housed in the Historical Museum of Amsterdam. Every year there is a silent procession (Stille Omgang) in honor of the miracle on the eve of Palm Sunday.

The miracle of the Eucharist in Offida, Italy (1280) –The Story of Newlyweds, a Sorceress and a Mule.

The Eucharistic miracle of Offida actually took place in the city of Lanciano, the site of another extraordinary miracle not related to this one. This miracle, which is now kept in Offida some 60 miles north of Lanciano, occurred in 1273 to a newlywed couple named Ricciarella and Giacomo (James) Stasio, their mule, and a witch.

The Eucharistic miracle of Offida has similar beginnings to that of Santarem Portugal as they both involved wives who were seeking to get more love and affection from their husbands. Unfortunately the newlyweds marriage was not off to a very good start as Giacomo was not very affectionate towards his new bride. Ricciarella, the wife of Giacomo Stasio, was deeply afflicted by her unhappy marriage, and she tried everything possible to win the love of her husband. Finally someone suggested she seek the advice of a nearby sorceress. who claimed to know of a way for her to achieve the marriage that she desired. The sorceress gave Ricciarella the following advice for a “love potion”:

“Go to Communion, but don’t swallow the Host. Take it home, put it in the stove, and burn it. Take the ashes, and throw them into his wine or soup. Then let me know the effect. You’ll see that he will immediately become more affectionate and loving towards you”

This description of how her husband would react to the potion gave Ricciarella just the incentive she needed to justify committing this sacrilegious act. She knew, of course, that this was wrong, and how she must have wrestled with her conscience before she made the decision to perform this horrible act. Eventually she worked up the courage and she set out for the church to take part in the Holy Mass. In desperation for relief from her sad situation, Ricciarella received the Eucharist, and secretly let the Host fall from her mouth into the top of her dress. After taking it home she placed it on a coppo, which is a semi-circular tile. She then placed the tile over a fire. As soon as the sacred Host was heated, instead of turning into powder it began to turn into a piece of bloody flesh. Horrified at what was taking place, Ricciarella attempted to stop the process by throwing ashes and wax onto the tile, but without success. The tile soon bore a huge smear of blood, and the flesh remained perfectly sound and blood came forth from the Host turned flesh.

Understandably Ricciarella panicked. She didn’t know what to do. Frantic for a way to dispose of the evidence of her sacrilege, Ricciarella took a linen tablecloth decorated with silk embroidery and lace and wrapped it around the tile and the bloody Host. Carrying the bundle outside, she went to the stable and buried it in the place where garbage from the house and filth from the stalls were heaped.

When her husband returned home that evening accompanied by his work mule, he noticed that the mule was acting more stubborn than usual. The animal did not want to go into the stable. Giacomo tried pushing the mule, and then slapping him, all to no avail. Finally he got a whip and began beating the animal. The pain being more than the mule could endure, he reluctantly went into the barn, all the while staring at the dung heap. The animal fell prostrate near the dung heap, almost in a position of adoration.

The mule had never done such an extraordinary thing before and Giacomo knew for certain that something was causing this mysterious behavior in his mule. Giacomo then accused his wife of placing a spell on the stable that made the animal fearful of entering it. Ricciarella, of course, denied everything and remained silent about the cause of the difficulty.

For seven years the Blessed Sacrament remained hidden beneath the garbage, and for that period of time the mule and the other animals went in or out facing the dung heap, keeping their attention to the heap of refuse. For Ricciarella, this was the beginning of living hell. She felt great pangs of conscience for her sin. She came to realize more and more the seriousness and consequences of her actions. She was instead tormented day and night with remorse for her sin. Finally she decided to confess what she had done to a priest from the monastery of St. Agostino in Lanciano, Prior Giacomo Diotallevi, a native of Offida.

After Ricciarella confessed her grave sin to the priest, he accompanied her back to her home. They went into the stable, and dug through the dung which had accumu¬lated over the seven years. When the friar pulled the table cloth out, and uncovered it, he found that the contents of the tile, the bleeding Flesh and the Host, had remained incorrupt over the years.

He took the tile and the table cloth containing the Host with him and he returned to his monastery. Initially he told no one of the incident. Ricciarella was relieved because her scandal would not be spread all over the province, and her deteriorated relationship with her hus¬band would not worsen. No one is sure what the friar’s motives were but he wanted the Eucharistic Miracle taken away from Lanciano, that is known. Was it because he was sincerely afraid that if the miracle were revealed, Ricciarella would be implicated? Or did he want the glory of an incorrupt Eucharistic Miracle to be given to his home town Offida?

On a pretext, the Friar received permission from his superiors to leave the monastery. He left Lanciano in secrecy a few days later. He took the Sacred Host to a Fr. Michael Malli¬cani, who was the prior of the Augustinian monastery of Offida. Father Mallicani embraced the miracle as the property of Offida, and immediately created a sanctuary for It in that town. This was in the year 1280, seven years after Ricciarella had committed the Sacrilege.

Father Mallicani moved quickly. He and another friar went to Venice in the same year to have a beautiful reliquary built which was to become the home of the Eucharistic Miracle. They commissioned a silversmith to do the work under secrecy. For this reliquary a large amount of silver was donated and it was decided that the reliquary would be made in the shape of an artistic cross, and it was to contain not only the miraculous Host, but also a piece of wood from the true cross of Christ.

After he had finished the beautiful reliquary, and the priest had placed the Eucharistic Miracle inside, the friars left by boat to return to Offida. It was then that the silversmith decided to tell the local Duke of Venice what had transpired.

The Duke, anxious to get hold of a genuine Eucharistic Miracle for his own province, ordered a ship to intercept the one carrying the two friars back to Offida. But in the end it was the Lord who intercepted! As the Duke’s ship was about to overtake the friars, the Adriatic Sea became violent, allowing the friars to disembark at Ancona, and return safely to their monastery in Offida. The reliquary was installed in the Church in Offida and it remains there to this day. And so it is that today atop the main altar of the Sanctuary of Saint Augustine in Offida, also known as the Sanctuary of the Miraculous Eucharist, is found silver cross containing the miraculous Host. The tile on which Ricciarella heated the Host, still showing the smear and splotches of blood, is kept in a rectangular glass-sided case. The tablecloth in which the tile and the bloody Host were wrapped is also kept under glass. Paintings depicting the events of the miracle can also be found within the beautiful Church.

 

Unfurling the Mercy of the Eucharist

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St Germaine Cousin, Patroness of Abused Children

 

 

          Today brought me learning about a young saint, St Germaine Cousin (1579 – 1601), who lived at the heart of terrible physical, mental and emotional abuse by the very people who should have loved, sheltered and cherished her, but who instead showed her what an earthly hell was.

          After her birth mother died prematurely, her father remarried. Soon, the sight of the young, pitiable girl with a withered hand and scrofula – a tuberculosis infection of the lymph nodes, which, in her case, resulted in unsightly abscesses in her neck, drove her stepmother into a frenzy of hatred. Fearing the risk of contagion to her step-siblings, Germaine was isolated and banished to a narrow space in the stables, shared with the animals she had to tend to during the day. I cannot help but wonder if the deformed hand, and the fact that scrofula was then known as the King’s Evil, might have worsened the abuse. Did her stepmother, who made a habit out of severely beating, scalding the child with hot water, and administering other abuses, delude herself into thinking she was ridding the child of demons through her mistreatment?

          Did her stepmother see demons where there were none? Did young Germaine’s purity of spirit agitate the darkness within the stepmother’s soul, worsening the whippings, food deprivations and humiliations? Driving the woman to a madness of violence, that perhaps, even she could not understand, much less contain?

          Germaine’s father, by some accounts, was said to be a weak-willed man.

          I think that’s too mild a word for someone who lived near such horrific abuse, but never suffered it himself, yet did nothing to halt it. 

          I cannot place him in a kinder light. I think he loved and cared much for his own self-preservation – to the point of excluding love for anyone else. Blood could pour out of his daughter, but nothing could be allowed to threaten the comfort of his position in that family. His entire heart must have been filled with himself; nothing left over for anyone else, not even his very own daughter. It must have been – to have deafened and blinded himself to his little girl’s tears and sobs and sufferings; not to have been moved by the even the sight of his own flesh-and-blood, living amongst animals, like an animal, dressed in rags, feet blistered and bloodied because she was deprived of shoes, rising before dawn to slave in servitude for him, her step-siblings and stepmother, and then shepherding in meadows bordered by wolf-infested forests.

          What heart of stone was this, un-softened by even a whisper of love for his own child?

          It is the heart of an abuse-enabler.

          That which belongs to one who looks the other way when abuse is being perpetuated. Who, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands off Jesus, distancing himself from his duty. Who holds up the evening papers and huddles behind it to separate himself from the injustice when the child is being beaten and humiliated, convinced the child brought it upon herself.

          Did this man, to whom a child of God was given, over time, begin to nurse a secret dislike of his own child, by justifying to himself that Germaine must have been doing something to stir the nest of tempests in his tenuous household? And by that conjecture, hold her accountable for all that befell her?

          When the line was drawn, I wonder if he ever joined in the abuse – just to show on whose side he stood. Did he add to the slaps and kicks, on his wife’s demand, perhaps? Or join in the family chorus of vitriol against the defenseless child- just to ensure that he remained one of the others?

          Did this man, Laurent Cousin, find suffering in the second marriage of his choosing? And failing to find the courage to carry his cross, blame this daughter of his for necessitating this marriage of woes?

          And mercilessly hurl her to the wolves in his own household?

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          The little Germaine grew up and wore out the rutted paths of violence at the hands of her abusers – her entire family. But with each lash endured in silence and meekness, the angels buried her deeper into the Wounds of Christ. While she lived Calvary at the hands of her family, the young shepherdess’ soul was drawn into a deeper union with her Heavenly Shepherd, and some were privileged enough to witness this through the miracles of the parting waters as she went determinedly to mass, and the changing of bread in her apron to winter blooms never seen.

          But the far greater miracle borne of this pain, was the holy magnificence of a spirit that never yielded to the saddest consequences of abuse – the hardening of heart and the inward centering of the victim’s gaze. The more Germaine was abused, the more she loved others – through her teaching of what little catechism she knew to children, through her sharing of scraps, through her Rosaries. Her own suffering didn’t take hostage her sense of charity. It didn’t mottle her loving kindness. Nothing veered her from that steadfast adherence to her Shepherd’s call in her spirit. Germaine was given a paltry daily ration of black bread by her stepmother, but even of this paucity, she saved to share with others she deemed more deprived. The fate she was enduring was never foremost in her mind; mercy was.

          By the sharing of her rations with others, she gave them Jesus. 

          By humbly submitting to the breaking of her body, Germaine sent the Eucharist where mercy was most needed.

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          All through my Friday Rosary of the Sorrowful Mysteries, I met the pensive gaze of the holy shepherdess as I wove my prayers for abusers and the abused through the Holy Passion of Christ.

          And yet, the weave didn’t remain in place. I had the faintest sense it was  not the prayer I was called to that day. 

          In the hours that followed,  I probed my discerning. Slowly I felt the abuse that St Germaine suffered recede from my spirit. I struggled to hold on to it through prayerful probing, because that is the common thread she and I share. But it slipped through my fingers.

          I had the vaguest feeling, it hadn’t ‘slipped away’ as much as it was taken.

          In its place lay a little bud the shepherdess placed on my soul. 

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          It is in My Passion that you must seek light and strength. ~ #654, St Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul.

In My Passion…..seek Light…

          I rested my mind in the Passion of my Saviour.

          And the bud began to unfurl its petals of red. I began to see that the breaking of Germaine’s body healed and nourished other souls, to go forth themselves, to multiply mercy through the same giving – the breaking of their own bodies for others.

          Going back to my own life, and petal by petal, my spirit saw each year lived. Every tear, every storm, every uprooting – converged on a single point of Light: the Holy Eucharist.

          I have slowly begun the journey to comprehend the purpose of the gnarls and twists and ruts in my life. Every nail endured through the loving of others is the unfurling of the mercy of the Eucharist in the pain of need, to be multiplied in a succession of other lives, one soul after another.

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