Lent 22 ~ Would I?



I resolve in the first place to remain continually in the presence of God and to ask myself frequently if I would do this or that if my confessor or superior were watching me and especially if God and my guardian angel were present.   ~             St. Conrad of Parzham, resolutions in the novitiate        




Lent 23 ~ All Alone


          We returned to my husband’s hometown parish for Mass this Sunday.

          When I had first married him, this Our Lady of Perpetual Help church was where we worshipped every Sunday. And it couldn’t have been more different from the churches I was used to.

          I had come from rather snooty ‘upper class’ parishes in the towns I grew up in and where I first worked before marriage, hundreds of miles from where I would eventually end up after marriage. Those churches I attended as a child and later, as a university student and working woman, were affluent churches where the rich and influential held every position of power in the church, and Sunday was the day to feel down and dowdy next to the stylish and exquisitely dressed womenfolk.

          Not being endowed with beauty or style of any sort, I never fit in. So, at every available opportunity, I opted to travel long distances to inner city parishes where the poor were more likely to be found, and no one gave you the eye for the simple clothes you wore.

          But the poor here were a distant and withdrawn lot. They were not unfriendly; they were just weighed down by money troubles and every other heartache under the sun. Being young, holding down a good job and with my whole life ahead of me, it never occurred to me to reach out, even with a smile, to tell those parishioners that they were loved.

          The parish priest too kept to his own corner. A troubled parish that was struggling with their faith and with their life couldn’t have been all that welcoming of the pastor’s advices and occasional admonishments delivered with a firmness through his weekly sermons. So, priest and people warily kept their distance from one another. Always being late to Mass, I too fled the church immediately after Mass, not wanting to risk a hello to Fr, only to receive a likely rebuke about my tardiness from the good priest.

          Again, it never occurred to me to accept whatever earful I might have gotten, just to spend short minutes lifting a tired priest’s spirits. I never thought that even a priest would need to be told he was loved.

          Short years later, I learned that Fr had been suffering from renal failure. Yet, he had pastored a difficult parish, with no assistant priest to depend on.

          Fr died soon after.

          When I married my husband, his parish gave me the shock of my life.

          It was a noisy, vibrant Catholic congregation that took a lively interest in everyone else’s affairs. Everyone knew the cheery and dynamic parish priest’s diary of meetings and movements. They knew his birth date and even news of his siblings. His family was theirs too. In fact, everyone was family to everyone else! No birth or marriage or illness amongst them escaped anyone’s notice.

          No chance for anyone to skip Mass either – they’d have to run the gauntlet of embarrassing inquisitions from every church member.

          It was a shock alright for an uptight me hailing from cold churches where no one really knew one another.

          For many years, we enjoyed the warmth of worship in Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The young resident priest was soon posted elsewhere, and his place taken by another, who, in his own powerful way, continued to light a fire of holy seeking in his parishioners’ hearts.

          But then, came a third, priest, troubled and lost, and something began to die in the most beautiful of parishes on the east of the country. Times were changing. Fortunes were changing. As Fr struggled with himself, his people lost a shepherd they needed. Personal problems, struggling marriages, wayward children and job issues began to darken the skies here. Soon, love for one another took a beating, and more and more often, I’d hear of squabbles and infighting among the members.

          Where life once thrived, death crept in stealthily.

          I was a witness to all this. I clucked and shook my head in disappointment. I was no longer a member of the parish there, because by then, with a growing family, my husband and I had to join a parish closer to our marital home. But on monthly visits home, I saw and learned anew of this dying. For a time, I prayed for the troubled priest. Soon however, I gave up.

          I wasn’t too fond of the priest; I didn’t like that he was not being the priest I expected him to be. And it grew to be more satisfying to take the lower road and condemn the man for his failings.

          For some years, that was how it was.

          Three years ago, yet another priest was sent to replace the troubled one, and what was left of the dwindling parish warily eyed the new aging but resolute pastor, anchored in calm and quiet steel. By then, many of the parish stalwarts who had tried to keep the congregation together, had either died or aged to illness or moved away. What remained was a disparate remnant, angry with the world.

          Condescending towards the new man of cloth.

          Fr struggled mightily with his people.

          They didn’t come to meetings, they bickered among themselves. They held back their children from being altar servers and from playing the organ for Masses. They ignored Fr when he tried to gather them together, they were greatly inclined to educate the humble, quiet priest on parish matters, believing themselves the wiser on church affairs.

          Again, none of this escaped me. Yet, not once did I turn to God to ask, What would You have me do?

          Today, three years on, returning home, sitting in the tired, old pew, I sensed a shifting. Something had changed. There was an undercurrent of life among the living tombs. A deep, deep peace permeated the church. I didn’t see outright love yet, but I saw smiles. In some eyes, joy had returned.

          In a sudden moment, I looked at the old and worn priest, delivering his sermon with an inner strength that belied appearances. And I knew then that Father had won the battle. I whooped with joy inside me.

          Later, as we were driving home, I reflected happily on the priest’s victory and the courage and faith it must have taken to win this.

          About to snuggle into my seat in contentment, I began to feel a strange inner sadness. A gentle, feather-light Hand traced grey lines across my joy. I held my breath and waited.

          Gently, the Unseen Hand lifted, and I felt the soft, sad words It had left behind,

You left him to do it all alone.



41Then He will say to those on His left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you never gave me food, I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, lacking clothes and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.”  44 Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not come to Your help?”

45 Then He will answer, “In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to Me.”  ~ Matthew 25 : 41 – 45

          It is far easier to seek and save the ones who are visibly maimed, wounded….their eyes and stance beseeching us to rescue them from their pain.

          Unfortunately, the sheep we are called save through our love and mercy do not always look like they are in need of saving. Too often, they seem well-fed, very secure, and downright bent on making our lives a misery.

          After a wounding some days back, I have been careful to give the snare of expressing my hurt to others, as wide a berth as possible. I hurt very much that day that I had willfully cast aside the Cross in favour of human comfort. I vowed to never step into that fog again.

          And I didn’t yesterday when the sheep chose to be difficult. I held my tongue. I chose to comfort others affected by these recalcitrant and insensitive types. I thought I did pretty well.

           I felt smug.

          And then, I walked right back into the fog at the edge of the cliff.

          While I managed to absorb the stings of yesterday, and not give them the airing I craved, it was a full tournament inside my head and heart. I steamed and stewed and plotted and schemed. My prayers were about me telling God what needed to be done, the amount of pain they needed, the kind of pain that was best, and just where to strike.

          Oh, and all interspersed with prayers of Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, of course. All for the sheep’s own good. That they see the light.

          I returned home to an unusually quiet evening of winds that roamed the tree paths in a muted dirge. It felt as if the leaves were holding their breath. I was not in a turmoil. Yet, there was some disquiet within that was hard to dislodge. When the birdcalls of a waning sunset began to rise, a Hand rested on my soul and firmly turned it to face a Light.

In so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to Me.

          This I didn’t want to hear. I fought against the words the Unseen hand wrote on my heart. I marshalled every argument against the Light that fell on my failing. I justified my hidden response of vengeance.

          Through it all, the Light shone on, strong and unwavering. In so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to Me.

          When I had exhausted the last of my fight, I sank and wrote this in the air before me~ I have failed Thee. Yet again. Because I knew the truth. Not a whit of mercy had I shown those who needed it most. Most easily did I dispense mercy and forgiveness to the suffering sheep who looked the part – wounded and in pain, but for those who looked more wolf than sheep, I unsheathed a sword of a totally different kind.

          Yet, I realize now that it is these who need my willful mercy. These wolf-sheep, with the snarling and feral demeanour that hides the wounded and bleeding sheep within them. Whose plaintive bleat for help is papered over by polished confidence, arrogance and sometimes, outright cruelty towards others.

          Wolf-sheep don’t invite our mercy easily. If anything, we feel mercy should be extended to us, not them, because it is we who suffer from their bites. But nowhere in the Golden Book are we allowed the comfort of retreating from the call to love just because we have been hurt.

32 If you love those who love you, what credit can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. ~ Luke 6: 32

          For every hurt endured, Christ suffered each one first. Long before I ever knew grief, He carried the wounds of every soul to the point of death on the sacred Cross. To give me a Light so pure and bright that I cannot evade but follow.

          I must go where I do not wish. To love the sheep that wear the coat of wolves. 

Sacred Home for a Restless Soul


          In years past, I observed the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus by saying the novena and prayers of reparation associated with the feast. Today, being the feast day again, I felt the need to bring a gift for His Heart. In the tiptoe of a moment, I remembered His Call – Bring Me Souls. So, I offered up the Chaplet of Tears for the Holy Souls and for others in need. About to go off to the duties of the working day, I paused to do a quick ‘check’ to see if there was anything else.

          It was then that I recalled a morning dream. Someone from work who was causing us much grief had asked me for a calendar. This person, who in reality had a sword for a tongue, appeared weary and out-of-sorts in the dream. I moved to comply, digging through my bag for that calendar she wanted.

          My bag was a mess. Instead of the calendar, I kept taking out an assortment of Christian books and Christian CDs. It tickled her gently as the pile in her waiting hands grew, and she passed a comment I cannot recall now. I was slightly uneasy that all I seemed to unearth were Christian stuff.

          Uneasy because this waiting person was a Muslim.

          Pondering this during my Holy Hour of sorts, I decided it was a call to bring this soul to God. I must admit that I had to tie tight my heart to the tree of obedience, because in real life, I was struggling a lot with this woman. She was someone I worked with, and she had the voice of authority which she used and abused to her advantage and on every flight of black passions. A woman of much intelligence, she cheated on her work and slyly taught and exhorted others to do the same. She was also a firm believer in the need for abortions to end inconvenient pregnancies and those where there might be a threat of a special needs child being born. She counselled our other colleagues to worship at the altar of Self, and taught them to put themselves first in their marriage and motherhood.

          Finding no peace in her own marriage to a phlegmatic husband she wished showed a bit more fire when necessary, and seeing her children as parasites out to level her money mound, in a determined way, she wounded and maimed marriage and family for others. Any attempt on my part to dissuade her resulted in vicious bites that never seemed to end.

          Certainly the last person I could have prayed for with any human love.

          And yet, in the early hours of this day where orange breezes thrilled through green boughs, someone placed her at the door of my mutinous heart.

          She had become who she is because of the lethal restlessness of a homeless soul. Wrongdoing makes for an uncomfortable pillow, and she had nowhere to rest. It was the call of the Divine Will that I reach out in mercy and give her a home. It was not a call I could wrestle out from.

          So, I placed this ill lady in the Sacred Heart. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I rest her soul in You.

          She had asked for a calendar. I could not give her what she wanted, but I pray I have given her the place of rest her soul needed, in the supreme Home of Mercy.


LENT 28 ~ Unfasten the Moorings


          When God unties binds that hold us to loves, our tears birth seas never seen that our souls may traverse. When God takes away loves we hold close, and when we mourn the loss, we see another world through mourning- one we wouldn’t have seen, any other way.

          We will see the little joys we missed that should have been treasured. We will see that the questions we asked God that seemed so important then, matter little now. We will see that the mountains we raged against were mere bumps of sand on life’s footpath. 

          We will see the seas of grace we were immersed in when all seemed wet and gray.

          We will see glory in the mundane of every day.

          One day, perhaps years from that birth of our weep, we will see that we were loved, because through the tempest of grief, God lit His Light in our souls, and gently launched us out into the sea of His Will, to travel life’s lanes to understand the love we are called to.

          The day will come when we will see that true love means unfastening the moorings of our loves, and releasing them to journey untethered, praying them all the way into the harbor of God’s Heart.






          In the waning days of November, old years ago, I heard an insistent beat on my soul – Do not be yoked with unbelievers…Do not be yoked with unbelievers…Do not be yoked with unbelievers… It was the persistent clamour of many voices of unseen faces, from the moment of my waking, all through the long nights.

          I thought I was going mad. What unbelievers? I threw the question wearily to the arid breezes that lingered in our home back then. Granted, I worked with those not of my faith. But they never darkened my door, much less my hours at home. Every minute home I gave my young children my attention. I was also battling a gray fog – I seemed to have symptoms of depression, stemming from an unresolved, ever-worsening abuse situation, and it rendered a bleak swell and ebb of anguish to my days. It was a life that was too full in some respects, but where were the unbelievers?

          Like many others, I straddled several lives whilst living one. I was wife. I was mother. I was child and sibling. I was working woman and friend. Each one, not merely a calling or a facet of one single life, but a full life, crossing and intersecting others. Few private moments. Always at the beck and call of the needs and whines of others.

          I had good friends, but there was one friend, in particular. Beautiful, wealthy, intelligent, wildly successful. Fun to be with. Catholic in spots and patches. Living a sham of a married life, wedded to her selfish mother whilst expecting her man to play butler to them both. Yet, she was a tender and empathetic friend, quick to support, with an uncanny understanding of who I was.

          Other than my husband, she was the only other person who really knew me. Perhaps too much. Over the decades, she used the lure of a drowning victim to draw me away from my home, away from my husband and children, deeper and deeper into her murky world, lived in a constant swirl of fury, selfishness and frustrations.

          But she was not devious. Not manipulative. She had a cross few experienced. Chained to a neurotic mother, unable to free herself to be the wife to the man she loved, my friend was indeed another victim. Her pride in her polished public image didn’t allow her to seek comfort in other hearts. Not even her husband knew what kind of mother she had. Her every pain instead found an unthreatening vessel in me she could fill.


          Whilst my mother had no room in her heart for anyone but herself, my friend’s mother deeply loved her daughter, yet not enough to release her. Hence, we both had mothers who chained us to them and sought to destroy other lights in our lives, lest we shifted our worship elsewhere. And on that tundra of emotional pain and desolation, our troubled lives intersected, there, more than anywhere else.           d4a2b95b6c4be7f21196b826193af8f4[1]

          When her husband gave up on the marriage and sought other pastures, my friend’s grief destroyed everything but her stubborn love for her mother. The ragged edges of her torment turned into knives she kept sheathed from her mother, but not from me. She knew I loved my husband and children more than life itself.  She knew that despite my depression and personal wounds, my husband and I struggled to build a happy home for the young ones. Blinded by her pain, all she saw in my life was the light in my home that struggled against the odds to illuminate our shadows. 

          And in her pain, she yearned for even that weak light. Not to have a small share of it, but to take it all, and to take it away so I’d suffer the same, not be a step up on her. She was anguished with her life, wanting mine. Over subsequent months, she transitioned from friend to my child attached to my hip, her 30 to 50 text messages a day to me a stubborn, demanding constant through my work hours, meal preparations, family time.

          She demanded my time, my prayers, and I acquiesced because I couldn’t bear that she suffer alone. It didn’t occur to me that there could have been a different way to deal with the situation – one that didn’t take both our sanities. I struggled with her cross and mine. I pounded at heaven’s door, but God was oddly silent. I grew exhausted and drained. Abandoned by God. Torn in a hundred directions. My placid husband began to express concern over the incessant buzz of the incoming text messages. I screamed that she was a dying soul I could not walk away from. It was not a Christian response to leave the drowning.

          I didn’t realize there was more than one person drowning.

          Then, one morning, it began. Do not be yoked with unbelievers. From sunrise to shadows. Do not be yoked with unbelievers. A warning called out from friends in a world beyond ours. I tried to shut the voices out, but they lived on like an invisible shadow, ever by my side. Desperate, I fell at God’s feet, broken, doubting myself. I emptied myself, in His arms I sought the counsel I was too vain to seek before. 

          Soon, I felt a new firmness of will take hold of me. I began to let hours pass before I answered her messages. And there was no guilt for that. Breathing came easier. I found minutes here and there to just sit and stare at the trees and do nothing. She caught on quickly and retaliated. Biting anger. Vicious.


         One day, after a whipping I didn’t deserve, I came to my senses. I resolutely stepped out of the smoke of delusion that I was helping a friend in need. I severed everything between us, finally throwing off a yoke that didn’t come from heaven.

the_dead_flower_by_tallulahprewett-d483be9[1]          It’s been years. Long, long years where the floundering wick slowly strengthened. As this November day ages to its repose, I ponder this memory of old sunderance, and wonder why it has come back unbidden. I have not willed it back, for sure. There is no grief for the death of an old comradeship, ultimately sullied and bittered by the idolatry of self.

          But there is epiphany. And it is searing. That mercy must always be blessed and inspired by heaven or it can be led astray. That human hearts can err in misreading the depths of someone’s pain, and in the manner of responding to the needs of dying souls.

          But most of all, that saving a dying soul must never come at the cost of ours.




For every soul gone to rest, a mother weeps somewhere in the remembered loss of another child. Motherless, orphaned or abandoned, no one dies without a mother. A mother-heart grieves – for her children and for those born of other wombs. Her dirge is not a weakness, but that of love that burns through and transcends barriers of bloodlines and race, creed and time. Hence, no one dies unloved, un-mourned, by a mother somewhere, because no one is motherless.

by Ella Wheeler Cox

 Somebody’s baby was buried to-day

The empty white hearse from the grave rumbled back,

And the morning somehow seemed less smiling and gay      

As I paused on the walk while it crossed on its way,

And a shadow seemed drawn o’er the sun’s golden track.

France Honours Attack Victims As The Nation Mourns

Somebody’s baby was laid out to rest, 

White as a snowdrop, and fair to behold,

And the soft little hands were crossed over the breast,   

And those hands and the lips and the eyelids were pressed

With kisses as hot as the eyelids were cold.



Somebody saw it go out of her sight,

Under the coffin lid—out through the door;

Somebody finds only darkness and blight

All through the glory of summer-sun light;

Somebody’s baby will waken no more.



Somebody’s sorrow is making me weep:

I know not her name, but I echo her cry,

For the dearly bought baby she longed so to keep,

The baby that rode to its long-lasting sleep

In the little white hearse that went rumbling by.


I know not her name, but her sorrow I know;

While I paused on the crossing I lived it once more,

And back to my heart surged that river of woe

That but in the breast of a mother can flow;

For the little white hearse has been, too, at my door.

Pictures of Paris attack scenes sourced from



          As the sun dips to his rest, and the purple night gently ribbons across the skies, our hands reach out for light. However welcome the night in its cool flower-scented breezes and hushed life sounds, we seek the light to see and live.

          And so it is with the soul. Even in the wilful pursuit of all that chokes and stamps out the breath of God within us, the soul in loneliness seeks the Light. In every straying heart, the soul stands in diametrical solitariness, longing for that which gives True Life.


          So as the indigo mists of night drop their veils, heed the urgent whisper of the Spirit:       Go forth and light the lamps.


          Seek the barren streets, seek them in compassion. The paths where lonely snow drifts. In love reach out to those whose heads are bowed against the snow, intent on their cold aloneness because they think no one cares enough any more. Let love warm and melt the snow that they wear around their hearts, kindle unseen embers long dormant.


          Have courage. In patience, search for homes locked from within. Shutters clamped tight against the light, soil tilled no more, gardens listing to neglect. Walls adorned by sadness, loss of hope. Seek these homes of a thousand gray memories, dwelling place of souls fettered by the past and present. Seek them and let the Light stream in, for it’s only by His Light that the soul heals.


          Seek the faces on the streets of hardness, despair, fear and shame. Seek in earnest the faces of those who earn their living by the barrel of the gun of violence and drugs. Search out the souls who offer spousal comfort to those not theirs. In mercy and love, part the thorns that hide and protect those who choose to sever the bond between a mother and her baby in the womb. Go forth and light the lamps on those darkened streets of a thousand shadows. Give hope where hope has gone. Share love where hate has reigned too long. Light the lamp so the soul may be healed.


          Light the lamps in souls who choose their end before His time. Those so bereft of hope, who suffer the poverty of relationships true and strong. Those for whom love has fled. Let their grief light your path to them. Illumine the darkness of their agony with Christ, that they see in their sufferings, purpose amalgamated with the Divine Will.


          Go forth and light the lamps in lands where faith slumbers in peril. In prayer and deed, in a life lived true, guide hearts to the Pearl of the Blue Mantle.


          Shine the Shepherd’s Beacon in every pilgrim soul, away from the precipice of death, steer each one safe.