CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY

Lent 12 ~ Pathways

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Learn from My saints.  Study them. Receive their teachings.  Draw inspiration from their friendship with Me.  

But do not try to imitate them.  

Each of My friends arrives at union with Me by the path traced for her by the Holy Spirit.  Even when two paths may appear similar, know that they are not identical.  All of these paths converge in union with Me, in the light of My Face, and all of them lead to the open door of My Sacred Heart.   ~   Anonymous, In Sinu Jesu

 

 

 

For the Broken

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          Yesterday, coming out of the dregs of difficult weeks, the sullenness of grey skies and a shuttering of morning winds didn’t bud optimism and cheer in me. I went to my prayers with a dogged determination but it was a struggle, especially when it came to praying for those who were hurting me.

          Then came the 1st Reading for the day – 2 Thes. 1: 1 – 5, 11 – 12, and a light scattered its hope within me.

Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the Church of the Thessalonians
in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We ought to thank God always for you, brothers and sisters,
as is fitting, because your faith flourishes ever more,
and the love of every one of you for one another grows ever greater.
Accordingly, we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God
regarding your endurance and faith in all your persecutions
and the afflictions you endure.

This is evidence of the just judgment of God,
so that you may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God
for which you are suffering.

We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

For the very first time, I felt the words were written for me and for every broken reed.

Transfigure Me

Transfiguration

          I wanted to mark the Feast of the Transfiguration with a more personal involvement this year. More so since I believe I was given a sign to pay attention to it. Having begun the morning with the readings, I mused over why the Transfiguration happened in front of witnesses. 3 witnesses. Peter, John and James. One Christian writer explained that it was to prepare the apostles for the tragedy of the Crucifixion and the glory of the Resurrection.

          To prepare for grief and glory.

          I took an honest look at my life, viewed through the lens of faith. Viewed through the mist-wreathed experiences I do not always have the words for. And I asked myself what exactly did/does the coming of Jesus into my heart mean for me?

          I expected my own response to be sunbursts and all things lit by the lamps of joy. Instead, to some degree of surprise, I saw Jesus in my heart to mean the gifting of crosses to purify and the dew of holy relief from the purification. The Cross and Joy. Grief and Glory.

          What do the weeks and months ahead hold for me? What lies in a deceptive slumber, awaiting its unfurling? I know it’s not going to be all calm seas. Life is rarely that for me. But I had to be done shrinking from the tomorrows if I was to truly glorify my God. I needed to shore up my wobbling spirit and learn to face all that is to come with courage from above. So, I bent my spirit to ask for the needed grace ~

Jesus, transfigure my heart and soul,

Prepare my spirit to receive You.

Holy Blood

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          Since the July dawn rose, I have joined others in saying the Litany of the Precious Blood of Christ since this is the month of the devotion to the Saviour’s Holy Blood shed for mankind. Recitation of this Litany is my response to a deepening unease within over recent bloodshed in Baghdad, Iraq and Dhaka, Bangladesh. In a way I cannot explain, I feel as if it’s the Exodus, played out again. This is my first year saying the Litany for myself and for others attached to my heart. It’s been only a couple of days, but there have already been four little miracles.

          So, is it a miracle prayer?

          It is for me.

          But so is every other prayer, when said in earnestness, humility and charity. The prayer that tugs strangely and strongly at us all the time or at a given time, the prayer we cannot escape from, the one that is pressed upon our spirits – whatever that prayer may be – it is the Prayer of our Mission, and it must be prayed when we feel the press of spirit.

          I might be called to other prayers this month, but for now, the Litany of the Precious Blood it is.

LITANY OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD OF CHRIST

Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven, Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, Have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, Have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, One God, Have mercy on us.
Blood of Christ, only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Incarnate Word of God, Save us.
Blood of Christ, of the New and Eternal Testament, Save us.
Blood of Christ, falling upon the earth in the Agony, Save us.
Blood of Christ, shed profusely in the Scourging, Save us.
Blood of Christ, flowing forth in the Crowning with Thorns, Save us.
Blood of Christ, poured out on the Cross, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Price of our salvation, Save us.
Blood of Christ, without which there is no forgiveness, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Eucharistic drink and refreshment of souls, Save us.
Blood of Christ, river of mercy, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Victor over demons, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Courage of martyrs, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Strength of confessors, Save us.
Blood of Christ, bringing forth virgins, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Help of those in peril, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Relief of the burdened, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Solace in sorrow, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Hope of the penitent, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Consolation of the dying, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Peace and Tenderness of hearts, Save us.
Blood of Christ, Pledge of Eternal Life, Save us.
Blood of Christ, freeing souls from Purgatory, Save us.
Blood of Christ, most worthy of all glory and honor, Save us.

Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takes away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.

You have redeemed us, O Lord, in Your Blood,

And made of us a kingdom for our God.

Let Us Pray:
Almighty and Eternal God, You have appointed Your only-begotten Son the Redeemer of the world, and willed to be appeased by His Blood. Grant, we beseech You, that we may worthily adore this Price of our salvation, and through its power be safeguarded from the evils of this present life, so that we may rejoice in its fruits forever in Heaven. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

 

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/07/03/asia/bangladesh-terror-attack-moments/

The Time of Waters

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          For some reason, the call of the spirit came strong for me long weeks past Pentecost. For the first time in my life, I am sensing a humbling of my own soul before the Holy Spirit, and immediate bend of my own wayward spirit, in recognition of Who is Master, and who is not.

           Despite the almighty ruckus within me as I banged my head against every post in a deep inner struggle, my relationship with the Spirit has changed in some way I cannot find adequate enough words for yet. In the past week, more so. A deepening. A stilling.

          A woodpecker with his cape of royal red is intrigued by the trunk of one the trees that borders my property. Resting my eyes on the regally attired bird, a sultry amber breeze weaves a gentle path through  green crossings.

          Gently, slowly, the winds reach me and quietly rest a caution on my spirit: the time of waters is getting close.

https://writingonmyheart.wordpress.com/2016/03/01/lent-18-a-coming/

 

When Fire Is A Grace

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          During one mist-laced, green June day Mass, my spirit crumbled into a rare state of joyful brokenness and I was moved to pray,

Break my spirit upon Thy sacred stones. Break me till there is nothing left of me but You.

          It wasn’t until some hours later that I recalled the prayer and puzzled over it. I had felt so close to Jesus during that Mass, so safe and sheltered, like He had put His arm around me and drawn me close to His Heart.

          And yet, instead of a joyful hymn to burst from me, it had been, Break my spirit….Break me…. A prayer fierce in its force.

          What on earth is sacred stones? I wondered.

          Looking back on June, then till now has been some weeks of deep inner struggle hidden within days of good work and simple joys ~ which is no pretense. No papering over with false light with the intent to conceal. The inner scourging has not held back the skip of my heart. But in the much that got done, in the happiness I’ve felt and the love I could give, no one could have guessed at the relentlessness of a secret whipping within me: I struggled and struggled with anger and its tainted companions of revenge and unforgiveness.

          Yet despite the secret battle in this one pasture of conflict,  I found deep joys in other meadows. I partook of life and loving. There was no mechanical rigidity to my waking hours. I did not live an existence landscaped by ashes and sorrow. Every pearlseed of beauty around me sank into the grooves of my heart and bloomed.

          This, for me, was something new. In each past skirmish of my entire life thus far, inner turmoil had robbed me of the diamond sunbursts that garlanded my simple everydays. But this one, this time was different.

          Sometimes, even I thought I must be mad, to be so much a part of the light and yet be in pain at the same time.

          I banged and banged on heaven’s door and refused to leave my place on its stoop. Why, Lord, why? I cried in near despair. Why can I not move past my anger? And why this deep swell of red when its catalyst so tiny and trivial compared to the huge trials I have faced and weathered before? Why this strange blend of storm and sun? 

          My spirit seeking discernment, I recalled the counsel of my friend, Fight the dark through thanksgiving. So, I lifted my eyes to the morning sky to scatter the claws of frustration. As I gazed in thanksgiving at the expanse of gold sea before me, the sun shimmered and misted the sky.

          My spirit stilled and I saw the words of my prayer at Mass that day, Break my spirit upon Thy sacred stones. Break me till there is nothing left of me but You.

          Suddenly, it fell into place. My spirit was indeed being dashed and broken upon the sacred stones of God’s Truth. That mysterious prayer had unlocked a fire that now flooded every shadowed crevice of my soul. Fire was piercing through inner crevasses like never before. That was why the turmoil of spirit was unprecedented. My sinfulness had never been so close to Light before; even the slightest smudge burned and burned and burned.The turmoil I was feeling was the scream of sin being rent to ashes.

          My inner burning was manifesting outwardly as joy and love and strength because the fire was a grace wrought by a God who cleanses in order to free.

         

Bend in Thanks

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No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks ~ St Ambrose

          Some weeks back, a slight wind blew over and quilted unease upon me. Try as I did to part the wind and read its words, it yielded not its secrets. It troubled me enough to make me write about it to a dear friend. I thought he would have something to help me understand, bring me peace.

          Instead, he gave me something surprising, better, even: Fight the dark  through thanksgiving.

          It was an unexpected counsel. It might have been puzzling had it not hit the mark of actual weakness in me. Thanksgiving had indeed not dotted much the landscape of my recent weeks. I had prayed. I had worked. I had petitioned heaven. But seldom had my soul bent to love through Thanksgiving.

          Where is thanksgiving’s place in discernment? I believe it keeps the troubled heart from discerning wrongly. Thanksgiving is the rainblessed wind that douses the embers of trouble stoked by the dark of worry and fear. Thanksgiving pushes away the shadows of confusion, puts things into perspective. It helps us to focus on truth. It reminds us that in joy or worry, it is God who is in charge. It takes us to where the peace that surpasses understanding is Queen.

          When my friend exhorted me to lift my spirit in thanks, he well knew that a soul bent in gratitude soars towards the heavens, escaping snares that seek to scare and confuse.

          In seeking discernment, Thanksgiving lights the path to wisdom that births understanding.

Spirit~Fall

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          Two weeks ago, St. Augustine quietly eased into my life on a blue breeze when I began saying the shortened, 9 day Preparation for Consecration of the Family to Jesus Through Mary. Tucked into that 9-day novena, was a daily prayer by the saint:

St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit that my thoughts may all be holy;

Act in me O Holy Spirit that my works, too, may be holy;

Draw my heart O Holy Spirit that I love but what is holy;

Strengthen me O Holy Spirit to defend all that is holy;

Guard me then O Holy Spirit that I always may be holy.

          I was pleasantly surprised to read such a simple, straight-to-the-heart prayer from an esteemed Doctor of the Church, whom I always associated with loftier works. One of the little lessons the Spirit brought me through St. Augustine’s prayer was that those closest to God will always endeavor to simplify life and living, for themselves, for others. And that is one of the signs of someone whose heart was right beside His Shepherd’s, united with His Master in bringing heaven’s lights to the somber clutter of erred living.

          I made the consecration and left St. Augustine in the prayer booklet I had used. A week after, I became aware of a mild interior barrenness. Of an inner abode cleared of many of its burdens, yet lacking the silver tinkle of joy to wreathe the inner spaces with life-giving light.

          That was when St. Augustine came right back into my world. He slipped in through Nancy Shuman’s post in The Breadbox Letters, Holy Spirit, Enlighten…

 O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.  ~ Saint Augustine

          I read the words and right away knew it was what I needed – a scattering of cheerful beams. Not a firing up, not a lancing through, not even a flooding, but a scattering, so Light is drizzled far and wide, over every mottle of shadow left in my soul.

          I went back to that invocation several times, for myself, for others, each time, praying the hope St. Augustine had spun into prayer.

          A day later, returning home as the afternoon sun had begun to tease the western skies, I suddenly sensed a tiny joy~bell chime within me. My breath caught as a faded memory of old days danced before me. Days dimpled in exquisite peace and joy. Times gone by, years and years and years past.

          And now suddenly, right after the prayer, with no fanfare to herald its coming, a hundred wee bells tinkled their lilt of joyousness into the folds of my spirit. Ringing and tinkling, ringing and tinkling, they watered the empty burrows I had grown accustomed to. Once more, long, long years since the last, I felt again the joy~jingles birthed only from the shores of heaven’s streams. A deep serenity and peace bubbled and unfurled within the folds and creases of my weather beaten spirit, smoothening out every wrinkle.

          Since Pentecost, I had been looking out wistfully for the holy fire of the Upper Room to fall upon me. I had tensed in hope in every crescendo moment; in rigid readiness sought the spirit~fall in the crash and bang of dramatics.

          But for me, the spirit~fall was not to be found in the passion and widesweeps of life.

          Instead, it came in the quiet streams of Sacred Blood and Water, to tinkle awake the sleeping bells of my soul.

Burst of Whites

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          Outside my window reigns a jasmine bush, old weeps old, and in recent weeks, it has been generous in its pearly offerings. We never had a jasmine bush before. One night, years before, I had sat in the dark and wept in fear of someone who had a power over me that was wrong. As I sobbed, I heard a child sing me the opening lines to Yahweh, I know You are near…I lifted my head from the cloth held to my face and listened in earnestness for more of the hymn, but the singing did not go beyond the early lines. Instead, I slowly became aware of a subtle yet strong scent, gently weaving its way resolutely to me.

          It was the scent of jasmines.

          Nowhere near us did we have jasmines. Neither did any of our neighbours. And there was no mistaking it for anything else either. As I sat, breathing in deeply this fragrance, I forgot my tears, and a stillness took claim of my spirit.

          I knew that young voice well.

          And so, I knew the breath of jasmines was a gift of love from an angel who did not want me to go the way of tears. Later that night, I told my husband about the experience, and he listened carefully. One day some weeks after, he brought home a cutting of a jasmine plant, and gave it a home in our flower bed right outside our window, that the angel may have a bower to sing from.

          That little bush of white secrets speaks little but says a lot. In my every sadness, I have gazed out at it, and each time, it has gazed back solemnly, willing me to see a path other than tears. Many, many times it has gifted me with blooms just when nothing but ivorypearls would do. The jasmines spoke the language of my soul.

          But more than that, last year, I realized the tiny flowers were also my Mother’s Voice, calling me to the prayer of Mercy ~ for myself, for others.

          The day after one such prayer day by the jasmine bush was the horror of the Paris bombings of 2015 which both snatched and shattered countless lives in the violet-tinged hours of evening rest.

          From that day on, I began to love that sturdy bush with a deeper tenderness, for in its blooms, I learned the leading of the angel and of my heavenly Mother.

          Just after Easter this year, I chanced upon an article on Our Lady of Tears, Syracuse, and from there, my spirit was inexplicably drawn to the recitation of the Chaplet of Tears. Yesterday, I missed my nightly Rosary. Then today, the 17th of May, upon waking up, I was determined to ‘replace’ it, so as not to go back to the pattern of old where the recitation slowly tapered off, borne on the back of some slothful tide of one excuse or another.

          But oddly, settling to begin the Rosary, I found my spirit reaching for the Chaplet of Tears instead, so to the Chaplet, I yielded. Once done, I scurried about seeing to some chores before driving off to work.

          It was then that I spied the fat jasmine bush. For a moment, the sight of its ivory burdens caught my breath. There were more white flowers than there were leaves! A sight never before seen. As I filled bowl after bowl of them, I wondered, Why? Why the profusion of blooms?

          Perhaps it was a question that didn’t need asking. After all, greening and blooming were the workings of nature. Sometimes you had a few flowers. Sometimes a storm of them. Few or many, each to be loved and savoured, for I believe flowers are bloomed to soften the soul.

          And yet, I couldn’t let go. Why? Why? Why so, so, so many? And with so little …warning?

          It was hours later, in the scarfing of hot afternoon breezes that I saw the Marian feast of the day, 17th May ~ Feast of Our Lady of Tears, Spoleto. The Chaplet of Tears, the feast of Our Lady of Tears and the never before masses of snowy gems on a sturdy green bush, had all come together on a single day.

          As I sit in the caressing wreath of the fragrance, I do not have any answers, but the question remains.

          What does the burst of whites herald?

7

An Un-vesting

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          Early this week, my superiors informed us that we would all be subjected to a new performance evaluation. ‘Good’ and ‘Excellent’ work performance had been redefined to suit the times. Basically, those who trumpeted their efforts the loudest, regardless of what those efforts were, stood to gain everything. Those who worked quietly and in obscurity would have their efforts remain unrecognized and unrewarded – unless they converted to the times, and burnished everything in the fool’s gold of egoism and vanity.

          What you actually did no longer mattered. How you elevated and promoted yourself was to be the new compliance test.

          Stunned, I saw almost everything crumble before me. Like everyone else, I wanted my work to be appreciated. I wanted it to be recognized for the good it truly brought. But I shrank away from the turgidity of the platform upon which I was called to promote my work. I could not understand why the sacredness of sincere toil needed to be dolled up to be admissible for scrutiny. I could not understand why the fruits had to be sacrificed so garishness of the self might shine.

          I had a basket of simple wildflowers no one wanted. They were not fit for adornment for the times we were in.

          Everything dear and sacred to me, every struggle faced alone, one by one, peeled off and cast aside contemptuously by a world beholden to the luridness of the times. Day after sad day, one petal after another, plucked and left to flutter to the ground, deemed not worthy to be lifted by the breeze of authority.

          It was in the bitter hours of those thorn-wreathed days that I felt this word written on my heart ~ un-vesting. Over and over, I felt it pressed gently upon my spirit. Like someone unseen was willing me to see the negation of my work through the lens of heaven. To suffer it without the stain of mutiny to render it a worthy offering ~ atonement for sins – mine and others.

          Despite the gentle entreating that I open the eyes of my spirit, I kept turning away. Too much of me was bound too tightly to my work efforts. A rejection of it was a rejection of me. To cast it aside was to toss me aside too. And I took it none too meekly. Storm after storm beat a hymn of keening within me, lamenting all that I was now to lose for choosing to stand with my Lord.

          On the dawn of the 13th, on the 99th anniversary of the first Fatima apparition of the 13th of May 1917, I wearily prayed the Act of Consecration of the family to Our Lady of Fatima. I surrendered each one to my Mother. At the end of it, I remained at the shores of the prayer for a while. Then, I wearily reached deep into me and untied the moorings that had hitherto bound work efforts -my simple wildflowers – to my heart. I placed the tiny blooms of all I have done, each one, into my Mother’s hands, and stepped back into the busyness of the day, emptied but sad.

          Within an hour, a vine of tiny miracles began to unfold through my work day. I laughed with a giddy abandon and tickled dour others to mirth as well. I found myself tending to my duties with a skip and lilt of spirit lost to me in the days past.

          Surprised at the sudden change, I put my joy to the test: I recalled my losses.

          The joy remained, anchored in the serenity of a spirit freed from burdens by an un-vesting willed by Heaven. I still saw my losses. I know what has been done to me and others is wrong. But the sting was gone.

          The un-vesting called me to meekness this week, and late though I was to answer that call, the flood of joy I experienced was His Mercy~gift to me on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

          To tell me my wildflowers, rejected by the world of the times, had its place in heaven.