Death

Lent 6 ~ Replace With Yours

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          Just before sunset Mass last week, God called me to console Him for victims of oppression as well as for oppressors. Then, He placed in my heart a light longing for a Blood of Christ prayer. Later that night, He showed me a specific oppressor to focus on, one of my bosses at work.

          The next morning, the yearning for a Blood of Christ prayer deepened and going in search of one, I was returned to an old blog post from 3 years back, Heeding the Confessor. I had forgotten all about it, so I was slightly surprised to see that the post was about that specific boss. Reading it, I recalled that the tug of spirit at that time, 3 years ago, was to pray the Blood of Christ upon that man.

          More chilling was the bible reference given to me about him. It was the parable of the Rich Fool.

Then the Lord Jesus spoke this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. ‘And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”   ~   Luke 12:16 – 21

          Every line that described the fool described my boss.

          At the time of the post, I had just been severely torn down by him. I was fighting anger. I didn’t want to pray for him. But St. Maximos Confessor had come and urgently told me I had to channel my anger into prayer for the man; I couldn’t allow my anger and hatred for him to steer me away from the prayer he needed so much.

To the extent that you pray with all your soul for the person who slanders you, God will make the truth known to those who have been scandalized by the slander.   ~   St. Maximos Confessor

          And so, I fought myself and prayed for him with the simple Blood of Christ prayer Jesus had slipped into my heart.

Blood of Christ upon me, Blood of Christ upon him.

          That was 3 years ago. Now, yet again, this man was brought before my eyes so firmly that I knew God was not about to tolerate any excuses from me not to pray for him. So, once more, I tried to pray that same prayer, Blood of Christ upon me, Blood of Christ upon him.

          I didn’t feel a hand stop that prayer. Neither was it lifted away from me. Yet, it felt different this time. It didn’t quite… fit. I spent the rest of that day and today gently seeking the prayer for this man and every superior that he represented. Nothing came. Instead, today was tough. The sullen weather. Work that progressed slowly. A technical breakdown. Long, long work hours. Signs of a bad flu attack. Left without a prayer yet knowing I had to pray, I offered up this arid, angry day and all its knots and gnarls for the conversion of this man.

          I finally drove home tiredly, nothing much left in me. I put my heart out once more, wanly searching for the prayer.

          A small hand pushed a memory across my heart. A memory of the post that was written just before Heeding the Confessor.

          It was Replace my blood with Yours – ‘Yours’ as in the Precious Blood of my Christ. The second my heart  uttered the line, I knew I had found the prayer of conversion for my superior.

Replace his blood with Yours

 

 

 

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Straying Beyond the Sheepfold

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          Yesterday, a lady shared about an awful family situation spanning many years. Listening, it seemed to me to bear all the hallmarks of Narcissistic  Personality Disorder. The woman was at her wits’ end, didn’t know what else to do with her husband and how to go on. Being intimately acquainted with that same disorder, I felt sorry for her. Even if it wasn’t NPD, it was clearly emotional and mental abuse that she was enduring on a daily basis. And decades of it was, well, a long time to suffer the way she had. In my case, I received church counselling to create a firm boundary. It saved my sanity as well as the sanity of my husband and children. However, I didn’t know how a boundary was going to help this woman’s situation without destroying what was left of her marriage.

          Nevertheless, I felt I needed to do something before this poor soul crossed the line of no return. So, without giving her any details about my situation so as not to unduly influence her, I told her I’d pray for her to receive a special enlightenment – because what she needed was a very special light for her extremely difficult journey.

          I’m now on a small prayer mission using my newly received St. Raphael’s healing oil. I first prayed using the blessed oil for a friend suffering from addictions and other attacks but never told her exactly how I was praying for her. This friend’s subsequent communication to me bore strong indications that the prayers were having effect on her. That strengthened my faith in Archangel Raphael as well as I’ve never really invoked him in this way.

          A short time later, speaking to a priest, I heard about his immense struggles with his family as well as with the parish he was assigned to. There was also his acrimonious relationship with a fellow priest and its spillover effects. That troubled me more than anything. If our priests were falling out with each other, what hope did we have for ourselves? Nonetheless, it wasn’t something I dared advise him about, mainly because of the distinct possibility that it was above my paygrade.

          Nonetheless, a strong urge took hold of my heart. So, I began the same prayer I had said for my friend with the addictions, for the 2 priests, using the St. Raphael’s healing oil, so kindly and generously sent to me by the Healing Oil Ministry of South Grafton, MA. I have no idea how long I am supposed to pray for this intention but I’m confident the Archangel will let me know.

          And now, I fully intended to invoke Archangel Raphael’s intercession for the lady struggling with her Cross.

          I tried to pray Hail Marys for the woman all Saturday morning. It was a very busy morning, and rushing to and from errands and duties, I couldn’t manage more than a few Hail Marys, recited distractedly. But I was undeterred. We had to travel long distance to Mass later, so there’d be lots of time for prayers.

          I planned to pray using the oil before the drive. I remembered – about 15 minutes into the drive, it didn’t make sense to turn back.

          Then, I tried to pray Hail Marys again for the lady. Again, I got distracted after the first few.

          Arriving at church, I hurried inside to lay down my prayer cart before the Divine Mercy image. Fixing my gaze upon the image, I offered every prayer – except the one for the lady. Clean forgot.

          I had a few minutes before Mass began so I opened my battered copy of St. Faustina Kowalska’s Divine Mercy in My Soul. Jesus speaks very clearly to me through lines in this book, different lines in each reading. I needed to hear God’s voice and I prayed to hear it through the book, if it was willed.

          It came. But it was not what I expected.

A priest who is not at peace with himself will not be able to inspire peace in another soul.   ~   Entry 74, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Faustina Kowalska

          I stared at the line for a good few seconds. What?

          It was just before Holy Communion that I suddenly remembered my intention to pray for the woman. So, I did but it was harried and hurried. It had been that way the whole day – but it didn’t affect other prayers; only the prayer for this lady. 

          Something began to disturb me lightly. Don’t you want me to pray for her, for her enlightenment? I grumbled to Jesus. What do I pray for? I directed my exasperated asking towards St. Faustina, assuming there was some other prayer needed for this lady.

A priest who is not at peace with himself will not be able to inspire peace in another soul, came the calm, quiet reply.

          I decided to stop my prayers or rather, my attempt at prayer, for the troubled lady. I was learning again the lesson I have learned many times before: that just because I had sympathy for someone, it didn’t mean that I could get ahead of God, even in prayer. What prayer, how we are to pray, if we are called to it – is all governed by God. We get nothing done by straying ahead of Him. To pray outside of His Will, never mind whatever good intentions, was to leave the sheepfold. I had tried enough. It was clear that this was not the prayer – for now or perhaps, ever. I knew God would let me know if and when anything was needed. If I said I loved God, then it was His will that I had obey, even in something like what to pray for, who to pray for or when to pray.

          And so, I retreated from that prayer, but focused on the prayer for peace in priests.

          This morning, I met this lady once more. Imagine my utter surprise when she made it clear that she wasn’t looking for enlightenment for herself. If anyone needed it, it was her husband, she said. She was grateful for support, for comfort. For listening, for the prayers for her husband even. But she didn’t need God’s direction because her husband was the problem, not her. God needed to speak to her husband and her husband needed to listen to Him.

          That was the kind of prayer she was looking for.

          I suddenly understood why the wind had stolen my every prayer for her.

 

 

 

Receive My Life

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Someone is in the final hours of his life. After all the months of praying, it has come to this. Nine young children and a wife. I want to pray for him, but my heart can’t seem to settle on a prayer.

          Then, this little dew comes. And it is right.

O Eternal God, receive the sacrifice of my life   ~   St. Catherine of Siena

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Summons

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          Today, first Friday of the new year, I received a firm summons to the Lord’s Heart. Upon being reminded about First Friday devotions, I felt led to bookmark this page for my prayers – https://americaneedsfatima.org/Our-Lord-Jesus-Christ/the-nine-first-fridays-devotion.html. The devotion called for 9 first Fridays to be offered up for reparation. Last year, I was called to a similar ‘novena’ – 9 first Tuesdays for reparation. Just as it was that time, I knew that with the memory I have, and even with smartphone reminders, I’d fall off the wagon pretty soon.

          So, once more, from today till the end of September, for a period of 9 months, I will recite the Reparation to the Sacred Heart prayer every Friday, not just the first 9. I also told God that I offer my prayer as not only from me, but also from all those I have attached to my heart. This is a beautiful and indeed helpful way to remember to pray for many people. Instead of naming them individually or trying to remember who to pray for or even having to always consult a prayer diary, we can attach to our hearts the people whom the Spirit always moves us to pray for in a special way. So, every prayer we pray, covers those ‘attached’ to us as well. Melanie Jean Juneau taught me this. With a memory like a leaking sieve, I am forever grateful to her for this wisdom.

          I’m taking this attachment one step further this time with the Friday Reparation prayers: that as I pray this prayer, others attached to my heart echo it as well – whether they are aware of it or not. I believe this is possible because I’ve learned that prayer is not merely confined to words; prayer can be many things – silent suffering, sacrifice, obedience when it is hardest, a day lived in pure service to our neighbour.

          With so many prayers being prayed and lived, may graces flood the souls who need them most.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blood and Water

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          When the angel placed my eyes upon the Divine Mercy prayer, Jesus, I trust in You, it was the hardest prayer for me to pray, on that day and especially, in the days that followed. I had gone instead, to every spiritual pool I knew, to every saint’s door, begging for discernment,  for relief, for strength, as Jesus, I trust in You stood by resolutely. I searched in so many places, yet, nothing reached out and caught my heart.

          As I dithered, waiting for another nudge, a commenter told me to read Psalm 102 – the Psalm of the Afflicted – and to say Jesus, I trust in You, at the end of each verse. So, I read it and made the offering each time. While some of the lines encapsulated what I was facing now, at the end of the reading, what remained was, again,

Jesus, I trust in You.

          Heaven was being very firm with me; I had to say that prayer – regardless of how I said it or how I felt.

          And so, I began. I said the prayer every time the breath of despair swept close to my heart. Every time desolation threatened to take hope away.

          There was no answering strength that I discerned, no bloom of light.

          But late, late in the depths of night, I suddenly felt I had spent too much time among the stones of lament. I had left Jesus out in the cold, alone with the sorrows of the world. Wanting to make amends, I went to console Him.

          Taking up my Rosary, intending to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Someone slipped into my heart a prayer I had forgotten – The Divine Prayer of Conversion,

Blood and Water that gushed out from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.

           As I stared at the prayer, something gently folded around my Rosary beads, and I slipped into

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

          Over and over, like with the Hail Marys, my spirit nestled into a quiet, resolute rhythm,

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

In place of the Mysteries, I placed before my heart the images of places, people and practices that hurt and wound my family and I. Around each image, on my rose~beads, I wove Blood and Water, Heart of Jesus, I trust in You.

          At dawn the next day, I saw the word, Emissaries. Recently, I learned that for me it indicated the close presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Mother of those in battles. Barely had my thoughts gone there, when from the dark green breast of trees awakening to the touch of shy sunrise, I heard a sudden burst of baby~bird melodies. I’m accustomed to hearing the little tweets of bird~lings, but today, it seemed like many little bird babies lifted their voices to joyously sing, spilling diamonds into the night sweetened air awaiting the embrace of the sun.

          A melody never before fallen on my ears.

          I went to work later. The hurts and the wound-ers, in their usual positions,  as solid as ever. The night’s prayers and sleep hadn’t lit strength in my soreness; nothing seemed different.

          But I saw immediately that the blade of anger sheathed within my heart was blunted.

          I think I understand. My anger takes me into a battle that serves no purpose. It takes me away from where I am most needed – the Guadalupe Battle.

          The battle for the conversion of souls.

          Through that unexpected avian hymn of unearthly sweetness, Mother of Guadalupe had sent Her emissaries again, to tell me that The Rosary of Blood and Water was Her answer to my anguished seeking.

          It is Her wish that I wield it for Her in the battle for souls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Song of the Lark

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May you see God’s light on the path ahead
When the road you walk is dark.
May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.

 

          The road is dark indeed, and getting darker for many. We have days of joy-filled moments embroidered into them. Hours laced with funnies and laughter where the sun spills its warm blessings upon the dimpled land and the green~gold breezes tug leaves  and boughs into a timeless dance.

          Yet, paradoxically, I sense the light outside going out. One by one, lights which line the streets of life and living, the lights we have come to depend on, are dying. I’m only getting by because of a strange, invisible light from within. A light fed by family, thanksgiving and prayer, knit together by obedience – the oil that will feed the light.

          Some days, the walk comes easy. Some days, obedience is hard to find. But I must trudge on. If obedience dies, so will the light – for me.

          And for others too.

          For tonight, another’s sorrow weighs heavily on my heart. A young man I know has fought many battles to live to love his God. Gentle soul, he burdens none with his bitter load. But the Cross bites deep now, deeper than before. Like it is with many the world over, I sense his lights too are dying out, one by one.

          My heart aches for him, this son of Ireland. He is tiring, it comes strong this still night, where the wee leaves lie unstirred in the dead of winds.  I’ve been there before, that same shore where hopes go to die.

          Only love pulled me back, away to the secret nooks where hope sings and lives.

          Now, this love must be returned for this young soul, as once was done for me. In every way the Spirit moves me to, in an obedience that doesn’t always come easy, I press this son loved by a Mother, into the Divine Heart, praying,

May you always hear,
Even in your hour of sorrow,
The gentle singing of the lark.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 5 ~ Left Behind

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          Some hours back, I had the fleeting thought to pray for the Holy Souls of Purgatory. I love them much but sadly, of late, I have not spared much thought or prayers for them.

          Then, there was dinner and other house chores to work on and soon the intention got lost somewhere.

          But it wasn’t a mere passing thought.

          Well into the night, when the day’s frolicking winds had fled to their hidden nooks, I read an old mother’s plea to a priest for help.

My son committed suicide on July 8 2012. He was only 39 years old. I was maybe 50 feet away when he shot himself. Can’t find peace and I do have tremendous guilt that I had not saved him. If I only went to his room, but I didn’t. My life is hell, and I am old, praying so hard but my pain is so intense. I am just worried as he was such a good son but not been in church since his childhood. Please help me, I am hoping that merciful God will forgive him, I don’t think that he knew that suicide is a mortal sin. Help me please.

The mother had written to the priest about 3 months after the tragedy. It is now close to 6 years since that day when 2 lives ended – the son’s, and in many ways, the mother’s too. That is what untimely death does, worse when it’s suicide because I suspect guilt stays longer and bites deeper.

          This mother was grieving the loss of her child and the loss of life as she knew it. Deep inside, she was screaming and pleading for them both.

          For every life that ends, so do other worlds.

          I think it is this plea, this poor woman’s and others as well, that the angels have placed in the curve of my night hours tonight. I don’t know anything about this poor, poor mother beyond what she has written. I wish I did because it would make my own ache bearable if I knew she has now passed through the darkest parts of this valley of grief.

          If such a thing were possible.

          But what is my pinch of pain compared to this severe sorrowing of those left behind to grieve? Those who remain to suffer doubt, worry and fear, in addition to the terrible inner tearing as they mourn the loss of someone who left without a goodbye. Who likely left not knowing they were loved and would always be loved.

          I loaded this woman, her son, and others onto my prayer cart. I had yet to say my night Rosary, so to it I resolved to take these suffering souls.

          It was then that I recalled something I had read.

When a particular people become for you a cause of worry and distress, give them to Me and represent them before My Eucharistic Face. ~ Anonymous, In Sinu Jesu.

          I wasn’t anywhere near an Adoration Chapel. But I thought I’d close my eyes tight and go before Jesus in my heart for those who suffered this particular scourging – those left behind to grieve.

          That very second, my memory gently pressed before me,

You will see changes in them that only My grace can produce. ~ Anonymous, In Sinu Jesu.

          The distress left me.

 

 

 

Vigil of Repentance

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          On a quiet day this week, just as a gentle dawn was rising from its east, I was sliced through my heart. I had a dream. In it, someone called me Widow.

          I shot out of the dream in severe shock. The minute I awakened, I felt a wall come up between my present hour and the dream. For a long time, that has been God’s sign to me, marking the difference between a dream that is a warning and one that is a premonition of a coming, certain reality. Yet, this time, it gave me no comfort. I held my sleeping husband, weeping silently, begging God not to take him. But I couldn’t hold in the silent screams for long. A wild restlessness tore at me.

          I rose and ran to God. Weeping and weeping, in deep fear, I gripped my Rosary and buried my torment in the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

For the sake of His Most Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Please, don’t take him, Lord,  Please, don’t take him,  Please, don’t take him.

           All through the first decade of the chaplet, I pleaded and begged for my husband’s life to be spared. I distinctly heard voices from the side asking me what right did I have to ask not to be widowed when so many others had suffered this same grief. Did I think I was so special that I could choose my Crosses?

          Even in that mind-numbing sorrow of what I saw in the dream, guilt taunted me. Was I rejecting a Cross God wanted me to suffer for His sake?

          Who was I to think I did not deserve that suffering? asked the voices.

          Then, somber, old lights began to stream before me. Memories of odd happenings recently – all related to marriage and family. Things I hadn’t understood. Things that had worried me. Did they all portend this terrible, terrible grief?

          Fear rose like a black storm and began to violently pound my heart.

          Desperately, I clung tighter to the Chaplet prayers. Then, I saw the millions of times I had sought to save my own peace and left my husband to his struggles. The times I had little patience for him. The times, uncountable number of times, I had taken his love and sacrifices for granted. And now, that love was going to be taken away forever.

          I repent.   I repent.   I repent.

          Forgive me, O Lord, I have sinned, I sobbed to my God who had given me the greatest gem in the man I had married so many years ago. A man I loved with all my heart, yet took for granted as deeply too.

          Praying the Divine Mercy chaplet before the Miraculous Image on my wall, praying it like one demented with fear and grief and remorse, I went into the second decade.

          At the tenth, a personal sign, these words streamed before me ~

 The Illumination of Conscience

          That precise moment the words unfurled, the black wave of fear receded. In its wake, a sudden stillness.

          I raised my head and looked at the Miraculous Image before me.

          Was this what this was about? The Illumination of Conscience. The Warning. I thought of the unknown, unseen feminine voice I had heard in the midst of a Rosary a year ago – The event of the Warning will begin with the Annunciation. I was not told the year, but I recalled how I had forgotten the Feast of the Annunciation this year, only to be reminded of it by angels. On and on their bells had tinkled until I took notice and asked why. Why was I reminded? Was it merely to observe the Feast?

          Or was it because, as the voice had spoken, it heralded the beginning of the falling of a Luminescence beyond words – into hearts?

          In a way I cannot explain, terrible, horrendous though my morning dream and subsequent suffering was, I just knew that was merely the first rays of that Day of the Sun. The first rays – and yet the nails that tore at me were severe beyond words.

          As I sat, stilled and in thought, in that unlit pool of revelation, no relief flooded through me. It was as if my frightened spirit had moved beyond that primal seeking. Comfort didn’t matter anymore. Instead, every part of me stared at my sin of ingratitude.

          Slowly, stealthily, I sensed a stirring from the side. Other memories sidled into my consciousness. Voices from the past. Warnings to be financially prepared. The naming of beneficiaries. Writing of wills.

          I turned my gaze away from my sin and looked to my side.

          Suddenly, suddenly, the black tempest of minutes before tore back into place, wrenching and spinning my heart in widening circles of freezing, choking fear. Gone was the stillness of the tenth. Gone was the calm. In its place, the madness that only abject fear can invoke.

           It was the ravaging of sanity that comes when we take our eyes off the Cross.

          I reared back, stunned. My spirit stared at the two contrasts – my inner state as I stood by the Cross and wept over my sins. And the other – when I turned and moved away from the Cross.

          I knew immediately that the practical preparedness of putting our combined finances in order – which seemed so right – was wrongIt was right, it had to be done, but it was NOT what God wanted me to keep my gaze on now. And yet, it was what the voices from the side were calling me to.

          Immediately, I wrenched back the eyes of my spirit from the side it was distracted to. I returned to my rightful post – by the streams of remorse and repentance. Here, despite the crushing pain over my falls, I did not feel as if I was being whipped and flung around in an unstable  vortex.

          I held my rose~beads resolutely once more, determined to face His Light and have it burn away my ingratitude for the gift of my husband. As I begged God for forgiveness,  God placed other sins before me. He showed me the dark extents I had allowed my anger when hurt to stream out into.

          He made me face the very many times I had wished the same pain of loss I had suffered upon those I had tried to love but who had hurt me when I had done no wrong to them.

          God placed face after face of my victims before me. Those who had knifed me when I was at my lowest. Those whom I had wished  would come to know the same sorrow that had pierced my own soul ten years ago, and to know the violence of that grief to its fullness. I had wished this upon others despite knowing it by its name – REVENGE. I had wished it not out of mere spite. Not because I couldn’t bear their joy while I walked the valley of grief; I had wished it so they would weep as I did.

          And so, stop hurting me.

          But in the eyes of God, that didn’t change the name of my sin. That others had struck me first. That I was merely reacting to their wounding. It didn’t mellow its stain on my soul. It remained as REVENGE.

          As He unmasked the dark inside me, I heard the words of my dream again, saw the reel rewind and play back. But this time, I felt the pain I had wished upon others.

How terrible that pain felt when it befell me.

          In my anguish at what I saw, I felt God was not unmasking enough. And so, I went within deeper, uncovering more and more victims of my particular anger. It was as if I was baring all to God, saying to Him – There are more, there are more!

          I’ve always struggled with an entire chaplet of the Divine Mercy prayed in one sitting but this morning, I went through two. Suddenly, nothing was too little or too difficult for expiation of sin when I was given a taste of the agony I wanted others to feel.

          The bitter morning dream had come on the last day of my novena to St Joseph – to plead that my heart – and the hearts of all I carry within mine – be prepared for the Illumination of Conscience. The dream was St Joseph’s answer to my prayers. But it was not a gentle answer from the Gentle Spouse of Mary. The dream felt like a spear through my heart. Because no other gentler means would have wrought this vital repentance. 

          I now repent, heart and soul, for what I have done to others in the secret of my heart.

          I repent for the times I led others down the dark path by my example of anger.

          And I repent of the way I treated my beloved husband. 

          Because of the dream, life will never be the same again. There will now be a shadow where there was none before. I will henceforth always look to coming hours with fear. I will fear delays. Fear the unanswered calls. Anything which separates my husband and I, even the most innocuous, will be a steel band that cuts into my heart.

          I will fear if everything is the last of lasts.

          Becoming a widow is no longer something I can block out. It will from now become the shadow that follows me everywhere. But I know I am not called to mere fear. That is a call that comes from the side. That is distraction. Even if the ice of dread manacles my heart from this day on, I am called to a different vigil to await the Illumination of Conscience.

          For by this dream, I have been given a foretaste of God’s judgment of my sins in the coming Illumination. My place is by the Cross of remorse.

          My vigil has begun. My vigil is that of Repentance.

 

 

 

Rest in Love

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NANCY SHUMAN

7 February 1946   ~   30 August 2017

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          In memory of treasured friend, blogger, ardent follower of Christ. The Cloistered Heart & The Breadbox Letters, mother~heart all lit up in love and warmth to welcome every weary traveler seeking God. Keeper of Lights who lit the pathways to God, gently taking us from one stop to the next, shining the light that we may see the God who loves us. Gone now, gone she is, crossed the bridge, to rest in Love Eternal.

Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.

 

 

 

 

Unbeliever

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         Preparing for a moving and joyous family celebration this past Sunday, ‘something’ wasn’t happy. So, it sent its emissary – a relative – to trouble us, distract us from the miracle of the Eucharist. The person was successful in a sense, managing to upset my husband and I terribly, bringing us close to an argument on a Sunday of golden breezes, stilled spirits  and tickled hearts.

          It was a clear and direct attack on the family.

          We fought back. And our weapon was family too. We made it very, very clear that no one, not even relatives, could force us to put marriage and family on a lower rung of priorities just to accommodate the will of others.

          Given our response, this person will likely hesitate in future to go to where he had. I hope he does. Because despite being Catholic, a Communion minister at that, by what he did to us, he chose to kick Jesus into the gutter – right after Mass.

          It’s been a few days and I’m still not over it. It’s not the hurt so much as it is the utter shock of it. We never saw it coming, not from this friendly, cheery man who always had a sunny word and a stomach-in-a-stitch joke for everyone.

          Last night, the word ‘unbeliever’ popped into my mind.

          Seven years ago, after enduring years of a fun but very, very tumultuous friendship, I awakened to days and days of an unseen chorus of voices relentlessly chanting a caution to me:

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

          Day and night, hour after hour, there was no escaping the ceaseless chant. The fold of hours into days did nothing to diminish the urgency and insistence of this unseen clamour. I went to sleep and I awakened with those voices in my ear.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

          Just as it is now, so it was then. A staunch, church-going Catholic friend from my university days had fallen into a pattern of abusing our friendship. Only when the blade of her knife came too close to my family did I realize this was not how someone who loved Jesus treated others. True love does not begrudge someone her closeness to her family.

          True love will never allow one to stealthily usurp the first place marriage and family occupies in another’s life.

          I left that friendship once it sunk into me that there was nothing to go back to.

          But I did not completely understand the word unbeliever, never liked it even. In the community I work and live in, I am often referred to as an unbeliever simply because I am Christian and no one else is. Yet, seven years ago, this word was brought to my spirit as a warning.

          Now, seven years since, unbeliever has returned like mist, the reminder at once gentle and sorrowful. As if someone knows I have need to reacquaint myself with it despite the pain and bewilderment it will once more bring. 

          This time I did not sidestep the teaching.

          An unbeliever is a Christian who bears the mark of the beast. Because he has rejected Truth. I do not know if the unfortunate soul is spiritually dead, but I know with a deep certainty it means he is on his way there.

          Because he once chose Jesus and lived Christ’s life but has now disowned the Lord. Something else has entered the heart where Jesus once lived. The human will has embraced this entity but disowned our Lord and His teachings. It is not about the occasional lapses of conscience, of the random missing of the moral mark that almost everyone is guilty of. It is much, much more than that.

          It concerns a deliberate and calculated casting aside of Christ’s teachings – either through a dilution, a misrepresentation or a distortion. There’s a first time, then a second. One dismissal leading to the next distortion. And finally a rapid spiraling away from Truth towards death.

          A hardened conscience. Spiritual death.

          I believe that God has bade me understand through this connivance of our family member, that the unbeliever can be anyone who claims to be a Christian. He can even  be a pillar of the Church. He might come across as spiritually superior. Enlightened. Progressive. 

          A face seemingly set in the direction of the sun.

          But in the deepest folds of his spirit, hides the ice he swears allegiance to : that he does not accept Jesus. That Jesus’ teachings hold little true value for him because they contradict the worldly values he lives by.

          He believes himself to be a Christian. In reality, he is a Christian shaped by deceit.

          For the unbeliever, the life Christ lived which He wrote with His Blood on every human heart is no longer relevant in these modern times. Christ’s and His apostles’ lives might only be something to be recalled during Mass, read about in daily readings or an act he emulates to put on display for others his Christian-ness, but those principles are not lived in sincerity in the everydays of his real life.

           I remember a day years back, when we went to this same relative’s home. It was for a quiet get-together after a requiem Mass for his late wife, a beautiful soul, who had passed away a month before. There we caught up with his extended family, and it was a day of subdued cheer for they were a friendly lot.

          And yet, I remember a faint chill in that home. In that company. It was as if behind the smiles and friendliness and Bible-toting, eyes watched us. Eyes not theirs. I remember smiling and going along with the cheery banter, yet wanting to leave and feeling relief when we did. I thought it was just me and my social awkwardness. But it is slowly dawning on me that perhaps it wasn’t. What I had sensed that day in that home where a heart of gold once beat was not solely the chill of grief for the deceased. The pall of death extended beyond the physical. Only now do I see it.

          It was not mere loss that our spirits brushed against. It was the cold of a fading conscience.

          The beginnings of the mark of the unbeliever.