DISCERNMENT

Day of the Sun

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Prayer for Protection from Despair
by St. Claude de la Colombiere

Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others.
Other people will glorify You
by making visible the power of Your grace
by their fidelity and constancy to You.
For my part I will glorify You
by making known how good You are to sinners,
that Your mercy is boundless
and that no sinner no matter how great his offences
should have reason to despair of pardon.
If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.

          On this morning which night rains have rendered green and silver, the last three lines of the prayer settle gently but deeply, pressed by an Unseen hand into my spirit. The lines go beyond a nudge towards humility. They hold a meaning deeper than caution.

          The last three lines tell me the little trees have meaning. Wee trees, always hidden before, that have suddenly, and oddly, stood out in the forests of my every days. As I coursed through the busy hours of each day, these little trees caught my attention, but when pursued, misted out of discernment’s reach.

          These trees were sometimes random words. Words that caught my heart in a fleeting vice of cold. Pines. Palms. Bridge. Snake. Flood. Hills. Wedding garments. Wedding feast. They were colours. Bright orange. Red. Black. Numbers. 370. 10. 2017. They were certain birdcalls. Warm, robust winds that occasionally rendered my heart and spirit still and watchful.

          The smell of roses when there were none. Bits and bites of dreams becoming reality.

          Sudden, unexpected occasions of contrition.

If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.

          These last words press into my faltering spirit the urgency of repentance and conversion and the grace of unwavering faith. They tell me I have not misinterpreted the speed of events unfolding, that I have not overreacted.

          The Day of the Sun is indeed coming. The winds of that Sun are already here. I have begun to pray a prayer I have never before prayed.

           That our lamps be trimmed in readiness. That I and everyone I hold in my heart be not taken by surprise.

          And finally, that in the aftermath of the Illumination of Conscience, love prevails over despair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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His Wounds Be Mine

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          Almost a year ago, a family member upset me so deeply with some news that I struggled mightily with prayer afterwards. Prayer seemed so very difficult.

          It was then, that by some inspiration, my heart found a prayer to Mother Mary, a prayer born of my helplessness ~

I bind my heart to Yours

          Since that day, that prayer has become like an old friend. I’ve gone ever so often to it whenever I am overwhelmed by anger or despair. I’ve ‘given’ it away to those in need as well, because in those six words is a Hand held out to us as we are tossed madly about in the heart of the sea, breakers and billows passing over us.

          This year, just recently, Susan Skinner wrote a blog post, Trinity of Hearts and it brought back memories of I bind my heart to Thee. She wrote of a vision of a trinity of Three hearts that she had been given in prayer – Jesus’, Mary’s and ours – and of God’s words to her.

          When I read that post, the words swirled before me. I understood the words and yet, did not understand their meaning. But that image of the three hearts stayed with me. A short time later, my spirit in the desert, I recalled Susan’s vision. And I figured perhaps that was what I needed to pray: that my heart be placed between the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to form a trinity, to glorify God. I felt that I could do nothing till I did that.

          I’d be lying if I said I understood what I was about to do; I understood nothing.

          So, I said the prayer one time. Listlessly. I press my heart to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Then, maybe a few days later, the prayer ‘came before me’ again, and I said it and it felt different. My spirit no longer felt dead, unresponsive. Buoyed by hope of coming alive again, I not only pressed my heart to form that Trinity but that of others too – family, co-workers, superiors at work.

          Almost immediately, I was rewarded with a piercing, a thorn through my heart, by someone whose heart I had pressed into Jesus’ and Mary’s.

          The pain was not severe but enough to dim the joy~light in my heart.

          I recovered soon enough. And today, during my morning prayers, I once more pressed hearts into Jesus’ and Mary’s.

          Once more, immediately, a new piercing.

          That was when I made the connection. I was being wounded every time I placed hearts into the blessed Chalice. With each wounding, I was having to fight myself and my inclinations to cut others just as they had done to me. Each time, I saw my soul as God might see it. Not a pretty sight.

          I wish I could say that what I saw humbled me. That the illumination  drove me back to God with a renewed vigour born of repentance.

          It didn’t. I wasn’t afraid of the prayer but I did shrink from it. No one wants to be hurt. We want to go out into the world and conquer it for Christ. We want to emerge triumphant. Not hurt and wounded, cast aside and in need of binding. That doesn’t fit the portrait of a Christian warrior in a Lepanto battle.

          But it does a broken reed. And Jesus was that reed.

          So, who was I to reject the call of the Broken Reed?

          God knew the very minute my spirit was bending to His Divine Will. He brought me another prayer, to ask if I would trust in Him ~

Holy Mother, grant this of yours,
that the wounds of the Crucified be well-formed
in my heart.

Grant that the punishment of Your wounded Son,
so worthily suffered for me,
may be shared with me.

Let me sincerely weep with You,
bemoan the Crucified,
for as long as I live.
To stand beside the cross with You,
and for me to join You
in mourning, this I desire.

When my body dies,
grant that to my soul is given
the glory of paradise.

          I didn’t want this wounding. I was sick of this suffering. There never seemed to be an end in sight. I was fed up of being hurt, of seeing my family being stoned. Fed up of being misunderstood and maligned. Fed up of fighting myself. Fed up of living in joylessness of what tomorrow held.

          I wanted the glory of paradise and I wanted it now. To savour it alive on this earth – not in the life to come.

          But who was I to reject the call of the Reed?

          Once more, God knew the second I accepted the Wounds of Christ in my heart. He took me back to Susan’s post, Trinity of Hearts. And the mists that were there before were no more.

          The broken hearts of the faithful will be repaired with the thorns of suffering.

          I understood what I hadn’t before. That I will see Heaven only when I am pierced by the very same thorns that pierced my Lord.

          Wounds of the Crucified

          Be well-formed in my heart.

 

 

 

Gambler

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          On Sunday, the 1st of October, I think I sensed a slight tug towards an 8 day Jesuit retreat. By way of spiritual tugs, this must rate as one of the lightest yet for me. Nevertheless, I followed it, researched Jesuit retreats online and all because I thought I needed to begin that day or at the very latest, the next day.

          But I came up empty. I saw things, I read up but the prompts dried up immediately. Then, I prayed to St Francis of Assisi for help as I sensed this retreat was in some way linked to this saint.

          Because in recent days he had come very strongly to tell me to Quieten Down, Listen Up.

         It’s been some days and the wind has remained silent. Another round of poking through the Internet earlier today came up empty as well. When I tried to force the discernment, I could feel an instant inner drying. So, I backed off.

         Until a short while ago. I was watching the news reports on the Las Vegas shootings and heard the word ‘Gambler’ used to describe the shooter.

         Gambler.

          My heart went still. It would be the second time I was hearing that since that incident after Mass 2 weeks ago with my relative. Right after that unpleasantness, an unseen hand began to press that word into my spirit. I didn’t catch on initially but the minute I did, the anger and shock over what had happened retreated into the background. My feelings no longer mattered as much because I knew I was beholding something far worse.

         I turn the word over in my mind. What do I do with this discernment? Pray? Meditate? What? Again, the winds retreat and I am left without an answer.

           If I am meant to be on some retreat, maybe a silent retreat, if Gambler is somehow meant to flag off the start, then I must receive it even if mists cloud the discernment. I can think of no better way than to load up my prayer cart and go before the Miraculous Image.

          Today is the Feast day of St Francis of Assisi. Tomorrow will be St Faustina’s. I’ve called on both recently. I feel both close by today, yet they are not coming any closer. I turn my heart towards them and ask them to accompany me, to stay by my side, to intercede with me as I lay down my prayer cart and its sorrowful contents before the Lord.

         Gambler. Victims. Madness. Death. I press all into the Heart of Mercy.

Broken To Save

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          “And make sure you forgive.” Those were my friend, Susan Skinner’s firm words to me in her comments to my previous post, Unbeliever. I had written about a hurtful experience with a relative on the day of my child’s First Holy Communion. Our child had received Jesus for the first time. During Mass, we saw something we hadn’t expected to experience and we were deeply affected by what had happened. While this man surely did not know of our experience, for sure he saw how preoccupied we were with our little one on such a meaningful day, but instead of rejoicing with us and heaven, used it to his advantage and backed us into a corner.

          When I saw Susan’s words later, And make sure you forgive, my instant self-assured reaction was, Sure I can, nothing to it.

          But the very next second, I wasn’t so sure. I no longer heard Susan’s voice; a Supreme Being was speaking through my friend. Still trying to believe that I didn’t have a problem forgiving this man, I imagined seeing him again at church and set up the scene in my mind.

          I found myself running into the church to hide from him. And after Mass, I saw myself running into the car to escape bumping into him.

          I knew then that I had a problem forgiving this relative.

          So, I plunged headlong into prayer. I tried to fashion the words for it. I came up short. Later, in Susan’s post, Dreams and Preparation, I saw this prayer:

Lord, send your Holy Spirit to convict …. repent of their sins,…..confessing them to their priest.

          Is that for me? I gave it a go.

          Truth be told, I could say the prayer only once before I fell from the weight of it. Even the prayer for the grace to forgive seemed lighter than this. This other prayer was heavy. I’ve never experienced this. It was not due to reluctance on my part. It was not because I wanted to say another prayer. It oddly felt like a heavy door.

          And that it was not my place to push it open.

          Yet, I didn’t sense it was the wrong prayer.

          So, I did the next best thing. I did what I could do: I loaded this relative onto my prayer cart. Then, I loaded in my sinfulness and every difficulty I had in dealing with this situation, especially the struggle to forgive. I asked for His Mercy (I loaded that too). All weekend, I filled up the prayer cart because I didn’t have the words. I couldn’t come up with a simple prayer sentence; I couldn’t even read one with my heart even if I saw it.

          But I was not troubled. I knew it was in Good Hands.

          Arriving at Mass the next Sunday, I forced myself to look out for this person – as a way of fighting my real desire to run and hide from him. But I didn’t see him. I must say I entered church with more than a little relief.

          There, I dropped to my knees. Fixing my gaze on the Miraculous Image, I told my Lord,

Lord, I set down my prayer cart before Thee.

          Then, I sat back and waited for Mass to begin.

          Our parish priest had never been even a minute late for Mass but this time he was. Minutes ticked by and the congregation became slightly restless, with many turning to the back to see if Fr had entered. My thoughts still on my prayer cart contents, I kept my gaze forwards but I heard the distinct bang of the confessional doors. I knew then what had delayed the priest.

          Soon, the Mass began.

          Right after Mass, the relative who had hurt us sought out my husband. Uh oh, I thought.

          “My mother had a fall last Sunday after Mass,” he announced and went on to describe his 90 year old mother’s condition. She was unhurt but shaken.

          I wish I could say that my concern immediately shifted to the poor woman. It didn’t. Too full of myself, I instead held my breath, waiting for the axe to fall. But nothing of that sort happened. We soon parted. There was no apology but neither did he make any attempt to twist us back to where he had us the previous Sunday.

          Genuine thankfulness filled me over this conclusion; I had merely tried to forgive him as best as I could. God had done the rest. That was enough for me. It didn’t matter that our relationship would forever be marked by the wound of caution. I didn’t feel like asking for more, because my thoughts were now on something else the wind had rested on my ears.

          And what I heard troubled me.

          Deep in my pots later that night, my husband sauntered into the kitchen. We chatted about the day again. After a short pause, he asked me if I had noticed that our priest that day had been late in starting the Mass. When I nodded absently, I sensed him hesitate. Then, he asked me if I knew why.

          Someone had gone to him for Confession, I replied.

          Do you know who? my husband pressed, watching me carefully.

          I shook my head, puzzled over the line of questioning. My husband is the last person on earth to keep tabs on others, much less take attendance at the Confessional doors, so I didn’t know where he was going with this.

          It was him, said hubby.

          I almost leapt at my husband, pot, scrub pad and all, so great was my shock and excitement and incredulity. So many go for Confession, yet I could not name a single person despite years of being a parishioner here because it is simply not something I keep a look out for, much less brand into my memory. But that day, both my husband and I had been alerted in different ways to a stirring behind the door – the greatness of someone’s hidden humility to seek Jesus’ healing love.

          It matters not to me what had passed between our relative and the priest, if our matter had even been mentioned. For some reason, our unpleasant experience has diminished in its importance. The mere fact that that he had run to Jesus, considering all that had happened in the space of that week, both stunned and touched me deeply.

          And it placed the eyes of my heart squarely on the whispers the wind had brought me about this poor man’s hidden struggle. It told me why my husband and I had to suffer for that wee while.

        My relative’s problem(s) was the bigger rock, hitherto hidden. Our trouble with him was the light that fell on it and unmasked it. This time we were not called to pray this person to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That was why that prayer was so heavy. All that was asked of us was that we forgive him.

          I’ve heard many times that forgiveness frees both sides. However, till this time, all I knew personally was the healing and freedom I received when I forgave someone. This was the first time I saw the power of forgiveness at work on the other side away from me.

          For the first time, I learned with my heart that when I forgive, even wordlessly, in secret, or as part of an ongoing struggle, my forgiving becomes a key that unlocks the jail cell of the prisoner who has hurt me. Forgiving leads to healing – of forgiver and forgiven. And healing leads to conversion.

          I cannot see the wind of road ahead for this person. That sight is not afforded to me. But what I do see is that my husband and I had to suffer shock and hurt to save a soul, possibly that of a secret gambler.

          We were called to suffer briefly, to be bread broken, that through our forgiveness, a lost sheep might return to its rightful fold.

 

 

 

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.

 

         

 

 

Parting the Mists

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         September brought the inevitable drying of my spirit again. I knew it had come when every time a light lit up for me and I went to it, the dry would touch me and what I thought was there would disappear. Over and over, it happened, like the touch-me-nots that close in on themselves the minute they are touched. Every prayer direction, every prayer itself, would close itself away from me just as I reached out to embrace it.

          I didn’t understand what God was trying to tell me. I am more than familiar with the spiritual aridity God has allowed for me for some years now. I know it from the signs. Exactly the desert. Devoid of almost everything.

          But this time it was different. I was being shown signs. Little lights that came and almost immediately receded out of sight. The signs stayed only as long as it took me to notice them, and then, they were gone.

          St Jude. The Illumination of Conscience. St Michael. Pray for protection. St Jude. Seven Sorrows Rosary.

          Nonetheless, I took each one and its call to heart. I followed every light in what little obedience I could summon. I followed them despite doubts. I followed them despite the absence of consolation that it was the right thing to do.

          Yet, I remained troubled at the briefness of each praying period and the quick change to another prayer. I was afraid that I wasn’t discerning the signs right. I was afraid that ‘something else’ might be fooling with me, making me tear down after each light so that I would soon be breathless, frazzled  and distracted.

          But I wasn’t. I wasn’t out of breath. I wasn’t frazzled. I wasn’t distracted. Despite the rapid shifts in spiritual calls I was seeing, alongside the inner aridity, coexisted a strange calm and deep quiet. Dryness and water impossibly together.

          Church matters required that my family be at church on Saturday. There, a complete stranger, a lapsed Catholic married to a non-Christian, sought my company. She was hurting deeply. The kids were a problem. Money was a problem. Intense business rivalry had cost her her business. She had only come to our Catholic parish to send her non-Catholic kids to a free coaching programme.

          She had interrupted me in the midst of my task and I had to force myself to focus fully on this woman pouring her heart out to me. I covertly traced crosses on myself that I say nothing to upset her further, that I add nothing to her already immense burdens and fears. As the words tumbled out of her, I was much aware of the Our Lady of Lourdes statue that loomed high above the grotto behind this woman. Glancing at the statue, I silently prayed that I be emptied of myself. Emptied so that Mother Mary could touch this woman in her sorrows through me. I asked for Mother’s words. I asked for Mother’s touch.

          Desperate to help this poor woman, I gently suggested Holy water. I gently turned the woman towards the Rosary. The sprinkling of Holy Water and the recitation of the Rosary, even just gripping it without the words, were my own, habits formed from pain and sorrow and fears much like this stranger’s. But steering this lady towards them, I felt we were going nowhere. I didn’t feel Mother Mary’s power course through me. I didn’t feel that my words had come from heaven. So, I stopped trying to turn her towards those life-savers. Instead, I said our goodbyes, I gave her my promise: I would pray for her.

          And her aching reply to me was, Don’t forget my name.

          Later, I discovered that the coaching programme this woman had come to church to send her kids to was run by the St. Vincent de Paul society members of our church. I had known of this outreach to the poor, but had forgotten about it.

          Yet, the moment I heard the name St Vincent de Paul, I felt it tug at my spirit.

          Short hours later, I entered the empty church for some quiet time. I looked at the big Divine Mercy image before me and remembered I had a load of prayer needs. So, I went before my Lord and set down my prayer cart filled with the needs and aches – both mine and of others, including the distraught stranger’s. I pressed her name to Jesus’s Heart.

          After a time, I got up to leave. About to go out the church door, I spied a small booklet tucked into one of the pew kneelers. Curious, I picked it up. It was on the various Marian apparitions. There was a brief list of them – Lourdes, Fatima, Guadalupe, Knock and Akita. The Akita apparitions caught my attention. I still had time, so I sat down to read about it.

          Instead of Akita, my searching fingers stopped at the Rue du Bac Marian apparitions experienced by St. Catherine Labouré. She had been a young nun of the order of the Daughters of Charity.

          The order had been started by St. Vincent de Paul.

          Honestly, honestly, had I not heard of the apostolate of the same name earlier, had I not left my work to give my full attention to that distraught and searching stranger, had I not remembered her name to God as I had promised, St. Vincent de Paul wouldn’t have sunk in as deeply, and I would have skipped this read and gone on to the Akita  apparitions.

          But St. Vincent de Paul had felt much like all the other lights of September, perhaps more so. Coming twice in the space of such short hours, there was a firmness to it that my spirit was alerted to. So, I read on about Rue du Bac apparitions which I thought I knew pretty well.

          It turned out I had more to learn. I was surprised when in it I found answers to my most recent queries. I had been asking God for some days if I had discerned the prayer calls right. Prayer wasn’t coming easy and the flitting from one prayer call to another had me in spiritual jitters. I had even wondered if that meant I needed to do something other than just pray, if I needed to stop.

          And there in that little book was a line that caught my heart: …..Mary offered advice to the young woman, including the need to rely on prayer

          It was a commonplace sentence but the way it fell into my heart told me those were no mere words. They were Heaven’s answers to my September seeking. It was waiting for me in that little book on Mother Mary’s appearances to those on earth. 

          I was led to it by St. Vincent de Paul.

          Suddenly, those all those little random lights of before right up to this day didn’t seem disconnected nor so little any more. Every one of those were like the touch-me-nots my lens had caught in August, steering me away from what should not be my focus, towards the vital stones that were set in the footpaths of this September that I was being called to tread.

          Those lights were not distractions. They were not misread. That was why even as I thought I was being rushed from one port of call to another, I didn’t feel torn or stretched, despite the absence of consolation that I was doing what was right.

           I went home a happy woman that day. God had answered me and I was all ready to return to prayer with a renewed and refreshed vigour.

          As the sable breezes of night began to sing their hymns, the Marian apparitions of Rue du Bac appeared once more before me. This time, I was led to Mother Mary’s appearance in the 2nd apparition.

She was standing on top of a white globe, which only the superior area was seen, and she was crushing a green serpent with yellow dots. Her hands where elevated to her hearts height and she was holding another small globe of gold, crown with a cross. The Virgin Mary had a supplicant attitude, as if offering the globe….

…..The (white) globe at Her feet: the sin of the world… The globe in Her hands: the world offered to Jesus through Her hands.        

–       http://www.piercedhearts.org/treasures/shrines/miraculous_medal.htm

          White globe…..superior area…seen…the words settled on my heart and awakened a memory.

          A memory of a dream. A dream of a huge white map in a blue sky.

          A year ago on the 28th of October, on the feast of St Jude, the Patron Saint of Hopeless Cases, I had a dream of walking on a street. It felt like an old part of some European town. The streets were clean and narrow, the buildings that lined it almost colonial, clean and whitewashed. There was an old feel to the streets.

          Then, I looked up and saw an impossibly huge, startling white map of the world spread out in the bluest of cloudless skies. My attention seemed to be riveted towards Africa. After the initial shock, I rather quickly dismissed the map and continued my walk even as the map remained suspended in the sky. 

          Suddenly I turned to the back and saw a big, equally white statue of Our Lady on the road kerb behind me. Immediately, I looked back up at the white map in the sky.

          And I was now seized with a deep fear of what that map meant.

          The dream continued to a second part.

          I was in the compound of a little, green church. Interiorly, I knew it to be a St Jude parish. It was crammed full of happy, peaceful and charitable people; there seemed to be standing room only. A cousin saw me and smiled at me. It felt like she was trying to tell me all was well. After a while, I moved to leave.

          As I was leaving the church, I felt these words impressed upon me ~

Pray for others.

          Soon after that dream, I sought the counsel of my confessor. He advised me to move on from my present prayers. He told me to pray for Africa since it seemed to hold my attention through the map.

          I obeyed my confessor immediately. I lashed myself to this prayer call and gave it my all. Through the ebb and flow of almost a year, I have forced and forced myself to pray for Africa.

          Yet, every time I prayed this way, I felt an inner resistance. Initially, I put it down to reluctance to go beyond the intercessory borders familiar to me. After months of struggling, I sensed it might not be mere reluctance. It felt like something else was holding me away from the prayer. So I prayed to be guided.

          Today, I think the Rue du Bac apparitions have cleared the mists a little. The white globe in the Rue du Bac apparition is the white map in my dream.

          St Jude is the key to this certainty. St Jude’s coming to me in August through September in the quiet and prompt way he answered the cry of my heart over one of my children, is the tinkle of a silver bell. God could have sent any one of my favourite saints, or even a new one. But He chose St Jude – because he was linked to the white map of my dream. It was his voice I heard in the second half of the dream: Pray for others, telling me all I had prayed for before this were safe in his church, the little green church, and as my confessor discerned – in advance – it was time for me to move on.

          St Jude had come before October to get my attention through my family needs because he had another mission: it was time he heralded the time of the map to me.

          To seal my certainty of the links in this dream to the apparition is Our Lady of Rue du Bac Herself. I had always assumed She had appeared as OL of Fatima in my dream because She had been in white and I didn’t know of any other apparitions where She had appeared attired in this colour. However, in my dream, Her hands were not pressed together. She was in total white and her hands were spread out.

          This was how She had appeared in Her apparition to St Catherine Labouré. I see that only now. A bell is ringing through this little detail.

          At a time when the weather is raging at a world that dared to plunder and steal from Nature, at a time when we seem so broken and divided yet united in wanting to hurt one another, the dream of the white map has returned to the skies of my life. Little lights, one lit by the other, have illumined the footpath that has led to this moment.

           And I need to know what I am to do next.

          One thing is certain: It is not a knowing that I can summon imperiously. This knowledge of the path ahead will only come through obedience to fulfil in perfection the littlest of calls from Heaven.

          Just as before, it will be the depth of my obedience and humility in saying Yes to God that will light the next lamp, to part the mists of whatever lies ahead.

         

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Time of Littles

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          Towards the end of August, one day I stopped by the small vegetable patch we have on a wee slope at the end of our backyard, intending to take close-ups to be made into bookmarks for the kids. Everything was fresh and crowned with a vibrant green. Taking my time, I snapped two photos of the lushious vegetable plants from different angles, and delightedly went into the house to have a look at them.

          Both pictures barely caught the plants I wanted.

          Instead, staring at me from within the pool of green leaves was a tiny, pink mimosa pudica. From both angles, hardly any of the veggies I sought, but mighty clear shots of that tiny, spunky touch-me-not in its court of green, glaring up at me in all its pink defiance.

          One such picture can be a mistake; but two  – is a message.

Keep your eyes on the littles.

          I knew my interpretation was right when the next line I read was,

          Many spiritual undertones are concealed in little things.   ~   Entry 112, Divine Mercy in My Soul, St. Maria Faustina Kowalska.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Piercing

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          Recently, when I found myself wanting to feel the sting of remorse over my sins, my wrongdoings, I had prayed for just that – to be given the grace of remorse. And very quickly, that prayer was answered. I believe that the sudden heaviness of heart that beset me one evening, for no apparent reason, was the Tears of Jesus and Mary for my sins.

          But it didn’t end there.

          Yesterday, at the local farmer’s market, I met up with someone and we had a brief conversation, just a couple of sentences of pleasantries that should have ended on a light and breezy note.

          But it didn’t.

          Because I chose to speak a few words against my neighbor.

          They weren’t lies, nor were they my imaginings. I didn’t provide a detailed breakdown of someone else’s failings, neither did I mention names, so no one got hurt. I just spoke the truth about a work situation that even my conversation partner was aware of; it wasn’t like I had parted the curtain to reveal something she had not known.

          But almost immediately, bare minutes after the words had left my lips, I felt an intense piercing. It didn’t tear me up. It didn’t keep me from savouring the beauty of the cloud tufts that embroidered the skies. I didn’t feel weighed down by despondency. I didn’t feel like throwing myself against rocks.

          But an unseen thorn pierced. And it pierced deep.

          Even now, many hours since I uttered those few shadowed words that stained unnamed individuals, as this pain finds print, the piercing of my spirit continues unabated. I, who have gone through a life  mottled by mistake after mistake, slip after slip, fall after fall, yet seldom regretting my wrongs, am now aching beyond belief to be able to return to that moment in that happy bustle of people at the market, to take back my dark words.

          Oh, what I wouldn’t give to go back.

          My heart today looks out on a joy~blessed day. I rest my spirit against the golden blooms of sunlight that light up grass freshened to wildgreen by recent rainfall.

          A languid breeze weaves its visit through the greenhearts of tree boughs. I reach out and place my heart in its arms.

          And in return, the breeze leaves a note on my spirit.

          It is not my heart that is pierced. For the one I have is hardened beyond piercing.

          Within me beats the Heart of Jesus, bequeathed to me because I had asked for the grace of remorse.

          The grace to feel my Jesus’ pain as I pierced Him.

 

 

 

Thank. Listen. Love. Pray.

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Appreciate what you have. Listen to the warnings, hug your children, and thank God for today and yesterday, and pray for a better tomorrow.

~ Natali Rojas, Corpus Christi, whose statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the only item to withstand a devastating fire that destroyed three Corpus Christi-area homes during Hurricane Harvey, August 2017.

 

 

 

 

When the Seas Wild

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Those pursuing the spiritual way must always keep the mind free from agitation in order that the intellect, as it discriminates among the thoughts that pass through the mind, may store in the treasuries of its memory those thoughts which are good and have been sent by God, while casting out those which are evil and come from the devil. When the sea is calm, fishermen can scan its depths and therefore hardly any creature moving in the water escapes their notice. But when the sea is disturbed by the winds, it hides beneath its turbid and agitated waves what it was happy to reveal when it was smiling and calm; and then the fishermen’s skill and cunning prove vain. The same thing happens with the contemplative power of the intellect, especially when it is unjust anger which disturbs the depths of the soul. ~ St. Diadochos of Photiki

         

          This was a week of struggling with spots of red anger, but yesterday, the ante was upped. My children told me of a hurt caused by a teacher, and it roused my anger against her. It was not the first time this woman had strayed into personal territory. The hurt this time was a culmination of thorns she had glibly sown in my heart, and last night, it was one thorn too many.

          I decided it was time to deal with her. To give her a memory she would never forget. So, I plotted. I planned the words.

          Then, I recalled the word: ECLIPSE.

          We had just passed one of the greatest events of our lifetime, the Total Solar Eclipse of the US. I had clearly been told by God that the actual event itself held no spiritual weight for me. But in the throes of flaming anger, when I put my rebelling heart at the feet of God, God bade me recall the word, ECLIPSE.

          Then, He stepped back. No comfort. No other word. No direction. Just ECLIPSE.

          I didn’t need to be told what to do because I knew what God wanted of me. I also knew He was not going to push me towards that decision. I had to go to it of my own accord.

          So, I left my mutinous heart hell bent on revenge, and dragged my resisting mind to ECLIPSE. Clumsily, I fashioned a prayer from ECLIPSE for my anger:

Grant me the grace to love this Cross. Give me a Love that eclipses all.

          My mind sought to follow the path of my heart’s desire to vent the anger that bubbled black from its wellsprings. So, it had to be lashed to the prayer because my mind had no interest whatsoever in the prayer. 

          Over and over, alone and woven through the Rosary,

Grant me the grace to love this Cross. Give me a Love that eclipses all.

          I awakened today to a gentle rain that softly pearled the morning air. As I rested my heart against the rain~diamonds that sequined the leaves and boughs, the skies’ tears gently flowed into my spirit. Quietly the streams slipped in and smoothed its silver cold over seas whipped wild by the trouble~winds.

          No trace of the night’s fires remained. I was clothed in calm.

          The trouble~winds sent back to their pits, I went before God. I realized I could now place wounds and wound-ers into His Wounds.

         Then, He spoke. Words for me. Words for my family.

          And I heard Him. I heard every still and little whisper.