DISCERNMENT

The Fatima Way

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          It has been a blessed and joyous two weeks lived well and loved well. But a few days ago, I learned anew the truth of Sr Lucia’s Dos Santos’ prophetic words:

The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about

marriage and the family.

I have some issues with my beloved husband, and they boiled over yet again this week. As a result of that, I lived some long moments with sand in my eyes and a storm in my heart.

          One day later, late at night, I stayed up reading about the Fatima Apparitions. I came to the heartrending part where little Jacinta lived her last days, and finally, passed into eternal life. I was so glad for the late hour because it meant no one would witness my own reaction to the enduring courage of a wee child to love her Cross till the end – to offer her terrible sufferings for the salvation of souls. The lateness also meant on no ears would the sound of my own grief fall as my heart traced the path of two simple Fatima parents humbly answering God’s call to bury their own child.

          That part of the Fatima book also took me back to memories of old wounds I’d rather not see. It took me back to what we had lost as a family. It took me back to black hours that we lived through unknowing that even darker hours awaited us in coming years.

          My pillow was wet that night, and I prayed that there’d be no sign of it in my eyes in the morning, for my grief is private and I wanted it to stay that way.

          I awakened to two miracles the next day.

          There was no sign of the night in my eyes.

          And a greater one – those tears had washed away the grit of old hours of my marital and family related grievance. With the sand washed away, I saw with fresh eyes what the storms had clouded over:

I had not carried my Cross in the Will of God; I had not walked the Fatima Way. 

          Marriage and family struggles come to one and all, some more bitterly and more devastating than others. Some we bring upon ourselves through the choices we make. Some are allowed because it is through the splinters of the Cross that we are emptied for Heaven. In my specific reaction to my frustrations with my husband over his parenting methods and his some of his spousal attitudes, I saw that I had left my Cross. I did not carry it, neither did I ask for God’s help with it. I chose to do it my way, and it was as self-serving as the life lived by the man of Frank Sinatra’s song (even if the world disagrees with me!)

          My way was not the Fatima Way. My way was the serpent’s way. Seemingly harmless and justified, but winding resolutely and stealthily towards the desolation of Me. I was going in the wrong direction – not towards Heaven, but towards Myself.

          My compass had to be reset. If little Jacinta and Lucia could push past walls rock solid with pain, to love and carry their crosses as God willed of them, then so could I.

          Fresh and cleansed, I got up from the ground. A new day was before me – to be lived the Fatima Way.

          And live it thus, I did. Despite my sinfulness and smallness, I lived it in love as best as I could. Despite the fact that the issues which upset me still remain, and will surely resurrect itself yet again I’m sure, I held nothing back from my husband and family but gave all I had in love and joyful service.

          This morning, ambling through online highways searching for prayer meditations by saints, I came across a website. Browsing through the prayers, I read each one and waited for the one that would ‘fall into my heart’.

          Just then, I caught sight of a line at the end of the webpage – What if God chose a prayer for you?

          For some reason, that little line stuck its burr into my heart.

          Quickly, I responded, God give me my prayer, then. And resumed searching.

          It was the very next prayer. It was by St Ignatius of Loyola, and it was his Prayer of Generosity ~

Prayer for Generosity
of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous,
teach me to serve You as I should,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest,
To labour and ask not for reward,
Save that of knowing that I do Your most holy will. 

          Every line, every word of it – the Fatima Way.

 

 

Every Seeking Heart

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          After days of cheery sunbeams and green breezes in tinkling dance through evergreen boughs, I came to Sunday morning thoroughly happy.

          Happy but distracted. My thoughts scattered in a hundred earthly paths, disappearing into thickets and grass dips; my prayers like sighs borne away on the slightest whisper of wind~breaths.

          It was as if this merriness within left no room for much else.

          I could have gone on this way. Who doesn’t want an end to or even some respite from fretting and rushing and hurting and fuming, even if for a day? But I was headed for Mass soon, and it somehow felt frivolous to go to my Lord’s dwelling with my spirit in a state of giggles.

          And so I strived to summon prayers. Petition prayers, emptied prayers. Rosary and Chaplet cups offered to be filled by heaven. They came. And they went before I could catch hold of any. Sighing, I went about getting ready for the journey to church. I had a book on the Fatima apparitions that I was reading, and I put it into my bag in case I had some minutes after Mass for some quiet time with it.

          The very minute I touched the book, quick as a silver flash, I saw Our Lady of Fatima in my mind. I promptly decided to ask Her for help in quietening my gay spirit: I told Her of my difficulty in praying.

          The words had barely left my heart when I heard the strains of this old hymn blow through my spirit:

In moments like these I sing out a song,
I sing out a love song to Jesus.
In moments like these I lift up my hands,
I lift up my hands to the Lord.

Singing I praise You, Lord.
Singing I praise You, Lord.
Singing I praise You, Lord,
I praise You.

          The little bean rolled into the pod just then. I saw that this tumbling happiness inside me was a gift, a pillow for my heart. As I sank into it over the days that had passed, much of the thorns and thistles of the preceding weeks had misted away, giving way to this jollity that was so much a stranger emotion to me.

          A stranger-happiness because it felt like bread meant for me alone. There was no tug of heart telling me I had to share it with others. Yet, something didn’t feel quite right  keeping this bread~gift for myself.

          By asking Our Lady for help to be able to pray the prayers heaven asked for, to care as I was called to, I think I was in fact asking to share this bread with others.

          And when, of my own volition, I had asked for permission to share the bread~gift, In Moments Like These was Our Lady’s breath through my soul as to how the sharing was to be done: 

I was to begin with Praise.

          And so I did. I praised and thanked God for every thing, little and great, that had been given to me. Gifts I had been grateful for. Gifts I had received with the heart of one of the nine biblical lepers who took and forgot. Gifts I had hitherto been too preoccupied to notice. Gifts I had taken for granted.

          How much, how very much there was to be grateful for.

          I took that spirit of gratitude and praise into Mass. Throughout Mass, in moments when I was tempted to grumble internally or to be moved to quick irritation over inconsequential-s, I found my heart being turned away – towards praise and thanksgiving – and the vexation lost its allure.

          But a strange emptiness remained unfilled. I mouthed words of prayer but they felt like fruit falling far from my reach.

          When Mass ended, my husband took the kids to their Sunday School classes, and I had some time for myself. Scooting over to the other end of the pew so I was directly in front of the crucifix over the altar, I settled back and opened my Fatima Apparition book. It was after the apparitions had ended, and the young seers, Jacinta and Francisco were seriously ill. Jacinta had wanted to continue attending daily Mass but she was advised against it.

          Protesting, she replied, “I want to go in place of the sinners who don’t go even on Sundays.”

I want to go in place of the sinners 

          Like icepearls, the child~saint’s words fell into my heart and they fell deep.

          I had been given my prayer.

          Shutting the book immediately, I closed my eyes and reached out for the prayer,

I bring to Thee every seeking heart,

Every seeking heart

Every seeking heart

Every seeking heart.

          Over and over, those simple words, every seeking heart. I tried to pair them with various seekings, names and pains, but unseen hands brushed my efforts away. None of my own was needed.

          What was asked was that I sit there in total humility, obedience and silence, my will fused to the Divine, before the Blessed Sacrament, before the Crucifix of the Ultimate Sacrifice, bringing every seeking heart to Jesus, through the simplest of prayers,

Every seeking heart

Every seeking heart

Every seeking heart.

          I have read many times before that praise and thanksgiving opens the heart to heaven. So many, many others have learned this, and today, that lesson became mine as well. In desiring that other hearts be watered by happiness as did mine, Our Lady gave me the key that unlocked my heart – Praise.

          And by that prayer wrought by praise, seeking hearts, though hidden from me, were led to heaven.

         

Family & the Rose~beads

         

          Since early this week, some days I have been sensing a quietening within me. The kind of creeping hush that slowly and silently wets the shores of the soul, making its way deeper within, bit by slow bit, blanketing over the noise and indignation and distractions that abound within.

          When I first became aware of it, I looked to its source, and this is what I learned of its origins:

FAMILY

          Ask any parent – there’s no escaping family duties. Not the cooking, not the cleaning, not the loads of laundry, the homework, the counselling, the binding up of wounds, the list goes on and on and on. But there are two ways to go at it – with heart and soul, or distractedly and grumpily. Unfortunately, I was on the second mode for much of April into May.

          Until that day when I asked Our Lady of Fatima, What do You ask of me?

          And I asked Her over and over, all through the hours of the day and those that followed. What do You ask of me? What do You ask of me? What do You ask of me?

          My heavenly Mother answered quickly enough, and repeated Her answer every time I doubted I heard Her right, every time I sought a different answer – thinking it had to be something different for me.

Pray the Rosary every day.

First Saturday of the month.

          Since 2012, we have been saying the Family Rosary almost every day. However, in recent months, we’ve missed saying it more than we ever have before. Several times, Heaven has called my attention to it. Each time, I’ve bowed my head in repentance, and gone back to set things right. For some weeks, it would be fine, but then, we’d start skipping a day here and another there, and soon, we’d be right back in the rut we thought we had left for good.

Pray the Rosary every day

          Mother Mary has never been this clear with me on this before, and that itself is telling. Just as clearly, this time, Mother has shown me some of the link the daily recitation of the Rosary has on my hope for savouring Eden some day.

           I believe I was shown this Eden through early 1900s life on distant Prince Edward Island, where love of God and neighbor and work once co-existed seamlessly and in a harmony long gone for me now in this country of my birth. Yet, I also believe this Eden of the past is also of the coming future, and that it was shown, and then taken away, to leave in its wake a bereftness deeper than anything I’ve ever felt before – so that I would make every attempt to find it again.

          It wounded me with a longing that will likely live in me all the rest of my days.

          And it is this ache now that has been taking me back to the Rosary this week, despite late hours and tiredness and weak will. I hope to God I do not falter again because I need the Rosary more than anything.

          Because the Rosary is battle beads that will help anyone find heaven.

          In the short days since I returned to this call of Fatima ~ the Rosary, I’ve rediscovered the simple happiness of caring for my brood, heart and soul. In the midst of rush and busyness, I’ve been able to laugh with my family, to love each of them, and to savour the little suns that burst over us in tiny joy~bubbles.

          And when I began to sink my spirit into the heart of family, this mysterious brook of inner quiet began weaving its way through my soul. It is not merely a quiet that distils my day of its errors and distractions. It is a quiet that has me turning away from work so often, seeking my God and all of God in the skies, in the secret language of the clouds, in the new wind~notes as they whisper their secrets through boughs and leaves. When I am fretting over something, it gently beckons to me from flowerbeds, asking that I visit there to refresh my dusty spirit.

          I am indeed learning anew the far-reaching powers of the Rosary.

          This stillness born of the prayer of the rose~beads allows levity and joy, life and work – as long as its goals and outcomes are anchored in family – yet, it cautions my spirit against other roads that lead away from the warning of Sr Lucia, the Fatima seer.

          The warning that the final battle between the Lord and the reign of satan will be about marriage and the family.

         

What Do You Ask Of Me?

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          Since the Prince Edward Island Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote so profoundly of caught my heart and refused to let go this time, I have come to know an ache I have not known before this ~ the intense longing for a life gone by, that was lived for God and God alone. The intensity of this foreign ache for an even more foreign land cut into me so deeply that I was frightened of it, frightened of the power a mere longing could have over me.

          What if this is from darkness? I wondered. What if this is a distraction, to take me away from duty and prayers and inner silence?

          So, I was determined to wrest back my stoic, practical side, by wilfully forgetting this mad yearning, and getting on with life.

          It being the 1st Saturday of the month, I felt a sense of purpose open up before my seeking. Determined to observe 1st Saturday devotions, I decided to live this one day solely for Mother Mary, as an act of reparation for the blasphemies against Her Immaculate Heart.

          And to live the hours of the day just this way by burying Prince Edward Island into the folds of forget, so that its beauty would haunt and distract my thoughts no more.

          And so it was, Hail Mary after Hail Mary, woven through a day sweetened by cool breezes and the welcome respite of household chores and cares. Nonetheless, it was one rosebud of a Hail Mary after another, against the backdrop of Prince Edward Island. It felt as if my spirit could not release itself from the lure of this little Canadian jewel.

          Why? I wondered. Why?

          I had wanted to bury it and forget it, hoping spiritual busyness would leech its lustre for me. Yet, like an enduring flame, the beauty of old life on this island burned steadily on in my heart.

          Gently, I became aware that my wistful desire for this land didn’t cloud out prayer, or diminish it, – as it would have had this longing been from darkness as I had feared; in fact, the minute I began the consecration of my day to the Immaculate Heart, this strange ache gently eased into the background of my consciousness, content to remain there as I gave my hours as best as I could to Mother Mary.

          Despite its potency, it did not compete with Our Lady. On the contrary, it willingly acceded to Our Lady’s presence, although it remained close. If at all it had been the work of the evil one, it would have fled.

          Hours passed. I mentally soaked my spirit in pictures of that beautiful island far north of the world, each time asking, Why? Why did you come? Why will you not go? Then, I suddenly thought of someone I know and wondered if I should open up about it.

          And with no overture on my part, that was what actually happened. This very person got in touch. Taking it as a sign, I shared what had been happening.

          Why am I aching for this place? I asked.

          Perhaps it is a longing for heaven…, came the reply.

          I am stunned! For it is that exactly. As if by seeing this land, I have touched heaven for real. And I have returned from that communion now, no longer the same for this touch I have been allowed.

          If it was indeed that the veils were lifted, then why? For what purpose? Because the life I long for, the period of time the novels of Anne of Green Gables is set in, is not devoid of challenges. I see this Prince Edward Island of the character Anne’s time as my Eden-on-earth – one of savouring of deepest joys, but one of willing, joyous labour too.

          Is that what heaven really is too?

          For a moment, it all becomes too much, and I want to escape it. But the questions pursue me, pushing me to where the mists are gathered, willing me to not give up  seeking the Truth. It comes to family Rosary time, and with a rush of relief, I throw my seeking into the prayers.

          Just after the first decade, inexplicably, I sense the questions dry up. I try to summon the queries again, but come up empty. They have gone.

          The desire to know has left me.

          I return to the rest of the recitation, emptied of myself finally, and in some relief, offer up the prayers as cleansed vessels for the Mother to fill as needed.

          When Rosary ends, an Unseen Hand leads me to the question of the Fatima seer, Sr Lucia, for Our Lady of the Fatima Apparitions:

What do You want of me?

          It falls straight into my heart.

          Immediately, I know that is what I am to ask as well. In a light~burst, the mists part, and I suddenly see the winding turns I had to traverse because that was the only way to  reach this question.

What do You want of me?

          This inexplicable wrench of heart for a tiny province in a country that will once more be consecrated to Our Lady in July this year, had not been a passing bloom that had randomly fallen into my heart. It had been breathed into my soul on blue breezes, to rest in the folds of my heart.

          To trouble and trouble my spirit till it yielded, to ask my own Fatima Question, 

What do You ask of me?

A Deepening

         

          Yesterday brought into the day a deepening of a struggle – my Christian faith against this one other faith. My Christian space against this particular one. My rights against it. This is not a new struggle, it’s been close to twenty years, of being trampled upon, abused – by those who adhere to the tenets of this particular religion. This is a religion of a thousand dictates. Here there is no such thing as a conscience – they do not even recognize it. All it seeks is a rigid and robotic adherence to its tenets, even as the rights of the living and the unborn are abused, the innocent maimed or killed, marriages and family life destroyed by polygamy, abortion, incest and child marriages.

          Yesterday, I reached some kind of breaking point. I received news that my attendance was required at a national programme for a specific work community whose members come from every race and religious creed. But I soon found out that the programme was going to be interpreted through the lens of this particular religion. The greatness of this religion, to be specific.

          I felt as if I was tethering on the threshold of spiritual nausea. We had just heard news of an 11 year old who had died from abuses inflicted on him by a religious school warden (that religion, again). It brought back memories of last year when my own child had been hit at school and the lengths we had to go through to ensure our children were safe at school here.

          And now hearing that I had to participate in an event that was merely an excuse to extol the eminence of this farcical and cruel religion, it took all I had. I had gone past the last gates of tolerance and patience. I had nothing left in me.

          In raw desperation, I looked into familiar nooks for consolation, hope. But it felt like pulling on locked doors. Until night came, and with it, our family Rosary time. I flung myself, heart and soul into the recitation of the Luminous Mysteries. I tried meditating on the mysteries, tried emptying myself to be filled by God Himself – but this was not one of those days. I was too filled and full of my own frustrations; I needed to find the stopper that plugged the keg, only then could I find release.

Please help me, Mother Mary, please help me, I begged. Take this Cross away or give me the strength to face it, to carry it.

          Rosary ended with no discernible sign that the bitter chalice was not to be mine to drink from. I went to bed exhausted. I love Thee, O Lord, I love Thee, O Lord, I love Thee, O Lord, I prayed from the depths of my weakness, seeking the only Hand that could comfort me.

          When I awoke, I was less than ready to face the day. The tough work week had left me tired out; the struggle I was now facing, depleting my energy even more. But it was an important work day and I didn’t dare lie back for some extra minutes in case I slept off. Not this on this day, I told myself firmly. As I sat up, a song burst in my head.

On this day, O beautiful Mother,
On this day we give thee our love.
Near the, Madonna, fondly we hover,
Trusting thy gentle care to prove.

On this day we ask to share,
Dearest Mother, thy sweet care;
Aid us ere our feet astray
Wander from thy guiding way.

          The hymn beat out any other thought. It had been very long since I had heard this hymn, even longer since a hymn had flooded my mind like this. But I had gone through this enough times to know the hymn held heaven’s message to me. I leaned in closer as it played over and over in my head, and realized two lines were standing out more.

Aid us ere our feet astray
Wander from thy guiding way.

          I groaned when I realized what it meant. By asking to be saved from facing this struggle I was going through with this other religion, by asking to be kept away from it, I was walking away from the path Our Lady had illumined for me. I was rejecting the Divine Will.

          Nevertheless, I wanted so much to be wrong about what I had discerned. Maybe there is some other line for me in this hymn, I thought.

          I looked up the hymn, and traced every line of its lyrics. My heart remained unmoved till the last verse ~

Fast our days of life we run,
Soon the night of death will come;
Tower of strength in that dread hour,
Come with all thy gentle power.

          For whatever reason, the journey of my soul and spirit was along this route of thorns and knives. This programme I was to attend was a mountain in my way. And no one scales a mountain to reach the other side by shimmying up the nearest tree.         

          I went resignedly to work, and was soon caught up in the busyness of the day. But a grey shadow of regret remained. Regret that my prayer had not been answered differently. Regret marked by weariness over the many more mountains like this that remained to be faced and overcome.

          Nonetheless, I turned my heart back to heaven. Help me to face it, I slumped into God’s Will, defeated at last.

          Late into the night, there was a knock on the door of my spirit, and the Conversion Prayer dictated by Jesus to St Faustina Kowalska was laid before my eyes.

          My despondent spirit jumped to life. Taken aback by this, I looked closely at the prayer I have prayed very often before.

If you say this prayer, with a contrite heart and with faith, on behalf of some sinner, I will give that soul the grace of conversion.

“O Blood and water that gushed forth from the heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You”.

          Conversion of souls! My spirit leapt at the promise. So that was where this journey was heading to! That was why this suffering, and perhaps more later, could not be circumvented. It was not about me. It was about saving souls.

          Something drew me back to the prayer again. Returning, this time, I saw one little word shine out more than the others:

Contrite

          I had asked for the cup of suffering to be taken away. Despite the almost 2 decades’ long background to my suffering with the members of this religion, the coming Cross in the form of the programme I was to attend was minuscule in contrast to the immense tearing of soul that others had to endure. Could I honestly say I was disturbed by the increasing loss of souls to the tyranny of this religion, and yet refuse to partake in their salvation – just because the path of my compliance lay among deadly thorns and knives? What was the use of lamenting if I was not willing to be Jesus’ Hands and Feet on this earth, in every way, to help return these prisoner hearts and souls to the Heavenly Father?

          Where was my contrition?

          In bringing this illumination to me, an angel had ministered to me in the desert of my present struggles. I got to my feet, still unsure of myself, yet now firmly anchored in the refreshed certainty that God would provide all that was needed. Just as Jesus had died to save us, so must I face this night of death for the conversion of souls.

Aid us ere our feet astray
Wander from thy guiding way.

          I had sought to leave my Cross. To it I must now return.

Loader of the Prayer~Cart

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          My weekend began with an examination of my conscience, and a doubting of the path I was now on – to empty my prayer~will. To empty it (of petitions) – for God to fill it. Off and on, through the weekend hours, I kept going back to this – Was it the right thing to do?

          Then, my mind wandered over the changes and happenings that had ensued from the new prayer.

          There had been power. Strength. There had been joyous, unexpected  happenings.

          And yet, I continued to nibble at the certainty, slowly ragged-ing its smooth edges. What if I was wrong? In these days of fake news and lies and distortion and illusions, had I veered off the True Path? What if I was wrong to empty my prayer~will?

          On the Feast of the Divine Mercy, I went before God. You have to answer me, I insisted.

          The first reply came through Susan Skinner’s post, If You Seek Healing. Of the many things that lit up in her piece, this caught me firmly – once you have emptied all of you, you can be filled up with God.

          And I learned yet again that the emptying of my prayer~will was the Will of God Himself. It was not a hardening of my heart, as I feared. It was not a callous disregard of the entreaties of others.

          It was another step in the journey of Surrender that I first began almost ten years ago. One I veered off many, many times, and returned to as often. And now, with the emptying of my prayer~will, I was tentatively opening myself up even further, laying everything of me at His Feet, to be used as He pleased. During Lent this year, my spirit got caught in the Call of the little Consoler, the Fatima seer, Francisco Marto. As I began to try to offer up little beads of Chaplets and Rosaries, solely to console the Wounded Heart of Jesus, like the little Shepherd had done, I learned of this little by-path the  emptying of the prayer~will was leading me to.

          But my learning was in no way over. Something else of Susan Skinner’s post remained in me: humility. When the eyes of my heart turned to it, I found it in a little pouch, its strings fastened such that I could not undo them to understand what deepened meaning Humility held now for me.

          But meaning came soon enough. That night, I read the words of a niece of the soon to be canonized little shepherd-seers. Jacinta Pereiro Marto said, “God chose my uncle and aunt because this is what He wanted, so much that my grandfather used to say that the Virgin wanted to come to Fatima and she chose his children, but that we didn’t deserve anything.” Because of this attitude instilled in the family by her grandfather – father to Blessed Francisco and Jacinta Marto – “we always lived very simply because God chose, and He chooses who He wants. We don’t deserve anything.”

          Her humility, the humility of that entire family despite understanding the import of the apparitions in Fatima all those years ago, was like a flower bursting into bloom for me. I realized that the erasing of my will in my prayers was a deepening of humility. To understand that it was not for me to ever occupy the driver’s seat of prayers. And not even to decide for myself which prayers to load onto my cart to take to Heaven.

          For the God who chooses me to drive the cart, is the same one Who will decide whose need gets onto mine and whose goes to another prayer~cart.

          Although I still do not understand why I have been brought to this point of placing even this freedom to pray for others in His Divine Will, for now, I feel a deep security in the Marto wisdom, God chose, and He chooses who He wants.

          The same God who chose my prayer~cart, will fill it with the needs He chooses.

 

Lent 34 ~ Stone by Stone

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          There have been times when an element has come up a lot for me in a period of time. Last year, and last week, it was stones. Everywhere I turned, stones turned up too. Metaphorical stones.

          Stones that hurt and kill.

          Stones that shield and protect.

          I cannot be sure what it means. I have both wounded others with stones I had hurled against them, and I have been wounded by stones others have trained on me. On the eve of the Feast of St Francis of Assisi two years gone, I was shown stones – smooth, uniform ones, stacked up together to form the walls to a safe house, a refuge, that was said to be mine.

          On Sunday last week, after the day before was spent in deep prayer, with nothing to precipitate it, no disturbance, no wounding, I felt a sudden change.

          I felt stones in my spirit. And the petitions I had been praying dried up inexplicably.

          Stones were being stacked up, the wall going up higher and higher. In a slight panic, I fought them. I didn’t want stones in me. Not after a night of prayer. I wanted to pray more, but I couldn’t anymore. I ran after every prayer need that had hitherto been entrusted to me, and I tried to carry them back to the altar of God.

          But they all tumbled away from me. And soon, I could no longer even summon the memory of them. Because the stones had begun to go higher around me.

          I was being walled in.

          Yet, there was no anger, no sin I could discern. Who was this, doing this to me? I wondered. Try as I could, I could not make out the mason. I began praying, Lord, tear down these walls, Lord, tear down these walls, Lord, tear down these walls.

          All through the hours, I prayed that prayer. And then, it slowly came to me. I could still pray. I could pray the Rosary. I could pray other prayers. Wall of stones or not, there was no impediment to prayer! What had changed was that I could not summon a need or a plea to those prayers. I could pray as long as my prayers were emptied of my petitions.

          That illumination sobered me up. I didn’t like it any more than I did before. But I was no longer agitating over what black nail I was hanging from. It was willed by God.

          Nonetheless, the stacking of stones continued undeterred. I understood the new way of praying God wanted of. I understood that it could go on for any length of time He had willed.

          But I didn’t understand the stone walls. Why was I being walled in?

          The illumination didn’t come till now.

          I think I am being placed in a room away from others. For now, I think it is a room with tiny openings. Too small for others to enter; big enough for God.

          I cannot be totally sure, but I suspect I am being called to an inner hermitage. Walled in against distractions; yet, walled and sealed to the Church. In days of old, this was what a hermitage was like. Those called to this were known as anchorites. A religious rite, almost a funeral rite, was performed as a sign that the consecrated soul was now dead to the world, but living in God and for God totally. And then, the anchorite would be walled in.

          I’d be a downright hypocrite if I didn’t say I am relieved no funeral rights have been performed upon me. I belong to that unfortunate group with nine of ten toes still firmly and happily stuck in the world, sparing only one for God. This is why I think, I just think, that I am not being called to the level of asceticism of an actual anchorite.

          But it is a journey that will lead me away from myself, towards the Light I seek. The walls of stones rising within me portend an inner seclusion. How long have I yearned and prayed for an inner cloister to escape to, just to be with my God.

          That prayer is now slowly being answered, stone by stone.

          Just not in the way I had imagined.

 

Lent 15 ~ A Shifting

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          A year ago, in the week before Lent 2016, I dreamt of a coming flood. A terrible, terrible rush of angry, filthy, muddy water. And the word given to me later by St Joseph, the Discerner of Dreams, was – Prepare. This call was repeated a few short months later.

          Since then, though I’ve often pondered it, I’ve not been told about a flood again. No more dreams of such a thing, either. Still, that didn’t keep me from wondering, What kind of a flood was it? From a terrible rain? A sea surge? An earthquake leading to a tsunami?

Or a spiritual flood of some sort, as many are speculating as well?

          Yesterday, I received an email from a humble, loving and deeply devout lady. She had reason to recall my old dream – she had been recently hearing of people once more having premonitions of a tsunami.

          I had nothing much to offer in my reply to her; there had been no recent stirring of my spirit in this regard.

          But as I ended my reply, I told her,

We must stay close to prayer. I am sensing a shifting.

          I don’t know where that came from. And I didn’t think much of it either as I sent off the email.

          Only today has it come to me that a tsunami is caused by a displacement of a large amount of water.

          Displacement.

          A shifting?

 

 

Lent 10 ~ Needled by Frances

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          An old memory returned to me today. When I was a child, I found a book of baby names at home. Carefully going through the rather limited list, I felt I could have given myself a better name.

          So, I chose Frances for myself. To me, the name resounded with individuality and strength. Different. I didn’t want to be one of the flock, and Frances set me apart from being one of the flock. I guess it appealed to the hidden rebel within me. I informed my parents, and their amusement told me while they would indulge me for a bit, there was no chance they’d ever consider a permanent name change.

         So for a time, when at play, I made myself Frances.

          I never imagined that there were saints by that name. I found the one I named myself after this morning. St Frances of Rome. And what I learned of her life from  http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=49  told me Frances was not just a name I had chosen on a whim decades ago.

          St Frances was born in Rome into a wealthy aristocratic family. Although she wanted to be a nun, she was forced by her iron-handed father into an arranged marriage to a wealthy commander of papal troops. Although by most accounts, there was no real trouble between husband and wife, Frances’ mother-in-law, Cecilia, was another matter.  A socialite, she thrived on social calls and balls and every manner of frivolity. She and Frances were poles apart; Frances, in her simplicity and piety, could not adjust to this life lived in the meaningless light of material splendor and profligacy. This major difference between them tore at both the women. When her social circle began to mock Cecilia for her daughter-in-law’s oddness – as they perceived it – an angry Cecilia ordered Frances to conform to the family’s social status and embrace the glittery life it called them to.

          That exacted a greater toll on Frances than anyone could have imagined. The young girl fell seriously ill, and lay close to death. And it was death she wished for, because to live was not to live in the freedom to worship God, but to live the emptiness of a socialite’s calling.

          It was then that Frances had a vision of St Alexis whose piety and religious yearnings had also not been accepted by his own family. St Alexis came to Frances and brought her God’s message, “Do you wish to recover or not?”

          Young Frances knew that death was her choice, not God’s, and with a heavy heart, she chose the Hand of God, whispering, “God’s Will is mine.” The hardest words she could have said, but the right words to set her on the road to sanctity.

          Frances came back from the brink of death, to glorify God. Despite this, she was not permitted to escape the old unpleasant life that awaited her. The emptiness of dressing up and being with those who had no thought of God hurt as deeply as before. Yet, in accepting God’s will as hers, Frances knew that if He did not save her from the cluttered yet barren living of the rich, then, His will for her must somehow lie in them. So, determined to put family first for God, she joined her mother-in-law on the social scene, while maintaining her religious practices in secret.

          In a few short years, however, Cecelia died, and it fell to Frances to take her place to lead and care for her husband’s household.

          From that point, God led Frances on to caring for the sick and troubled of Rome. As she had always yearned to do.

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          Stepping away from the story, 4 little words follow me: God’s Will is mine. I roll the words on my tongue to get a feel of them.

          And they don’t sit comfortably.

          I cannot explain why. For some odd reason, although to me they mean the same, it is relatively easier for me to say Thy Will be done than God’s Will is mine. I have a needling suspicion it is the inescapability of God’s Will is mine. Thy Will be done allows me some wiggle room, to hold that it’s a call to all – not just for me; God’s Will is mine somehow narrows the focus of illumination to just me.

          The words are like needles in my spirit. They prod and poke. The discomfort tells me I am not as obedient to Him as I think. That life is still too much of my own jaunt.

          As they happy evening winds depart to their repose, the moon assumes her throne in the dark skies. Gazing at her gentle luminescence, the swells within fall into peace.

          I might have thought it was I who found Frances decades ago, but I now know it was St Frances of Rome who sought out the little girl from years before. To teach her the same words she writes on my stubborn heart now.

          Words which feel too much like needles. God’s Will Be Mine.