DISCERNMENT

Carry the Cross, Not You

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Spiritual persons ought to be equally ready to experience sweetness and consolation in the things of God, or to suffer and keep their ground in drynesses of spirit and devotion, and for as long as God pleases, without their making any complaint about it.   ~  St. Philip Neri

          Just as dusk was falling today, I sensed a familiar but unwelcome shrivelling up within me. It didn’t come on the heels of frustration or tiredness or boredom. It wasn’t due to overwork or a lack of sleep. It came after days of beautiful blue skies and fat, white cloud boats. After a sudden orange~black darkening of evening farewells, running thrills through me. After the skies tipped over the blessings they had hidden in their bosoms all day, washing the earth clean and fresh.

          After so many happy, daisy~days, comes this old path, its emergence as always, unheralded, as always, unwelcome. Bitterly dry, with nary a water drop to wet even a morsel of the unyielding earth.

          It comes in the later hours of a Sunday lived in a new way today, for upon my morning rising, I had tasked my angel,

Take my soul to every Tabernacle where it is needed.

Place my soul before the Eucharistic Face of Jesus.

 

So that on a Sunday where the sacrifice of the Mass is yet again denied us, He is not left alone.

          And then, I had skipped to my waiting day. Flowers on the altar, marigolds and zinnias after ever so long. Mass on tv. A happy lunch. A little work. Good rest.

          A day so right, lived seemingly right too. And yet, here it was, that old of olds, an inner state that felt like the dull brown-red of the streets of purgatory I’d seen almost 2 years ago in a dream.

Drynesses of spirit and devotion

          Oh, any cross but this, my heart gets ready to grumble.

          But again, St. Philip Neri beats me to it.

As a rule, people who aim at a spiritual life begin with the sweet and afterward pass on to the bitter. So now, away with all tepidity, off with that mask of yours, carry your cross, don’t leave it to carry you.

          Despite it all, I have to chuckle. Carry your cross. Don’t leave it to carry you.

          Oh, the wisdom of God!

 

 

 

 

 

Return to the Garden

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May He teach you what He desires of you, and may He give you the strength to accomplish it perfectly! If I am not mistaken, this, in a few words, is what I think He chiefly requires of you: He wishes that you should learn to live without support – without a friend – and without satisfaction. In proportion as you ponder these words, He will help you to understand them.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          On Wednesday last week, longstanding issues resurrected themselves at home. Deeply hurt and frustrated that even the beauty of time with family and nature couldn’t resolve old habits, I took my heart and placed it in the Sacred Heart of Jesus – because left within me, my heart was sure to fall into the depths of anger and unforgiveness.

          Then, I threw myself at the feet of heaven, asking for guidance.

          Its answer came from the mother~heart of St. Margaret Mary.

May He teach you what He desires of you, and may He give you the strength to accomplish it perfectly!

          Stunned somewhat, I realised this unpleasantness was willed.

He wishes that you should learn to live without support – without a friend – and without satisfaction.

          That broke my heart into pieces, for loneliness and aloneness due to being misunderstood and maligned, has been my cross for a great many years. To see now that even that was willed, was just too much.

          Upon praying to St. Anne and to my guardian angel to keep my tears, within a few short hours, they brought me Jesus’ words,

Love as I have loved you.

          And with that, I resolved to get up and start all over again.

          But even as I went to my day and busied myself in the depths of a beautiful, sunny blue day, I wondered about St. Margaret Mary’s last words,

In proportion as you ponder these words, He will help you to understand them.

           Those words remained before me in the weave of gentle wind brushed hours. Curious as to what St. Margaret Mary meant, I went in search of her, and this I found,

Every night between Thursday and Friday I will make thee share in the mortal sadness which I was pleased to feel in the Garden of Olives, and this sadness, without thy being able to understand it, shall reduce thee to a kind of agony harder to endure than death itself. And in order to bear Me company in the humble prayer that I then offered to My Father, in the midst of my anguish, thou shalt rise between eleven o’clock and midnight, and remain prostrate with Me for an hour, not only to appease the divine anger by begging mercy for sinners, but also to mitigate in some way the bitterness which I felt at that time on finding Myself abandoned by my Apostles,…   ~  Jesus’ words to St. Margaret Mary

 

I will make thee share

Garden of Olives

Without thy being able to understand it

Agony harder to endure than death itself

Mitigate the bitterness

Finding myself abandoned by My Apostles

 

          There is only one hurt worse than all others for me and that is the hurt caused by the family I love beyond all else. And of the many hurts to be endured in a family, it is the hurt of being cast aside in favour of professional work, which cuts deepest. It is not the childish and narcissistic petulance about wanting to always be first in your spouse’s heart. Rather, it is the pain of knowing that whenever it comes to a choice between passion for work and staying close to your spouse’s heart, work has always won.

It is a hurt that falls within the shadow of the Abandonment in Gethsemane.

          Despite knowing what Jesus has to soon face, the Apostles – those closest to His Heart – chose the less troubling option of indifference. They chose the appeasement of slumber.

They choose themselves over Jesus.

          In a marriage, in family life, when we choose ourselves over even the littlest wills of heaven, we once again become the apostles in Gethsemane – because we choose what we want, we choose what stimulates and excites and what drives us. While marriage and family life is every happy and joyful tale we hear, it is also filled with heartaches, struggles and stretches of mundanity. Yet, these are the crosses God weaves into our lives to enable us to walk in His Son’s footsteps – for that is the only road to heaven.

It is the only path to Life.

          By willfully and defiantly choosing external lures and satisfactions, we choose the side of the apostles in Gethsemane. In choosing worldly consolations, we choose another path. We delude by comforting ourselves that this too is just another road that leads to Life.

          But it isn’t and doesn’t. Because that path bears not the footprints of Jesus.

          Despite the resurgence of old cheer within me, a note of sadness has stolen into the glorias of the winds and the sun. No matter how happy I am, there will be many more returns to the Garden of Olives.

          For Jesus has made it clear in His last words for the day. He needs my suffering to

Mitigate the bitterness I felt on finding myself abandoned by My Apostles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 33 ~ Step Into the Breach

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Yesterday a woman from Crema phoned me to get news about her grandmother who is hospitalized and in serious conditions at the Sacco. She told me of her other grandmother, who died of Covid, and of her mother, who is in intensive care in Crema, and then she said, “You see, Doctor, at the beginning I was praying, but now I’ve stopped.”

I answered, “I understand, ma’am. Do not worry. I will be the one praying for her.”   ~  Dr. Amedeo Capetti, A Letter from the Trenches, Luigi Sacco Hospital, Milan

 

 

          An insistent whisper beats against my heart,

Step into the breach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 27 ~ The Sign is Given

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          I was roused from sleep early this morning with the words,

… will die from this

          ‘This’ referred to Covid-19. And I was told the family member who would succumb to it.

          Then, I was taken back to an old dream of 2016, of a white map in the sky, pointing to a time of coming terror. In that dream, my gaze was directed to 3 continents in succession. Not together. I saw them one after the other.

First – Africa

Second – Europe

Third – Asia

          Almost a year later, in 2017, another series of events on a single day. And through them, I was made aware of the need to consecrate the world to Jesus – through Mother Mary.

Mary the Gate

          Several times, I brought up this dream of the white map to some people dear to me. Together we tried to make sense of it. Each interpretation made complete sense. Yet, I was always left feeling that our views were not quite on the mark; that there was something more.

          Yet another year later, in 2018, suddenly the mists parted a little.

Africa. Europe. Asia.

wasn’t referring to continents specifically. It was pointing to 3 consecutive years.

2017. 2018. 2019.

          3 years before the explosion of events, leading to the Covid-19 pandemic in the 4th year.

          In the dream of the map, everything had been covered in white. I sensed it meant something but didn’t know what it signified at the time of the dream. In 2018, interiorly I understood that it referred to a coming winter. Sure enough, soon winter began to appear at unexpected times and in unexpected ways, in Nature as well as metaphorically.

But this morning, I finally saw what that white of winter actually meant. It was the time of being indoors as one would in the winter. And that winter was this pandemic. A winter being experienced by every country on God’s earth.

          One by one, slowly things were revealed and illumined this morning.

The death

The map

          And finally, When Communism comes again. This prophesy was given to a seer of the Garabandal apparitions which began in 1961 in Spain.

When Communism comes again, everything will begin to happen.   ~  Conchita Gonzalez

          When Communism comes again, it will be the marker indicating the time we have been alerted to in many different ways. A time of sorrow. A time of revelation. Of unmasking. There are several predictions about this time when the unimaginable begins to happen, and I concurred with at least one.

          But what was conveyed to me in the dark pre-dawn hours of this morning was that the marker of Communism coming again is Covid-19, originally named the Wuhan virus, after the city of Wuhan in Communist China. Where it all began.

Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God;
let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!   ~  Isaiah 7: 10 – 11

          I asked for a sign on the Feast of the Annunciation yesterday. Covid-19 is that sign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 10 ~ Language of God

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When doubts come, dismiss them. Know that I speak to you in a language drawn from your own experience and from the resources of your own imagination and mind. The message nonetheless is Mine. It is I who am communicating with you in this way to hold you fast in My divine friendship, and to draw you into the sanctuary of My Heart, there to worship and glorify with Me the Father Who is the Source of all heaven’s gifts.   ~  In Sinu Jesu, When Heart Speaks to Heart

 

          There were countless times last year when I thought I was going mad from some thoughts in my head. They weren’t arrows of attack; they were thoughts so contrary to the reality we were facing at that time. Thoughts of miracles. Im-possiblities. Despite depressing developments, the never ending twine of bad news, these thoughts would make their way across my mind like some out-of-this world train, carrying dreams and hopes untainted by the present.

          For the longest time, I feared that it was escapism, that I was running to this secret world of sprite winds and golden blue sunrises to escape the reality of the present. I feared that when the time came, that moment of immutable truth, I would crash harder, the landing made rougher by these thoughts.

          But twice in recent months, just as I attempted to rein myself in, a little finger had pushed these lines towards my heart,

When doubts come, dismiss them.

Know that I speak to you in a language drawn from your own experience and from the resources of your own imagination and mind.

The message nonetheless is Mine. It is I who am communicating with you…

 

          As yesterday’s silver~gold stream spills joy into my today, I know those thoughts were truly, truly my God’s, speaking to me in the only tongue I’d understand.

          The language of my own life and of my knowing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Have Passed a Threshold

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          Over the past 3 days, one word has been shining out like a star, tiny, yet as brilliant as a diamond.

Vindication

          On the first day, watching the news on tv, my husband heard it and mentioned it. It lodged in my memory because my husband has a gentle spirit; the spirit of this word has no foothold in him.

          The next day, to my amusement, it winked at me from the 1st reading from Isaiah 48:

If you would hearken to My commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea   ~  Isaiah 48: 18

          Today, on the memorial of St. John of the Cross, I pause to hold close to my heart the saint who saved my life. Perhaps it is a sign of his presence that once more  vindication appears, this time in the Responsorial Psalm.

Commit to the LORD your way;
trust in Him, and He will act.
He will make justice dawn for you like the light;
bright as the noonday shall be your vindication.   ~  Psalm 37: 5 – 6

          This time, it sobered me. It drew me back to the months of this year especially. The year with the almost incessant hits and near misses of every sort. I had often mused that we seemed to be passing through a spiritual asteroid belt, littered with the stones and rocks of numerous challenges and trials.

          Vindication is certainly not new to me nor to my heart of hope, but only now, with these 3 chimes, has my spirit hearkened to it. It is not my human hope – of that I am certain. Since I sealed my gaze to the Evening Star, since its peace slipped into my heart, my spirit has found a different meadow, one carpeted by the blooms of skips, mirth and light. And later as I stood beneath her, the final full moon of the year and of the decade on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe gave me a deeper than usual sense of comfort, calm, and strength as I gazed upon her.

Each giving seemed like a benediction.

          The uncertainties of coming weeks and months are ever present. But for now, I am strangely untroubled.

          It is into this significance that vindication lights its lamp today. As my spirit stills before it, God sends His word through a dear friend who tells me, …there are 6,666 days between SEP/11/2001 and 12/12/2019, the last full moon of the decade.

          If I discern this well, he says, we have passed a threshold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boys in Prison

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          I had a strange dream this morning. In it, my immediate family and I spent 3 different days visiting boy inmates of a prison. The other visitors to this prison comprised strangers and even members of my extended family. This dream was like a reel of snapshot moments, focus sharpening on certain scenes, on certain individuals. The dream raised no alarm of distress within me. It was even a little vague, as details I remembered during the dream immediately faded out when I awakened. For me, that is always a sign – those details were not to be focused on.

          The dream showed roughly 4 main groups of visitors –

my family and I,

a cousin, her sibling and his wife,

an aunt and her family, and

another unknown woman, somewhat wealthy, and her brood of many kids.

It appeared that we were all visiting different inmates. Except for the cousin’s family, I was either told or shown who the other inmates were but I was not detained there.

          In the dream, on the first day, it appeared as if I was visiting my son. This was not clear – I never actually saw him in the prison cell, just that it was vaguely alluded to. Visiting there too were all the others as mentioned above. In reality, I am extremely close to those members from my extended family. But in the dream, while they were aware of my presence and scooted over to make place for me on the visitors’ benches in front of the cells, and despite the fact I could sense their compassion, their focus was totally upon whoever it was that they had come to visit. That told me that each group was there for only one person.

          The next thing I was very clearly shown on that first day was that other wealthy mother. She was visiting an incarcerated son who didn’t seem to much appreciate the visit. He wore that bored, disinterested look so many kids have, totally impervious to his mother’s busy efforts to secure his release. And busy she certainly was, moving swiftly here and there to get his papers in order, yet oddly at ease with the system.

          Interiorly, I knew that she was used to the drill. That it wasn’t her or her son’s first time in jail.

          She was also the only one there at this stage of seeing to the release documents. So, her son’s time in jail was coming to an end. Yet, looking at his insouciance, I thought to myself,

The kid doesn’t care. He’s taking his mum’s efforts for granted.

          The dream then folded into the second day. We were all there again, each group sitting on those benches in front of a specific cell. There was a lot going on for that other woman again. This time, I could see the assortment of release documents she held. They were ready. Her boy was walking out of his cell when suddenly, his release hit a snag. A commotion  ensued – although the mother remained unperturbed. She took it on her chin and moved on quickly to undo the knots.

Her son didn’t do a thing to help.

He was indifferent to her buzzing around, with all his much younger siblings following her like little ducklings. He had no interest in them either, no interaction whatsoever.

He was a kid who clearly lived for himself. And it looked like he was going back in.

          Then, came the third day. This time, my husband and I were driving up to the jail and parking in its tiny porch. As we alighted from our car, our son got out too. So, it meant he was no longer incarcerated. There was another family in their car beside us and they were leaving, their car in reverse, when all of a sudden, their car battery died. The husband tried to get the car started but each attempt failed. My son, normally shy and reluctant in social settings, suddenly went up to this car, then turned towards me to indicate I should help that family to jumpstart their battery.

Oh no, I groaned. Trust him to get us into this.

Interiorly, I communicated to my son, I can’t help them. We would miss visiting hours.

          I know how it sounds but that response is uncharacteristic of me. If anything, I’m impulsively compassionate, often being where I shouldn’t be. And yet, this time, it was clear that I was not called to this need, that it was more important to me that we not miss the prison visit time. As if to confirm the correctness of my decision, yet another car leaving after a visit came into view, indicating that those occupants would offer the help needed now. And so, we hurried inside the prison.

          This time, in the first cell previously occupied by my son, was a new, unknown occupant. It was told to me that he had been anxiously waiting for me. This desperation was conveyed by the fact that he had used a thick, long  wire to snag the prison drop-down door and forcibly keep it open. He wasn’t trying to squeeze out from under it and escape, though.

          Instead, as I moved to go past this cell, this unseen occupant reached out from beneath the metal doors and caught my feet – in an abjectly pitiful gesture – of begging. In an instant, I understood that he was begging for prayers. That he had no visitor, no mother or father or relative keeping vigil on the bench before his prison cell, thus no one who’d pray for him – unless I did.

          Then, I woke up, a grey morning misted in rain, peering in.

          Immediately, my thoughts went back to the dream. It didn’t leave behind any residual emotion which I could use as an indicator of how to move forwards. Must have been last night’s movie, I shrugged, and dismissed the dream.

          But it wouldn’t go away. Like a gentle wraith, it stood close, quietly and firmly.

          I went to my morning prayers. At my home altar, I looked up at the Crucifix. At that moment, I recalled that 3rd day and the unseen boy begging for prayers. Movie-induced dream or not, at the very least, I was dutybound to pray for this soul. And so, I offered him up to the Heart of Jesus.

          And continued to offer him up several times more through the morning grocery shopping as I puzzled the dream out. At one point, waiting for my husband to return to our car from a quick errand, I opened my copy of In Sinu Jesu and began to read. The words gently floated by, evading my spirit’s open window. All except this,

I have saved you, through a particular intervention of My Most Holy Mother, from the fate the Evil one was preparing for you   ~  In Sinu Jesu, pg. 53

          But since my heart did not discernibly react to this, I shrugged off the words.

          For someone who shares everything with her husband, this time I had no urge to tell my husband about the dream. And I definitely wasn’t going to tell my son who was facing important exams and already so stressed out over them, that I had dreamt of him in a prison cell.

          But in the afternoon, a strange nudge pushed me towards my son and I found myself telling him what I had been shown. Far from being upset, he listened alertly and intently. I confessed that I wasn’t at all sure what he was to do.

          Then, recalling that wealthy woman and her ungrateful son, an answer from heaven came. I gently suggested to my son that perhaps he needed to work on his gratitude and thankfulness. Facing such an important exam, it was easy to lose yourself in them and shut out the rest of the world. It was easy to be so focused on yourself and on your academic struggles and to think little of the burdens others carried.

          And it was possible that he hadn’t given God the thanksgiving he needed to offer for the depth of support we and his siblings were giving to help him prepare for his exams.

          The minute I got that out, it was like a key which unlocked the next door of discernment. I suddenly knew who that unnamed, unseen occupant of the cell was: it was an acquaintance of my son, a boy who had made me very angry over the weekend by lying and trying to cheat me. Honestly, I had always disliked the boy. He was sly, honesty and sincerity not part of him. Since the weekend, I had been praying for guidance on how to deal with the situation involving him – whether to tell the boy what he had done was plain wrong or shut my mouth about it. I was veering towards letting it go because seeing how angry I still was about the incident with him, I’d likely say way more than I should. Like my son, this kid too was facing exams and I didn’t want to upset him in any way. Besides, after the exams, they’d go different ways, that would be that. He’d be someone else’s problem.

          Still, my conscience didn’t quite rest.

          The very next moment, my prayer was answered. In a 180º turn from what I intended to do, I saw another way to deal with that situation – and it was the best! Gentle yet calling sin exactly what it was – a sin – and then, giving the boy hope by showing him the way forward.

          It was then that I recalled the morning’s In Sinu Jesu reading. And I understood it. I had narrowly avoided falling into satan’s traps of indifference and of biting anger. Who knows what both actions would have led to –  for the boy, for myself?

          From the moment I spoke of my dream to my child, I understood all the other aspects of the dream as well. Never before has discernment of a dream come as swiftly and as clearly.

          The dead car batteries of the dream referred to dying faith. This is different to faltering faith or faith struggles. For some reason, while God has called me many times to be there for others who are struggling, He somehow holds me back when it involves faith that is dying. Even when He has shown me those whose faith is dying, it is never about me undertaking intense intercessory rescue efforts; all He has asked is that I call others to minister to this need.

          And that I resist feeling guilty about walking away. Because it is never about indiscriminate compassion, spreading ourselves thin running to jumpstart every dead or dying battery. It is never about occupying every visitor bench outside every prison cell. Working in God’s vineyard is always about obedience to Him – not to the dictates of others, not to the impulses of the heart.

          As I write this, the date of the dream, October 28, tugs at me. It takes some time before I realise it is the Feast of St. Jude – the very saint who told me exactly 3 years ago, to Pray for Others. In that dream, he had shown me that all those I had been praying for at that time, family mostly, had been prayed safely into the Church. It didn’t mean the job was done; just that they had been passed into the next pair of hands. And that it was time for me to move on, to pray for others.

          Today, on his feast day, he came once more bearing this call. St Jude had slipped into my morning, to bring me a boy from prison.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approaching

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MAKER of all, eternal King,

who day and night about dost bring:

who weary mortals to relieve,

dost in their times the seasons give:

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day,

and calls the sun’s awakening ray,

the wandering pilgrim’ guiding light,

that marks the watches night by night.

Roused at the note, the morning star

heaven’s dusky veil uplifts afar:

night’s vagrant bands no longer roam,

but from their dark ways hie them home.

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er,

the foaming billows rage no more:

Lo! e’en the very Church’s Rock

melts at the crowing of the cock.

O let us then like men arise;

the cock rebukes our slumbering eyes,

bestirs who still in sleep would lie,

and shames who would their Lord deny.

New hope his clarion note awakes,

sickness the feeble frame forsakes,

the robber sheathes his lawless sword,

faith to fallen is restored.

Look in us, Jesu, when we fall,

and with Thy look our souls recall:

if Thou but look, our sins are gone,

and with due tears our pardon won.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,

our soul’s dull slumber drive away:

Thy Name be first on every tongue,

to Thee our earliest praises sung.

All laud to God the Father be;

all praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;

all glory, as is ever meet,

to God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.

 

          Exactly 2 months ago, I came across this beautiful hymn written by St. Ambrose. Its rousing verses lit a sudden rush of hope inside me, especially the lines

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er

New hope his clarion note awakes

          In the weeks that followed, many a time I returned to those verses. Each time, they silvered life into weary gullies.

          As October began to bloom, St. Francis of Assisi came twice through the sign of the Blue King to tell me to reduce my busyness, to quieten myself.  But those early days were wound tight around endless work and responsibilities. I went gasping from one assignment to the next, with little rest and sleep.

          Still, St. Francis’ sign was before me and in brief moments, I tried hard to slow down, even if for a few minutes. It was then that I began to sense something.

A strange, secret prickling of joy. A tiny silver trickle within me, yet hidden from me.

          It came and went, this sudden shard of joy. It was playful, teasing. It never came at my bidding. It never showed itself whenever I watched for it. Like some shy, mythical wood~nymph, it always came from behind, lancing my heart when I least expected it.

          But always and only in moments of quiet and recollection.

          What joy is this? I pondered in curious puzzlement. The more I turned it over, it didn’t seem like the random pulses I feel at times. It’s somewhat human, I suddenly realised.

This joy is like Someone approaching.

          This morning, a dipping into my prayer nook brought forth the St Ambrose hymn once more. Happily, I went to it, eager to rest in its hope once again.

          Instead, new lines sliced my heart.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,
our soul’s dull slumber drive away:
Thy Name be first on every tongue,
to Thee our earliest praises sung.

          I return to the thoughts of recent hours. This unknown joy. This approaching of something, someone, I know not what nor who.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,
our soul’s dull slumber drive away:
Thy Name be first on every tongue,
to Thee our earliest praises sung.

          Are the verses pointing to the Illumination of Conscience? And the mysterious joy – the herald of the Light to come?