DISCERNMENT

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.

Lent 7 ~ An Army Beyond Compare

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          I am aware of a deep serenity in the winds that keep vigil amongst the greens of boughs and grasses lush. Even in its gentle dance in the sweetnotes of a pink sky leaning to its night rest, I sense a reverent hush.

          It is more than the peace of an old day lived well. This softened windcalls is a sign Someone is near.

          My spirit is stirred and I look towards heaven.

          Within minutes, through the press of spirit by the words, rock and pines, I come across an old story:

In 1454 in Portugal, a devout, dying woman named Sister Filipina revealed: “A statue of the Most Holy Virgin will speak about very grave future events, for Satan will wage a terrible war. But he will lose because the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God and of the Most Holy Rosary of Fatima, more terrible than an army in battle array, will defeat him forever.”

          The Most Holy Virgin Mother of God and of the Most Holy Rosary of Fatima. Mother of God. Mother of the Rosary. More terrible than an army in battle array.

          My eyes turn to the sunset skies again, seeking the last ribbons of pink and tangerine. Instead, I am surprised to see none of those colours. Not a trace.

          In its place is a vivid blue.

          It is Mother Mary’s colour. It is Her sign to me that I must go heart and soul to the Rosary. Something lies beyond the rest of day. A cold that will touch every living soul, at different times, in different ways. Knowing we would feel powerless before it, the Queen of Heaven bids us to seek grace supreme. Grace wrought by the Rosary. Humble prayers on little beads.

          Seek grace. I recall the words written on my heart days back:

Pray to seek

          Seek grace through the Rosary ~ an army beyond compare.

 

Lent 4 ~ Fire of Seeking

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          First Saturday devotions to Our Blessed Mother. After long days where the skies tipped over jar after jar of heaven’s dew over us, the rains lost to the pale sun this morning. As rain memories formed a million water~diamonds that clung to wet leaves and twinkled sunlight through, my inner rebel bade me depart from the usual 1st Saturday devotions.

          Instead, I offered Mother the first rain~roses of the blessed first Saturday of Lent – decades of the Glorious Mysteries. I recalled a similar July offering last year, and I tried my best to scrub my offering clean of my never ending petitions. Today’s morning Rosary was my gift to Mother, and I didn’t want it beribboned in earthly seeking.

          The 4th Mystery wrapped and offered, my Mother showed Herself. This would be the third time since last year that I have experienced this – right after the 4th Mystery, I am either shown or taught something.

          This time, Mother came forth and led my mind back to the Miracle of Limpias. Back into the quiet, dusty church, lit by flailing faith. The miracle had happened on March 30, 1919 – during the season of Lent. At a time when spiritual mourning should have brought souls to the tabernacle of supreme grace. As my spirit stood within that still moment when the sunlight streams through dustnotes, I felt this written in a whisper,

Pray to Seek

          As the sun’s rays fell into my heart, I suddenly realized almost all my prayers are usually about appeasement – that someone be given this or granted that. They are seldom about a genuine searching for God. I can barely remember if I have ever prayed that others sell their treasures and to become spiritual pilgrims on a journey of holy seeking.

          That dying church of St Peter in Limpias, in the days before Life lit the dark there, might have been filled with people who did not seek Christ as they should have. They brought themselves to church but might have left their souls elsewhere in the coils of earthly cares.

          The brethren of Limpias then are me and too many others now. We do not seek God with heart and soul. And even if we do, we might be seeking Him in the pastures and meadows of our choice.

          On this morning when the sun seeks to dry the tears of the earth, the Queen of Heaven has made Her wish known – that we pray for the fire of seeking.

Lent 3 ~ Limpias

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          In the lead up to Lent this year, I was on alert for Lenten signposts that would indicate the path I was to take. I looked out for prayers and meditations and devotions. I read up on saints, went to stories on every day lives. I took them all in, and then sat back to discern what had settled on my spirit.

          Nothing really.

          And then, one day, the Christ of Limpias story came to me.

          I had read it last year and the miracle was beautiful. When it came back to me again in the week before Lent, I wanted to move on to something else, but something tugged me back.

          I read the story of the Christ come alive on the Cross in a little village church. And this time, it felt different. It felt like I was right there in the church, at the moment of the start of the miracles, in the somber emptiness, watching the priest repair a bulb, and suddenly becoming aware of Jesus coming to life.

          I read of the shock and of the subsequent spreading of the news. Of people coming from near and far to become witnesses to life in a special way. I read of things I had not known of my Jesus’ sufferings as He hung on the Cross. The descriptions of the sufferings witnessed in Limpias filled in the blanks of the Crucifixion.

          As my eyes went over the words of the accounts, a silence settled on my spirit. A silence that was absent in the first reading a year ago.

          A silence that told me I had not stumbled upon Christ of Limpias. But that the Miracle of Limpias had been brought to me for a reason. The faith in the community had been dying when the Miracles began to occur in 1919. The Cross coming alive had awakened the slumbering and dying souls of that parish and beyond, and it lit a fire that spread to distant nations, from 1919 till today.

          The Miracle of Limpias lit the fire of seeking in souls.

Lent 2 ~ Less for More

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          The slippery slope from a hurt or negativity, down into anger, is very slippery indeed. It doesn’t take much to slide all the way down into fiery and lacerating depths. In recent days, God has shown me He doesn’t even want me treading the starting rocks of this abominable descent.

          He showed me the safety hatch called Charity from the mind.

          By praying for conversion of souls at the earliest moment of hurting or at the very moment I have observed a negativity or sin, my spirit is kept away from that infernal slope. By virtue of this prayer, as my own soul is taken from harm, my brethren too are saved from plumbing the depths of other hells.

          He has shown me, in no uncertain terms, that Charity saves, and lack of Charity will kill.

          And so, I did my best to pray all manner of conversion prayers at the sight of every flare. I mostly kept off that slippery slope. But there were occasions when I went back to familiar ruts of behavior, and travelled some distance down the very path I had been warned away from.

          I got back to my feet undeterred after each fall.

          That was when I began to notice something. The moment I began to pray a Charity prayer, my prayer began to blur, and another took its place:

Help them to love God more than themselves.

          To be saved from the slopes of sin, we need to love Jesus more than ourselves, because sheep that we are, we will gravitate towards the easy pastures where sin disguises itself as verdant sustenance.

          The struggle to keep off slopes is the struggle of every Christian after the heart of God, as we learn that to love ourselves less, is to love God more.

         

Lent 1 ~ Snatching

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          I heard the call of three bells in the week before Lent as I prayed for discernment for my Lenten journey.

          The first came through the word, Charity.

          When it first brushed against my spirit, I sniffed and turned away, because in my estimation, I was doing pretty well there. If anything, I needed to say No more often.

          But as it is with everything of heaven, it didn’t leave to flit over to other flowers. It remained like a tiny bell over my spirit, strung on a weave of gossamer, the slightest breeze a-stirring it.

          When the drowsy evening winds had whispered their silvery orange endnotes, and the bell still hadn’t learned silence, I knew I was to face a shadow I never realized was a part of me.

          I turned my heart towards heaven, and with no delay, the waiting angels laid this on my spirit,

Charity from the mind

          As I firmly kept my gaze on the words, the Spirit filtered gentle light through my mind.

          In my relationships with others, every battle of spirit I have faced has been fought in the distant fields of my heart, although each battle had birthed in my mind. Instead of being snuffed out right there in its place of origin, each wounding was sent on its way to my heart, where the battle was often long and drawn out.

          Simply because the fires had been allowed to rage unchecked for far too long.

          The charity I was now being called to was the mental discipline of turning each hurt and negative thought – the very second it budded – to love – through a prayer of Mercy. If I spied a negativity or if anyone hurt me, I had to now immediately wrap that person in a prayer of Mercy.

          There was no time to be wasted. It had to be done swiftly. No weighing of options. No indulging in anger or hurt.

          As I continued to absorb this tutoring, I realized this kind of prayer felt almost like …. Snatching. Quick and abrupt. Snatching soul after soul, and depositing them in the Ark of Grace. And then, moving on to more souls.

          Snatching souls through Charity.

          Snatching…..because time is short.