DISCERNMENT

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Blessing in Disguise

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          We have loved zinnias for a long time. They stand for a time of joy. For the time before sorrow visited us.

          We used to have a whole bed of them, every colour, different varieties. They were our special flowers. We had them at a time when orchids were the rage for many of our neighbours. Every morning, going to my window for a brief respite from milk feeds, porridge and diapers, my zinnias had smiled for me in the glory of sunny mornings.

          Then, came a time when our hearts no longer sought them in the joy we once knew. We did try to grow them again and for a time, they flowered. Yet, something was just not the same anymore.

Our zinnias no longer smiled.

          We made an attempt at comfort by trying to grow them elsewhere, but the plants gently refused us. The meaning of this was lost on me in those grey years, but today, I understood:

Our zinnias would not live in the soil of sorrow.

They were, for us, joy, and so, only joy and hope could nourish them to bloom in beauty once more.

          Yesterday, we reeled from a yet another blow. In the church courtyard, I sat in my car, gripping the phone in anguish as my husband told me of a verdict our whole country had been waiting for. Adding to the mountain of injustices and religious bigotry, was yet another racially charged judgement.

          Cut up, I went into church and went before my silent Jesus. I placed before Him our pain and the pain of our country. I placed into His heart our embattled Attorney General. In quick strokes, I laid bare our collective grief, Will things ever change for this land?

          My morning quiet time earlier had been rushed and a trifle harried. Hence, not having had the time to do my Daily Readings then, I went to them now, in the silent church, its stillness untroubled.

…the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:
Tell this to the governor of Judah,
Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel,
and to the high priest Joshua, son of Jehozadak,
and to the remnant of the people:

Who is left among you
that saw this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes?
But now take courage, Zerubbabel, says the LORD,
and take courage, Joshua, high priest, son of Jehozadak,
And take courage, all you people of the land,
says the LORD, and work!
For I am with you, says the LORD of hosts.
This is the pact that I made with you
when you came out of Egypt,
And my spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!
For thus says the LORD of hosts:
One moment yet, a little while,
and I will shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land.
I will shake all the nations,
and the treasures of all the nations will come in,
And I will fill this house with glory,
says the LORD of hosts.
Mine is the silver and mine the gold,
says the LORD of hosts.
Greater will be the future glory of this house
than the former, says the LORD of hosts;
And in this place I will give you peace,
says the LORD of hosts!   ~  Haggai 2: 1 – 9

          I couldn’t believe what I was reading.

But now take courage, Zerubbabel,
and take courage, Joshua,
And take courage, all you people of the land,
For I am with you,
My spirit continues in your midst;
do not fear!

          Take courage! Take courage! Take courage!

Do me justice, O God, and fight my fight
against a faithless people;
from the deceitful and impious man rescue me.   ~  Responsorial psalm – Psalm 43:1

          Do me justice, and fight my fight, O Lord, I murmured over and over, faith tightening its bands around my heart. Looking up at my Silent Jesus, remembering His promise to me last week,

I shall speak to you, I shall speak to your heart, so that you may hear My voice for the joy of your heart

I requested once more in quiet expectation, Speak to me Jesus.

          Immediately, I felt these words written in my ears,

A blessing in disguise.

          I sat there, staring at the words within. A blessing in disguise. It didn’t seem possible. All that was certain was further entrenchment of injustice and evil triumph. And yet, Jesus had whispered a message of contrarian hope,

A blessing in disguise

          I look out now at the bed by the fence, our first zinnias of the year. No longer downcast, unsure of staying. But a profusion of colours in wild and giddy bloom, resolute yet clearly happy in the dance of the late morning’s sun warmed blue~breeze kisses.

A blessing in disguise

          The last vestiges of doubt fled. I believed with all my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say Yes

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          I went to my Friday Eucharistic Adoration like someone who had had a bad fight with her best friend. It’s not that the week had been bad – it was alright, even with the travelling and workload.

          But then, Wednesday came along, and with it a meeting, where it felt like few cared about the responsibilities entrusted to them; compassion and empathy had no home there during those hours. There were laughs around the room, with plans even, to add on work to already overburdened staff, little thought spared for the spirits that they were going to break.

          I somehow knew that with God’s help, I would weather this, but I worried for the young ones, trees already bent from the force from winds. They had no voice, the defenseless never do and my shouts were going unheard in the soulless canyon.

          Hence, I came to Thursday, not angry, but with a weariness that had reached in and taken all for itself. I had prayed big prayers but I felt that God’s graces were too little, too slow. Apologizing many times for rushing and directing God, I tried to contain myself. But with each heaping that came, it was harder to hold my heart above the water.

          So, I let God know what I thought of His ways – for me. And then I prayed,

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

          On Friday, I travelled to church with a grudge against God. Sitting right in front inside the still and silent church, I warily eyed Jesus on the Crucifix.

          I’m sorry, Lord, I said, looking everywhere except at the Crucifix.

          Then, as if He didn’t already know, I felt the need to clarify my apology. I’m sorry if I hurt You – but I’m not sorry I did it.

          Emboldened suddenly, I raised my eyes to the Crucifix and plunged. Why can’t You speak to me as You did Your friends back in the Nazareth days? Directly and clearly and promptly? I know I have no right to ask You this, I know I have no right to place myself on the same level as St. Faustina, but still I ask that You speak to me like a friend, like a Father to his daughter, only speak to me.

          Suddenly thinking of the many unseen wolves standing at the ready to impersonate the Lord, I added on, And give me the grace to know the difference between the voices of heaven and that of earth.

          In the next hour, against all hope, I heard a voice move.

I shall speak to you, I shall speak to your heart, so that you may hear My voice for the joy of your heart.

In answer to the prayer for my child facing the exam of his life, working so hard, yet losing confidence day by day,

The loss of confidence in himself 

Hidden graces

          And finally, for the strange observation this past week, that the head of the Crucified Jesus on my home wall crucifix has been increasingly drooping,

…of My head bowed to say “yes” to the Father.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Forgive Myself

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O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach you while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us.

 

          3 years ago, I opened up about my work troubles, about 3 specific people, to a stranger. He had posted something on a forum earlier and when I read it, I had found strength to go on. So, I wrote to let him know and to thank him.

          Some months later, he wrote to me once more and told me about a St. Joseph novena he had said for workplace woes. It had brought amazing results for him. He had a feeling I would have need of it too.

          I certainly did. St Joseph had been coming to me in the days before so when I saw the prayer, I knew it was for me. I was in deep suffering then due to the 3 vicious bullies. So, I plunged myself into the St. Joseph prayer.

          At the end of the 9 day novena of it, I too received ‘results’. However, it was not the sunny outcome I had hoped for. Instead, something akin to satan’s whip lashed me and I suffered for it.

          But I experienced 3 miracles as a direct result of that novena. I saw my own sin and for the first time and acknowledged it. God gave me His strength to carry my cross of hurt and humiliation. Mother Mary came silently one morning and gave me hope.

Sight

Strength

Hope

          It’s been 3 years since that day. One of the three has been spectacularly removed from our company. It left behind 2 wound-ers – a superior and the other, a female colleague. For a while, despite the neverending woundings, life went on.

          But yesterday, I responded to a minor situation with the female colleague, in a way I’m not proud of. It was a small thing and yet, I wish I could have done things differently.

          I was upset with that person. I was now also upset with myself for my reaction. Worse, the incident brought back memories of rusted knives and forced me to face the towering mountain of old hurts caused by this woman. This is something I try not to revisit because the pain is bad and it makes my cross that much harder to bear.

          Yet, here it was again. And I wept at the seeming futility of it all. 20 years of suffering, almost a year of enduring this specific type of cruelty. And no end in sight. At the same time, so much learning on how to endure in Christian faith, so many prayers and yet I didn’t seem to be spiritually progressing. I wasn’t scaling the mountains before me. I was still stumbling over roots.

          Friday yesterday was supposed to be my Friday of atonement and reparation. God gave me one chance and I flubbed it spectacularly.

          I alternated between crying out to heaven and clubbing myself. I asked for the woman to be consoled. But I asked that no consolation be given me.

          Late at night, before turning in for the day, I went to my prayer nook.

          The grinning Angel was waiting with a prayer for me. It was the old St. Joseph prayer of 3 years ago.

O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, …

          I was more than a little taken aback. What a time for this prayer to reappear, when  work is becoming a problem again.

          This morning, another Mother Mary Saturday, I beseeched Her aid but I didn’t know what I should be asking for. Reading the Readings of the day, I begged Her to speak to me through them. At the end, no breeze swept by my waiting heart.

          Undeterred, I went to my prayer nook for the prayer of the day.

          Imagine just how I felt to see the same St. Joseph prayer peeking back at me! In all my years of visiting this nook, I have never drawn the same prayer on consecutive days.

          Suddenly, I was alert. Something was up. To come on Friday and then Saturday, it was a sign for me that both Jesus and Mother Mary were asking for this prayer to be said. From the chest of millions of prayers, They were asking for this one.

          So, I recited it once more, sealing my heart to each line, yet not expecting anything beyond that I should be obedient to the call.

          And this time, this second time, my heart saw a line I did not quite see yesterday.

St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us.

          I didn’t know what to do, what to think.

          So, I rose and left the house to run some errands. It was a beautiful golden blue day, the gentle, sun~blessed breezes bringing sweet notes of birdsong to my heart. As I drove, happily watching the green trees run past, it became very clear just what I needed of Mary.

          Mother, take my sin of yesterday.

Take this garment of mine, the how’s and why’s of it.

Take it to Jesus.

Plead not on my behalf but let Jesus judge me fully and completely.

Then, bring me back His judgement.

Let it pierce me, really pierce me.

Let nothing stand between His Word and this piercing.

          I stood and waited.

          A tiny vine uncurled itself.

I forgive her.

          I did not even pause to think. Neither did I have to tie myself to it. Immediately, I said the prayer, the words coming  straight from my heart.

I forgive her

          I discerned no change in me. No light, no sunburst, no burden lightened. But like the passing green trees, I let it go, not pausing to seek a reward for praying. I forgive her, I said once more, ready to say it over and over.

          But before I could repeat it, the tiniest of roses, a pink one, misted before me.

I forgive myself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silence

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          It’s been more than a week of a strange inner silence. Initially, I put it down to being unwell. Then, to my husband being unwell. Later, I figured it was because there was so much going on in our daily lives.

          But soon, I had to admit to myself, something else was going on, this was new.

I felt as if this inner silence was stretching my spirit. Really stretching it. I also felt as if nothing was being allowed to stick onto this silence, for whatever reason.

It didn’t hurt. It didn’t distract me from work or chores or reading. It didn’t make me crabby, primed to bark and bite. Life could go on undisturbed. But no whisper nor echo made itself heard from within me.

          At church last week, I quietly pleaded with Mother Mary and Jesus before Mass, Let me hear Your voice. Your voice alone. Yet, I was calm, not desperate, not frantically scratching at God’s door. Then, as I always do in trying to quiet my spirit before Mass, I read a little from St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul.

          Nothing stood out. In fact, the words swirled before my eyes – a sign that something is being kept from me – in order to be revealed later. Since I began having this sign – this ‘swirling’ – about 20 years ago, it has almost always been a prelude to a revelation. But this time, this odd stillness, a little like an inner death and yet not, didn’t give me much hope of ‘hearing’ anything.

          Returning to my pew after receiving Holy Communion, I looked up and was slightly taken aback to see the word ‘Silence’ projected onto the wall by the overhead projector. This was the 2nd week of it – before this, we never had quiet time after Holy Communion. Before this, the choir would have launched into the Thanksgiving hymn even before I had even thought of a word of prayer after Communion.

          But there it was, the word, ‘Silence’, the choir quiet.

          And suddenly, at that very moment, out of nowhere, I remembered that I had read something in the Divine Mercy in My Soul earlier. Something about silence.

Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul. We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back, without taking any regard as to whether it is God’s will that we should speak. A silent soul is strong; no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence. The silent soul is capable of attaining the closest union with God. It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God works in a silent soul without hindrance.   ~   Entry 477

I can certainly say that I am by no means a silent soul, neither do I possess one. I am not chatty nor talkative as a person but I do have a soul that is. And maybe that was why I felt this new silence so keenly.

I was unaccustomed to it.

          I returned to those lines in the entry, seeking some specific light. I found it,

The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul.

          A sword of silence. Nothing will cling.

          Nothing will be allowed to cling.

 

 

 

 

 

An Answer Comes

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God has answered me. Troubled by the Sri Lanka Easter Day bombings, I had asked God to tell me what to do. Exactly 3 days after my asking, He answers through another person,

Pray a special Rosary for the Muslim fasting month.

From May till early June.

Pray for conversion of Muslim hearts.

 

          When I asked Him 3 days before, I was restless and anxious. Then, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque calmed me with,

This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.  

Her words made me realise that patient wait went hand-in-hand with humility. I saw that my fretting was caused by my lack of humility – I was impatient with God; I wanted to lead. Once I saw that, I returned to doing His will in my daily life. I went to work. I cared for my family. I worked as hard as I could in quietness. When the tough hours drained me of vigour, I forced myself to be grateful for littles. Over and over, I prayed from the depths of my heart, Lord, Forgive me for I have sinned.

          And all through the 3 days, I sensed the softest, lightest breath upon my spirit, saying,

For reparation

For reparation

For reparation

          On the evening of the 3rd day, a friend’s words moved me to pray to forgive those who hurt me. I did not think of my family members. Instead, immediately, I thought of my superiors and some co-workers. And again, from the depths of my heart, I prayed, I forgive…

          The very next instant, God spoke and told me He wanted the Conversion Rosary. The Muslim fasting month presents the same danger we as Christians face in Lent – the abyss of spiritual pride. Spiritual pride that comes when we think we are great for the fasting we do each day, for the number of prayers we recite, for the various added Lenten rituals.

          But in many ways, it is harder for them. They have no Jesus who fought off the devil. They do not have Jesus’ example. They do not have His words. So, when pride assails them in that desert of deprivation, it finds an easy target.

          And they emerge from the fasting month, worse than before, for being nourished by pride.

Pride in any hands is a deadly weapon.

          But we have a weapon far greater, far more powerful – the Rosary. It is a weapon that can defeat any other because it is a weapon of love and of humility – not of pride, not of arrogance, not of hatred.

          It is this same journey of humble and loving entreaty that God is asking of me in this May Rosary. Not to demand, but in love and humility, to pray for the conversion of brethren Muslim spirits.

          That with us, they too seek to love and obey the Divine Heart of Jesus.

 

 

 

Lent 28 ~ Another Name

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          I’ve barely given St. Thomas much thought, despite worshipping for decades at a church named after him. The prayers to him that we sometimes recite as a congregation have never touched me before. He was just not someone who moved me. And that’s a little strange. He is commonly associated with his unfortunate moniker – Doubting Thomas – which should have made him my spiritual kin, as I too often struggle with doubts. Yet, I’ve never sought his company.

          And I’m not sure he sought mine, either!

          But then came Susan Skinner’s post, The Weight of St. Thomas. And her story of her dog and the Pay Attention to the Dogs message. I certainly paid attention because dogs have recently become a ‘stronger’ presence in my life as never before, leading me to wonder from 2 years back if dogs were to be some sort of sign for me, a warning sign. After Susan’s post, I went over our own latest experiences with dogs.

          As I began to literally pay attention to the dogs, something began to reveal itself – but from the side of my consciousness.

China

The question I had asked myself very recently, of why Pope Francis had crushed the hopes of Vatican ordained Chinese Catholic bishops by ceding to the corrupt power of the Chinese Communist Party under whose power the church in China will now come.

The headline I had read just minutes before, Chinese Muslims Ordered To Hand Over All Copies Of The Quran Or Face Punishment.

Why China all of a sudden? I wondered.

          Heaven remained silent. Won’t You tell me? I prodded once more.

          The air would not stir. So, I returned once more to the dogs. What did they mean for me? Why was I sensing something there that I needed to understand and yet could not see?

          The line in the next article I had picked at random, We were ordered to take down the Crosses on our churches, wrote a Chinese priest.

China. Again.

Banning of the faith.

Decimation of religion.

          I didn’t know what God was asking of me. But we were going for Mass, to our parish of St. Thomas. I figured I’d ask Him then.

          However, in church later, I completely forgot to ask God about dogs and China. Sitting in a pew, at a side we have never sat, after praying, I opened my battered copy of Diary of A Soul. I had been feeling empty all of that day and while I accepted it as consolation for Mother Mary, I didn’t feel there was any harm in knocking on heaven’s door. I said a quick prayer asking God to speak to me through St. Faustina and Jesus’ words to her. Give me something, Lord, I prayed.

          … I have pressed my lips to the bitterness of the cup   Entry 385, Diary of A Soul

          I hastily shut the book. Yet, a soundless voice followed me into my heart, Drink of the cup of bitterness. I looked up the large Crucifix at the front of the church. I gazed awhile at the Divine Mercy image to the left of the church. Drink of the cup of bitterness, intoned that same voice.

          At that very moment, I spied someone staring squarely at me. It was a statue outside the church, placed in the peaceful side gardens, seen now  through the long glass windows, very far from my new place in this pew. For a few seconds, I wasn’t even sure who it was. And then, I knew.

St. Thomas

          Of course, it being the Church of St. Thomas, this shouldn’t have come as any surprise. It’s also a statue which I’ve seen so many times from my quick stops at the quiet parish gardens.

          But at that moment, just before the start of Mass, St. Thomas had firmly placed my eyes on him.

          Why?

          After Mass, I forgot about St. Thomas for a while. Wanting to write out Mass intentions for a beloved soul who had just passed away, I moved to the side of the church closest to the statue of St. Thomas just a few feet away outside the church. Once I had slipped the Mass envelope into the Intentions box, I moved to leave. Genuflecting, I looked up and saw the words mounted on the wall behind the sanctuary, My Lord and my God. They had been there for some years.

          But now, for the first time, I said the words aloud, My Lord and My God.

          During the journey home, my thoughts happily darting from one earthly port to the other, a soundless voice broke through,

Thomas the Twin

Didymus

          I was mildly taken aback. I had forgotten about St. Thomas, what more, Thomas the Twin and Didymus. I suddenly realized that St Thomas was rapping insistently on the window of my consciousness.

          Once home, I immediately looked up the saint to learn about him, and received my next surprise of the day.

          My Lord and my God was attributed to none other than St. Thomas, who spoke them in shock and awe at the moment the eyes of his soul were opened to the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection.

          It was clear that St. Thomas was not some random saint passing through the desert of my Lent. For some reason, St. Thomas wanted my eyes on him. Every time I turned my attention somewhere else, he seemed to be coming and tugging at my eyes.

          Why? I asked yet again.

          A whole night passed.

          This morning, before he came, I went to him. I didn’t try to read up some more on this saint. I merely sat and waited for him to speak.

          Two words from Susan’s post drifted in like a soft breeze,

Thomas. Atheism.

          In the hours after his beloved Jesus’ Crucifixion, Thomas had suffered immensely as his world crumbled. He who had been so sure of his belief in Jesus’ words, he who had been willing to follow Jesus to possible death in Bethany when the Jews were seeking to kill Him, was now broken and crushed at the death of the Jesus he had loved. All that Thomas had fought and worked for seemed to be for nothing.

          Perhaps, in his deep anguish and grief, he even doubted God. If so, then, in those pain – wracked hours, Thomas had entered into the suffering of an atheist’s soul. If before he knew of it, after the Crucifixion, he had been immersed into and was burned by the cold flames of atheism.

          As the morning winds sing a soundless hymn, I slowly begin to understand.

China. Crushing of the flame of faith.

The seer’s words,

When Communism comes again, everything will happen. The rise of atheism.

          That was why St. Thomas had come to me. To warn me of the rise of atheism. The hell he had once known and lived.

          The spirit of atheism is an oppressor’s spirit. This Lent, I have been called to pray for oppressors. I had assumed it was confined to those in our family’s lives.

          Now, St Thomas has come to lay another name on my spirit. 

          That of the oppressor known as Atheism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 14 ~ I’ve Moved On

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          I’m not sure if it’s due to being unwell or if it’s the effect of yesterday’s returning – but I’m not easily provoked today. An inner  quietness graces my hours. I’m fretting far less. Today, it matters more to me that I give of myself, than seeking to be filled.

          Today too, I’m not catching myself scanning the skies, the air, the winds, for a sign of something to come. Today, when I think of what lies ahead, I’m content to let things work out their own course. No meddling in God’s affairs for me today. A friend wrote about the terrible floods in Nebraska, wondering if the floods were connected to a sign we had both received some years back – a sign of water, water in the month of March. I remembered that sign but as I sought to recall it more clearly, I sensed a veil gently slip over my mind and heart.

          And I released my hold over the seeking.

          God had promised me that spring would come to me, that winter would not stretch its frigid, barren arms across my life forever. That promise evoked in me a deep yearning for spring, each and every day since I heard Him last year.

          Yet, while I had waited for spring to emerge triumphant from cold hollows of snow and ice, after yesterday, I’m sensing a gentle pressure to let that be too. Because I have no way of knowing if spring for me would come this year or later. To expect it at a specific time – and to not have that wish bloom in joy – would mean yet another wounding for me. It is wiser to keep the hope of spring – but without desecrating it with a date.

          Has hope dried up in me? I hold my heart up to scrutiny.  If it has, I would have known it by the dirge a broken spirit sings in mourning for lost hope. No, this is not loss of hope, not when it’s accompanied by this strange, mellow softness of heart.

          The hours at work bring me an understanding: this is what it feels like when a long time occupant of a room has left to seek life elsewhere. The occupant who has ruled me strong for long, by whom I’ve defined so much of my life. By returning to Jesus the lines I’ve written and maps I’ve plotted to chart my course, I’ve been emptied of myself.

          I’ve felt emptiness before, in the Lent of old years gone by, hence, I would recognize the clean pain that comes from giving up everything of value to my heart.

          This is different now. What I’ve held on to is gone. But there is no pain, no anguished calling back of what was returned to Jesus.

         It’s as if I’ve… moved on.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 13 ~ Returning of Hopes

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          I read about the Holy Spirit Rosary on Susan Skinner’s blog, Veil of Veronica, and like her, I too was immediately drawn to it. The drawback was that it needed to be prayed as a group – to ensure we do not attribute to the Holy Spirit what is actually something out of our own heads. I didn’t have a group I could meet with to pray the Rosary together. Even with friends, no common time to come together as well.

          This afternoon, with the weather the way it was, sullen and sulking, I decided to go it alone. I prayed with all my heart that my mind, my will and my emotions be bound to the Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. That nothing of me pierce through. It was incredibly difficult, to be honest. I viewed with suspicion everything that moved past the window of my consciousness. I felt as if I was all tightly bound up, stiff and rigid. Not the best way to pray, for sure, but there didn’t seem to be any other way.

          I decided to pray all 5 decades on the meditation of the Agony in Gethsemane. I imagined myself beside Jesus in the garden. Then, I wished I had done some research on this so as to better imagine the place. While I was dragging my scattered thoughts back to the garden, I somehow ended up in the desert with Jesus during His 40 days fast. I’m not sure how that happened. Nonetheless, somehow, that worked out a lot better than trying to imagine the Garden of Gethsemane.

          I believe I imagined Jesus sitting on a wide smooth slab of rock, facing straight ahead. And I settled myself beside Him. He didn’t seem to be aware of my presence. I likely imagined that too. I must have seen the time in the desert to be an intense time, of  deep, penetrating  silence. That would explain why I imagined or pictured Jesus in that still, unmoving, undistracted manner. I remember telling myself not to be a distraction to Him, not to squirm and wriggle trying to get comfortable on hard stone.

          Again, that was just probably my way of quelling my own distractedness.

          As I whispered my Hail Marys and tried to be as still and as unyielding towards travelling thoughts, I sank into a slight weary sadness. I saw hopes that were so long in coming true. I saw dreams that didn’t seem possible any more. Expectations being raised and then, dashed.

          As I struggled and struggled to meditate on His Agony all alone in Gethsemane/Desert, I felt a gentl-ing of my tightness. As I felt the ropes I had bound myself with earlier begin to loosen, I came face-to-face with an old shadow inside me:

The hopes within me were my own, not God’s.

          While He had given me signs and shown me glimpses into the future, I had taken them and embellished them with my own visons and expectations. I had sewed on my own buttons of desires, embroidering the garment with my ideas of how life should work out for me.

          And when what I had conjured in my head collided with God’s reality, hurt swelled  and soared like churning seas.

          Sitting by His side looking out at the expanse of sand and rock, I slowly returned to Him my tattered garments of hope, rent and stained by earthly wiles and wishes, by my own undoing of selfishness, pride and vanity. I gave back to Jesus,all the hope that was of me, born of my passions.

          He’d know what to do with it, I reasoned.

          I cannot be sure how I ended up here, at this point of returning. Was it the Holy Spirit Rosary? Was it just the way my thoughts were weaving through the haze of hours and events?

          I suspect it’s not me. Because despite the dulled spirit, when the Rosary ended, I rose and went to my chores with a lightness in my step.

          You don’t confront sadness and disappointment, and yet, leave in light – unless it was the Spirit’s doing.