Faith

Refuge

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If, on going to the garden to pluck some fruits, you were surprised by a heavy rain, what would you do? You would seek shelter under the shed, would you not? So when sorrow, bitterness, tribulation, rain down upon you, you must seek a refuge in the safe asylum of the will of God, and you shall not be troubled.   ~   St. Paul of the Cross

 

          There have not been many times when I have sought shelter in the Will of the Most High. Even fewer times when I have willingly gone to it, my own will fused to God’s. Almost always, every resting of my will is preceded by struggle. I have learned enough lessons from this point of acquiescence once I have reached it; I have learned and re-learned timeless truths of peace and serenity and strength when God’s will is mine.

          And yet, I continue to rebel. In every storm, I continue to remain out in the open, ignoring the shelter proffered, pleading my case before God.

          Why? Because up to now, I have only seen the Will of God as a call to obedience. I have not learned to accept it as a refuge from storms.

          There are some prayers in my prayer~cart, and I have gone before my Lord for them for a long time now. As there is a time to pray, there will soon come a time to rest those hopes, when He presses His hand against my heart and renders slumber unto my seeking.

          When that time comes to pass, I must, in faith and humility, seek the safe refuge of the will of God, where I shall not be troubled.

 

 

 

 

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Hell Shall Not Prevail

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          Waiting. Hopes dashed repeatedly. Struggling to hold on to hope. Wanting to give in to anger, give it release. But no, the old night’s whispers linger firmly,

Hope. Trust.

…the gates of Hell shall not prevail …. ~   (Matt 16:18)

 

 

 

Lent 17 ~ A Single Wave

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We must be continually upon our guard, for we are engaged in a perpetual war; unless we take care, the enemy will surprise us, when we are least aware of him. A ship sometimes passes safe through hurricanes and tempests, yet, if the pilot, even in a calm, has not a great care of it, a single wave, raised by a sudden gust, may sink her. It does not signify whether the enemy clambers in by the window, or whether all at once he shakes the foundation, if at last he destroys the house. In this life we sail, as it were, in an unknown sea. We meet with rocks, shelves, and sands; sometimes we are becalmed, and at other times we find ourselves tossed and buffeted by a storm. Thus we are never secure, never out of danger; and, if we fall asleep, are sure to perish.   ~   St. Syncletica

 

          Growing up with a mother who suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder, I learned the lesson of a single deadly wave from early childhood. I lived and breathed in singular fear of someone so consumed by herself and her wants, because all it would take for my day to go from gold to black would be a single wave.

          But while I am no longer called to this fear, I am called to vigilance against the thieves of faith. I need to be vigilant with myself, with my family.

          And with all those who come to our gates. For the thief never announces his arrival nor his tools. He strikes at will.

          The eyes in my head can only do so much. The vigilance needed for the times we are in is different, far deeper than ever known. I cannot be sure that I have all the gates covered, I cannot be sure that I know the shape and form a thief may take. To possess confidence in my abilities to guard and detect danger – even while I proclaim otherwise – is to be surely struck down by that single wave because pride makes for a weak gate-lock.

          The calls to Adoration, to rest, that I have been hearing this Lent, are the bells that chime telling me to seek humility through the resting of my will – because it is humility that will make me seek the Supreme Guard of Gates – Jesus. It is humility that will allow me to let down my guard and let Jesus in. It is only humility that will allow me to allow Jesus to guard my gates.

          We have a most intelligent and experienced pilot at the helm of our vessel even Jesus Christ himself, who will conduct us safe into the haven of salvation if, by our supineness, we cause not our own perdition.   ~   St. Syncletica

 

 

Little One

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          I am one of those who strongly believes in the power of the Rosary and yet struggle mightily to recite it daily. It is the simple issue of lack of discipline. But I know my family and I are intrinsically  bound to the Rosary.

          Reciting the Rosary as a family has been a struggle since years and years before, perhaps worse back then because the kids were younger and a lot harder to handle and I myself wasn’t in a good place –  emotionally,  mentally and spiritually.

          But if I thought those were hard times, worse was yet to come. One day, a knife cut through my soul. I knew I was going to fall but I no longer really cared. If I lived at all, it was only for my husband and children. A lot of life didn’t matter much anymore.

          At that point in time, I had in my possession, a rosary made from small sandalwood beads. It was a child’s rosary, gifted to me by someone  I didn’t particularly like, who couldn’t differentiate between a child’s rosary and an adult’s. I had received that sandalwood rosary during a Christmas visit – which meant shutting my mouth and swallowing any remarks I would have made otherwise.  As I already had a pretty, gold rosary which I had received when I was a child, this little new rosary was made into my ‘spare rosary’ – its smallness made it handy to have around when I was travelling.

          Years later, I faced the worst test of my life. I struggled with a dark I have never before been seared by. Oftentimes, it felt as if I would drown and never live again. I was far from home, facing a severe darkness and all I had with me was the little brown rosary. I held it tight and prayed incoherent prayers and hoped God had heard me.

          One day, I had to travel even further away. In the rush and worry and fear at that time, I misplaced the little rosary. I went to my Gethsamane without my beads. Although my relatives visited me at that time, I didn’t mention this, so no one knew. I didn’t feel like asking any one of them to get me another rosary either. I just didn’t want to receive a rosary in this way.

          It was at this time that an old aunt, very close to God, visited me and placed a white~bead rosary in my palm. It was the heaviest Rosary beads I have ever held, yet there was a strange comfort in the polished smooth heaviness of it. She told me she had bought it on a pilgrimage to India when she herself had been close to death a long time before. But she had come back to life. I knew she devoutly said the Rosary every day. Through joy, illness, heartbreak or even worry, this simple woman with a heart of gold recited the Rosary every single day.

          Yet, my aunt never told me to pray. She didn’t blithely tell me to say the Rosary and that all would be well. She just placed the rosary in my palm and with her eyes, willed me to hope on.

          That lonely night, when my aunt and everyone had returned home leaving me to face my sorrows and fears alone, I gripped my old aunt’s rose~beads and went in weeping search of Mother Mary. For many weeks after that, through highs of hopes and lows of shatterings and piercings, I held on to those smooth, white beads for life. Some days I could pray the Rosary. Often I couldn’t. But every day, often more than once a day, I tightly gripped those beads as I screamed and wept and that was the only prayer I could muster.

          Then, one night, my family and I were in the car. For a brief moment, a strength out of nowhere surged through me, and I began to speak about how great and good God was. I had just faced the worst test of my life and more was to come. The waters were still churning around me. I was by no means healed and safe. Yet, with that strange power coursing though me in the dark car, I began to speak about the greatness of a God who had just given me the worst Cross ever.

          I cannot recall what exactly I said but I know these were my ending words in the dark:

We had to go through all of this in order to return to the Rosary again.

          No sooner had the words left my mouth when my toddler son exclaimed that he had found something. He placed it in my open palm.

          I didn’t need any light to tell me what he had found. Even in the dark confines of the car, the minute I felt it, I knew he had found the small sandalwood Rosary given to me five Christmases ago. The very same one I had left in the car that hurried, harried day and forgotten about. Left it in a car I had cleaned thoroughly many, many times, and yet, never came across.

          The moment the eyes of my heart saw how we had to be taken through flood and fire to return to the refuge of the Rosary, the moment I proclaimed this truth to the others with us that night, an Unseen hand had brought back the small beads. I barely thought of the person who had given me the rosary; that was not important.

          What shone through was that a child had given me the rosaryThe child was now pointing me towards something in the Rosary.

          And so began another chapter of our lives. Through the valley of death we walked, my husband, my children and I. We held each other up. We leaned against each other. In joy and in tears, we walked through the weave of years upon years. We didn’t always know what we were doing. We didn’t always do the right things. But we tried to recite the Rosary every day. Sometimes we could, sometimes, we failed. But again and again and again, we got up and went to it.

          Since the sandalwood rosary returned to me, all my rosaries for years since then were recited using it. Yet, I always kept my old aunt’s gift of white beads with me, in memory of her steadfast love for God and for me.

          But close to decade later, more than a year back, the small sandalwood rosary began to ‘slip away’ from me. Every time I reached for it, I’d see the white beads and I’d feel a longing for them mist over my heart instead. If I ignored this and took up the brown beads, I’d sense something amiss but I could never understand it. After several times, sensing something was at work, I stopped fighting it, and switched rosaries. But I kept the ‘little one’ beside me each time.

          One day, little one went missing. I was not perturbed, though. I just knew it would come back. For some reason, my Rosary had to be said with the white beads now. And again, I could not understand beyond that.

          More than a year passed. Two months back, I suddenly began to search for the sandalwood rosary again but to no avail. I still remained undisturbed but every time we recited the prayers, I now wondered where the little one had gone to.

          And I wondered why. Deep down, something was beginning to stir in me that the rosary had been taken away. Taken away by the same Unseen hand that had brought it to me that day in the car when I had given praise to God in a time of deep sorrow. I didn’t get the feeling that it was due to some wrongdoing or failure to fulfil some responsibility.

          But just as before, the humble brown beads had made way for the queenly white one.

          This morning, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, I awakened to a blue mist binding my heart. I wasn’t sad or depressed or in a fit over something. But there wasn’t any joy in me either. I was feeling dead and empty and this morning, I just wished it weren’t so. Christmas was coming and I wanted to feel that special joy and to quiver a bit in anticipation.

          As I was musing over this, I recalled a line from a prayer I had just read:

A Cross is a perfect gift from a God whose Love is perfect.

Then, someone passed a thought through my mind. What if this touch of blue in my soul was this perfect gift from a God whose Love is perfect? If so, to pray it away was not in the will of God, never mind my yearning.

          I didn’t try to bargain with God this time. I got off the ground and dusted myself. If He had willed that I should not feel joy, then I would embrace this Cross for the sake of others – for those contemplating suicide and for those struggling with grief and other unhappiness. I had been in those valleys before. I knew what they were like. So, I asked the Holy Mother of God that these sufferers instead be given the joy I had prayed for.

          Then I quickly got busy before I regretted the prayer.

          Dressing to go out for the day’s errands, I caught sight of a backpack I normally take on holidays. I had just used it and I knew it was now empty. Yet, for no apparent reason, I picked it up and absently ran my fingers down its inner compartments.

          I touched something. I didn’t need light nor sight to tell me what it was.

          Little one had been returned.

          I must have asked why. No answer did I receive, no reason did I get. Yet, a soft mist passed over my heart.

          And then I knew. A door has shut behind me, a page has now been turned.

 

 

 

 

Choosing Jesus for Those Who Won’t

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          This year, Advent will open for us in a way I’d rather not have. A niece will be getting engaged to a young man who we fear sees her as a cash cow and is merely using her. He’s not Catholic, not even a Christian and shows no interest in the faith. But the worse sorrow is that my niece is, of her own will, moving away from the faith of her birth.

          In her choice of life partner, she is not choosing Jesus.

          In recent weeks, I’ve given my all in prayer. In addition to the prayer need above, I’ve also increasingly heard about distressing mental issues and sufferings and oppressions. Suicides – not just of individuals but of entire families – father, mother, children. It seemed like everywhere we looked, we saw the family and marriage under severe attack – just as Sr Lucia Dos Santos of Fatima had warned.

          With each troubling, I’ve loaded everyone and everything into my prayer cart and gone before the Miraculous Image. I have struggled and struggled to marshal every fibre of my being into prayer lines, for the weeks have been tough and I didn’t always feel like praying.

          Yesterday, I became aware of a word that has been coming up everywhere I turn:

HOPE

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a thing before. Every few hours, in the least likely circumstance, HOPE came before my eyes.

          I believe it is an exhortation to persevere and not give up. HOPE – because wishes may be long in coming true. HOPE – because spent and tired as I am, maybe there’s a lot more of the difficult road that needs to be journeyed down. HOPE – because

You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains.   ~  Matthew 24: 6 – 8

          All these are the beginnings of the labour pains. I feel the sting of tears behind my eyes. There is much, much more to be endured. The journey is far from ended. And I have nothing left to give. Nothing at all.

          I think of the hymn the angels sang into my ear at daybreak – This is My Body, Broken for You ~

This is My body, broken for you,
bringing you wholeness, making you free,
take it and eat it, and when you do,
do it in love for Me.

Do it in love for Me. I am running on empty. I do not know how to feel hopeful because the bite of disappointment in a world unravelling even faster is deepening. Yet, Jesus says, Eat My body. Eat it in Love.

          To persevere, to hope, is to get up from the ground and continue my journey for the love of Jesus. If my niece chooses a self-absorbed, materialistic man over Jesus, if despairing parents choose suicide over perseverance and endurance, if bullies and tyrants and narcissists seem stronger and more powerful than ever, then, no matter how tired I am, no matter how broken I feel inside, I must love by choosing Jesus on their behalf.

          That is the meaning of receiving the Eucharist. To eat the Body of Christ is to say to my Jesus, I choose You. To become one with my Jesus. To feel His pain. To suffer with Him.

          And to say, I love You, I choose You – for those who do not.

 

 

 

 

 

The Blush Bloom

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          I didn’t return from a good work day today. It certainly felt like I had been torn and scratched and clubbed – with more to come in the weeks ahead. I had to bring home work as well, and it threw a pall over the weekend joys I normally look forwards to.

          All that saved the rest of the week from spoiling was the promise of good, wild rain coming shortly.

          Given what is happening in so many parts of the world where terrible winds and rain are bringing so much sorrow this year, it might seem terribly remiss of me to want  the rain~winds to blow strong.

          But this wasn’t the hour for rational thinking. All I wanted was a storm that matched my mood and troubled heart.

          The angry clouds rushed to do my bidding, pouring down silver~grey torrents in a determined fury. Yet, I didn’t feel them fall upon my storm-tossed spirit; my heart had been caught elsewhere.

          When the rains started, my son had insisted on running out to the flower beds being battered by the stream of water pellets. He had planted a rose plant some months back, and it had borne him his first bloom. She had raised her blushing head in the pale sunrise hours before, and calmly took in her new home in the passing hours. In the blinding rain that was coming down now, the little rose no longer held court in grace and serenity. She was bent and trembling against the violence of nature.

          My son rescued her and brought her in, wee rose wet pink from the pelting. He gave her a home by our statue of Our Lady of Fatima. The storms raged on outside, resuming a few hours later after a brief late sunset respite.

          But my heart and my worries were no longer snagged in the vortex of the rain madness. A calm had slipped in. Not strength. Not optimism for the coming tough days. Just a slow gentl-ing of the sharp shards of emotions within.

          In this newly formed oasis, I found the will to go into my kitchen and cook a hearty dinner for my husband and children. I found the patience to empathise with my husband, himself frustrated and hurting from work wounds as well. I found the heart to laugh and cuddle and banter.

          I didn’t think to ask why. To ask where this stream of gentle, living water had come from to douse the flames. I didn’t ask – for the week had been hard and I was too tired to think. All I did was to open the gates of my heart and let the cold silver in unhindered over seething ridges.

          It was night, the clouds quiet and spent from its weeping, when I realized Someone had watched my return home from work worn, angry and frustrated. Many years ago, on a day clothed much like today, she had caught the eye of my spirit and touched me with the bloom of a pale, pink rose, to let me know I was not alone in my struggles. That she understood how hard the hours had been.

          Tonight, when I read Ellen Fassbender’s post on St Theresa the Little Flower of Jesus, when I read the little prayer to the Bloom of Jesus ~

Saint Theresa, the Little Flower,
please pick me a Rose from
the Heavenly Garden and
send it to me with a Message
of Love.
Ask God to grant me the
Favor I Thee implore and tell
Him I will Love Him each
day More and More.

 

….I knew then that the saint who resides among the roses understood the pain that comes harder on some days. While I waited for the storm to fume and rage and match my troubled stirrings just so I was assured I was not alone, St Theresa, just like that old day years back, chose to soothe my hurt by sending that bloom of soft blush of baby pink into my home, into my heart.

          To lean against Our Lady of Fatima. And by that, to gently beckon that I rest my wounds in Her.

 

 

 

 

 

Day of the Sun

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Sudden, unexpected occasions of contrition.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yearning

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          As day eats into day, and work becomes an endless biting of the spirit, there’s a world I wish I could escape to – the beloved Prince Edward Island of Anne of Green Gables. Not just for the beauty of this Eden-on-earth, but also for the living that kept souls leaning against God’s heart. For the communing of neighbours. For a return to the time when work was a labour of love built on charity, generosity and simplicity of heart.

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          The fictitious Anne lived the life I yearn for more and more each day. When I come home from work, scratched and worn from a job that seems increasingly removed from God and heaven, when I am too tired and crabby to surrender in love to the calls of family life, when a wretched yellow air stains the little bit of green we own, I think of this bejeweled land and the life it allowed, thousands of miles away, and of the simple folk who once lived it.

          And I long and long and long for it to be mine too.

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          Will my children ever be as safe as it was then, when children knew no fear of shadows and moonless nights and darkened hearts? Will they ever know the little joys of diligence nurtured in honesty and integrity? Will they ever be free to dream and play in innocent abandon?

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          Will living ever be generous enough to allow us time to wander down quiet roads to tryst with nature? More than anything, will time ever slow down, and find its rhythm in gentle passage unbeholden to man’s tainted aspirations to rush and crush?

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          No answers lie in repose in the creases of my spirit. In this humid stillness of fret, that beautiful island and its olden life are further away than ever. Tonight, gratitude and thanksgiving is a bough beyond my reach because I’ve set my heart on a life in a world beyond me.

          But what is hope if not to anchor my vigil by the door of steadfast faith, that someday, that old life of ethereal grace will be mine.

Rise and Return

          This long road of my hope and faith breaking must have begun months before – when the struggles began to add up, and consolations were few and far between, and perhaps, too little, too mild. Heartache over political situations, problems with kids, work issues. Trying to get over one rise after another, rather than face it head-on, I might have inadvertently chosen to blank out some of my disappointment that God hadn’t shown His hand in a stronger way. And bit by bit, that hurt must have grown and widened to the sorrowful proportions I am now forced to acknowledge.

          My faith is tattered and broken in places. It’s not a complete breakdown, but every tear, however minute, needs fixing.

          But it is beyond me. This is not any random fabric. This is the silk~spread of faith, woven from grace, triumph and loss by a Master Weaver. I neither know how to weave nor mend. I am not He, and never will be.

          I am trying to be strong but just cannot pretend hope tonight. My jug of oil is empty. I am spiritually weary. So, I will rise and return to my Father. At His feet I will kneel. One by one, every thorn and nail I will name, and into His Hands I will place, each weep and tear unshed. Where will this emptying take me I do not know.

          But I must start somewhere.