Family

We Are The Cracks

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Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family.   ~   St Angela Merici

 

          There’s nothing like a major societal eruption to get us into sanctimonious finger pointing. It will always be someone else’s fault. The resolution, the clean-up, is always on someone else’s card too.

          Too often, we forget to look over our shoulder at our own backyard. We conveniently gloss over the searching questions we should be asking ourselves.

          We willfully choose to ignore the roots of disorder that reach all the way down into our own families. We make excuses for ourselves. We look the other way. We busy ourselves with the view outside our window because that’s a lot easier to do than to put the way we raise our children and our family relationships under the microscope of illumination.

Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family

          When our children fall away from the faith, in self-righteous anger we blame the Church, the priests, the Pope even. The dogma is outdated, the Rites of the Holy Mass not traditional enough, the Pope failed to speak and act like a pope should.

…the smoke of Satan has entered the Church   ~ Pope Paul VI

          That is among the most famous and oft-repeated quotes in Catholic circles but never has it been bandied about as much as now – in the times of Pope Francis’ papacy. Some have even gone as far as to accuse the Holy Father of being the antichrist because he does not conform comfortably to the narratives our pride dictates.

…through some crack, the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God

          We are the cracks, says my heart to me today. We are those cracks through which the smoke of satan has entered the Church of God: the family.

We crack when we become Eve in the Garden of Eden all over again. When we listen to that voice that tells us that we are the God of ourselves.

We crack when we become Adam. When we blame others and absolve ourselves.

          And each time we make that choice, the crack runs all the way back to the family. When the family breaks, society crumbles and collapses.

          As disorder begins to tear at the fabric of nations, both small and mighty, I stand among the crowds. I might pray for the fire to end, the wounds to heal. But my prayers will mean little if I lack the courage to take the next step – which is to take custody of my sight and to cast it inwards. If we are to arrest this fire of destruction, I need to begin with myself and my family.

          For the cracks that race outward to splinter society begin right here.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 31 ~ In Winter, Choose Life

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During the worst moment of the illness, I thought I could die and I was scared of leaving alone my wife and letting my son grow up without a father like me   ~  Pierpaolo Sileri, Italian Deputy Minister of Health upon recovering from Covid-19.

 

          As I heard this man’s words, I marvelled at him. In the cold and dark of his fear, he chose to care about his wife. He chose to care about his child.

          His worst moment was the best of all. Because in his winter of fear, he chose Life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put Aside, Forget Everything

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The spouse of Christ who longs to become perfect must begin with her own self. She must put aside, forget everything else, and enter into the secrecy of her own heart. When she has done this, let her sift narrowly all her weaknesses, habits, affections, actions and sins. She must weigh everything carefully, and make a thorough examination of past and present. Should she discover even the least imperfection, let her weep in the bitterness of her heart.   ~   St. Bonaventure

 

          I heard the words, Spouse of Christ, yesterday. Unfortunately, there was no time to follow the words into the woods of discernment. No scant minute to even seek the Lord’s will for me for Lent. Each week is more brutal than the one before. The workload is crushing. I can see that I’m getting a lot done; yet, there is no sense of achievement. Neither time nor strength to revel, even for a while. Deadline after deadline. Hurdle after hurdle. Rushing from one assignment to the next, my memory leaks worse than a sieve.

          Due to the extremeness of the week, the waters of my heart were choppy and roaring. I could not seem to settle into peace and inner quiet. A trip to the stores late in the evening yesterday found me agitated, restless and dispirited. I left the store empty-handed, unable to recall what I needed to buy. I was so tired. I was also worried about a major event scheduled for the coming week.

Go indoors

          For some reason, I kept seeing those words before me all day. Nearly 2 years ago, the same words kept coming to me. Go indoors was a warning then. To return to serving and focusing on my family – not because they were in some danger – but because I needed the mantle of the family to see me through a cruel attack at work.

          This time, as I rushed from end to end from morn till evening, Go indoors kept knocking at the door of my heart.

          Driving home, I ran the day through my mind. On the outside, everything seemed calm and normal; yet, inside, I felt something within me was spinning out of control and getting worse. Knowing I couldn’t go on this way, I took my mutinous will with a firm hand. Once home from the store, I went straight to dinner preparations. As the stove busied, I settled the laundry for the day, helped the kids with their studies.

          They weren’t earth-moving actions. But they possessed a power.

          Suddenly, from being flung around in the vortex of madness and work overdrive, I fell to the ground, calm and steady once more. Late that night, with most of the family in bed, unable to chip away at tasks for next week, I reached for my gift book instead, Susan Branch’s Martha’s Vineyard ~ Isle of Dreams. It had been so long since I read anything late at night but I did this night, and I was glad for it.

          The words in the book steered my heart towards winter branches awaiting spring.

          The next morning, something else was waiting. A commenter had written this in my previous post, “I find him (God) best in solitude and open space…”  And the words, open space had twinkled up at me like a bright blue star in the dark swathes of sky.

          So, coming to the morning of Mary, I too sought open space.

          For some reason, despite the imperious ticking of the clock, I wanted to know how a nightingale sounded. Finding a video of it, I played its song over and over. From there, I explored other bird sounds. And slowly, a gentleness began to ribbon itself around me.

          A tiny rosebud of a miracle then unfolded. Despite the very busy day ahead, it seemed as if several layers of my ears were opened up. Even as I scurried about, I could hear many different birdsongs as they laced the gold~blue morning air. I was suddenly functioning on two levels, busy yet alert to Nature.

          Then, a second rose of a miracle bloomed.

          For the event next week, I had to approach some people for help. Always being someone who preferred shadows and backseats, I was not looking forwards to it. In addition, we were short of funds. I cringed at the idea of seeking donations from our usual donors, knowing that some could make it unpleasant for me. I didn’t mind humbling myself if it would yield something good. But I drew the line at licking the floor merely as entertainment for some.

          Praying to St. Joseph from days before, I knew it was his idea when he whispered to me names of possible new donors whom I hadn’t considered before. Nervously, I made contact and bashfully sought help, giving everyone an escape avenue so that they didn’t feel pressured to commit.

          Ask anyone in the know and they’d tell you this was not the way to go.

          Miraculously, every person and company I approached agreed to give – and cheerily at that! I skipped and skipped all the way home, to the serenade of birdsongs in hidden nests.

          It was in the quietness of that happy relief that I once more saw the words, Spouse of Christ. Surprised, this time, I realised that Someone was calling me – and calling out a message.

The spouse of Christ who longs to become perfect must begin with her own self. She must put aside, forget everything else, and enter into the secrecy of her own heart. When she has done this, let her sift narrowly all her weaknesses, habits, affections, actions and sins. She must weigh everything carefully, and make a thorough examination of past and present. Should she discover even the least imperfection, let her weep in the bitterness of her heart.  

          Let her weep in the bitterness of her heart. Over and over, through the busyness of the days and weeks, the Holy Spirit had been urging me towards inner silence. He led me back first to the needs of my family, then to the tiny birds who live and sing for God. When I had obeyed, through St. Joseph, He worked all those miracles – slowly quietening the anxieties in my heart.

          There were still streams to wade through and canyons to be crossed. But the Spirit of God saw much further, and He wanted me to be quiet enough to see it too.

put aside, forget everything else,

sift narrowly all her weaknesses, habits, affections, actions and sins

make a thorough examination of past and present

weep in the bitterness of her heart 

 

          The call to Lent.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 19 ~ Eyes on God

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          Last night, eyes of my heart moving over my day, I was chagrined to realise that my  hours could have been lived better. I had done little and accomplished even less. I had given in to sluggishness. I had not served my family as much as I should have. I had not spent enough time to listen and to enjoy them.

          I barely even heard the birds in the winds yesterday.

          I did not forget the rainbow message of the morn – to remember hope – but even as I held on to the promise of hope, I forgot to try to live that promise in a deeper way. Instead, I had allowed my weariness over my health issues to cloud my day. I allowed it to hold back more of myself from giving love to others.

          Today, I strongly sense that God must have watched me in my hours of yesterday. He must have observed me spend that time trying to hold on to hope by fighting my fears, suppressing my worries through positivity and some prayers.

          And surely, He knew that yesterday, I forgot the most important prayer of all – the prayer of holding His hand through my family.

          So, with the deepening of the night veils, He set about straightening my path.

          He brought me a week’s old post of Melanie Jean Juneau’s where she had written of a situation she was facing. Of the fear. Of trying to hold on to Jesus’ hand even as she tried to walk on water. Of feeling the waves rise higher and higher over her.

          Reading about it, pity and sympathy for a woman I admire so much pierced my heart and shocked me out of myself. Wanting to do something to help her, I bound  Melanie to the Passion of Christ, to His Blood and Water, in fervent prayer for mercy for her and for her family.

          I believe that prayer set me free. My health concerns paled in comparison to this pain. My eyes now just where He wanted them to be, God then set before me other posts – each bearing the message of keeping our eyes on the Lord as we walked on water towards Him.

          No spirit can turn away from such a powerful sign; neither could mine. I knew my Master’s sign the moment I perceived it. I understood His urgent call and my spirit surged towards the impossibility of what He was calling me to: walk on water.

          He’s not called a loving Father for nothing.

          God knew I would hurry to obey. But then, like Peter, I would suddenly take my eyes off Him and I would begin to sink quickly. And so, He showed me how He wanted me to keep my eyes on Him.

          …in the garden every morning are these exquisite blooms, ravishing roses, that are our beloveds …. As we step out each day, may we celebrate the blooms God has so graciously gifted us with.   ~   Linda Raha, Time Enough, Reflections From An Open Window

          God was telling me to return to my family. To love them. To serve them. As I cared for my beloved blooms, I would be keeping my eyes on Him and walking on water towards Him.

          That is how He wants me to remember hope.

 

 

 

Go Home To Your Family

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Jesus and His disciples came to the other side of the sea,
to the territory of the Gerasenes.
When He got out of the boat,
at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met Him.
The man had been dwelling among the tombs,
and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.
In fact, he had frequently been bound with shackles and chains,
but the chains had been pulled apart by him and the shackles smashed,
and no one was strong enough to subdue him.
Night and day among the tombs and on the hillsides
he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones.
Catching sight of Jesus from a distance,
he ran up and prostrated himself before Him,
crying out in a loud voice,
“What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?
I adjure You by God, do not torment me!”
(He had been saying to him, “Unclean spirit, come out of the man!”)
He asked him, “What is your name?”

He replied, “Legion is my name.  There are many of us.”
And he pleaded earnestly with Him
not to drive them away from that territory.

Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside.
And they pleaded with Him,
“Send us into the swine.  Let us enter them.”
And He let them, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned.
The swineherds ran away and reported the incident in the town
and throughout the countryside.
And people came out to see what had happened.
As they approached Jesus,
they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.
And they were seized with fear.
Those who witnessed the incident explained to them what had happened
to the possessed man and to the swine.
Then they began to beg Him to leave their district.
As He was getting into the boat,
the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with Him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in His pity has done for you.”
Then the man went off and began to proclaim in the Decapolis
what Jesus had done for him; and all were amazed.   ~   Mark 5: 1 – 20

 

          The Parable of the Pigs as I call it is an enigma to me. No matter how many interpretations and explanations I read on it, the initial intellectual satisfaction is always temporary. After a time, I always get the sense that the real meaning of the parable for me  – eludes me. It’s akin to travelling on a road and coming to an inn by the wayside. Once inside the inn, with the nourishment of food and drink inside me, I assume that my journey has come to an end and that I should just stay the night or return to where I came from; that there is nothing more to journey on for any more.

          But soon, I realise this inn is not the last stop for me; its nourishment not as filling and as lasting as I first presumed.

          The road stretches on further.

          Today, seeing the parable again, it suddenly came to me that the Parable of the Pigs is meant to be a journey, different parts meaning different things as I journey though life, and meanings constantly evolving. In an odd way, this comforted me considerably, it made sense why my heart cannot seem to settle for any discernment.

          And so I returned to the parable, but this time, with different eyes.

          Always confounded by why the demons had to be sent into the poor pigs, resulting in them rushing down the cliffs into the water and drowning, why Jesus allowed this mass death of animals to occur, this time, notwithstanding the same questions, my heart was steered towards something else.

          For the first time, I didn’t see the pigs. I saw the possessed man.

          I saw his sorrowful home, his life of horrifying, endless grief among the rocks and tombs, confined to dying but never death itself, by the hold Legion had upon him. Often, he was driven to mad despair, dashing himself with stones, his self-harm a plea for real death, that the torments end.

          For the first time, in that poor man, I saw myself, from childhood till marriage and even after the joy of children, banging my head against walls, hitting myself with my bare fists, with books, pulling violently at my own hair, slapping myself, screaming and screaming for release from the madness and cruelty of an entity whose name was not known to me back then.

the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine.
The herd of about two thousand rushed down a steep bank into the sea,
where they were drowned…
And people came out to see what had happened…
…they caught sight of the man who had been possessed by Legion,
sitting there clothed and in his right mind.

clothed and in his right mind

          Tiny pearls began to line up. The dream 11 years ago. My husband and I are dressed in our wedding finery, entering the church through the left side, with our children as ring bearers and flower girl. Entering church to be married once more, it seemed. Followed by deep joy in bathing one of my children, the seemingly mundane tasks of family life. Then, a sudden swerve. I am alone, in our present parish, dressed in a dark, dull red blouse. In the empty church, taking up an offering of preserved flowers. Alone. Empty church. Dried flowers. And the dream ends there.

          Dried flowers, red blouse. For some reason, immediately and long years after, those two details stay with me like a burr. Why dried flowers? Why red? I have probed a thousand times.

          Then, one night, on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, less than a year after the dream, sorrow biting deep, yet happy that I could care for my family, my in-laws. Awakening in the dark dawn, seeing the shadows of tree branches dance against the walls, the play of tiny lights. Deep serenity.

          Suddenly, a flash and a return to memory of the 2 dreams – the Second Wedding and the Offertory.

          And in a silvery breath, a soft, clear, feminine voice saying to me,

The dreams will be reversed in reality.

Sorrow before joy.

          Taking the Offertory. Dull red blouse. From last year, starting from the anniversary of our marriage registration, inexplicably, each and every time I wore red, my husband and I have been asked to carry the Bread and Wine during the Offertory at Mass. In a church of more than 1 000 parishioners, red is common enough and I have nothing to me to make me stand out for any reason.

          And yet, each time without fail, since our last marriage anniversary, every time I was in red, the usher would quietly come to our pew with the request.

          Solitary offertory in an empty church. I’ve always wondered if it was God’s reminder to me offer up my efforts, at home and at work. To make it my firstfruit offering each and every time.

          Today, Someone gently settles understanding on my heart:

Offertory in an empty church

Console Me

          Suddenly I see what I’ve never seen before – last year, as never before in our lives, each time we were in the city, no matter how rushed we were, I’d try to take the family with me into the empty church, to spend some quiet time with Jesus, trying to heed little St. Francisco Marto’s call to Console Jesus. It never seemed like much. Not with a ticking clock, restless children, miles upon miles to travel before we got home. I recalled too the recent night awakenings, and the immediate turn of mind and heart, to console Jesus.

          Now I understand that, that was the Offertory God had asked of us.

the man who had been possessed pleaded to remain with him.
But Jesus would not permit him but told him instead,
“Go home to your family and announce to them
all that the Lord in His pity has done for you.”

          Go home to your family. With the deepening strife at work, each time I cried and begged to be released from my work chains, God took more and more out of me, more and more away from me. And over and over, I heard the same,

Go home to your family

          To my children’s needs. To my husband’s sufferings and struggles. To my in-laws’ tribulations with marriage, ill health, old age and increasing distance from the faith. Every time something or someone at work hurt me, the Angel led me to bury my wounds in caring for family – the Heart of Jesus.

          Go home to your family. I saw the child of my dream, the one I had been bathing, soap suds all over. I heard the tinkle of joyful laughter, baby mirth so, so deeply treasured. The voice I’d give anything to hear once more. I can no longer bathe this child. That time has long passed, never to be mine. But Love Unseen has led me to care for my family and even for those not family but who live in my heart, in ways I could never have imagined during the long years of my parents’ NPD torment.

The dreams will be reversed in reality. Sorrow before joy.

          Go home to your family is the bridge that links the Sorrow of the Offertory to the Joy of the Second Wedding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

Into the Heart

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          Three days of sweetness beckon.

          It has been a very hard week. But I tried to heed heaven’s call to fight back – by going deeper into family. By working harder for them. By listening to them. Playing with them.

          Laughing with them.

          Every day, life at my workplace has been like a hard, unyielding rock. Wednesday took more out of me than I had to give. But each day, I came home determined to anchor my heart to my husband and children. Because the word I received before the waters began to churn was to

Go Indoors

          And indoors meant into the heart of the family.

          In the battle against all that is wrong today, the heart of the family is what sharpens our sword. It is what locks our gates and secures our life.

          Because the heart of the family is where God is.

 

 

 

The End is at Hand

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          Three days ago, reading, I began to feel the waves reach over my head. That is often a sign for me to step back and away, and to let the word that matters settle gently over my spirit. And so I did, and it was this:

You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power. Reject them!   ~   2 Tim 3, 1-5

          It pertained directly to a present suffering. Love those who hurt me, pray for them, suffer for them even.

          But reject them. Because they choose to love themselves more than God.

          It confirmed the dawning realization that the time to be the friend that I was to these people was over. They had seen what they needed to see. They had heard the Good News. Then they came to the crossroads and they made their decision.

They did not chose Life.

Hence, it was time for me to move on.

          This time, in spite of myself, I could sense that my once wavering will had set in stone. Like Lot must have felt that day he fled Sodom, I knew that, spiritually, there was nothing to linger behind for anymore. Physically, I would remain in the same place, but my work among some people was done; it was time for me to move on spiritually and emotionally from these few.

          There is grief in some farewells, and there was to be in mine. Heaven readied the urn to receive the ashes of my sadness,

Heart of Jesus
Heart of Jesus, Victim of charity,

make me a living sacrifice to Thee,

holy, and pleasing unto God.

          Every time the sadness returned when I recalled old happy moments with these ones who chose to turn back like Lot’s wife, I felt the angels nudge the prayer back before my eyes.

Heart of Jesus, Victim of charity,

make me a living sacrifice to Thee,

holy, and pleasing unto God.

          What if I too turn back? I wondered uneasily. What if the lure of old roots of rot be too strong for me? What if the longing for a friendship be stronger than my love for God?          

          St. Margaret Mary Alacoque replied for Heaven:

          Having once made an entire donation of ourselves, let us not retract it: our Lord will employ every means to sanctify us, in proportion as we make use of every opportunity to glorify Him. 

          Again, I sensed a subtle strengthening of my will.

          On the First Friday of the month, offering my Atonement Rosary, I felt a strange piercing of my heart, as if something had passed through it, and then a momentary weakness. It felt almost physical. And yet, it wasn’t. As I straightened up in internal readiness, my eyes fell upon the First Reading, 1 Peter 4: 7-13 ~

Beloved, the end of all things is at hand. Therefore be serious and sober-minded
so that you will be able to pray.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water Will Win

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          In late December last year, we had a houseful of Christmas guests, one of whom was my old mother-in-law. We were having a crisis that most in the family, in the bliss of Christmas, was unaware of, and my mother-in-law was at the centre of that crisis. My husband and I had been struggling to save his mum who, in her old age, seems bent on choosing any rose-strewn path – the wider, the better. Her choices in life have brought us a lot of deep suffering, and very often, I have struggled to love her, to pray for her. That Christmas week, the moment she arrived at our place and alighted from the car and quickly made her way past us into our home, I had to bite down the bitter disappointment that she couldn’t be more of a beacon for us. That even in this old age, she was choosing paths that did not lead to heaven. That our struggles for her, especially what my husband was enduring and suffering for her, didn’t seem to be helping.

          Despite my acute disappointment in her that day, I decided I would keep my tongue well out of the way at the back of my teeth – for the sake of my husband. He had surely noticed his mother’s mood and it would be wounding enough without my adding another caustic edge to his heartache. So, for the first few busy minutes of photos and hugs and squeals, I let Mum be. But when lunch was served, something moved in me and I went to make sure she was taken care of.

          That was the tone for the rest of the day and even into the next. I kept an eye on her but generally kept out of her way. There was no anger in me, but I didn’t trust myself to not fall into red pits because I was very tired and Mum had a penchant for getting a rise out of me.

          One afternoon, lunch over, everyone relaxing in quiet corners, I went to have a short nap to recharge for dinner preparations. Oddly, so tired though I was, my prayer for inner quiet was answered in those cloudy afternoon hours where the yellow~blue winds sang restless notes among the trees. Into that quiet I descended and began to pray for a special peace in all hearts gathered under our roof.

          I fell asleep.

          I had a dream.

          I dreamt of a room in my home being flooded to the roof. It was just this one room. Unlike my old dream from years ago where I saw a terrible, filthy torrent rush into our town, this water was as clear as crystal, and it was only in my home. I worried about what damage this water would do to our furniture.

          Then, I opened the door to this room, this same water drained into where I was. I managed to catch a glimpse of the room where the water had come from, – and I saw very clearly that the water had not damaged any of the furniture.  

          Then, this water knocked me over.

          It then flowed out through another set of doors that opened out over a peaceful garden.

          Getting up from the floor, I went to those doors, and there in the garden, I saw Mum with my husband. I saw her as I have not for so very long: at deep peace. She was gardening with my husband by her side and it was a picture of a mother and a faithful son who loved each other heart and soul.

          When I awakened and asked God what it meant, I felt these words written on my heart:

Momentarily overwhelmed.

          I knew then that this year would be very hard. One room in the house being flooded could perhaps mean that some weeks would be harder than others, and that I would be knocked off balance, that I would fall, but like the water in my dream did not damage the furniture in the room, that the suffering would not hurt as much as I feared.

          But the suffering was needed to save my Mum.

          Then, I remembered the water, and how clear it was. When I asked God why the water was clear, speaking through my godmother, He told me it was hidden graces. Graces that don’t seem like graces at all. Graces that come in the hardest packages. I understood anew then that, that is what suffering is – a hidden grace. I would be knocked over, momentarily overwhelmed, how many times I know not, but each one would be a hidden grace because the pain I endure would save someone else.

          The grace of reparation.

          Nearing the end of her brief stay with us, one night, I took photos of the family, and there was one of Mum watching the kids in the family crowd around a board game. When she had returned to her own home, I had a look at the pics and at this one of my mother-in-law. She was looking away, focused on the teens, and she wore the beginnings of smile. I then saw something in the photo that I hadn’t seen earlier – the first sparkles of joy.

          Joy that wasn’t there when she first came.

          In the weeks that followed, in the daily chats with her, we realized joy had indeed returned to my mother-in-law. It gave her strength to walk paths different to what she had always chosen. It flooded her with love for some people she had taken for granted. It made all the Christmas struggles and pain worth every hurting morsel.

          God’s Light had come into Mum’s old heart once more.

          Grace of reparation.

          Early this week, a colleague’s antics unpleasantly ruffled my day. I tried to stay above the muck that follows a wounding but it wasn’t easy. As the hours rolled on, despite my efforts, it seemed like I was losing this battle to love and forgive.

          Then, I prayed to be given the strength to bear this minor hurt for my sins.

          And that too failed.

          The day came to an end. I was puzzled and discomfited as to why all the ‘right’ prayers seemed to fail.

          When the new day broke, Someone gently took my mind back to Christmas of last year. To my mother-in-law’s initial aloofness and the reason for it. From there, my mind was led back to my Water Dream. And the dream took hold of my mind. Even as the hurt from the previous day remained, it felt like the memory of the dream was the more powerful.

         I then received an email from a dear friend. Its stark words revealed a deep suffering that had deepened even further recently. My heart ached for him.

          Suddenly, the Water Dream formed out of the mists before me again.

          I had a sudden inspiration: offer my hurt over my colleague for this. Suffer it for this friend close to my heart, thousands of miles and many countries away.

          The moment my will fused to this, I felt strength and clarity return. The strife~winds that had rattled my inner windows departed. I went to my day with a new purpose.

          My colleague added a few more nicks to her repertoire against me, yet, no blood did they draw.

          I knew then that the Water of Reparation had won. I had been overwhelmed but momentarily.

          As was promised.

 

 

 

 

 

Battle

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          When the old year went to its end, I had a feeling I was off to a tough start in 2018 – and how right I was! But nothing could have prepared me for the way the new year unfurled itself. My husband came down with a very severe sinus attack. Out-of-sorts and in pain, the cold evenings and nights were hard on him. I tried to help by taking on his load so he could relax after work each day. That pushed my own load to the brim. Every day was tough. Every day brought new demands. Every day I struggled to clear my to-do list.

          And every single day, although I was cheery and working with a skip in my step, it felt like I was falling behind more and more in my schedule.

          By the second week, the home schedule had begun to unravel as well. I forgot to get us fresh vegetables one day, dinner got more and more delayed, and I struggled to put together even simple meals. But as a family, we laughed it off and pushed on.

          I got to the end of the days very exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open and to think straight. Naturally, I couldn’t make my usual 4.30 a.m. wake up time for Holy Hour and prayed as much for God’s forgiveness as I did for strength just to get through the day, the week.

          Soon, we got to 5 straight days of no night Rosary. I’ve been at this point many times before and I knew I had to dig in deep and halt the slide. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Every time, exhaustion won.

          Then, the dreams began. Messy, troubling dreams. Dreams that took me on draining and confusing journeys I could not afford to go on. I awakened even more tired and spent. But there was a new, unsettling, side to those dreams as well. It came with a negative kind of forcefulness that increased incrementally with each dream, trying to tug me towards a disturbed state of mind.

          In the midst of it all, was a flash of a dream one day. A quick one that softly planted itself in my consciousness, setting itself apart from the others.

          It was of my son, in a state of deep fear and panic, wanting to quit his studies.

          I honestly wasn’t sure what I was to do. I believe my husband and I have a great relationship with all our kids. Despite the crazy schedules we both keep, the kids are always near us and we know every story of their hearts – especially of this son I had dreamed about.

          After the dream, I began to keep an even closer eye on him and his activities, in case I was reading things wrong. But his joy and exuberance, his sincere commitment to his studies and athletics  remained undimmed. The dream might be something for the distant future, I told myself.

          It was mid-week then, and I waited to get to Friday when I could draw in breath and put things in order and get us all back on track, Rosary and all. A few more days, I placated myself.

          But the dark never waits for when you’re prepared and ready, to strike.

          In a matter of a few brief hours, my sunny and cheery son went from light and bright to morose and subdued. The change was extreme. Sudden. Obvious even to the blind, it seemed.

          I thought he was coming down with the flu or something and so, I made him soups and health drinks and insisted on early bed time. Oddly, he remained alert and responsible in his home chores and school assignments.

          Yet, it seemed like in an instant, something had reached in and turned off my child’s inner light. I tried everything but I could not reach him.

          I banged on heaven’s door. My vigilance went into overdrive. But despite my deep concern for my son, I was also aware that I felt no panic. Yet the situation was not something I could turn away from. Some force other than my mother-heart was keeping the eyes in my head and heart riveted on my son and this mysterious shift in temperament.

          And this force was allowing me no panic, but insisting that I keep my eyes on the ball.

          By the second day, and no change for the better, even as I got a better grip on my work and home schedules, concern furrowed deeper. Then, late in the evening, my son got into a minor argument with his siblings, forcing me to step in to rear him back. He went off quietly into his room and I went back to the kitchen to get on with dinner preparations. I was undisturbed and thought the matter was over. Nonetheless, suddenly remembering how St. John Bosco had once helped me to discern an approaching danger  concerning my son, I sent up a quick prayer to him for help.

          It was then that a dewdrop fell on my spirit. I recalled a dream this same son had had just before Christmas this year when we were having some family struggles. He had dreamed that we were going to be under severe and unexpected spiritual attack. He had dreamt that he was being attacked by an entity and that my husband had come to his aid and as he was trying to help my son, he was attacked by the same entity.

          My son had dreamed that it was he who was going to release to freedom something that shouldn’t be free.

          In all the busyness that was Christmas, we had forgotten about that dream. Till now. In that moment, I knew what it was that my boy was facing. A demonic attack of some sort.

          Dropping everything, I traced the sign of the Cross on my forehead and lips, and went swiftly to him. I made him look at me and told him the sudden change that had come about now was unusual and wrong and insisted he tell me what was going on.

          My beloved child broke down and wept. He told me he was struggling with his studies. He told me he didn’t know how he was going to cope.

          My mind went to that flash of a dream. It had indeed been a warning.

          Yet, my spirit turned away from his words. My son wasn’t lying to cover-up something else but this kind of a studies-related panic is gradual; it doesn’t happen over a space of two hours. And not to a boy who had just begun the new academic term, who practically hopped and skipped to classes and who was coping well. This belief didn’t stem from my unwillingness to read the handwriting on the wall, wanting to conveniently blame this on the spiritual. It came because just when I had prayed to St. John Bosco, I had been reminded about the dark dream of a coming attack – incidentally one that would target both my son and his father.

          With an insight even I didn’t know I had, I began to talk to my boy. I took him back to his own dream, walked him through the discernment. I opened up and shared about some struggles my husband and I had been having, which the children had not been aware of.

          Without even thinking about it, I found myself telling him about times we had turned the eyes of our hearts towards work, consequently, neglecting family, not loving the family as we should, as was willed by God.

          Something took hold of my tongue. When we love our family, I told my son, when we stay close to their hearts and be a part of their daily lives, it is like building a wall around our home. A wall that keeps us safe within. But when we stray away, even for a while, it is like making a gaping hole in our fences, and evil will steal in.

          As my son stared at me, I said to him, That was what happened with you in the space of a few hours. You turned away from the family to focus on your studies – even though it seemed like a good thing – that was the hole that let the dark in.

          I didn’t know where that had come from. I hadn’t even thought of it.

          Long minutes later, I left him with a kiss and a hug.

          He did lighten up slightly after that, but it was clear to my eyes that he still remained in the iron grip of that darkness.

          I finally told my husband and insisted he battle with me for our boy. Together we fought. We went into the next day, but the hours did not herald the change we were praying for. Still, my heart lifted when I saw that my son too was battling this dark hold. Even though he clearly didn’t feel like it, I saw him try and be a part of his siblings’ hearts. He listened as we shared about our days and plans and failures. He listened despite what it must have been costing him to. There was still no light in his eyes. Fear still ruled.

          So much prayers and all for naught, came a voice close to my ear. But we ploughed on undeterred. We returned to the Rosary.

          Later, stopping by my prayer nook for the prayer for the day, I found an unknown saint waiting for me:

Do not grieve if you do not at once receive from God that which you ask. He wishes to benefit you still more by making you persist longer in your patient prayer before Him. For what can be higher than to address one’s converse to God and be in communion with Him? ~ St. Nilus of Sinai

          I chiseled the words to my heart, new strength flooding me.

          Later, about to doze off in the afternoon, I latched my spirit to prayer. I called upon the saints who had come to help me with my son in the past, St. John Bosco, St. Francis of Assisi.

          Then, a vague image of Our Lady with a scepter in hand passed through my mind. I lightly sensed the words,

She will lead in battle.

          Mother, St. John Bosco, St. Francis, fight for my son. Save him, I prayed with calm and faith.

          I awakened about an hour later and immediately went in search of my son. He had been reading. When he saw me, he jumped up and bouncily announced that the rains that day seemed to have eased up.

          My spirit saw it even before my eyes perceived. The old joy was back! He had come out of it. It had lifted. Still, I put the hours that followed to the test.

          No trace of the dark remained, not even the vaguest stain of it.

          It was clear: we had indeed won.

          This time.

 

 

 

 

 

Retreat

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          Friday should have been a happy day for me. An arduous work week had come to a welcome end. Rain clouds had burst briefly over our home before parting in barely disguised pride to display a bright sky~breast of the most joyful blue. I spent some long minutes at my window this afternoon, resting my heart against sun warmed breezes that played about before retreating into the waiting sunset.

          But on this day when I so wanted to celebrate with the happy nuances of the wind and skies, I felt as if joy was holding me at arm’s length. This was a day when my heart  could not go past vile headlines involving innocent children and family. This was the day when images and words stayed and did not depart.

          I tried to pray. Tried to discern the whisper in the winds, if they held a message for me. But something inside me had suddenly wearied. It was not me, not my will that could be blamed this time.

          The weariness came from much deeper. It leeched strength and joy from me. It took away purpose. It took away energy. Again, I tried to pray, even for those who were dead now, but who had lived vileness when alive once before. But the prayers were barely shaped before they were gone.

          In that deepening emptiness came a prayer I have never seen before.

May the Three enfold you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Hold you safe and hold you strong;

May the Three encompass you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Encircle your life each day and night;

May the Three protect you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Guard your door and keep each gate;

May the Three watch over you

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Still your heart and calm all fear.

 

          May the Three guard your door and keep each gate. Still your heart and calm all fear. Was something approaching us? Something, someone so leeched of God and godliness?

          My thoughts went back to July 2015, when I had shot out of sleep in a terror so wild and deep. I had been out with the family. It was night, a small bright moon lit the starless skies. Suddenly, soundlessly, the moon unanchored itself and slammed violently into a mountain top. People around me screamed and scattered in a mad panic. I grabbed my children’s hands and retreated under a whitewashed, white-lit porch. For some reason, I knew we were safe there, under that open, windowless, door-less porch. I wanted to call out to others who were racing about in terror. I wanted to tell them to come in as well.

          But I couldn’t. I could only watch. And for some strange reason, no one saw that white porch and the safety it offered.

          Since that frightening dream of 2015, whenever I look at the gentle luminescence of the motherly moon, I always remember that one day, she might possibly signal the beginning of a violent time.

          From that old memory, my thoughts travelled on. I was not afraid, not troubled as my mind went over a more recent dream, where a gentle, quiet, unknown man had come to warn me to get off the street, retreat inside my home. I looked at the other people still out in the open. I had heard his warning, but had they? I had felt his warning wasn’t loud enough. Why didn’t he repeat the warning to secure ourselves? I had asked in the dream. But he merely replied,

The warning will only be given once.

          So, whoever heard it, heard it. Those who didn’t – would never know. I thought of the number of times I had heard the words, Prepare, and Be still. They were no mere words. They were sirens, steering me away from distractions, lest I miss the warning that will only be given once.

          I turned back to the Prayer of Three. I could sense it held something in its heart. I began to pray it.

          I had whispered it a few times to the dying inside of me, when one of my children, firm of character and not given to emotional slides nor spiritual highs, matter-of-factly informed me,

I dreamt of the moon last night. It was spinning.

          Hours later, when I had breathed in the cold new morning air and asked the Mother of God to fill me, I understood the message of my child’s dream. I understood the timing of the Prayer of Three.

          The time of the moon was near. Just as I had, countless unknown souls must be praying the Prayer of Three for others everywhere because their spirits know that something lies beyond the bend.

          And it may not necessarily be a physical event.

          It is time to hold the hands of my family. It is time to hold tighter than ever before.

          And retreat.