Grief

Love. Death. Life.

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          Years and years before, on a dark night bereft of breezes and the windvoices I longed to hear, unable to sleep, and with a storm seeking release, I left my sleeping family, seeking solitude to be alone with my sorrow. But my husband heard me and soon, he was with me. We ached over the pain in each other’s heart, but we had no words. None that could brush away the tempests of grief that blew wild within our broken hearts. We sat together in that deep, dark stillness, bound close by the weave of a thousand memories and yearnings.

          In that stillness, we heard something light fall to the floor. I remained locked in my world, but my husband, wondering what it was, got up to look. It was an old prayer card that had never fallen before in our presence, but chose that very minute we were there, to leave its perch for us.

          In the dim light, my husband read the prayer softly.

Make me a channel of Your peace.
Where there is hatred let me bring Your love;
Where there is injury Your pardon, Lord;
And where there’s doubt true faith in You.

Oh, Master grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love with all my soul.

Make me a channel of Your peace.
Where there’s despair in life let me bring hope;
Where there is darkness, only light;
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.

Make me a channel of Your peace.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
In giving to all men that we receive;
And in dying that we’re born to eternal life.

          The final words parted the veils over our sorrow for one brief moment. My beloved wept as the silver arrow of truth pierced his heart.

          For our choice of Love years ago, God had bequeathed us grief. But from that grief – life. Because only death through love could light the flame of life in dying souls. We, like so many before us, had to suffer death – for life to bloom in us and in others.

          Short years after our choice of Love, in a gentle tenderness, He had asked of us an offering we never dreamed we’d ever be asked. In love and for love, we broke ourselves to give, never knowing how far that giving would ribbon out, streaming life into wilting souls.

          God never said the giving He calls us to would be painless, without cost. A sacrifice always exacts a toll on our earthly selves. It is in complete giving to all men that we receive the most bitter of mortal wounds.

          But as in the prayer, it is those very wounds which mark and set us apart for eternal life.       

Fell. But Not Pushed.

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          After a couple of days of doing things right – saying prayers faithfully, responding right, performing little duties well, I received a gentle warning early this morning. Being prompted to and also wanting to offer Mother Mary something on the Feast of the Annunciation, I began the Novena and Divine Mercy chaplet this morning. Obeying the voice I heard during the Rosary of the Sorrowful Mysteries last Tuesday, for the Chaplet meditation, I contemplated on the Holy Wounds of Christ.

          In the first meditation on the wounds caused by the crowning with thorns, this line stood out more than the others: We show mercy by not only forgiving but symbolically dying to the notion of getting even or telling others about our experience. 

          Dying to the notion of getting even or telling others about our experience. I read that line carefully, sure that with the inner spiritual strength I was feeling, I would stand strong.

          A few short hours later, the exact opposite happened. I fell.

          Stung by a colleague who had taken my help for granted, – help I rendered despite tiredness and too much other work – I sought release from my inner hurt and anger. I talked about her to others. I received prompt support and understanding.

          Yet, the balm of human comfort did not ease the sting for long.

          Within minutes of being comforted, I felt bereft. The little wound smarted with a deeper keenness. And there was no leaf I could find to cover the nakedness of my sin – I had NOT died to the notion of getting even. I had NOT died to telling others about my hurt. I had not even forgotten the warning speared to my heart in the slumbering sable hours of early morning. It was ever before me, like parchment messages held up by unseen angel hands.

          Yet, I had willfully turned away from the Cross. When others are suffering so, so much more, under the weight of heavier Crosses. When others are bearing pains far worse. When I myself have tasted bitterness beyond compare in times past, today, over a relatively minor difficulty, I chose the shadows over the Cross.

          I fell. But I was not pushed.

          As the sultry hours of the day seek their repose, I seek a quiet corner to cry the tears that must be shed. But for the first time in ever so long, I do not cry over my hurt.

          I cry because I chose to sin. I cry because I chose to fall when I was not pushed.

AN EMPTYING FOR MERCY

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          I experienced an emptying yesterday. After so many long years since I bade farewell to someone I loved, I discovered the well had filled to the brim again. So long since the passing. The depths of a grief so deep, it stunned me; it was almost as it was when the wounds were freshly scored into my soul, old, old years before.

          And I emptied this well of sadness. Reached right into its depths and tipped every tear into St Joseph’s hands. Placed my head in his lap and opened my heart, every shadow of it, and told my Lord, Forgive me, I’m sorry, but had I known this grief would come, I wouldn’t have let him go. In an afternoon of exceptional stillness, disturbed only by the rush of strong breezes running through different leaf-shutters, I took every forward step taken, every progress on the pier of pain, every solution to troubles, the ultimate freedom…… and returned them all to my Lord, saying I didn’t want any of them at the price I had to pay – to give up the one person I loved beyond words. Why couldn’t there have been some other way?  I asked my Lord. Why did it have to be death?

          Had I known, I wouldn’t have let go. I wouldn’t have let go. I wouldn’t have let go.

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          I wept from my heart. Yet, it was not a sorrow tinged with bitterness. It was an old sorrow, worn and frayed, watered by memories and yearning. A grief from years before. I was not seeking answers. Not every grief is about answers. And He knew that. I was merely broken and hurting for a while. The urn of sadness needed an emptying, and my Jesus took everything I gave Him. All of the tears, all of the blessings.

          Every single thing that needed to be turned over to heaven’s safekeeping.

          Every single thing that should not have been returned.

          I gave and gave till nothing remained.

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          And Jesus took everything, turning down none, not even what should not have been returned. No anger, no whip of rebuke did I receive for my weakness, for He is Lord Who Knows. Every grief-path we stumble down is known to Him. Every shadow in which we hide our pain He sees. Ours is a God who knows grief doesn’t always make sense to us.

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          It is because He knows grief better than anyone else.  He doesn’t turn away from it, mock it, nor render it trivial. For Him, sorrow is not a shame to be buried, hidden. The mourner’s dirge repulses Him not.

          In the wind-tossed afternoon hours of the yesterday, He took my grief. Every tear, one by one. Held my heart in His hands as I wept over each broken dream, and crushed hope. Held me, my Lord did, as I tipped the urn till it emptied.

          And later, as I slept, in quiet an angel came, a grace from God he bore. The angel brought me an ancient prayer said by thousands the world over ~

          Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. 

          Not for me the comfort of an angelic vision or some other supernatural remedy. In a million years, I would never be able to explain why, in the depths of this particular tumult over the loss of a love I once had, it is this grace of a humble prayer, begging God’s mercy, that makes its way from heaven’s bosom to my pain. This prayer to dry my grief. Against my heart to press.

          To hold as a crutch, and to rise from my ash heap.

          The prayer of Mercy is unseen hands on my face, gently turning me from my pain towards the anguish of others. And it is the prayer-grace from an angel-soul who knows me so well to know that the only remedy for my  wound is to reach out and tend to others wounded worse.

          And so I wipe my eyes, and whisper the prayer the little angel had pressed against my soul ~

          Eternal Father, I offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world. 

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POISON IN THE WELLSPRINGS

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          At press time, more than a hundred souls have met a violent end in Paris. Grandparents, fathers, mothers, children. Husbands, wives, lovers. Friends. Colleagues. Neighbours. Strangers. Hello-s stilled, kisses gone, farewells unsaid. Coming home no more. Too many souls gone, but many, may more left to take up the banner of anguish, to hold the wake of torment. In the languidness of Friday rest, a cruel, deranged felling. So many, so much, lost today, gone to feed the ever deepening pool of grief.

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          In every belief in God, lies a wellspring that beckons each follower. An immersion in the pool of religion should bring welcome rest, cleansing of the soul and a renewed faith. The believer then leaves the spring and climbs back up the banks to return to life, at peace with God and man. Healed to love and serve again.

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          But there are some other pools. Aberrant, still, and deep. Pools whose waters bubble up an incense of hatred. As its waters close over souls, they fill and water every hole and crack, however minute, but while the currents of healing, purifying waters of True Faith wash away the filth that clogs the cracks of sins and weaknesses in human hearts, the churning waters of deviant pools work differently – they don’t cleanse sin; they seal in and fill to overflowing the filth of nefariousness.

          These are cesspools of religious and moral subterfuge. Their gospel is paraded as light and truth. Their waters nourish slothful hearts, stealthily dimming the Voice of the True Shepherd, seeking to replace Love with hate. A sustained dipping in these pools, bit by bit, ultimately kills the conscience of the believer. The Shepherd’s Voice becomes one to run from, His Word anathema.

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          And last night, those who took guns and explosives into Paris to claim a nefarious accolade, didn’t hear that small, still voice from within them, begging them to choose Love over hate. Mercy….Mercy….Mercy.. was not a hymn they knew, or cared for. They were blind to the Light that would have steered them away from the precipice. With little regard for the sanctity and preciousness of life, they chose to be God and end more than a hundred lives.

          These infernal springs that spawn killers are everywhere. Some hidden, some not. Fonts of hatred and malice parading as light and truth. They dot the landscapes of every life on earth.

          Yet, not every such spring begins its life poisoned. Many spiritual dipping pools birth their history in peace and joy and purity. Many go on to nurture and perfume noble vocations. Sadly, some get poisoned along the way. It begins with a mild contamination of the waters of knowledge, a seemingly innocuous dilution of truth and purity, which over time, builds a dark and dangerous depth. To the hearts unschooled or unmoved by the promptings of the Spirit, these waters seduce and entice.

          But to draw nourishment from these aquifers of death is not a compulsion. It is a choice. A choice between Life and death. And every one us stands at the crossroads of this choice. The Paris killers were once children too, with childhoods and choices similar to ours. The company of friends and loved ones. The choice to gossip or not. The choice to share or hold back. To steal or give. The choice between truth or lies, purity or filth. To instigate or to bring peace.

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          From childhood to the age of reason, and even beyond, all of us, pause at dipping pools along the road of life. At every pool, the choice to nourish  or poison, lies with us. When faced with contamination of the truth, do we gird ourselves with the armour of God and return purity to the spring so it pollutes not another heart? Is our response a shrug and a moving on, with no warning called out to other drinkers? Or do we add in pellets of muck – another tidbit of gossip, a small lie here, an embellishment there, – to thicken the depths of sludge? In our journeys through life, when we pause at springs, tired and in need of feeding, if the flavor of the water disturbs our conscience, do we gird our loins, doggedly get to our feet and seek nourishment elsewhere? Or do we still the small voice of our conscience, Just this one time, we say, and lap up, thereby giving tacit support to error?

          Life is journey of decisions. At every pool we stop, the same choices present: Which wellsprings to seek spiritual nourishment from? To poison or to purify?

          The path to murder, death – physical or spiritual, is seldom a single leap off a precipice. It is complex journey of interwoven decisions each and every one of us ponders through, in choosing between the bloom of deception, and the Thorn of Truth.

          In the end, as always, it will come down to a choice between Life and death.

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LA SALETTE ~ SEPT 19

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Two years ago, Our Lady of La Salette http://www.lasalette.org/about-la-salette/apparition/the-story.html  came into my life. As I was led to read up on Her, little did I know that a journey was to begin. Maternal hands set me upon a path leading to the light of understanding and healing. It has not been an easy journey; I am, by no means, done. Often, I fell and could not get up, because sometimes, the Light seemed too far away. All through it, like a true mother, Our Lady stayed with me, even when my emotions and lack of trust blinded me to Her presence. Gently but firmly, She explained why sufferings were needed, and in Her tenderness, helped me face the reasons for my trials. Today, on the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette, I share this poem that gently reminds us that our suffering is never for naught.

Blessed are They that Mourn

William Cullen Bryant (1794–1878)

OH, deem not they are blest alone

Whose lives a peaceful tenor keep;

The Power who pities man, has shown

A blessing for the eyes that weep.

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The light of smiles shall fill again

The lids that overflow with tears;

And weary hours of woe and pain

Are promises of happier years.

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There is a day of sunny rest

For every dark and troubled night;

And grief may bide an evening guest,

But joy shall come with early light.

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And thou, who o’er thy friend’s low bier

Dost shed the bitter drops like rain,

Hope that a brighter, happier sphere

Will give him to thy arms again.

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Nor let the good man’s trust depart,

Though life its common gifts deny,—

Though with a pierced and bleeding heart,

And spurned of men, he goes to die.

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For God hath marked each sorrowing day

And numbered every secret tear,

And heaven’s long age of bliss shall pay

For all his children suffer here.

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Remembering Ryan Cruz Saldana

This family has been gifted to see

Their guardian angel making steps on earth;

The grace of Heavenly Sight for the road ahead

The years of decisions and challenges yet to come.

A light for them he will be

No doubt, no darkness

Can lay siege upon this family

For the child has gone ahead

To light the path of Truth As only he can

Wee angel Ryan named for a king.

Commonplace Grace

Don't Lose Heart

On May 2, 2014 Jacqui and Dan Saldana lost their three-year-old son, Ryan. Although I never met him, a piece of my heart broke off when he died. I learned about Ryan, while he still graced the planet, from my niece Molly. For a time, she worked with his mother at the Madewell store in Santa Monica, California. I began reading Jacqui’s blog, Baby Boy Bakery and following her on Instagram where she shared recipes and the adventures of being Ryan’s mom. His adorableness, wrapped in red curls, was irresistible.

Last May, Ryan was struck and killed by a truck while playing outside of his cousin’s home in Alta Loma. An unfathomable loss that no parent should ever have to face. Ryan’s death sparked a social media outpouring of love and support for his family. The well wishes were posted with the hashtag #RedBalloonsForRyan, which was begun by family friends…

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