Return to the Old


Thus says the LORD:

Stand by the earliest roads,

ask the pathways of old,

“Which is the way to good?” and walk it;

thus you will find rest for yourselves. ~   Jeremiah 6:16


          A set of old books which I read every year without fail would be the Anne of Green Gables series written by Lucy Maud Montgomery in the early 1900s. When times are rough, as they have been these past 12 years, each book is sometimes read twice each year – for they impart to me a deep comfort, their pages a place for my soul to rest.

          More importantly, the Anne books return me to a time in the old when life was lived as it should be.

          I always take leave of my reading moments somewhat wistfully, for returning to an unpleasant reality is never welcome return. Yet, I return in renewed strength and vigour to the calls of home and hearth. After each sojourn to the kingdom of Anne, I am a better mother and wife, my rough edges smoothened down.

So, which is the way to good? I ask

The old Anne~roads, I answer myself

Where people rose early to greet the bloom of a new day, consecrating their hearts to the God they knew and feared, yet loved. Their hours spent in hard, honest labour, busy yet not imprisoned, free to smile at heaven even in the midst of occupation. Never too caught up in doings to rest spirits in the chant of winds and merry blooms, never so overcome by hardship or hurt so as to forsake neighbour.  Their hours set to chimes of cheer, hope and faith, scented by graces received in humility and joy, each day is lived and bequeathed to God and to God alone.

Stand by the earliest roads,

ask the pathways of old,

“Which is the way to good?” and walk it;

thus you will find rest for yourselves

          God is telling me to take my family in hand and return to the days of old. To return even if echoes of derision follow us – for some may never see the wisdom of our choice. The call to return is placed in every heart, awaiting only the obedient response,

Yes, Lord.







Lent 37 ~ I Must Love


I believe in my pain, made fruitless by selfishness, in which I see refuge.

I believe in the stinginess of my soul that seeks to take without giving.

I believe that others are good and that I must love them without fear and without ever betraying them, never seeking my own security   ~   The Creed of Pope Francis, in Pilgrimage by Mark K. Shriver



          I went to work today, armed with Pope Francis’ creed, determined to love without seeking my own heart. I fell soon enough. The invisible onslaught was too much. I forgot all about the creed but I know I fought and fought to love. And yet, I fell.

I believe in the stinginess of my soul that seeks to take without giving.

          I gave but I asked for just a bit of kindness in return, for my parched heart. It was that seeking that made me fall. It took me away from Jesus’s hidden suffering.

          His death was nearing but His apostles were distracted by tainted conversations, empty pleasures, the inflicting of pain on others. As His suffering increased, Jesus searched the crowd of consolers for my heart but alas, it was not bound to His.

          No, my heart was seeking its own comfort today.

          It is night here. Only the crickets sing. The air does not dare stir to soothe. I have only a few short hours before dawn comes once more.

          I am weary from years of struggle. But the battle is not over yet. I seal my heart in His Tabernacle. I must love.










Lent 32 ~ Preach by Example


They who aspire to reform the morals of others lose their time and their pains, by not preaching by example, in correcting themselves first.   ~   St. Ignatius of Loyola


          Today, I begin the new day anew in at least one way – I will go out to preach to the spirit of oppression – but by example. For every hurt~arrow that finds its mark in me, I will try to preach by example the healing opposite.

          For cruelty, compassion

          For self-seeking, generosity

          For pride, humility

I’d likely fall at the lowest hurdle but what is faith if not to get off the ground and try once more!





The Child King’s Lesson


          As the morning sun rose to its throne on the First Saturday of May, sending lances of gold through the slumbering firs, I read words that would set the tone for the week.


          Intercessor. It made sense. Someone’s name had just come to mind, a political leader seeking to make amends with God for past wrongs. I was going to travel to the city that day, and fully intended to spend some time before the Divine Mercy at church, praying for this man.

          Then, I went to the Daily Readings.

          And mistakenly read the Gospel reading for the 4th of May which I had missed.

Jesus said to his disciples:
This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.   ~   John 15:12

          I squirmed uncomfortably.

          Something was beginning to form in my mind. Love one another. Intercede. An unfortunate memory came to mind. Someone at work had infuriated me the previous day, saying something cruel about children, and I knew from experience that no amount of words could help her think otherwise.  I had turned away from her immediately and she wisely said no more. But my hidden seething soon morphed into something darker.

          Yet nothing is concealed from the eyes of God.

          Hours later, I did go before the Divine Mercy at church, and prayed for that repenting leader as well as for my country for we face a crucial test in the week to come. But I forgot to pray for myself. I  rambled excuses for my hidden anger against my colleague.

          God didn’t forget, though. Returning home, I remembered I hadn’t been to my prayer nook for my daily prayer. When I stopped by, this was what was waiting for me.

Holy Infant of Prague Prayer

O Infant Jesus, I run to You,
begging You through Your Holy Mother
to save me in this need (you may name it here),
for I truly and firmly believe
that Your Divinity can defend me.
Full of trust I hope in You
to obtain Your holy grace.
I love You with all my heart,
I am painfully sorry for my sins
and on my knees I beg You,
O Little Jesus, to free me from them.
My resolution is to improve
and never more to offend You.
Therefore, I offer myself to You,
ready to suffer everything for You
and to serve You faithfully.
I will love my neighbour as myself
from my heart for the love of You.
O Little Jesus, I adore You,
O Mighty Child, I implore You,
save me in this need (you can mention it here),
that I may enjoy You eternally,
with Mary and Joseph see You
and with all the angels adore You.



          I will love my neighbour as myself. The words bit deep. I stopped making excuses for myself. I stopped shielding my conscience from my sin.

          The next day, travelling to Sunday Mass, I was determined to make amends – even though I still felt my colleague had provoked my anger. The call to intercede still hovered before me, my country was facing an Everest like never before, and I wanted to pray for us all. But I knew a prayer had power only when it came from a clean heart.

          And mine was far from it.

          So, I prayed for the grace of repentance. During Lent this year, facing a similar struggle with a lack of repentance, I had prayed this same prayer, and God had granted it. I was sure He would grant it again. I waited expectantly.

          Instead, I was assailed by darts of intense dislike against my colleague. The drive to Mass was long, and mile after long mile, the struggle showed no signs of diminishing.

          Suddenly, out of nowhere, I thought of St. Anne, the grandmother of the Holy Infant. It was then that a tiny bud bloomed in my memory.

          A memory of previous struggle against my weakness. A struggle on Easter Vigil. That night, I had been hit repeatedly with dark thoughts about others. Initially, I had keeled over and fallen down. But then I realized I was fighting it wrong; With every onslaught of negative thoughts, I was trying to be calm and charitable – and I failed.

          Until I began to fight differently. I took satan’s darts, each one as it came, and buried them into the Wounds of Christ. Over and over. And then, the battle was won.

          This memory returned now, on the drive to Mass, long days since Easter Vigil. In fighting the negative thoughts about my friend, I was trying to be the saint I was not. Because of this, I was losing the battle. I was not fighting it right.

          In order to win, I had to change tactics. And so I did. Remembering how St. Anne had misted out of nowhere, every time my thoughts turned dark, I placed them in St. Anne’s lap. I didn’t bother trying to be heroic. I didn’t get upset that I couldn’t love as others could. I stopped trying to be who I was not.

          Although a measure of peace did come swiftly, I fought this hidden battle even past church doors as I entered for Mass. But I didn’t give up. I went before the Divine Mercy for my Sunday anointing.

          Then, Mass began. In our parish, different groups  – named after a saint – animate the Mass each week. The animating group for that Mass would have a stand-banner up of its saint at the left of the altar, towards the back.

          I hadn’t noticed the banners from the previous weeks, but as we sang the Entrance Hymn, my eyes were led to that quiet corner off the altar. There was a banner up.

          It was of Saint Anne!

          The Holy Infant of Prague had answered my prayer – in a way I never expected. In doing it, I knew He was trying to teach me that each one of us battles differently. Our lines of warfare are drawn uniquely. To take the sting flung at me and to press it into the care of Someone else – was the way I am being called to fight myself.

          But that wasn’t all The Holy Infant of Prague was trying to tell me. Even after this fight was over, I sensed the Child King’s presence nearby.

          I knew there was more to come.




Thrust Out


          I go to begin another tough day and I begin with a grumble – too much work, too little time, no quiet space, I mutter to myself. It’s been raining ever so often, the capricious skies wet~greening trees with pretty rainpearls. How I love driving past sodden trees, freshened and nourished from rain baths, beautiful beyond compare.

          But I am too much in a rush to prolong Nature’s embrace. Too much work, too little time. I begin the day with a grumble.

          It comes to me that I should take my discontent to the Lord. To ask that my hours  be painted another colour. For a soft moss~bed among flowers for my weary head and heart. After all, I deserve a break as much as anyone else.

          And so I do.

          But this was God’s reply:

May we love our neighbours as ourselves,
and encourage them all to love You,
by bearing our share
in the joys and sorrows of others,
while giving offence to no one.  

~   Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi


          No ear for my whine. No pillow for rest. But a firm thrust to go back out unto the highways and byways.

          To gather the poor and the broken for the wedding feast, by loving them as Christ wills me to.





Lent 2 ~ Less for More

Sheep Rock in the Snow Dec 13 2014 044.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

          I got back to my feet undeterred after each fall.

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

Help them to love God more than themselves.

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

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


The Pilgrim Christmas


          It’s the season when Christmas carols waft over and around us, and a quickening in our spirits anticipate the happy day. People merrily busy with gifts and plans for dinners and reunions, happy panic of the much not done yet. Cards being bought, gifts to be wrapped. Homes we pass, busy ovens, busy windows. New drapes, streamers, fresh cakes and cookies, evergreens being dressed. Christmas wreathes its magic, all and sundry caught up in the hope, love and joy it heralds.


          But for some of us, our place is in the frost just outside of that circle of enveloping Christmas joy. To watch from the periphery. With aching hearts to see the Yuletide light twirl around, and choose to not settle on us. To see everyone else caught up in the giddy joy of the festive days, and wonder what we did wrong to not feel as light and as free and as hopeful. Within us we carry a quiet hurt that God’s magic wand somehow missed us. We hurt that we seem to carry burdens not cast on others. New burdens, old ones from years and old years before. Always us, the choice beast of burden. The grief inside us is a hurt we try to damp down and hide, because it seems to uncharitable to mar the beauty of the season with something that shouldn’t be there. It’s a shame we try to camouflage, that the joy everyone is experiencing is withheld from us, and it’s a wart we don’t want others to see.


          So, some of us retreat from the world during the season of goldreds. Why inflict our black of hopelessness and despair on others? we ask ourselves. Why beg sympathy from the abundance of the joyful? We retreat, and we hope no one notices because we have no answers to their prodding queries. We retreat out of shame because we bear the black mark of sorrow, a defect that stands out more in the face of so much surrounding merriment. We retreat and hide because it’s much easier on everyone this way.

          But if retreat from cheer is not an option in the Christmas season,  we might plaster on a smile, pretend an ebullience that is not there, so as not to be singled out for a Yuletide inquisition. It gives us anonymity, and allows us to blend into the background of happy. No worries here, move on, please, we grin till it hurts. Pretense buys us the relief of space and time away from the reality of the emptiness in our own lives, where lives a barrenness that refuses to die. And so, we laugh along with others, and hope the hollowness doesn’t show, and pretend to love and be loved.


          Yet, nothing blinds us from seeing that emptiness has a weight that bears down harder than fullness.

          And the cross bites deep into our wounded shoulders.


          In our little nook in the frost, an ancient truth almost escapes us ~ Christmas is not about us. A Christian pilgrim Christmas is about Love. Love born of holy obedience. Love blossoming and flourishing in the kingdom of hardship. Love birthed to bring joy to sorrowing hearts.


          A Christian Christmas is the wounded pilgrim taking Jesus-joy to the fellow wounded. It is the meal we cook for the lonely when we too only have emptiness to return to. It is the card we send to someone who needs to know love, although ours is the address everyone forgets. It is the prayers we sob for broken hearts in other homes when our own children have broken our hearts. The gentle empathy offered by a lonely widow whose husband will never return, to a young, frazzled wife whose husband works far from home.


          The pilgrim Christmas is taking love to where it has long been dead. To coax life and joy back into bitter deserts. To inject hope and resurrect life. It is to love even as we weep from our own unhealed wounds. It is to draw from our own pain to touch the sometimes, lesser wounds of others.

          And this sowing of Jesus-joy in souls is inadequate if it comes from a filled heart, for there’s sometimes, nothing more dispiriting than to receive from material abundance, because it underscores a grieving soul’s squalor.


          So, it is precisely when we feel we are running on empty, that the purest giving can we bequeath to others. The parchedness of our own waiting for Jesus-joy must lead us to a Bernadette response ~ to dig streams of Lourdes in the lives of other pilgrims, so that they may receive the gifts of healing and hope. Our seemingly empty lives must never lead us away from the pilgrim path of giving, onto the dark alleys of self, because to feel our barrenness is to be filled with God, and this Light must be shared.


          The pilgrim Christmas is the antithesis of the world’s Christmas. Ours is a light for the poor, and a holly wreath of tender charity foreign to the world we occupy, and it will earn us ridicule and derision. But it is the way of heaven that for the sunrise joy of Christmas to bloom in us, we must first take it in obedience to where God wills us, and sow it in hearts not ours, so that the mourner’s dirge be transformed into a Gloria.


          For the Christmas cannot come to us before it comes to others.