LOVE OF NEIGHBOUR

Lent 37 ~ I Must Love

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lent 32 ~ Preach by Example

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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

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          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.

PRAY …. SO THAT EACH ONE OF YOU BE THE INTERCESSOR OF YOUR BROTHER AND OF ALL HUMANITY.

          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.

Amen.

 

          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

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          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

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          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

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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          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.

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

LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH

I struggled with a minor disturbance recently, struggled to keep the sun shining and the clouds at bay. I was aggrieved at the irritant, and in need of a sympathetic audience, took my angst to God. In a whitesilver flash, He cut through, and gave me this hymn:

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LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH

 

Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me.

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Let there be peace on earth

The peace that was meant to be.

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With God as our Father

Brothers all are we.

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Let me walk with my brother

In perfect harmony.

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Let peace begin with me

Let this be the moment now.

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With every step I take

Let this be my solemn vow.

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To take each moment

And live each moment

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With peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

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BUILD AN ARK

Noah's Ark

Noah’s Ark

13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark…. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you…. two of all living creatures, …21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.” 22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him. ~ Genesis 6:13-22, New International Version (NIV)

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A storm darkens and burgeons on the horizon ahead. A new storm, one whose effects will stain and wound every living soul. A storm of many dimensions. Felt by all, manifested differently, and no escape is there.

Not for those who live in the Light, nor for those who have made darkness their abode.

The grief it will bring will surpass any pain suffered hitherto. It will be a storm that will build its strength on our personal weaknesses, things kept hidden brought to light, forcing us to confront every mist and cloud we have always run away from.

The angels have sounded the Lord’s call. Soul to soul, writing His message on every door, Build an ark for the flood of souls. The call chimes and resounds in every soul ~

The young for whom the sun shines every day, nary a cloud to filter the gold of joy,

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The old and worn, thinking their life’s work over, nothing more but to wait for the summons,

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The carefree never troubled by the groans of mankind.

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Build an ark for the flood of souls, Jesus pleads. And the angels in obedience go forth

To write the call on the widow’s broken heart,

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The happy farmers in dance of joy over bountiful harvests,

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Build an ark,  Build an ark, Build an ark

Come, He calls

both young and old, wounded and healthy.

Write the blogs, sing the songs, paint the pictures.

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Comfort the hurting, wipe the tears of grief.

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Still the tempests, instruct the ignorant,

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Feed the poor, nourishment give to body and soul,

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Look up the friend, the stranger welcome.

The Word of the Lord take to each wound and shadow.

This is the time of Mercy

Build an ark for the flood of souls.

Wipe My Blood

From the time Jesus appeared to me in the dark of 1999, sometimes, like a tiny breeze weaving its way through a room, the memory of the vision would come back, and with it, the mental imprint of Our Lady wiping the Wounds of Her Son. Yet, as one year folded into the next, marked by events both happy and sorrowful, I never went beyond the memory of the visions and the release accorded to me. I was too preoccupied with my remaining, ever increasing battles to really search for the meaning to Wipe My Blood.

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In November 2010, as the aging year began to wind down, I sensed an interior longing to pray the Rosary using only the Sorrowful Mysteries. The grief held in for so long, needed an outlet. Not just any release, but a release into Heaven’s comfort. I was inexplicably drawn to pray the Sorrowful Mysteries but didn’t understand why.

Then, Mother Teresa’s Come Be My Light came into my life, and I read and read, and the light began to shy in.

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One day, deep in the night hours, I sensed an awareness leaning against my soul. I put the book down and stared at the Divine Mercy picture on my wall and waited. Then, it came. An unseen finger traced the words, Wipe My Blood, on my soul again, and life was breathed into them. The words from so long ago began to throb in my soul, like a caged bird seeking release in understanding.

How, Lord? How do I wipe Thy Blood?

In response, I again felt the pressure of the words, Wipe My Blood. The images from Mother Teresa’s book swam before me. I saw the old saint and the love she took into the slums. Her struggles. Her faith. Then, I knew. Wipe My Blood was the bell chime of absolute freedom, telling me it was time to flee the confines of my childhood cage, every one of it, and to go out and love like I have never before. It was a call of Love, to love.

In a motion of light, month after month, year after year, from that day on, an unseen angel lifted the veil to places where I was to answer the call, Wipe My Blood.

I saw the children I had birthed after years of barrenness. I saw the tired, dogged determination to do what was best for them. I saw all too clearly the frustrations, the anger when things didn’t go my way. The hate for myself when I couldn’t enjoy my own wee ones. Wipe My Blood. God wanted me to love and enjoy my children. To feel the tickle of bubbles from a baby’s trumpet-lips. To enjoy the buttons that wouldn’t button over fat tummies. To lean into the paws that batted my face, telling me baby didn’t want to sleep but play. Love them, Jesus said. Love them differently from before.

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Cook for the family, He continued. Cook the way you want. So, I began to cook differently. Cooked away from the shadows of remembered recriminations. Simple things. Simple cakes. Some flat, some with so many holes I wondered how they stayed together.The patter of feet into the kitchen. Happy squeals over a favourite dish coming, eager peeking into the oven. Cook for the family. Wipe My Blood.

The call sounded again.

I sought to make my husband and children happy. I sang to them. Sang funny songs with made up lyrics. Blessed with a voice like an old fishing trawler, I am no Whitney Houston, but sang I did because it produced horrified giggles, tickled funnies. It was no longer about waiting to be happy before I made others happy. It was about stepping outside of my circle of grey, and taking the Light I didn’t feel, to where it was needed. And when my doggy-loving child begged me to sing her Patti Page’s How Much is That Doggy In The Window as I brushed her teeth,  I saw that creaking-door voice or not, He wanted me to make my baby happy, and to find happiness in that, because it meant wiping His Blood.

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And from my home, the angel led me further out. He took me to those who chose to suffer away from the gaze of others. To hold and to pray for them as they weathered the storm. To stay by their side because others had long left.

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One day, the angel had me follow him to an old path, rutted in weeds and wildflowers. I was led to write again, after long forgotten years. To find release and freedom. To ponder mysteries by writing. To read my thoughts and learn who I truly was. And then, slowly, to write to heal others. Most of my adult life, I had received letters from home. Letters that should never have been written because they left me with a blackness long after they had been crushed and thrown away. To wipe my Lord’s Blood, He wanted me to write peace, to bring others the gold of joy and giggles, because the best way to purge the past was not to paper over, or to bury it, but to set it on a standard, like Moses did with the bronze snakes in the desert, and to use it to heal others.

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As I obeyed the call, I began to heal. And slowly, I began to see glimpses of Heaven.

But Wiping My Blood was not as much about personal healing as it was about ministering to wounded-ness. There are far too many beaten and left for dead, many who mourn in the shadows.

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There are far too many tears than there are hands to wipe them away, and to tilt lips in an upwards curve of a smile. The sorrows of this earth are many, and they cannot wait till I am healed completely before they are attended to.

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My Lord calls, and with no delay or hesitation, His summons must be answered.