Prayer

A Father’s Prayer

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          There are days in my life when, like anyone else’s, everything stills. Further back in the week, there were a couple of such days when the breezes stirred not and no birds brought their song close to us. There was no unease within me at this odd quietening, though; there’s a time for everything, I figured, even for winds and birdsong.

          Today, things are a little different. The softest of breezes gently finger the windchimes hanging right outside our living room, and birds come by to chatter before winging off. And yet, a deep stillness permeates the air unlit by sunshine. This watchful stillness stretches its presence into my heart, rendering to silence the many voices there.

          But from that silence floats up a single prayer,

Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been

         I can’t help but smile a little. A few short days ago, I was reminded of a little story about my spiritual father, St. Padre Pio. Two young girls had gone to his friary to attend Mass. Spending the night there before Mass the next day, they had heard about St. Pio’s advice to people to send their guardian angels to him with their prayers. Wanting to put it to the test, the girls spent the night sending their guardian angels to St. Pio with various prayer requests. The next day, when they went to St. Pio to seek his blessings, he grumbled good naturedly, telling them he had been kept up all night by their angels.

          Remembering that story, I decided to do the same. There were a few very important things I needed help with. So, I sent them with my guardian angel, telling him to take my prayers to St. Pio, all through the day, every day, until I received my answer. And then, I tucked in a final entreaty: that I be given the prayer I am to pray, given all that I am asking for.

          This morning, with the sun busy with his own thoughts, in that soft stillness, that tiny vine of an old prayer stole into my heart.

Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been

          Although I didn’t seek it, nevertheless, as the prayer uncurled itself, I felt a name written on my heart. Padre Pio. Although I had forgotten what I had prayed for, clearly my spiritual father hadn’t.

          As I remembered my beloved St. Pio and quietly said the prayer, the sun pierced through the fleeces to place upon us his benediction.

Time to Fight

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May the malice of the enemy be stunned.   ~ St Albert of Trapani

          Today was one of those days when I did not ask for my prayer for the day but it came nonetheless, slipping in on the breath of warm breezes. On this last day of the month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I had prayed the battle prayer of the August Queen for the final time this month, my heart joined in mourning with the brethren of my country, for all that has been lost, for all that could have been.

          At my altar this morning, I prayed for the soul of an old man who had died 4 days ago.  Late last year, this man had been severely beaten, just for doing his duty. A victim of someone else’s incomprehensible rage. Poor, his voice was too small and no one came to his aid.

          For months, this old man had lain bedridden and comatose. But he died 4 days ago. From the depths of grief, his wife in quiet had spoken, He has died and left me. 

          I found it very hard to love when the news broke  yesterday and the videos of the brutal beating from last year found life once more. It was as if this poor man’s death brought to the fore every meaningless loss this broken nation has endured for 64 years. No tree nor rock for any of us to hide from the searing lash of shared sorrow.

          A few days ago, I began sensing an inner call to go before the Blessed Sacrament. Since we have been under lockdown since mid May and likely for another couple of weeks, my weekly Friday visits to church have become a thing of the past. But here now was this call, gentle yet insistent,

Come before Me in the Blessed Sacrament

          Then, it dawned on me that there was a way: find a livestream of perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. And so I did, and began my visits. One of the first things I did was to place into the Heart of Jesus my red rage against the killer of this old man. I wasn’t having much success with hate the crime, not the person – but I figured God would know what to do.

          And God did. The rage was gone this morning. I wasn’t suddenly filled with goodwill towards the one who had done such a terrible wrong. But quiet and deep peace had come into my heart and with a mind free of anger and hate, I was able to finally pray, Lord, may Thy Justice and Mercy meet for this poor old man. While it was not brave and noble as a prayer of forgiveness for the accused would have been, this was a great improvement from some of the other darker things that had been skidding across my mind yesterday.

          A short while later, the winds began to gently stir the windchimes outside. With the rising of the last August sun, the calls of the day beckoned smilingly. But I was not done yet. I wanted to touch the Immaculate Heart of Mary one last time today. Moments after I had recited the August Queen prayer, ready to move on with my day, Someone put out Her hand and stayed me with these words,

May the malice of the enemy be stunned.

          And I knew then that it is time to fight.

Take Refuge

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Let us take refuge in the Wound of the Sacred Side, like a poor traveler who seeks a safe harbour in which to shelter from the rocks and tempests of this stormy sea of life, for here below we are continually exposed to shipwreck, unless we have the help of our all-wise Pilot.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Lent 30 ~ Milagro

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          At the Farmer’s Market yesterday, the heat stifling and sweltering, all I wanted was to get out of the sun and go home. So, my husband and I moved about quickly and got the few things we wanted.

          On our way out, we passed a small stand where fertilizer was being sold. On a quick trot and totally uninterested, my passing gaze fell upon the brand printed on the bags. Milagro. It meant nothing to me.

          Hours later, relaxed and contented, I was vacuuming the house floors, when slowly I became aware of a word being gently repeated in my head.

Milagro

Milagro

Milagro

          And with it a light. Milagro is Spanish for miracle.

Lent 21 ~ Conqueror

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          I saw this heading to a post yesterday, Gratitude Conquers Envy, and understanding lit my mind.

          Almost 2 years ago, I had a dream. It was of the colleague at work who had hurt me very deeply and continues till this day. In the dream, she was at her desk beside me and all around us were odd, yet perfect boxes, almost the size of shoe boxes, tightly packed with brand new books – except that interiorly, I knew that they weren’t books. They were memories of everything I had done for her in our 20 plus years of knowing one another. Memories packed tight into light, perfectly made mud-coloured boxes. My colleague was at her desk, with a pen in hand, writing on each of those boxes.

In thick, black, fancy classic script, she was writing, Thank you, on the inside of those boxes.

          And I knew immediately, with neither joy nor relief, that it was directed to me.

          Some time after the dream, I went to Confession to a visiting priest to our parish. I confessed about my struggles with anger and my difficulty loving those at work who hurt me. I didn’t provide Father with any details of my work situation; instead, focusing on my sins and weaknesses.

          But the priest had looked deep into my eyes, hearing in his heart words I had not given him. And he understood why I was being attacked.

It is due to jealousy, Father had said that day.

          That illumination had shocked me to the core, that jealousy could wreck such cruelty.

          But today, the memory of that dream lifts another face towards me. That of the Thank you. The power of gratitude to bend a soul to humility. To heal it of every trace of envy and jealousy.

          We often take gratitude for granted, assuming it’s a virtue we either have or do not possess. However, I have had one spiritual experience, in church, of being pierced by an invisible arrow of gratitude and thankfulness, to learn that it is also a grace. Some of us might have been born to be grateful and thankful. Some of us lack it. And some of us barely possess it. So, what if God was now asking me to pray for the oil of gratitude to heal jealous hearts?

          A few days ago, I had written that those ruled by jealousy needed to make the effort to cleanse themselves of this ugliness. While that is certainly true, I think God is now telling me, No, that’s not all. You can do something else too.

          This Lent, He wants me pray a very specific prayer of healing. To pray for the grace of gratitude, that jealous hearts be healed by it.

          Because gratitude conquers jealousy.

Lent 19 ~ Let Me See

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Open my eyes to see clearly

the wonders of Your law.

I am a sojourner in the land;

My soul clings to the dust;

give me life in accord with Your word.

My soul is depressed;

lift me up according to Your word.   ~  Psalm 119: 18, 19, 25, 28

          Today work reached in and wiped out everything I had in me, right down to the inner cellars where reserves of strength and hope are stored. Restlessly, I roamed, going from window to window, trying to see something in the skies, in the garden, that would lift and dissipate this dull deadness within. I know what brought this on – skimpy sleep and work overload. I had nobody to blame but myself.

          As the hot evening winds gusted insistently about the house against a lowering yellow sun, I washed the car and scrubbed floors even as I leaned my heart against the words of the unruly winds, trying to make out what they were saying, if any of it was for me. But I was wound too tight, and nothing got past the doors of my heart.

          Still, you don’t go through 18 days of Lent and not learn something. The harder it gets, the harder you must love. Someone I know is in terrible need. I’ve known something of this kind of worry. It slips deep, snaking its fear through you, rendering you deaf and blind.

It must be prayed against.

          Before long, the prayers gentle. Whether due to physical exertion or the moment of need passing, I cannot tell. I hope it is the latter. I don’t want my friend to suffer this fear.

          But the tired lifelessness remains.

My soul is depressed

          Lift me up according to Your word

          I cannot go on, Lord, I just cannot. We need some news, Lord, a sun to lift the spirit from this strange bed it’s lying on. Tell me my prayer, Lord. Tell me what to pray for. From morn, I have asked this, to no avail. It is night now and the winds have gone back to their lands. There is still work to be done, it never ends, just never ends. I poke at it listlessly, labouring over a simple report, but my heart now rests deep in family, in thanksgiving of past miracles.

          It is then that I hear it, the prayer for the day.

          Let me see.

Lent 15 ~ Go Out and Love

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          Yesterday, some issues regarding my professional future were weighing on my mind. In my post, Destiny, fellow blogger and my friend, Ann Coleman, commented, “It’s natural to be anxious about something so important. But I do believe we can trust God to be with us through even the worst challenges. And I’ll pray that your work situation works out for the best.” 

          Something about that last line snagged my frazzled and tattered attention.

And I’ll pray that your work situation works out for the best.

          Ann’s touching concern and support lit a spark in me. Of wanting to go out of myself and care for others besieged by work concerns in whatever form. Nonetheless, at that very moment, it was mind over heart, because it was almost night and I was so very worn out from staring at my laptop screen for hours on end.

          Still, when God lights a spark, it is lit, no matter what.

          Today, I had to travel to the city with my husband. We met a salesperson he had dealings with. Within a few short hours, the 60-something man had let down inner his mask with us, and let slip that he had just undergone a heart procedure. I thought to myself that sales wasn’t the best job to be in if you had a heart complaint. Later on, we observed signs that despite his good work ethic, genuinely genial nature and immense popularity with clients, he didn’t seem to be earning very much.

          And yet, he was so giving, even when it would have gotten him nothing back.

          As we waved goodbye, something about him tugged at my heart. Well into his 60s and continuing to work in such a cutthroat business when others would have retired, I just felt that something hadn’t worked out in his life. He had a hunted look in his eyes, as if there were forces he was trying to outrun but couldn’t.

          Driving home, I thought about this man’s worn heart and remembered him before God.

          We were late in leaving the city and so got caught in its after-work traffic snarl. Driving carefully, I watched cars zip in and out, drivers in a great hurry to get home. Deeply exhausted, home seemed so far away. And we had one more similarly draining trip to make the next day.

          Despite my state, in the sharply angled evening sunshine, something else began to take over. I found myself empathising with the commuters’ rush to get home. Oddly, it was almost as if I could cut past the layers of metal and noise, and see right into hearts, here and there encountering happiness and good cheer, but mostly touching weariness, worry, frustration or just plain tiredness from a hard day’s work. All stopped at traffic lights after traffic lights, we were sitting in different vehicles, looking different, living differently. And yet, there was a common thread of happiness, worry, fear and tiredness running through each of our lives. 

However different we were, we are all bound together by our need of God, to be placed in His Flaming Heart.

          Once home some hours later, I contacted our parish priest to make arrangements to attend private Mass with him. To my sadness, I found our priest in great agony from nerve pain. He asked for prayers and so I hastened to do what I could, feeling it was too little against such a great need.

          It was past midnight when I sought the stillness to gather my thoughts. While no great mountain did I move in my Friday hours, Ann’s words reminded me that even in our hardest struggles, our hearts must never close in on ourselves. That no matter how gnarled and rutted our own path is, we must take care to never lose compassion for others who are suffering. And yet, that remains a mountain to be scaled – to remain in the moment of others’ suffering, to help them carry their crosses, even as my own weigh me down.

          Although so many of our questions remain unanswered, and the road stretches on through the uncertain terrain of life, in choosing to open our hearts to the pains of others, I have learned a great many times, our crosses will not vanish, our own pain might not diminish. The lesson God wrote upon my heart today was that,

The more we hurt inside, the more we must go out and love.

          Because it is when we wipe the wounds of others, that we touch the very Wounds of Christ.

Lent 14 ~ Destiny

 

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You will free me from the snare they set for me,
for You are my refuge.
Into Your hands I commend my spirit;
You will redeem me, O LORD, O faithful God.
I hear the whispers of the crowd, that frighten me from every side,
as they consult together against me, plotting to take my life.
But my trust is in You, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
In Your hands is my destiny; rescue me
from the clutches of my enemies and my persecutors.   ~  Psalm 31: 5 – 6; 14 – 16

 

          For years, Into Your hands I commend my spirit, had been the first offering of my day to God. But somewhere last year, I forgot the prayer of my rising – and didn’t even realize it. This morning, though, it was the first vine of prayer that wove its way from my heart to God’s. I smiled to see my old prayer~friend again.

          After the usual morning chores, I settled down to work from home. Yesterday had been a full day. Apart from work, optional retirement had been weighing very heavily on my mind because I found out yesterday that some changes at work will be coming into effect soon. A safeguard that has protected me so far could be dismantled. If that does happen, I would have no choice but to seek a transfer or quit my job. A transfer would mean a very long daily commute, wearing me down further; with quitting, naturally, my thoughts went to our finances. We still have some way to go and I was concerned about the impact of retiring even a year earlier. While my musings didn’t agitate me nor make me fearful, it did lodge deep within like thick mud.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit

          This morning, when I went to my daily Readings, I was mildly startled to see the same morning prayer appear before me in the Responsorial Psalm. Why was the prayer slipped into my heart today, of all the days? I  suddenly wondered. 

          Then, my eyes fell upon a verse, and it struck my heart like a light bolt.

In Your hands is my destiny