Prayer

Last of June

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          On this last day of June, month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the winds lift and fall from the break of dawn, blowing secrets among them, marking the last of what has been a very hectic month. Still, even as I’m glad it has come to an end, a quiet awe sits stronger within me. Awe at all God has done and eased for us this entire month. Awe at how, for once, I managed to face the innumerable twists and hurdles relatively calmly and with fewer stumbles.

          But I also know that it wasn’t me going out to meet each deadline and obstacle; each day, it felt as if someone or something within me was already in charge and leading the way. A still and quiet power beyond what I’ve ever experienced. A power so strong yet so exquisitely gentle, unperturbed at my occasional shenanigans and general inability to read things right. A power at peace even when I often tried to do things my way.

          Today, on this last day of blessed June, looking back, thanksgiving and gratitude breathes strong in my heart. I know well many hearts have helped me get through all the hard days of June, for very few journeys of this life can be undertaken safely and successfully without the love of those who pray and guide us all onwards and upwards. Most of all, without a doubt, we have journeyed through June, as a family, bound tightly to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

          As the winds raise their softly golden voices higher in the late morning sky, I can’t help but ponder what July holds for us. I can sense something is ahead, for some endeavours have ended even as we hoped to go on.

It is as if an invisible gate is slowly being shut on some journeys, why I do not know.

          But fear finds no living within me today.

          Today, I am at peace, content to let the Spirit lead.

          And He will, Father of the Poor He is.

Your Times Are In My Hand

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PRAYER OF ST. BRENDAN

Help me to journey beyond the familiar

and into the unknown.

Give me the faith to leave old ways

and break fresh ground with You.

Christ of the mysteries, I trust You

to be stronger than each storm within me.

I will trust in the darkness and know

that my times, even now, are in Your hand.

Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,

and somehow, make my obedience count for You.   ~  St Brendan

          A day after the words, The end is nigh, a new world/life awaits you mysteriously appeared on my screen and then disappeared, I came across the above prayer from St Brendan, the monk’s words piercing my heart gently with its sweetness.

journey beyond the familiar

and into the unknown

          At the sight of those words, a tiny nightingale began to sing a strange, new song outside the door of my heart. Nonetheless, even as my heart harkened hesitantly to its melody, an invisible Hand withheld the lyrics from my understanding. No other word beyond this was given to me.

Give me the faith to leave old ways

and break fresh ground with You.

            In the days since, I have been listening in to the winds as they too sing an unknown hymn amongst the trees, the wind~wraithes turning over a secret among themselves. Is it to do with my job, I wonder? Is it time to leave for something better? And with that my heart goes two ways: one in tremulous glee of unknown joys ahead, while the other retreats into the shadows of familiarity, impossibly favouring unhappy folds long known, over the uncertainty of a new life elsewhere. What if I exchange hell for hell? After 23 years of being chained to unhappiness, I am fearful of leaving and starting over even if I long so much to find joy in my work in the few years I have left before I retire.

I will trust in the darkness

          A resolve comes to life within me. I will trust in the darkness of not knowing what lies ahead, if joy lives in wait there, whether in this place or somewhere else all new to me. The God I know got me through the past year; I know He can do anything He wills, move any rock or mountain in my way, level the most impossible of paths. It is in Him that I will place my trust, my lord of Miracles. Why even this past week, I have been seeing a version of myself which I haven’t before. Facing challenges better, making wiser decisions, still afraid and still given to bouts of worry, but much less so for both. If I dare say it – I am almost like an Easter version of who I once was! All because I’m trying my best to tuck my mountains into His heart and to hold His hand tight.

          What do I do as I await the signs to unfurl their truths in the skies of my spirit? I wonder and ponder as I scan the familiar path within my sight. In clear answer, the word from Heaven comes,

Tune your spirit to the notes of heaven,

And live out your days in obedience to Me,

For your times are truly, truly in My hand.

Lent 37 ~ Light for the Dark

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          Above all, I beg of you to be always gay, joyful and happy, for this is the true mark of the Spirit of God, Who wishes that we should serve Him in peace and contentment; do not be uneasy or anxious, but do all things with liberty of mind and in the presence of God.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          Holy Week began on a difficult note but today, things deepened without warning and completely knocked me off the hill. I finally broke down at Jesus’ feet, my first time in some weeks.

          Still, I had a feeling I was under some kind of attack. I don’t usually see things in this light but I did today. Because today, having heard of vicious attacks against Ukrainian women and girls, I felt I had to do something. Knowing how packed and busy my day was going to be, I needed to be able to make some kind of a continuous offering, alongside the calls of work. Hence, I decided to offer up as many Hail Mary’s as I could, asking Mother Mary if each bud could in some way be used to save the life of a woman or a girl.

          A few rose~buds in, everything began to unravel. Even minor issues threw me off balance, on and on, snowballing till late afternoon. By late evening, as the humidity of an impending storm singed the sunset hours, I knew I had barely given anything towards so great a need. Hell was being unearthed in Ukraine and here I was, as usual, tripping over far smaller trials. Darkness had seemingly won.

          But someone saw, and someone knew I needed help against whatever was blowing hard against me today.

Above all, I beg of you to be always gay, joyful and happy, for this is the true mark of the Spirit of God, Who wishes that we should serve Him in peace and contentment;

          How do I be this gay, joyful and happy when dark winds rise? I wondered mutinously. How do I not lose the mark of the Holy Spirit? For once, I felt that beloved saint~friend did not have God’s word for me today.

          Just as frustration began to curl into me, I saw it,

…do not be uneasy or anxious,

but do all things with liberty of mind and in the presence of God. 

          On my own, I can do none of the above for I bear no kinship with the serene lotuses of still ponds. The quiet peace of saints continually evades me. But if there’s anything I’ve managed to learn, it is that I can always trust in God to grant me every grace to fill every dry gully of need. What I have need of, He will provide.

          So, back to God’s Heart I went again.

          This time, into Its depths I gave up my darkness. In exchange I took His Light.

Lent 32 ~ Always Heard and Answered

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The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.   ~  Jesus to St Faustina Kowalska, Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Entry 1397

          It is never an easy thing for me to pray for someone’s conversion. If it does come easily, it is because I have not suffered at this person’s hands, the pain of their darkness not having pierced me.

Remember O Christian soul, that thou has this day…   ~  St Augustine

          Today, hearing about someone who had hurt a friend at work, I had the choice to choose between anger or to pray for the other person’s conversion. Of course, I sought the flames first. But as the fire caught the field, I sensed a tiny bud open its petals ever so slightly in the depths of my spirit.

Pray for his conversion

          And so I did, this time falling more easily into an old, mystical prayer which promises conversion when it is prayed from roots of contrition and faith,

O Blood and Water that gushed forth from the heart of Jesus, as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.

Lent 28 ~ This Last One

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Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,
            but sustain the just,
            O searcher of heart and soul, O just God.   Psalm 7: 10

          I was taken aback to see that 5 years ago, almost to the day, I had fervently said this exact prayer, to be saved from the unspeakable malice of three people in my place of work. Today, 5 years later, things have changed so much. One of the three has been removed permanently and no longer troubles me. One is miraculously beginning to find good roots within himself. But the last one…

          The last one still carries knives within her but she numbers not among of those who wound because they have been wounded, at least not in the classic sense of the word. This last one worships at the altar of herself. And anyone who does not fall to their knees before her is her enemy and one whom she must slay.

          This last one has tortured me endlessly over the past years. Yet, today, I write not as much for myself as for another. Because I have discovered that what this woman has done to me, she is beginning to do to another, knifing this new victim, who looks like a fool to the world, cowering, absorbing every strike and not fighting back. It brings back memories of what I went through, firing a wound within me for my helpless friend.

When will this end?

          Yesterday, our family took a long evening drive along country roads leading to the western skies. Massive dark clouds grew across the skies. Yet, behind them, the wide expanses were illuminated by the final light of the setting sun, rendering stunning shards and swathes of bright, rosy tangerines. In my heart, I fell to my knees before such breathtaking beauty and immense power. All the words I had sensed recently came before me once more,

Final hours

You’re almost there

          And yet, standing out stronger than anything was the beating my poor friend was enduring at the hands of a malice whose roots sank all the way into the darkness of narcissistic pride and cruelty .

          Take her away, Lord, I prayed of this last one.

          This last one is being nourished in malice by the joy she receives from seeing her victims crushed and also by the numbers who worship at her altar out of fear, weighted by the shadows they too carry within them.

Take her away, Lord 

          Because as long as we refuse to break and to glorify her, she will not rest and the cruelty will live on unabated.

Take her away, Lord 

          Because we have tried so hard to love her and to teach her to love – and we have failed, it seems. Take her where she can learn to love without setting a price, that her soul may be saved.

          We rounded the corner on the slightly bumpy road and my husband said, This is the last we’ll see of the sunset before we turn back east. Just at the turn, just as he said, even with the dark sky~towers in the foreground, the entire sky exploded into a shimmering vista of orange and gold.

          For a long minute, it stayed that way. Then, the turn came, and we turned back into darkness. Going back into the dark, quipped my husband gaily. After a glimpse of what lies beyond, I bantered back.

          But as we drove back, I silently wondered if my prayer would find its landing in God’s heart, for I am a sinner, often praying prayers out of the darkness of my own sins and less of the prayers I should actually offer up. And He, searcher of mind and heart, sees everything.

          Unexpectedly, today, once again comes, Let the malice of the wicked come to an end. After 5 years of pain and prayers. Is this God’s answer to my questions yesterday? This time, I see something I didn’t before, the end of Psalm 7,

If one does not repent,

God sharpens His sword,

strings and readies the bow,

Consider how one conceives iniquity;

is pregnant with mischief,

and gives birth to deception.

He digs a hole and bores it deep,

but he falls into the pit he has made.

His malice turns back upon his head;

his violence falls on his own skull.   ~  Psalm 7: 13; 15 – 17

          This last one. Lord, please, please help.

Lent 27 ~ Perfect Grace

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Then He spoke of exterminating them,
            but Moses, His chosen one,
Withstood Him in the breach
            to turn back His destructive wrath.   ~  Psalm 106: 23

          Today, gentle wings softly brought some unexpected news. Prayers to ease sufferings caused by ignorance, prayers cried out in agony and anguish, from the depths of souls, wrought gentle grace instead. On this Thursday, a day on which I’ve long prayed for the illumination of conscience for myself and others, I learned that God had softened the hearts of a small group of people from work. And through that, they found the grace to be merciful and compassionate. It was unexpected, this change. Yes, it has taken long months of suffering and enduring, but in the earliest signs of spring yet, the first of roses are finding bloom.

          Unlike Moses, when we pray, we cannot always be sure where the answers to our prayers will find landing, nor will we know how they will bloom.

          Yet, guided by the hand of the Almighty, grace will indeed come to rest where it is most needed, in perfect answer to prayer.

Lent 14 ~ Worry is Useless

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Pray, hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless. Our Merciful Lord will listen to your prayer.   ~   St. Pio

          Today is one of those days when little things weigh a little more on my heart. There is a meeting I need to attend tomorrow which makes me nervous and anxious because I am not sure how it will turn out. There’s nothing I can do to prepare for it. I don’t even know what to pray for exactly. For all I know, things might go very well. But since I have always been one to borrow trouble from the coming day, I’m doing exactly that now – borrowing trouble.

          Searching for a prayer, I told God to give me one that my heart needs, even if I didn’t know it myself. And I also asked that it come to me dramatically, like a lightning bolt or something, to assure me further that it was indeed from heaven and to also pierce through the gathering fog inside my heart.

          Instead come these gentle, gentle words, tenderly spoken, by a man I know as my spiritual father.

Pray, hope and don’t worry. Worry is useless.

          And then, he comforts me,

Our Merciful Lord will listen to your prayer.

Lent 13 ~ Remember Her Apples

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Then I heard the words, ‘I am glad you behaved like My true daughter.  Be always merciful as I am merciful.  Love everyone out of love for Me, even your greatest enemies, so that My mercy may be fully reflected in your heart.’   ~  St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Entry: 1695

 

          Last Sunday brought yet another early morn dream. I had dreamt of an old colleague from work. But unlike the other dream before it, this one did not move me in any tangible way. Whoever brought it just gently laid it before me and quietly stepped aside. In the dream, I was inside this colleague’s home which was made up of many, many small, square, clear-glass windows. In each window was some decoration or another, each one utterly pretty and exquisite.

          But they were all mud-spattered. Interiorly, I was aware that the mud was rising in her home. While the woman was clearly upset about this, she was oddly more concerned that I would come to know what was happening to her and this agitated her. She was standing outside her home, trying to prevent people from informing me. And all the while, the mud was rising inside.

          I awakened from the dream and went to my day. Mud is rarely a good thing to see, not even in dreams, certainly not in this one too. It was clear to me that if the dream meant anything, it was that trouble was headed my old friend’s way. Mud on her decorations likely pointed to troubles and loss of what was most dear to her – the things which money could buy, things on exhibition in her life.

          I once loved this lady with all my heart and immensely enjoyed her company. She had a sharp tongue and we often got nicked, but it never mattered because she was always one who spoke the truth. The fact that she was never short of friends of all ages was a testimony to the goodness of her heart. When tragedy struck my life years before, she was my support in some ways and I loved her all the more for it.

          Then, came a time when she began to sell her soul to money. With that, things began to change with her. She no longer valued marriage, children were an inconvenience. She used the power she had over so many others to undermine their relationship with their own spouses. She encouraged her friends to choose self and enjoyment over the caring for children. She advised abortions when babies came at “inconvenient times”. Then, she began to cheat in her work – she who had been so skilled and talented at it, with a clear gift to do what few could. But now, worshipping at the altar of money, her heart began to die and with that, our friendship too.  She now stood against all that was sacred to me, especially that of marriage and family – which, for me, was the heart of life itself.

          We soon had many disagreements because I could not allow her to do wrong and to get away with it. More than anything, in fighting her, in many ways, I think I was fighting for the dear soul I once knew and loved. Yet, knowing I was no longer a part of her circle, not only did she turn against me and begin to attack me, she influenced others to do the same too. The poison was clearly spreading.

          For some years, I suffered immensely under the onslaughts of her attacks. They were vicious. They filled me with fear and loathing for work because it was there that I encountered her viciousness on an hourly basis. The attacks seemed like they would never end.

          I prayed and prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to St. Joseph for a miracle. Often, I had little hope of one.

          One day, though, that miracle happened. My colleague was unexpectedly transferred to another department and to another workplace. We were as shocked as she was. But there was no regret in me in her going. If anything, the relief was immense. The Sacred Heart of Jesus had saved me – and others too. When she left, much of the poison leeched out as well. After a time, the cracks at work were sealed back.

          But this woman brought disharmony everywhere she went. Soon, stories from her new place of work drifted back to us. It seemed as if wherever she went, she sowed discord and brought out the worst in people. My friend in a managerial position at the new place suffered what we had gone through here, for there too my old colleague turned co-workers against the administration.

          Mercifully, God soon intervened once more. Without warning, this lady took early retirement from work. I suspect more than a handful of souls were saved because of this.

          Since she lived just a few houses away down my road, I often saw her but nothing remained of our friendship and nothing was kindled either. We were like strangers. I barely remember ever praying for her after that.

          Then came this dream on my Sunday when I try to live in more thankfulness. Did God want me to pray for her? If so, why wasn’t the nudge… stronger?

          Give me my prayer for her, Lord, I asked as obediently as I could, but with no great desire to pray either.

          Not a stirring out of heaven.

          I thought of the mud and of the worse thing it could signify. Please give her a happy death, Lord, I prayed quickly, wanting to get on with my chores.

          Again, nothing moved.

          What do I pray for, Lord?

          At my sink, busy with the dishes, in the softest of movements, came an old, old memory, laid by the door of my spirit by an unseen hand. A memory of that time of terrible sorrow many years past, before my friend had changed. My child had been sick in hospital then and had refused all food. Then, one day, this colleague had come to visit. She had brought comfort and strength – and apples. My child who had refused solids somehow accepted the apples too, happily devouring apple after apple.  Never before had even I tasted such delicious apples. 

          Standing at my sink, my hands soapy, my heart was now pierced by a sudden sweetness of love for my old friend. Where once stretched an arid barrenness of indifference, now in an instant was flooded through with a deep, deep love. Plunged into that love, my heart found an impossible prayer,

Lord, have mercy on her. Forgive her for all she has done.

Remember her apples, Lord, and have mercy on her.

Lent 11 ~ Freeing Prisoners

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Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You;

            with Your great power free those doomed to death.   ~  Psalm 79: 11

          There’s a superior at work who has given me nothing but grief for almost 20 years. Even though there have been times when he has reluctantly acknowledged the quality of my work, the underlying current of tension remained. A man governed by jealousy, pride and love for money, several times he has crushed me to the point of tears, and many more times when he has filled me with an equally crushing rage and hatred for him. There were others who were wounded by similar blows but they were not as severe as the ones I endured because all my other colleagues were Muslims, like this man, and I suspect that made him hold back a little. I being the only Christian in the organization, received the full brunt of it. I cried a lot about it to God because I suffered, not only from his viciousness, but from my own rage too.

          Then, one day at Mass, upset over something he had done, I saw the words, It is in his bloodline, appear in one of the Readings. That was when I realised that whatever it was that was making him this way came from very deep within, that it was likely intergenerational too. He might have needed a family tree healing prayer of some kind but honestly, I just couldn’t do it. That was beyond what I could manage.

Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You

          One year, God suddenly let me know that this man was in fact a prisoner. Until that moment of illumination, I never saw it that way. All I saw was his capacity for heartlessness. But once I knew, I also realised that God was calling me to the impossible – to pray for this superior. It was something I struggled so hard to do but eventually, I began to pray for him. Each time though, I had to ask God for the prayer because I could not love this man enough to pray my own prayers.

          And each time, God answered me.

          Still, there was one that stood out and which I will never forget.

Replace his blood with Yours

          That prayer was prayed many, many times over the years, through wounding-s and through times of tremulous peace between us. Many times too I took this man to the Heart of Jesus during Mass and during Adoration. There were times when the prayers came easy; often, I had to drag myself to it because I still could not get past my hurts and dislike of him. But over time, it became easier.

          These past 2 years, I began to sense a change in him. He began to be more civil towards me. Still, the unease remained. Nonetheless, towards the end of last year, it was clear that he was trying to change and that brought some relief to me because I was tired out from walking on eggshells around him.

          Just this afternoon, we had a brief conversation which made me see something about myself too. We had a virtual meeting and he told us that he had tested positive for Covid. Right after the meeting ended, I hurried to contact him to share a home remedy which I thought would help. He told his wife about it and then assured me he would give it a try. Our conversation ended with my comforting him,

Do not be afraid

          It struck me then how far I’ve come. That I didn’t have to think about it before giving that remedy to him, that I didn’t have to persuade myself or even force myself to go to him.

Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You

with Your great power free those doomed to death. 

          I know I’m not the only one who prayed. My closest friends here and elsewhere in my life, have carried my cross and prayed very hard for this man, and it is bearing fruit – freeing both him and me.

          Because as much as he was a prisoner, so was I too.

Lent 10 ~ To the Heart of God

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That prayer is most likely to pierce heaven which first pierces one’s own heart.   ~   Thomas Watson

          Early this morning, someone visited me in a profound dream. A sports superstar, one of the greats in his field. He lives on the other side of the world. His world and mine have never intersected and never will.

          And yet in the purple darkness of a day just coming to life, it appears that he came to me in a pleading.

          When dreams are dramatic yet leave no lasting mark on my soul, it is the sign to me that they mean nothing. But this one today, in the darkest hour before dawn, pierced my heart with its sadness and regret. A man in an invisible prison, held behind bars no one could see, asking for the impossible.

          Many are the struggles of this human race, yet, the most public of them are seldom the hardest. Often, the crosses that bite the deepest constitute the most hidden of struggles. A man like this star, for whom money could buy almost anything, could certainly avail himself of any form of luxury or aid. But when success places one on the pedestal of worship and adulation, it can be hard to ask for help. It can be harder to even convince others that help is needed.

          In a dream many years ago, I saw a white map of the world, suspended in the bluest skies above an old European city of whitewashed buildings and clean but deserted streets. In that dream, I was warned of a coming nameless terror. Later, St. Jude indicated to me that it was time to “leave my church” and to go to another of need. Pray for others, St. Jude had said to me. Then, today, comes this searing dream, this voiceless plea from a man who has seemingly everything, a man in a European country, a world away.

          A dream come today perhaps to ask if I would pray for others as others have prayed for me. But more importantly I suspect, to first acknowledge my own sins and come clean before God, and then to pray for this man, icon of the world, yet as broken as any of us.

          All the more I turn away – because to pray for this soul, I will have to pass through the portal of my own weaknesses. There is no pleasure in that. But at the very moment I make ready to flee, I recall something I read just the day before: that before any form of prayer is prayed, we need to first squarely face ourselves. No hiding behind excuses or distractions but to come clean to ourselves. If we can be honest with ourselves, only then can we open our own hearts to God. Only then can we reach out and give help where it is needed, exactly as it is needed.

          And so I turn back to face myself. Then, I gather up my sins and go before the Heart of God. I reach into this Great Heart and leave them there. Finally, I lift up this man and into this same Heart, I place him and his needs as I have perceived them.

          Still praying, a while later I realise that only the memory of the dream remains. The sadness is no more, not a trace.

          It tells me that my work is done. We have both gone to the Heart of God.

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