SOUL

Silence

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          It’s been more than a week of a strange inner silence. Initially, I put it down to being unwell. Then, to my husband being unwell. Later, I figured it was because there was so much going on in our daily lives.

          But soon, I had to admit to myself, something else was going on, this was new.

I felt as if this inner silence was stretching my spirit. Really stretching it. I also felt as if nothing was being allowed to stick onto this silence, for whatever reason.

It didn’t hurt. It didn’t distract me from work or chores or reading. It didn’t make me crabby, primed to bark and bite. Life could go on undisturbed. But no whisper nor echo made itself heard from within me.

          At church last week, I quietly pleaded with Mother Mary and Jesus before Mass, Let me hear Your voice. Your voice alone. Yet, I was calm, not desperate, not frantically scratching at God’s door. Then, as I always do in trying to quiet my spirit before Mass, I read a little from St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul.

          Nothing stood out. In fact, the words swirled before my eyes – a sign that something is being kept from me – in order to be revealed later. Since I began having this sign – this ‘swirling’ – about 20 years ago, it has almost always been a prelude to a revelation. But this time, this odd stillness, a little like an inner death and yet not, didn’t give me much hope of ‘hearing’ anything.

          Returning to my pew after receiving Holy Communion, I looked up and was slightly taken aback to see the word ‘Silence’ projected onto the wall by the overhead projector. This was the 2nd week of it – before this, we never had quiet time after Holy Communion. Before this, the choir would have launched into the Thanksgiving hymn even before I had even thought of a word of prayer after Communion.

          But there it was, the word, ‘Silence’, the choir quiet.

          And suddenly, at that very moment, out of nowhere, I remembered that I had read something in the Divine Mercy in My Soul earlier. Something about silence.

Silence is a sword in the spiritual struggle. A talkative soul will never attain sanctity. The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul. We are sensitive to words and quickly want to answer back, without taking any regard as to whether it is God’s will that we should speak. A silent soul is strong; no adversities will harm it if it perseveres in silence. The silent soul is capable of attaining the closest union with God. It lives almost always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. God works in a silent soul without hindrance.   ~   Entry 477

I can certainly say that I am by no means a silent soul, neither do I possess one. I am not chatty nor talkative as a person but I do have a soul that is. And maybe that was why I felt this new silence so keenly.

I was unaccustomed to it.

          I returned to those lines in the entry, seeking some specific light. I found it,

The sword of silence will cut off everything that would like to cling to the soul.

          A sword of silence. Nothing will cling.

          Nothing will be allowed to cling.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 16 ~ Winter’s Secret

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Winter’s secret…

Wait upon God with loving and pure attentiveness, working no violence on yourself lest you disturb the soul’s peace and tranquility. God will feed your soul with heavenly food since you put no obstacle in His way. The soul in this state must remember that if it is not conscious of making progress, it is making much more than when it was walking on foot, because God Himself is bearing it in His arms. Although outwardly it is doing nothing, it is in reality doing more than if it were working, since God is doing the work within it. And it is not remarkable that the soul does not see this, for our senses cannot perceive what God does in the soul. . . if the soul stays in God’s care it will certainly make progress. ~ St. John of the Cross

 

 

 

Glorify

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          I didn’t always love my family. I polished the home, cooked every day, and cared for little ones when the sniffles and spotties came. But I didn’t spend enough love-time with them, listen to their hearts as much as I should have. I had lovely, joyful children blessed with a freshness only children possess, whose little stories tumbled out eagerly, yet, fell wasted on preoccupied ears. So, I didn’t get to hear firsthand about the yellow and white butterflies playing tag amongst the gardenias, or about the yellow-and-green ‘ballbirds’ in the lush trees  at night. My young ones got hugs and cuddles and kisses, but very often, they didn’t get them too, because I didn’t always love my family.
see_no_evil_hear_no_evil_by_pinkparis1233-d5sfuql[1]           For many sad, bereft years, I didn’t always love my family because I allowed trespassers into my little sanctuary – those who had little or no regard for the sanctity of family life. They came into my home armed with authority, under the pretext of love and shared values, and dispensed wisdom they said I didn’t have. Cowed, I let them hold my mind and heart captive to satisfy their every whine and whim. When my small inner voice rebelled that my family needed more, I made feeble attempts to wriggle free, but the deceivers in my life told me I was wrong because I didn’t know, and they were right because they did.
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           I bought into the fable of the trespassers that in order to live, I must be enslaved, and my family paid the price for that. A hug when they needed it they did not get. A comfort when they fussed remained a wishful thought. They got a wife and mother who got things done but forgot to love because she was busy putting others before the Family, and didn’t see anything wrong with it. My husband and children fell a distant second because I let others dumb me down and set the parameters for family life. I was lulled into accepting the flawed belief systems of others. I let them dictate to me the hallmarks of a good Catholic wife and mother. I even allowed them to drive my religious beliefs. Family life was not lived through the lens of the Almighty, and whilst we seemed the joyous all-Catholic family, we were tearing at the seams.
          I stilled my conscience in order to up the volume of the trespassers, and that was my sin, and mine alone.
          Good mother, they patted me on the head in glee.
          And they led me out the front door, away from the family, into the dark.
          But there was a God above, and He kept watch over my soul. I had in me a hidden part that I misted away from everyone but my Saviour. It was my tiny act of defiance to keep a space of my own that was not overrun by external dictates. It was in this secret hollow veiled from human knowledge that I crumbled before the Almighty. It was here to Him that I took my sorrows and doubts.
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          But prayer is never a one-way street of petitions and pleadings. My Lord spoke, and the words of Life came back to me, but couldn’t take root because the soil of my heart was not right. It was a soil watered by a lack of spiritual nourishment and a drought of holy obedience. The Word struggled to live in me because I had pledged obedience and loyalty to those who lived dual lives: outwardly upholding family life; in reality, undermining it.
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          There was an incessant howling at the door of my life, voices not of my family’s, commanding me to come out for I was needed for vineyards not willed by heaven. The feral howls continued for many years. I was powerless to resist because I lived in the dangerous aridity where sin and dark was king. I offered incense in homage to people, not to my Lord. My refusal to break with the dark, my fear of repercussions, was in fact, a personal rejection of Life-giving Truths – God’s Commandments – which would have set me free a long time ago.
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          Then, one still night, on the tenth chime, the angels broke my heart. I learned a pain never known before. The searing flame of a final farewell marked my soul, never to be erased. The sea of grief formed a wave of walls around me, making me an island; for the very first time in my life, cutting me off from all that had stretched me in a thousand wrong directions. Alone in my pain,  a sword knifed through my soul, severing in finality, the ropes that strung me to the deceivers. 
          Then, came the grace of divine sight, hitherto withheld, borne on a blue wind.       jesusmarymet02[1].jpg
          Into that sudden freed expanse, the Mater Dolorosa slipped in quietly. To tell me She’d been here before. In gentle wisdom, She parted the old swirling mists, and bade me see the life my family and I deserved ~ a life lived in freedom to glorify God, and no one else. A freedom that would come only if I let the angels unbind my conscience captive to the world, and avail it for the nurturing of my Lord and King.
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          From that night of grace of grief, on a journey that has spanned years and far from over, Mother Mary continues to gently lead me down the blossom-blessed path of bitters and anguish towards peace. Every day, my spirit in Her Hands, I learn to fight any darkness that seeks to still and rule my conscience. Every day is a learning to discern the voice of my Saviour from the beguiling chorus from the sewers.
          For my Mother has taught me there is only one life that glorifies God.
          It is a life where the conscience, the breath to the soul, is never shackled nor governed by human tyranny that seeks to kill God and all of God.

 

 

A YOKE NOT WILLED

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          In the waning days of November, old years ago, I heard an insistent beat on my soul – Do not be yoked with unbelievers…Do not be yoked with unbelievers…Do not be yoked with unbelievers… It was the persistent clamour of many voices of unseen faces, from the moment of my waking, all through the long nights.

          I thought I was going mad. What unbelievers? I threw the question wearily to the arid breezes that lingered in our home back then. Granted, I worked with those not of my faith. But they never darkened my door, much less my hours at home. Every minute home I gave my young children my attention. I was also battling a gray fog – I seemed to have symptoms of depression, stemming from an unresolved, ever-worsening abuse situation, and it rendered a bleak swell and ebb of anguish to my days. It was a life that was too full in some respects, but where were the unbelievers?

          Like many others, I straddled several lives whilst living one. I was wife. I was mother. I was child and sibling. I was working woman and friend. Each one, not merely a calling or a facet of one single life, but a full life, crossing and intersecting others. Few private moments. Always at the beck and call of the needs and whines of others.

          I had good friends, but there was one friend, in particular. Beautiful, wealthy, intelligent, wildly successful. Fun to be with. Catholic in spots and patches. Living a sham of a married life, wedded to her selfish mother whilst expecting her man to play butler to them both. Yet, she was a tender and empathetic friend, quick to support, with an uncanny understanding of who I was.

          Other than my husband, she was the only other person who really knew me. Perhaps too much. Over the decades, she used the lure of a drowning victim to draw me away from my home, away from my husband and children, deeper and deeper into her murky world, lived in a constant swirl of fury, selfishness and frustrations.

          But she was not devious. Not manipulative. She had a cross few experienced. Chained to a neurotic mother, unable to free herself to be the wife to the man she loved, my friend was indeed another victim. Her pride in her polished public image didn’t allow her to seek comfort in other hearts. Not even her husband knew what kind of mother she had. Her every pain instead found an unthreatening vessel in me she could fill.

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          Whilst my mother had no room in her heart for anyone but herself, my friend’s mother deeply loved her daughter, yet not enough to release her. Hence, we both had mothers who chained us to them and sought to destroy other lights in our lives, lest we shifted our worship elsewhere. And on that tundra of emotional pain and desolation, our troubled lives intersected, there, more than anywhere else.           d4a2b95b6c4be7f21196b826193af8f4[1]

          When her husband gave up on the marriage and sought other pastures, my friend’s grief destroyed everything but her stubborn love for her mother. The ragged edges of her torment turned into knives she kept sheathed from her mother, but not from me. She knew I loved my husband and children more than life itself.  She knew that despite my depression and personal wounds, my husband and I struggled to build a happy home for the young ones. Blinded by her pain, all she saw in my life was the light in my home that struggled against the odds to illuminate our shadows. 

          And in her pain, she yearned for even that weak light. Not to have a small share of it, but to take it all, and to take it away so I’d suffer the same, not be a step up on her. She was anguished with her life, wanting mine. Over subsequent months, she transitioned from friend to my child attached to my hip, her 30 to 50 text messages a day to me a stubborn, demanding constant through my work hours, meal preparations, family time.

          She demanded my time, my prayers, and I acquiesced because I couldn’t bear that she suffer alone. It didn’t occur to me that there could have been a different way to deal with the situation – one that didn’t take both our sanities. I struggled with her cross and mine. I pounded at heaven’s door, but God was oddly silent. I grew exhausted and drained. Abandoned by God. Torn in a hundred directions. My placid husband began to express concern over the incessant buzz of the incoming text messages. I screamed that she was a dying soul I could not walk away from. It was not a Christian response to leave the drowning.

          I didn’t realize there was more than one person drowning.

          Then, one morning, it began. Do not be yoked with unbelievers. From sunrise to shadows. Do not be yoked with unbelievers. A warning called out from friends in a world beyond ours. I tried to shut the voices out, but they lived on like an invisible shadow, ever by my side. Desperate, I fell at God’s feet, broken, doubting myself. I emptied myself, in His arms I sought the counsel I was too vain to seek before. 

          Soon, I felt a new firmness of will take hold of me. I began to let hours pass before I answered her messages. And there was no guilt for that. Breathing came easier. I found minutes here and there to just sit and stare at the trees and do nothing. She caught on quickly and retaliated. Biting anger. Vicious.

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         One day, after a whipping I didn’t deserve, I came to my senses. I resolutely stepped out of the smoke of delusion that I was helping a friend in need. I severed everything between us, finally throwing off a yoke that didn’t come from heaven.

the_dead_flower_by_tallulahprewett-d483be9[1]          It’s been years. Long, long years where the floundering wick slowly strengthened. As this November day ages to its repose, I ponder this memory of old sunderance, and wonder why it has come back unbidden. I have not willed it back, for sure. There is no grief for the death of an old comradeship, ultimately sullied and bittered by the idolatry of self.

          But there is epiphany. And it is searing. That mercy must always be blessed and inspired by heaven or it can be led astray. That human hearts can err in misreading the depths of someone’s pain, and in the manner of responding to the needs of dying souls.

          But most of all, that saving a dying soul must never come at the cost of ours.

 

THE WINDS HAVE STILLED

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          Time rushing past. Days filled to the brim. Lists, lists, lists. Tasks accomplished and unaccomplished. Much done, much to do. A whirlwind of activities. 

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          Black headlines. Bleakness. Fear. Loss before its time. Grief, streams of sorrow. Betrayals of loves we thought we knew. Raging winds, storms all around us. Dreams crushed, hopes dashed, trust decimated. 

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          And yet, deep inside, in a secret place hidden within, the winds have stilled. No curious breezes, no storm, no wind wild. The guardians of our soul know something we don’t – the season is ripe. Wind chimes of angels tinkle, bidding us to slow our stride and pause our rush, for the season is ripe.

         

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          Hold close the Rose Beads, ponder the Truth. Gather the children, spread the mantle of prayer. Love the erring, seek the lost, no soul left behind.

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           The winds have stilled. The angels know. The season is ripe.

TRIUMPH OF THE HOLY CROSS ~ Sept 14

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Years ago, when my eyes first traced the words – Triumph of the Holy Cross, I naively imagined the coming feast would bring me joy and revelry. As it turned out, from that first year, every time I saw the feast approaching, I remembered all we had hoped for but ultimately lost. My heart ached every time I heard the proclamation that the Cross would bring joy and that it was a sign of hope.

To me, it brought neither.

Yet, I knew that the struggle to comprehend the true meaning of Christian joy was due to my experience of pain, and not a rebellion against the truth. My feelings were an impediment to the acceptance of the doctrine of the Cross. Although I instinctively knew it was true, I couldn’t see the truth of it manifested through what we had gone through. I didn’t doubt the truth of my cradle faith, but I hurt because I could not proclaim it in sincerity in my life. And I desperately wanted to not hurt because of it.

Every time, every year the feast made its way up my calendar, the eyes of my heart watched it in wary curiosity, willing God to lift the veil and let the truth shine through, so the pain would dissipate.

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This year, on an impulse, I made the sudden decision to mark the feast. I had had enough of waiting by the wings. I began to recite the Novena of the Exaltation of The Holy Cross. It was my way of telling God, I want to know. Lift the veil, Lord.

Some days into it, I heard a voice say, Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms. A fleeting voice. Light. Leaving no mark within me. No compulsion that I follow its leading. An invisible beckoning to part the veil, to go beyond the veil.

I chased after the voice. I called out and waited for its answering echo. I listened out for it, day and night, trying to make out its cadences from among the cacophony of other competing voices.

Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms.

I turned the phrase over and over in my mind. Many dear souls tried to help me fathom its meaning. But every honest suggestion bounced off me like silver raindrops sliding into the earth. Nothing stayed long enough to resonate.

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On the 14th of September, I sat in an empty and silent church and stared at my Lord on His Cross. It was not an easy journey to make to the church, so I wanted to make the most of it. I got busy offering Him my prayers and supplications. I looked carefully at the Cross and willed Him to speak to me. I waited. There was a peaceful quiet around me, but nothing more. After a time, I decided to leave.

As I moved to get up, I was suddenly assailed by a powerful sense of gratitude for His gift of faith to me. Thankfulness flooded my spirit like never before. I had long suspected that what bit of faith I had was not of my making, but a gift from above.

But up to then, I had never before felt such a deep conviction of that. In that moment of light in the church yesterday, I was bent over in a gratitude not mine for all God had blessed me with. It was something I knew all along, and yet, it seemed that some inner eye had been opened to the gift of spiritual insight.

As I finally made my way out of church, I felt an unseen burden lifted off my shoulders. I did not know what that burden was, but I felt light within.

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Stepping into the sunshine, ready to go forth with a spring in my step, I became aware of a sudden developing aridity in my soul. In a split second, I had moved from white to dark. It felt as if my soul was drying from the edges inwards. Nothing around me had changed. And yet, some darkness had slipped in. An unseen wind borne and strengthened on gusts of fear and panic began to howl silently inside me. From the positive emotions of a scant few minutes before, this sudden change was a storm I never saw coming.

I went into pretend mode. I tried to not panic. I carved a face of normalcy and went about my day, while the storm clawed at me on the inside. I tended to house chores and cooked dinner, all the while frantically trying to discern what I had done wrong to have visited this on myself. A hundred questions. No answers.

But I knew, like the faith I carried in my heart, this secret growing desert within my soul was not my doing. It had formed unbidden in me several times in the past. It was not unknown. It was a small moment in the desert Christ stayed in for forty days. It was the desert of hopelessness, doubt, sorrow of the loss of heaven. It was the desolation of the perceived closed door of heaven. No spiritual leadings in that desert in me. No voiceless prompts to charity and rightness. No comfort, no solace, no peace. The aridity was heaven’s door sealed to me so I would leave the comforts I had grown used to, to search anew for Truth.

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It was a journey I could never not make however much I despised it. And yet, I cowed in fear because it was a journey of the soul but without clearly sensing my Lord’s guiding Hand. It was a journey of obedience through bitter darkness and fear, not being able to see in front of me. This was a journey that called for only faith and obedience. And yet it seemed unsurmountable.

As the storm inside me crashed and raged in a widening circle of tempests, I grew more and more desperate. It reached a hideous peak.

Then, a prayer slipped into me. A prayer I have never before prayed.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Like the faith I had, like the dryness in me, this prayer too was not my doing.

But I grasped it like one drowning. I didn’t question it. I didn’t analyse it. Over and over and over, I prayed the prayer, throwing myself in abandon into the depths of it.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit…

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit…

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

And the miracle began. I felt something take root and bloom within my soul.

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The black ice began to melt. The darkness edged away. The storm swirled slower and slower and slower.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

I didn’t know that prayer and but my spirit did. It was my Savior’s words from the Cross. He gave me His words and turned me to His mother to place my spirit, my will in Her hands.

Stunned, I realised whose voice it was that I had heard that day ~ Blow the Spirit of My Mother into the realms – it was Jesus’ voice.

And when I answered with a trusting beyond me, Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit, I stepped out of the darkness. I parted the veil.

In that instant, I knew the Triumph of the Cross.