Spiritual Obedience

Winter Pruning

87.jpg

         Right in the midst of our Christmas family gathering, I heard the call of the dove clearly. Nothing new, but significant because the state of busyness I was in, it was near impossible to have heard this gentle, unobtrusive call. And yet, I heard it.

          Immediately, my thoughts went to the verses that follow me everywhere,

… the winter is past,
the rains are over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth,
the time of pruning the vines has come,
and the song of the dove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines, in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, My beloved, My beautiful one,
and come!   ~   Song of Songs 2: 11 – 13

          Every line promises light and sun and happiness. You could almost hear the wind sing through the trees and the warmth of the sun dance on your skin.

          But one line strays from the sunny promises,

the time of pruning the vines has come

Even if pruning is needed in order to increase blooms and fruit, sorrow before joy, it is still about pain. That makes the verse different from the others. Different in a way that makes me shrink back a little because I am so tired of pain.

          This morning, out in the sun~warmed breezes that sang in giddy glee, a wee dove hiding in the star~tree clucked out its little verse. I left what I was doing and went to sit beneath that tree. Searching for the little one, willing her to tell me what this all means, I found her. She hopped thoughtfully along a branch, muttering to herself. I watched her until the gold~green breezes tickled the leaves that hid my little dove.

          Noticing for the first time the thick foliage that hid this little one, for the first time too, I thought about the time of pruning.

The best time to prune grapevines is during late winter, usually February, while the vine is dormant and before growth begins in the spring. – Jessica Strickland

Late winter.

Usually February.

While the vine is dormant.

 Before growth begins.

In the spring.

          February. Month of Lourdes. 

Humble, holy, hidden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

When the Seas Wild

Storm_wallpaper19.jpg

Those pursuing the spiritual way must always keep the mind free from agitation in order that the intellect, as it discriminates among the thoughts that pass through the mind, may store in the treasuries of its memory those thoughts which are good and have been sent by God, while casting out those which are evil and come from the devil. When the sea is calm, fishermen can scan its depths and therefore hardly any creature moving in the water escapes their notice. But when the sea is disturbed by the winds, it hides beneath its turbid and agitated waves what it was happy to reveal when it was smiling and calm; and then the fishermen’s skill and cunning prove vain. The same thing happens with the contemplative power of the intellect, especially when it is unjust anger which disturbs the depths of the soul. ~ St. Diadochos of Photiki

         

          This was a week of struggling with spots of red anger, but yesterday, the ante was upped. My children told me of a hurt caused by a teacher, and it roused my anger against her. It was not the first time this woman had strayed into personal territory. The hurt this time was a culmination of thorns she had glibly sown in my heart, and last night, it was one thorn too many.

          I decided it was time to deal with her. To give her a memory she would never forget. So, I plotted. I planned the words.

          Then, I recalled the word: ECLIPSE.

          We had just passed one of the greatest events of our lifetime, the Total Solar Eclipse of the US. I had clearly been told by God that the actual event itself held no spiritual weight for me. But in the throes of flaming anger, when I put my rebelling heart at the feet of God, God bade me recall the word, ECLIPSE.

          Then, He stepped back. No comfort. No other word. No direction. Just ECLIPSE.

          I didn’t need to be told what to do because I knew what God wanted of me. I also knew He was not going to push me towards that decision. I had to go to it of my own accord.

          So, I left my mutinous heart hell bent on revenge, and dragged my resisting mind to ECLIPSE. Clumsily, I fashioned a prayer from ECLIPSE for my anger:

Grant me the grace to love this Cross. Give me a Love that eclipses all.

          My mind sought to follow the path of my heart’s desire to vent the anger that bubbled black from its wellsprings. So, it had to be lashed to the prayer because my mind had no interest whatsoever in the prayer. 

          Over and over, alone and woven through the Rosary,

Grant me the grace to love this Cross. Give me a Love that eclipses all.

          I awakened today to a gentle rain that softly pearled the morning air. As I rested my heart against the rain~diamonds that sequined the leaves and boughs, the skies’ tears gently flowed into my spirit. Quietly the streams slipped in and smoothed its silver cold over seas whipped wild by the trouble~winds.

          No trace of the night’s fires remained. I was clothed in calm.

          The trouble~winds sent back to their pits, I went before God. I realized I could now place wounds and wound-ers into His Wounds.

         Then, He spoke. Words for me. Words for my family.

          And I heard Him. I heard every still and little whisper.

 

 

 

 

Lent 11 ~ The King’s Decree

whitelite.png

          After St Frances of Rome taught me that my new prayer was to be, God’s Will Be Mine, I had to be dragged to that prayer. The work of angels must have been particularly hard in those early hours of illumination.

          With all the obedience of a mule, I forced my spirit to the prayer. Over and over, as often as the angel tinkled the prayer chime.

          I took God’s Will Be Mine to the Rosary of Mary.

          I took it to the Rosary of Atonement – the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

          And I left it on my heart as I turned in for the night. God’s Will Be Mine.

          Rousing from sleep to purple skies still watching for the sun’s call, I said the prayer once more.

          And immediately knew a difference.

          It came easily.

          I put it down to the prayer becoming….. familiar, more than anything else.

          Then, I went to the readings of the day, and the early lines of the 1st reading shone a white light straight into my heart:

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“This day the LORD, your God,
commands you to observe these statutes and decrees.
Be careful, then,
to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.
Today you are making this agreement with the LORD…” ~ Deuteronomy 26: 16 – 17

          Today you are making this agreement with the LORD.

          At those words, my soul felt like it had fallen before a great Light. A sudden rush of strength surged into me and I felt my whole being lifted. In a strangeness I can barely describe, I felt my sins fall away like scales at that kingly decree ~ Today you are making this agreement with the LORD.

          I felt like I had been given another chance.

          And with this, my spirit fell into a repentance I have never before experienced. Because it felt as if every barrier that had stood between me and grace before this, had been destroyed in a stroke.

          My soul flung itself into the promise:

God’s statutes and decrees I will observe,

with all my heart and with all my soul.

 

A YOKE NOT WILLED

     4947171622_790dd29303[1]

          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.

450px-HoneyLocustThorn[1]

          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.

          4566221_f520[1]

         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.

 

Child of Peter

Just days after the Easter Vigil experience, a new prayer slipped into my heart:  May THY grief be mine. Not my words. Not my prayer, for it is the prayer of a Victim Soul. A soul consecrated to suffering for Christ.

Never in a million years would I have the courage to pray such a prayer.

I have had my crosses. I have carried them, however imperfectly. Like everyone else, I still have crosses that must be picked up each day and carried. I like to think that I am not one who runs away from the cross. I might whine and scream and rage at heaven; banging on heaven’s doors is an art form I have perfected. But I have always carried my crosses.

But to be stretched and torn and mangled for others….to be a Victim Soul, or something akin to it…..The mere mention of it makes me flee in terror.

Because Pain is not my friend. I can never see Pain as my companion. Pain has marked a great part of my life but because I am a happy person, Pain repulses me.

And yet, after the “blessing” of the great white Light on the cusp of Easter joy, May THY grief be mine is the prayer God has willed for me.

Heaven’s call is clear: Suffer with Me.

the_look_of_jesus__ipad_finger_painting__by_chaseroflight-d658ofd[1]

In as much obedience as my cowardly heart can muster, I whisper the prayer. May THY grief be mine…..May THY grief be mine….May THY grief be mine.  Yet, I cannot claim heroism in praying the prayer. I cannot not help praying it. It slips through my lips for there is a strange power in it. May THY grief be mine is a prayer whose power towers high above my fear and reluctance. I cannot help but yield to it.

Yet, even as I pray it, my heart flees from it, trying to put as much distance between the prayer and what would come of it. I am afraid of what lies ahead. All that my cowardly heart sees is the mountains that must be scaled, the dark and forbidding terrain that must be travelled.

Mountains_by_tiger1313[1]

I see Golgotha for me.

Golgotha_by_ssejllenrad[1]

So many times have I heard about the betrayal of St Peter, the fleeing from his Master at His time of need.

dec466f5278f125cfc3f89782f01e854[1]

I have felt brief indignation that Peter would have the heart to do such a thing; smug pride that I would never do a Peter.

But now, I know, I am truly a child of Peter.