Lent 1 ~ Snatching
I heard the call of three bells in the week before Lent as I prayed for discernment for my Lenten journey.
The first came through the word, Charity.
When it first brushed against my spirit, I sniffed and turned away, because in my estimation, I was doing pretty well there. If anything, I needed to say No more often.
But as it is with everything of heaven, it didn’t leave to flit over to other flowers. It remained like a tiny bell over my spirit, strung on a weave of gossamer, the slightest breeze a-stirring it.
When the drowsy evening winds had whispered their silvery orange endnotes, and the bell still hadn’t learned silence, I knew I was to face a shadow I never realized was a part of me.
I turned my heart towards heaven, and with no delay, the waiting angels laid this on my spirit,
Charity from the mind
As I firmly kept my gaze on the words, the Spirit filtered gentle light through my mind.
In my relationships with others, every battle of spirit I have faced has been fought in the distant fields of my heart, although each battle had birthed in my mind. Instead of being snuffed out right there in its place of origin, each wounding was sent on its way to my heart, where the battle was often long and drawn out.
Simply because the fires had been allowed to rage unchecked for far too long.
The charity I was now being called to was the mental discipline of turning each hurt and negative thought – the very second it budded – to love – through a prayer of Mercy. If I spied a negativity or if anyone hurt me, I had to now immediately wrap that person in a prayer of Mercy.
There was no time to be wasted. It had to be done swiftly. No weighing of options. No indulging in anger or hurt.
As I continued to absorb this tutoring, I realized this kind of prayer felt almost like …. Snatching. Quick and abrupt. Snatching soul after soul, and depositing them in the Ark of Grace. And then, moving on to more souls.
Snatching souls through Charity.
Snatching…..because time is short.
Lent 2 ~ Less for More
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.
Lent 3 ~ Limpias
In the lead up to Lent this year, I was on alert for Lenten signposts that would indicate the path I was to take. I looked out for prayers and meditations and devotions. I read up on saints, went to stories on every day lives. I took them all in, and then sat back to discern what had settled on my spirit.
And then, one day, the Christ of Limpias story came to me.
I had read it last year and the miracle was beautiful. When it came back to me again in the week before Lent, I wanted to move on to something else, but something tugged me back.
I read the story of the Christ come alive on the Cross in a little village church. And this time, it felt different. It felt like I was right there in the church, at the moment of the start of the miracles, in the somber emptiness, watching the priest repair a bulb, and suddenly becoming aware of Jesus coming to life.
I read of the shock and of the subsequent spreading of the news. Of people coming from near and far to become witnesses to life in a special way. I read of things I had not known of my Jesus’ sufferings as He hung on the Cross. The descriptions of the sufferings witnessed in Limpias filled in the blanks of the Crucifixion.
As my eyes went over the words of the accounts, a silence settled on my spirit. A silence that was absent in the first reading a year ago.
A silence that told me I had not stumbled upon Christ of Limpias. But that the Miracle of Limpias had been brought to me for a reason. The faith in the community had been dying when the Miracles began to occur in 1919. The Cross coming alive had awakened the slumbering and dying souls of that parish and beyond, and it lit a fire that spread to distant nations, from 1919 till today.
The Miracle of Limpias lit the fire of seeking in souls.
Lent 4 ~ Fire of Seeking
First Saturday devotions to Our Blessed Mother. After long days where the skies tipped over jar after jar of heaven’s dew over us, the rains lost to the pale sun this morning. As rain memories formed a million water~diamonds that clung to wet leaves and twinkled sunlight through, my inner rebel bade me depart from the usual 1st Saturday devotions.
Instead, I offered Mother the first rain~roses of the blessed first Saturday of Lent – decades of the Glorious Mysteries. I recalled a similar July offering last year, and I tried my best to scrub my offering clean of my never ending petitions. Today’s morning Rosary was my gift to Mother, and I didn’t want it beribboned in earthly seeking.
The 4th Mystery wrapped and offered, my Mother showed Herself. This would be the third time since last year that I have experienced this – right after the 4th Mystery, I am either shown or taught something.
This time, Mother came forth and led my mind back to the Miracle of Limpias. Back into the quiet, dusty church, lit by flailing faith. The miracle had happened on March 30, 1919 – during the season of Lent. At a time when spiritual mourning should have brought souls to the tabernacle of supreme grace. As my spirit stood within that still moment when the sunlight streams through dustnotes, I felt this written in a whisper,
Pray to Seek
As the sun’s rays fell into my heart, I suddenly realized almost all my prayers are usually about appeasement – that someone be given this or granted that. They are seldom about a genuine searching for God. I can barely remember if I have ever prayed that others sell their treasures and to become spiritual pilgrims on a journey of holy seeking.
That dying church of St Peter in Limpias, in the days before Life lit the dark there, might have been filled with people who did not seek Christ as they should have. They brought themselves to church but might have left their souls elsewhere in the coils of earthly cares.
The brethren of Limpias then are me and too many others now. We do not seek God with heart and soul. And even if we do, we might be seeking Him in the pastures and meadows of our choice.
On this morning when the sun seeks to dry the tears of the earth, the Queen of Heaven has made Her wish known – that we pray for the fire of seeking.
Lent 5 ~ That Stones Be Moved
This past week, I read of suicides.
A 21-year-old mother texted her young husband, I love you forever, I’m sorry, and then tied her two-year-old to her, and went into the shadowed sea. The waters returned the mother and her wee one to the sands of the beach some days later.
Midweek, I found Sally Wessely’s delightful blog, and it was humbling and beautiful to read and to see the pictures of a woman embracing life in all its lilts and dips so enthusiastically. Reading about the way Sally chose to live her everydays brought a skip into my heart, and her posts helped me to be more grateful for life’s little pressies of blooms and winds and rain curtains.
Then, I saw suicide in her sidebar menu, and I pulled it up. And I learned that Sally had known a sorrow no mother should ever have to face.
Returning our children to God is never easy. The sorrow bites deep years and years on, evolving from one form to another. But sudden deaths, the snuffing out of flames that should have burned on beyond us, they bring a different dimension of hurt to those left behind. The wounding of hearts is…not the same.
Grief in any form alters life, and grief in the wake of a single suicide can take more than that one life alone. The shock, the regret, that streams from a life abruptly ended before its time, has the dark power to twist and warp more lives into the abyss of desolation.
As I ponder this loss, the dense night sky seems to be wearing the mourning veils of thousands of wounded hearts. I will never have the words for such pain – the torments that lead to suicide, and the anguish from a completed suicide. The path that leads to this death is a long scream in itself. It is a desolation that must be healed, yet its healing is not of this earth.
The agonizing soul can only find respite and strength in the only Real Love there is – our Jesus’ love.
Yet, many do not know Him. And even if they do, turning to God is not always the easiest thing to do, because that’s just who we are. There are too many rocks in the stream; we allow so many things to stand in the way.
So, to my beads I go, to beg grace for the lights that are flickering, and for the healing of hearts rent by suicide. In the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy I rest this desolation, bringing this wound of mortals to the depths of Grace.
That stones be moved and the stream of Life flow unhindered once more.
Lent 6 ~ Fasting to Repair and Restore
For the past several years, I have been troubled by the loss of peace in my workplace. The old harmony had been systematically undermined by persistent back-biting and venomous beliefs. However hard I tried to do my part in holding things to the golden way they once were, despite the prayers and tears, the rifts widened and deepened with the passage of years. I struggled on, and more than once asked God, How much longer?
And then, I read Isaiah 58 ~
Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined homesteads.” Isaiah 58: 9 – 12
Suddenly, it came together for me. I believe I have always given all I have for those around me. I’ve tried to be there for the sorrowing and the grieving long after the last caller has left and the griever forgotten. Yet, it always seemed as if nothing I did ever mattered much for long. The camaraderie I forged among my co-workers misted away easily in any passing gale of malice and spite.
In …remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech… I saw my failing. It should have been obvious but it wasn’t. Whilst I saw the desecration of relationships and had been wounded myself by workplace malice and gossiping, I too had failed to keep myself pure of those same accusations. Too often had I sought respite in the same sins that hurt and maimed us all.
I hadn’t done enough to restore peace. That was the long and short of it.
That was why God gave me the prayer, Let them love God more than themselves – to be said at the very start of a wounding, the very second I saw or felt it, not a moment later. For the stones of sin to be removed, I had to first fast from my own sinful inclinations to hurt others through gossiping and biased assessments. I had to fast by turning every hurt into a conversion prayer.
For it is only through this fast that I can come into the fullness of His will for me as Repairer of the breach, and Restorer of ruined homesteads.
Lent 7 ~ An Army Beyond Compare
I am aware of a deep serenity in the winds that keep vigil amongst the greens of boughs and grasses lush. Even in its gentle dance in the sweetnotes of a pink sky leaning to its night rest, I sense a reverent hush.
It is more than the peace of an old day lived well. This softened windcalls is a sign Someone is near.
My spirit is stirred and I look towards heaven.
Within minutes, through the press of spirit by the words, rock and pines, I come across an old story:
In 1454 in Portugal, a devout, dying woman named Sister Filipina revealed: “A statue of the Most Holy Virgin will speak about very grave future events, for Satan will wage a terrible war. But he will lose because the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God and of the Most Holy Rosary of Fatima, more terrible than an army in battle array, will defeat him forever.”
The Most Holy Virgin Mother of God and of the Most Holy Rosary of Fatima. Mother of God. Mother of the Rosary. More terrible than an army in battle array.
My eyes turn to the sunset skies again, seeking the last ribbons of pink and tangerine. Instead, I am surprised to see none of those colours. Not a trace.
In its place is a vivid blue.
It is Mother Mary’s colour. It is Her sign to me that I must go heart and soul to the Rosary. Something lies beyond the rest of day. A cold that will touch every living soul, at different times, in different ways. Knowing we would feel powerless before it, the Queen of Heaven bids us to seek grace supreme. Grace wrought by the Rosary. Humble prayers on little beads.
Seek grace. I recall the words written on my heart days back:
Pray to seek
Seek grace through the Rosary ~ an army beyond compare.
Lent 8 ~ Seeking Power
Today, I was forced to face someone who had physically hurt one of my children last year. I was speaking to a friend when this man rudely butted into our conversation, to ask my friend something. He left shortly after.
And I was left to choose whether to flee to the mountains of prayer, or to remain on the plains of anger and dislike.
Oh, I chose the mountains, alright, but I also spent the rest of the day’s hours in a mildly unpleasant catapult-cycle, going back and forth from the mountains to the plains.
The anger wasn’t as potent as before – when he had hurt my child – I have the Hail Mary prayer to thank for that. Nevertheless, the anger was there, like a dark shadow by the sidelines, waiting for the right moment to uncoil its tentacles into me. The moment that man showed his disdain for me through his rudeness and arrogance, I knew what was coming for me.
It was a pot-on-a-fire situation I wanted to avoid at all costs.
I could not escape entirely. In any hurt, my tendency to seek the blackfires of anger and vengeance is my thorn in the flesh. It is a constant battle I am seldom free from. Today was no different.
And yet, different it was.
In many unguarded moments today, when I allowed the fiery darts to penetrate my spirit, they felt like they were falling onto wet moss. They couldn’t light the fires they usually do. Still, I would give anything to have an impenetrable shield. To not ever be troubled by these poisoned nibs fashioned out of my own weaknesses.
But till that day of glory comes, I will struggle on. I am not alone, though. I have the Army of the Rosary behind me and before me. It is up to me to seek its power.
And seek it I must. On bended knee, with contrite spirit and steadfast heart.
Lent 9 ~ St Basil’s Prayer
Steer the ship of my life, good Lord,
to Your quiet harbour,
where I can be safe from the storms of sin and conflict.
Show me the course I should take.
Renew in me the gift of discernment,
so that I can always see the right direction in which I should go.
And give me the strength and the courage to choose the right course,
even when the sea is rough and the waves are high,
knowing that through enduring hardship and danger,
in Your name, we shall find comfort and peace.
Lent 10 ~ Needled by Frances
An old memory returned to me today. When I was a child, I found a book of baby names at home. Carefully going through the rather limited list, I felt I could have given myself a better name.
So, I chose Frances for myself. To me, the name resounded with individuality and strength. Different. I didn’t want to be one of the flock, and Frances set me apart from being one of the flock. I guess it appealed to the hidden rebel within me. I informed my parents, and their amusement told me while they would indulge me for a bit, there was no chance they’d ever consider a permanent name change.
So for a time, when at play, I made myself Frances.
I never imagined that there were saints by that name. I found the one I named myself after this morning. St Frances of Rome. And what I learned of her life from http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=49 told me Frances was not just a name I had chosen on a whim decades ago.
St Frances was born in Rome into a wealthy aristocratic family. Although she wanted to be a nun, she was forced by her iron-handed father into an arranged marriage to a wealthy commander of papal troops. Although by most accounts, there was no real trouble between husband and wife, Frances’ mother-in-law, Cecilia, was another matter. A socialite, she thrived on social calls and balls and every manner of frivolity. She and Frances were poles apart; Frances, in her simplicity and piety, could not adjust to this life lived in the meaningless light of material splendor and profligacy. This major difference between them tore at both the women. When her social circle began to mock Cecilia for her daughter-in-law’s oddness – as they perceived it – an angry Cecilia ordered Frances to conform to the family’s social status and embrace the glittery life it called them to.
That exacted a greater toll on Frances than anyone could have imagined. The young girl fell seriously ill, and lay close to death. And it was death she wished for, because to live was not to live in the freedom to worship God, but to live the emptiness of a socialite’s calling.
It was then that Frances had a vision of St Alexis whose piety and religious yearnings had also not been accepted by his own family. St Alexis came to Frances and brought her God’s message, “Do you wish to recover or not?”
Young Frances knew that death was her choice, not God’s, and with a heavy heart, she chose the Hand of God, whispering, “God’s Will is mine.” The hardest words she could have said, but the right words to set her on the road to sanctity.
Frances came back from the brink of death, to glorify God. Despite this, she was not permitted to escape the old unpleasant life that awaited her. The emptiness of dressing up and being with those who had no thought of God hurt as deeply as before. Yet, in accepting God’s will as hers, Frances knew that if He did not save her from the cluttered yet barren living of the rich, then, His will for her must somehow lie in them. So, determined to put family first for God, she joined her mother-in-law on the social scene, while maintaining her religious practices in secret.
In a few short years, however, Cecelia died, and it fell to Frances to take her place to lead and care for her husband’s household.
From that point, God led Frances on to caring for the sick and troubled of Rome. As she had always yearned to do.
Stepping away from the story, 4 little words follow me: God’s Will is mine. I roll the words on my tongue to get a feel of them.
And they don’t sit comfortably.
I cannot explain why. For some odd reason, although to me they mean the same, it is relatively easier for me to say Thy Will be done than God’s Will is mine. I have a needling suspicion it is the inescapability of God’s Will is mine. Thy Will be done allows me some wiggle room, to hold that it’s a call to all – not just for me; God’s Will is mine somehow narrows the focus of illumination to just me.
The words are like needles in my spirit. They prod and poke. The discomfort tells me I am not as obedient to Him as I think. That life is still too much of my own jaunt.
As they happy evening winds depart to their repose, the moon assumes her throne in the dark skies. Gazing at her gentle luminescence, the swells within fall into peace.
I might have thought it was I who found Frances decades ago, but I now know it was St Frances of Rome who sought out the little girl from years before. To teach her the same words she writes on my stubborn heart now.
Words which feel too much like needles. God’s Will Be Mine.
Lent 11 ~ The King’s Decree
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.
Lent 12 ~ Wounds for Glory
I have been trying to stay faithful to my Atonement Rosary ~ The Divine Mercy Chaplet. Lately, through dreams and other experiences my family and I have faced, I know that as Sr. Lucia dos Santos of the Fatima Apparitions revealed, the family is the latest battleground. The family is under attack.
And I fear for us.
I wish I could be stoic and unflinching, with an Abraham-esque faith. Unshaken by storms and uncertainties; clear-minded and loyal to every asking of God. But I have too much of Peter in me. One squall and I’m ready to jump out of the boat.
This morning was no different. Because of my working hours, I have now taken to reciting the Divine Mercy Chaplet during my dawn Holy Hour. In the past week, I have begun to pray for the family’s persecutors. I wish I could say I pray the chaplet with love for my fellow men.
I do not.
I pray it with fear. No matter how many times I kick myself over it, whenever I pray for my husband and children’s protection, I still pray with no small amount of trepidation. What we have been through in years past, what we have recently faced, they make me afraid of what else is in store for us, and if our walls will hold.
This morning, I went to the Chaplet with the same agitation. After the 2nd decade, at the start of the 3rd, about to petition for protection for my loved ones, I lost the prayer.
It was slipped away from me. In its place was:
Give us the courage to bear our wounds that God’s Glory may shine through them.
The minute the prayer got out, I twisted and flailed to pull it back.
I didn’t want wounds. We have had enough for two lifetimes. We are a family that struggles with wounds and woundings; it would be sheer insanity to accept, to ask for any more. So, I quickly tried to tack on a couple of caveats.
But an unseen hand had once more swiped the prayer out of my staining reach. I felt like I was down below, gazing up at my prayer held high, away from me.
I completed the decade, and went on to the 4th. Again, at the beginning, the same attempt to pray for protection. And yet again, it was gently taken away and replaced ~
Give us the courage to bear our wounds that God’s Glory may shine through them.
God’s Will Be Mine, I finally whispered, the fight gone out of me. I don’t know how we’d cope with any more lashings; we don’t stand among the strong, for sure. But suddenly, my wobbly love for God wins out. It is along those lines that my heart falls into peace. We may not be soldier material, but we have always loved. And if love calls us to bear our wounds for others, just like Jesus bore His for us, then my family and I must – no matter how afraid and spiritually timid we are. Because the Miracle of the Glorified Cross shines brightest through wounds borne for Love.
Because to bear our wounds is a sacrifice. To bear our wounds is to praise God.
And to offer praise as a sacrifice is to glorify God.
Lent 13 ~ I Refuse Thee Nothing
Some hours ago, I stopped by one of my favourite blogs, Veil of Veronica, by blogger Susan Skinner, and there I read what I wished I’d never read – the closing of the Lifebook of Eva Vaughan, a friend very dear to Susan.
Susan had brought Eva to us through various blog posts. Through her posts on Eva’s battle with pancreatic cancer, I saw my smallness and my empty heroism, the way I took my own health, motherhood, and other gifts, for granted.
Today, I read that Eva has folded her earthly wings and gone Home.
I promised Susan Masses for Eva’s soul- which I can only do this coming Sunday when we go to church. I want to do something for Eva in the days between now and Sunday. I try to offer prayers for her soul, but it’s like pricing away nails deeply embedded in wood.
It’s a day when prayers don’t come easy.
But I don’t want a burning, humid day when the breezes forgot to play, to be the reason to leave a soul waiting.
Yet, an unpleasant inertia takes hold of me.
But I press on. I’ve got to do something.
In a quiet moment, rare in the sultry night here, Nancy Shuman brings me Heaven’s answer ~
Have you ever tried giving God just one day in which you refused Him nothing, a day of absolute generosity? ~ Fr William Doyle
I’m not in a giving mood, to be honest. A nagging shoulder injury and the heat of the day, coupled with kids determined to be like ants on your leg, have taken me amongst briars. I just want the pain to go, the kids to be quiet and the rains to fall.
Have you ever tried giving God just one day in which you refused Him nothing, a day of absolute generosity?
What if God asks me for something I just cannot give? I know the Giver of Every Good Gift Who fashioned me, body and soul, would never ask me to cross terrains for which no grace is available. Yet, in my sinfulness I hold back. My reluctance tells the pathetic tale of my lack of faith. I am afraid to trust Him today.
But what if this is what Eva needs? And if she has no need of my prayers, but someone else does, can I knowingly withhold this giving? Is it right for me to do so, so brazenly and selfishly?
Have you ever tried giving God just one day in which you refused Him nothing, a day of absolute generosity?
I have never. Even now, I don’t want to.
But if this is God’s decree for me, I must. Because I have made a promise to obey. With all my heart and with all my soul.
And so, I take the plunge ~
God’s Will be mine. I refuse Thee nothing.
Lent 14 ~ Sigh of the Prisoner
Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You,
with Your great power free those doomed to death. ~ Psalm 79:11
Last year, I wrote of one of my superiors at work who has the unfortunate disposition of crushing hearts and spirits. He doesn’t do it unknowingly; he does it with cruel and calculated intent.
I’ve been his target for the past 12 years. One day last year, he broke me finally.
Deeply hurt, I turned to God.
And the God I turned to turned me decidedly towards praying in mercy for this man. No retribution plea He allowed. No arm about me, no flooding of heavenly comfort into my heart either.
The balm for my pain lay in the mercy prayer for this man’s soul.
And so, I prayed. Of course, it didn’t come easy. Revenge can be as strong a manacle of my heart as it is for this man who hurt me. The only difference is I seldom act on it. But revenge maintained a malevolent vigil even as I forced myself to pray that this man be saved.
I was taken through several prayers as I went from one level of healing to the next. When I first began, it was a simple yet powerful, Blood of Christ on him, Blood of Christ on me. The angels tinkled the prayer chimes every time I saw him at work. Every time he entered my thoughts. I said the prayer when my heart softened from time to time. I said it when my heart hardened in anger every time bitter memories won out.
And after a time, I was led to the Divine Mercy Chaplet for him. By this time, there was no more inner struggle to pray for him. I didn’t have to be dragged to the prayer. I said it with some dedication too.
And whenever I slipped in my routine, God sent me dreams of the man and his power to hurt, He allowed little nips at work too – to take me scurrying back to the Cradle of Grace, seeking life for the man.
I have read to some extent of the immense power of prayer. It can work in ways we least expect.
Great imagination that I have, it failed me with regards to this man. Despite all my reading and experiences on the miracles prayers can obtain, I couldn’t fathom how my puny prayers this time were going to save his soul – because he barely changed. I finally reached the point where I stopped caring about where my prayers for this man were headed, and how they were going to be answered. I was called to say them, and I did.
I placed whatever disappointment I had in the lack of signs of conversion, in Mother Mary’s heart. And while I continued to pray for him, in this way, I moved on too.
Then, one day at Mass, through one of the readings, I heard a voice tell me that this man could not change because the dark pride in him went back a long way; his bloodlines had been contaminated from a long time before.
I was stupefied. What did it mean? After all my effort, this??!! God let me puzzle over this for many long weeks.
And then, a tiny bud began to bloom. An Unseen Heart gently drew me to the Prayer of the Holy Wounds. For a reason I have no explanation for, two weeks ago, I began to determinedly place this man in Jesus’ Holy Wounds. I put him and four others in Christ’s sacred Wounds, I imagined them there, deep within, and prayed for the Blood of Christ to flood them all, cleansing every bloodline, helping each one to love God more than themselves.
Every day, I offered that same Prayer of the Holy Wounds at the start of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Each time I prayed it, the prayer became a little less about me, and more about saving him.
Then, at the beginning of the new week, these lines of the Responsorial Psalm caught my heart ~
Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You;
with Your great power free those doomed to death.
At any other time, reading those words would have made me immediately see myself as that Prisoner, because I have too much of mercy for myself.
But this time, this time was different.
The moment I saw the words, I saw my superior’s face.
I knew then that while I only saw him as a sneak and a bully and all things negative and unpleasant before this, in God’s compassionate gaze, this man was a prisoner.
And by extension of that, if I held on to my negative perception of my superior – however justified it was, but without the compassion of mercy and forgiveness, – then, I was being his jailer.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the flower of comprehension began to bloom more petals. The Prayer of the Holy Wounds was as much for me as it was for that unfortunate man. Christ’s Sacred Wounds had freed me from being the jailer of this soul.
And I now know with a deep certainty that my Jesus’ Wounds will now free this man’s soul.
As often, as deeply and as selflessly as I continue to place this man into the Holy Wounds, this prisoner will be freed to begin to seek the only God there is.
And the conversion will begin.
Lent 15 ~ A Shifting
A year ago, in the week before Lent 2016, I dreamt of a coming flood. A terrible, terrible rush of angry, filthy, muddy water. And the word given to me later by St Joseph, the Discerner of Dreams, was – Prepare. This call was repeated a few short months later.
Since then, though I’ve often pondered it, I’ve not been told about a flood again. No more dreams of such a thing, either. Still, that didn’t keep me from wondering, What kind of a flood was it? From a terrible rain? A sea surge? An earthquake leading to a tsunami?
Or a spiritual flood of some sort, as many are speculating as well?
Yesterday, I received an email from a humble, loving and deeply devout lady. She had reason to recall my old dream – she had been recently hearing of people once more having premonitions of a tsunami.
I had nothing much to offer in my reply to her; there had been no recent stirring of my spirit in this regard.
But as I ended my reply, I told her,
We must stay close to prayer. I am sensing a shifting.
I don’t know where that came from. And I didn’t think much of it either as I sent off the email.
Only today has it come to me that a tsunami is caused by a displacement of a large amount of water.
Lent 16 ~ Form Their Hearts
For any parent who intimately knows the struggle to raise our children right
O glorious St. Joseph, to you God committed the care of His only begotten Son amid the many dangers of this world. We come to you and ask you to take under your special protection the children God has given us. Through holy baptism they became children of God and members of His holy Church. We consecrate them to you today, that through this consecration they may become your foster children. Guard them, guide their steps in life, and form their hearts after the hearts of Jesus and Mary.
St. Joseph, who felt the tribulation and worry of a parent when the child Jesus was lost, protect our dear children for time and eternity. May you be their father and counselor. Let them, like Jesus, grow in age as well as in wisdom and grace before God and men. Preserve them from the corruption of his world, and give us the grace one day to be united with them in Heaven forever.
Lent 17 ~ Spilling Sunshine
The kind of life we lead these days – the traffic chaos we navigate, the endless stress from deadlines and workloads, running the home, caring for the family, homeschooling, helping out at church, observing prayer times – the list of to-do’s never end. It’s probably worse for many others. This is the kind of life that has us running here and there, running lists through our heads. Almost every day, from our morning greeting of the day, would likely be about what we can accomplish this day, what can be crossed off those lists.
I have that sort of life. My husband does too. And so do many we know. Yes, we get tons done. But something is often missing.
Two days ago, on a sultry evening while the leaves thrashed restlessly in the hot breezes, I made up a batch of spicy fish cutlets. On a whim, I packed and sent some over, piping hot, to my next-door neighbour so she’d have one dish less to prepare for their dinner.
The rest of the night sped past in a flurry of activities. I had been feeling tired before this but soon felt a new surge of energy. Despite the swelling heat, I felt contented at bedtime as I stood by my window, gazing out at a night sky fleeced in clouds, veiling distant stars winking slyly.
Today, I read posts by a blogger, Jean, who holds sway at Molly’s Folks. There was one which caught my eye. A keen knitter and skilled at all things needle, she had made many little embroidered hearts, decorated with pretty baubles, and sent them out to various people. She could have sold them and made money off them, but she didn’t. They went to little girl homes. They went to the poor. They went to lives facing a bit of a chill.
She was spilling little bits of sunshine here and there. Tumbling joy down where the cold sometimes never leaves.
How often do I do that? I might do a lot for others, bring them the relief they need. But sometimes, we all need more than that. We need to know we are loved.
We need that little dewdrop of gold sunshine, tumbled into a busy hour. We need that little goldpearl of love to be tucked into our weary spirits. We need that little tickle to turn us away from chills and heat for a while, to rest a bit in merry sunshine.
We get that when others choose to love us more than their own selves. We get that when we choose to love others more than ourselves.
That sudden lilt in my step that hot night was gifted me when I took time off to warm the heart of my busy neighbour. And I can imagine the delicious drizzling of joy in the spirits that received Jean’s love through her pretty handstitched hearts.
We all need dimples of sun spilled into our everydays. When our Lent is so much to do with cleaning and cleansing, gifting love-through-joy where it is most needed can sometimes get buried beneath the busyness of our spirits.
I’m going to try and spend more of my hours spilling sunshine into yearning burrows. Because the more tired our hearts get, the greater the need for sun~joys.
Lent 18 ~ Never
Yesterday, I read of someone’s silent aching that took her from sleep. When the pain got too deep, she reached out for God’s Hand, and He came to her through Isaiah 41:13 ~ For I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; It is I who say to you, Fear not, I will help you.
A True Father’s Love.
I learned of that love, for the first time, close to ten years ago when I had reached a point of brokenness I could not depart from. I had given all I had in me, but it didn’t satisfy some. I was derided, blamed and hurt for the loss I seemed to have brought down on others. I had loved to emptiness. But to the vulture-hearts gathered around me, I hadn’t done enough; my sins had caused the troubles.
They said my misfortune was God’s punishment for my sins.
And I believed them.
For a whole year, I struggled. For a whole year, I sought God.
But every time I came near, I hid from Him.
Because they said I was to blame.
And I believed them.
One night, it was time for another farewell. So, I went to the only Treasure Chest there is for the gem of the greatest value to be bequeathed as a final gift.
The page fell open to Isaiah 54:10 ~
The mountains may depart and the hills be moved,
but never will My love depart from you
I wept and wept at the words. Every mountain and hill in my life had been levelled. I had come to know a tearing so great and deep, I felt I could never again love.
But in the nighttime of my deepest emptying, through the words, never will My love depart from you, my God told me He loved me.
And for the first time, I believed Him.
Lent 19 ~ The Stars of Past
In our family, the past lives with us like another family member. Almost every day, the past is resurrected. And yet, we are a family that revels in the present. My husband and I have hearts somewhat worn down by hurts and loss, so when our gaze goes beyond the horizon of what is before us, we are understandably more reticent in our hopes. But our children, growing up and facing life’s curves and dips with their hearts firmly in ours, see no clouds beyond the repose of the sun.
The past comes alive each day when the kids awaken, and some are still young enough to want their morning kisses and cuddles. My husband and I have pet names for each, and while the older ones might look a tad askance when we use them, the younger ones sometimes refuse to answer to their given names, preferring their pet names. I think it’s like a security blanket for them. Or perhaps those funny little names comfort them that they are something special to us that they are not to others.
I believe my children have grown ‘watching movies’ of their childhood because of the constant airing that childhood narratives get in our home. Not a day goes by without someone purposefully steering the dinner conversation towards tender reminiscences of growing-up tickles and mischief.
Is it any wonder that our dinners can go on to close to two hours?
These precious conversations have become the soul of the family. As we chat and listen and sometimes, argue with one another, the past sits with us, like an unseen guest. He listens in earnest as my husband and I weave for our kids our sharings and teachings about present day issues, from the harbor of the days and lives gone by. Being very much people people, we are a storehouse of endless family anecdotes.
Indeed, we have rich earth to draw life lessons from.
The words from yesterday’s 1st reading is gentle entreaty for a preservation of these ways of ours ~
However, take care and be earnestly on your guard
not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen,
nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live,
but teach them to your children and to your children’s children. ~ Deuteronomy 4:9
Those verses tell us that the past must always be allowed its living. Not to haunt or torment and to take life away, but to burnish the life now and that which is to come.
For just as it has the capacity to bring death, the starlight of history and memories bear also the supreme grace to heal, to nurture, and to light the way ahead.
Lent 20 ~ Between the Parapet and The Water
From the book, Cure Of Ars:
There was a woman who told St. John Vianney that she was devastated because her husband had committed suicide. She wanted to approach the great priest but his line often lasted for hours and she could not reach him.
She was ready to give up and in a moment of mystical insight that only a great saint can receive, John Vianney exclaimed through the crowd, “He is saved!”
The woman was incredulous so the saint repeated, stressing each word, “I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition.”
It is the morning after Westminster. I don’t know how many lifebooks will close this day through human will – those who don’t want others to live; those who themselves don’t want to live.
But I am alive and living and wanting to live.
And I want others to live as well. In this life and in the next.
So, for the remaining hours of the day, I offer the Act of Contrition for the world. For all those contemplating ending lives – theirs or others’.
It saved that man in the story. It will save others too.
ACT OF CONTRITION
I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.
In choosing to do wrong
and failing to do good,
I have sinned against You
whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with Your help,
to do penance,
to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ
suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God, have mercy.
Lent 21 ~ Words on the Heart
Take with you words, and return to the LORD ~ Hosea 14:3
Yesterday, in the story about St John Vianney and his mystical response to a woman whose husband had taken his own life, the saint said that the deceased had been spiritually saved because of the last prayer he had uttered: the Act of Contrition.
For some reason, I felt I needed to give the words of that prayer to others contemplating various deaths. Not to physically send the prayer, nor to tell them to pray it. But to pray the words for them who cannot. To say the prayer on their behalf.
To write the words of contrition on hearts that would otherwise never contemplate them.
As ever the Doubting Thomas, I did wonder if what I was doing was right.
But there was no time to be lost. I went ahead anyway, due to the exigency – I was saying the Act of Contrition to stop deaths by human will.
Today, the verse from Hosea 14:3 holds my spirit as I drift by.
Take with you words, and return to the LORD
I know it refers to my own penitence.
But could it mean too the prayers we pray in the waters of love and mercy – which give the words of contrition to be written on dying hearts?
Lent 22 ~ Chime of the Annunciation
I wasn’t sure of the date today, so I checked, and saw that it was March 25.
And it tugged on my heart.
I ran the date through my head to see if it was a birthday or a deadline I had forgotten, but there didn’t seem to be anything.
I continued my work. And the date continued to chime quietly and gently, like the tiniest of bells. Little baby-tugs on my heart. About two hours later, it had gone on long enough that I could no longer ignore it, so I looked up the date to see if there was a church feast of some significance.
March 25 2017 was the Feast of the Annunciation. It hit me like a slap of water.
In July last year, we were to travel back to my husband’s hometown, to visit a grave. We always take flowers when we go, but that day, it was special, and I wanted roses, and the best of them too. In my heart, I envisioned pink roses; I yearned for the beautiful Guadalupe Roses. They do not grow here, but I prayed we’d find something close enough.
However, during my Morning Holy Hour that blue~gold July day, I received three tugs in a single, different direction.
The first came through a painting I had never before seen – of a young girl pinning a rose to a statue of Mother Mary.
And the second tug was by St Padre Pio. I cannot remember how it came about, but it was willed by God that morning, that I should find a link to a website that was all about St. Pio and the Rosary.
Finally, as we were leaving the house to begin our long journey, I casually looked around the tangle that is our garden, and amongst the busyness there, a lone flower caught my hurrying gaze.
A tiny, tiny pink tea~rose.
As we travelled, my thoughts inevitably went back to my hope that we’d find roses.
In a quiet light burst, I recalled the events of the morning – the picture, the words and the baby bloom of rose. And immediately, I knew.
I had wanted roses for this beloved one gone Home.
But instead, Beloved wanted Roses for our Mother. The most beautiful of Guadalupe roses – the Rosary.
I yielded to the gentle but insistent request.
It being a Monday, I began to recite the Joyful Mysteries. The 1st Mystery, the Annunciation, went fine, and I proceeded to the 2nd. But from a sharp and sure determination to recite the Rosary, I suddenly began to struggle with the 2nd decade of the Rosary. The words kept evaporating, I kept forgetting them.
Over and over and over, I went back to the 2nd, then to the 3rd decades of the Rosary.
Over and over, each time, the Rosary header for each decade dissipated. I would begin to recite the Mystery for the decade, and I would be transported right back to the first mystery.
Soon, I began to feel drowsy. It was warm day, and one of beauty. Blue mists still hid and peeked out from amongst branches and grass dancing in the merry~yellow of the morning sunshine. The perky joy of the day drizzled its blessings into my spirit.
Lulled into a deep peace, as I savoured the gold of that beautiful day, my thoughts drowsily went back to my struggle with the Rosary. My recitation kept going back to the Annunciation.
Why did I keep returning to that? Was something holding me back? What was it about the Annunciation?
And at that moment, I heard a clear, female voice write these words on my heart ~
The event of the Warning will begin with the Annunciation
That was last year. I had forgotten all that. But the memory returned today, in the earliest hours of the 25th, the Feast of the Annunciation, 2017. Despite the initial shock of remembering, there is no fear, no worry whatever may come. That day last year, I was not told the year to look out for.
But I now know it is this year, 2017. Because the Rose~bell chimed just after midnight of the old day.
To remind me of the great day when the Archangel Gabriel announced the coming of a Miracle to change the tide of the times.
Lent 23 ~ All Alone
We returned to my husband’s hometown parish for Mass this Sunday.
When I had first married him, this Our Lady of Perpetual Help church was where we worshipped every Sunday. And it couldn’t have been more different from the churches I was used to.
I had come from rather snooty ‘upper class’ parishes in the towns I grew up in and where I first worked before marriage, hundreds of miles from where I would eventually end up after marriage. Those churches I attended as a child and later, as a university student and working woman, were affluent churches where the rich and influential held every position of power in the church, and Sunday was the day to feel down and dowdy next to the stylish and exquisitely dressed womenfolk.
Not being endowed with beauty or style of any sort, I never fit in. So, at every available opportunity, I opted to travel long distances to inner city parishes where the poor were more likely to be found, and no one gave you the eye for the simple clothes you wore.
But the poor here were a distant and withdrawn lot. They were not unfriendly; they were just weighed down by money troubles and every other heartache under the sun. Being young, holding down a good job and with my whole life ahead of me, it never occurred to me to reach out, even with a smile, to tell those parishioners that they were loved.
The parish priest too kept to his own corner. A troubled parish that was struggling with their faith and with their life couldn’t have been all that welcoming of the pastor’s advices and occasional admonishments delivered with a firmness through his weekly sermons. So, priest and people warily kept their distance from one another. Always being late to Mass, I too fled the church immediately after Mass, not wanting to risk a hello to Fr, only to receive a likely rebuke about my tardiness from the good priest.
Again, it never occurred to me to accept whatever earful I might have gotten, just to spend short minutes lifting a tired priest’s spirits. I never thought that even a priest would need to be told he was loved.
Short years later, I learned that Fr had been suffering from renal failure. Yet, he had pastored a difficult parish, with no assistant priest to depend on.
Fr died soon after.
When I married my husband, his parish gave me the shock of my life.
It was a noisy, vibrant Catholic congregation that took a lively interest in everyone else’s affairs. Everyone knew the cheery and dynamic parish priest’s diary of meetings and movements. They knew his birth date and even news of his siblings. His family was theirs too. In fact, everyone was family to everyone else! No birth or marriage or illness amongst them escaped anyone’s notice.
No chance for anyone to skip Mass either – they’d have to run the gauntlet of embarrassing inquisitions from every church member.
It was a shock alright for an uptight me hailing from cold churches where no one really knew one another.
For many years, we enjoyed the warmth of worship in Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The young resident priest was soon posted elsewhere, and his place taken by another, who, in his own powerful way, continued to light a fire of holy seeking in his parishioners’ hearts.
But then, came a third, priest, troubled and lost, and something began to die in the most beautiful of parishes on the east of the country. Times were changing. Fortunes were changing. As Fr struggled with himself, his people lost a shepherd they needed. Personal problems, struggling marriages, wayward children and job issues began to darken the skies here. Soon, love for one another took a beating, and more and more often, I’d hear of squabbles and infighting among the members.
Where life once thrived, death crept in stealthily.
I was a witness to all this. I clucked and shook my head in disappointment. I was no longer a member of the parish there, because by then, with a growing family, my husband and I had to join a parish closer to our marital home. But on monthly visits home, I saw and learned anew of this dying. For a time, I prayed for the troubled priest. Soon however, I gave up.
I wasn’t too fond of the priest; I didn’t like that he was not being the priest I expected him to be. And it grew to be more satisfying to take the lower road and condemn the man for his failings.
For some years, that was how it was.
Three years ago, yet another priest was sent to replace the troubled one, and what was left of the dwindling parish warily eyed the new aging but resolute pastor, anchored in calm and quiet steel. By then, many of the parish stalwarts who had tried to keep the congregation together, had either died or aged to illness or moved away. What remained was a disparate remnant, angry with the world.
Condescending towards the new man of cloth.
Fr struggled mightily with his people.
They didn’t come to meetings, they bickered among themselves. They held back their children from being altar servers and from playing the organ for Masses. They ignored Fr when he tried to gather them together, they were greatly inclined to educate the humble, quiet priest on parish matters, believing themselves the wiser on church affairs.
Again, none of this escaped me. Yet, not once did I turn to God to ask, What would You have me do?
Today, three years on, returning home, sitting in the tired, old pew, I sensed a shifting. Something had changed. There was an undercurrent of life among the living tombs. A deep, deep peace permeated the church. I didn’t see outright love yet, but I saw smiles. In some eyes, joy had returned.
In a sudden moment, I looked at the old and worn priest, delivering his sermon with an inner strength that belied appearances. And I knew then that Father had won the battle. I whooped with joy inside me.
Later, as we were driving home, I reflected happily on the priest’s victory and the courage and faith it must have taken to win this.
About to snuggle into my seat in contentment, I began to feel a strange inner sadness. A gentle, feather-light Hand traced grey lines across my joy. I held my breath and waited.
Gently, the Unseen Hand lifted, and I felt the soft, sad words It had left behind,
You left him to do it all alone.
Lent 24 ~ Not As Man Sees
Not as man sees does God see,
because man sees the appearance
but the LORD looks into the heart ~ 1 Samuel 16:7
Lent 25 ~ Harvest of Toil
My children’s first test results are in. Some are okay, some not. Of course, I’m bothered by the not’s. I’m trying to not let it get to me, but I’ve already lost interest in the day. It’s not worry; it’s weariness. Deep, born of years of labour and sacrifices; there’s nothing we’ve not given the children. All we have asked them is to always give their best for Jesus.
A string of B’s from an A-student who stubbornly spent more time in fun and tv watching cannot be deemed the best fruits offered at the altar of God. One who rushed through or slept through prayers and was casual about Mass and the Sacraments certainly did not bear the best of gifts for the Lord.
The harvest is what it is because the toil was flawed from the start.
For a while, I ponder my helplessness, this strange melancholic stupor that has me in a curled heap. What can I say to this child of mine? What can I say to reverse this dark tide?
What can I do that hasn’t already been done?
Idly sifting through the past readings, Isaiah stills my wanderings.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant. ~ Isaiah 65:21
If the toil is flawed, so will the harvest be. We have said the same, in a hundred different ways. How will it make a difference now?
A tiny bell tinkles in the still wind. Take Isaiah’s words. Take them as they are.
I take Isaiah to this child. I pray he be received.
They shall live in the houses they build,
and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.
Words of hope. Words of warning.
Lent 26 ~ Fighting the Weeds
I went to bed last night, dead inside and tired. I had heeded a call to share a verse from Isaiah with one of my children who had come home with poor grades. I was reluctant to – initially. The verse was They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant ~ Isaiah 65:21, and it came after I had breathed a prayer for heavenly illumination to handle this escalating problem. Nonetheless, answer or not, I was not sure if I had heard heaven right. In all times past, whenever I was hurt or upset over something, my prayers had always taken me to God’s gentle rebuke or comfort or strength.
If I had read Isaiah 65 at any other time, the verses in the chapter would surely have comforted and lifted drooping spirits. But this time, all I saw in They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant – was a warning.
A warning to my child.
I had come from a life where my mother had liberally used the Bible and God to cow me into submission. I didn’t want to be my mother; I wanted none of her in the way I mothered my own brood. So, naturally, I was more than a little unwilling to take Isaiah 65:21 – as a warning – to my child. There had to be another way.
Everything then went dead inside. No whisper, no murmur. However insistently I troubled the depths of me in search, my spirit stubbornly yielded nothing.
It folded in on itself. And I found myself locked out. All I had with me was Isaiah 65:21.
It was as if by asking God for an alternative, He was answering me by giving me none.
Breathing a silent prayer, I shared the verse with my child.
It was not the most pleasant or easy of encounters.
I had been raised to fear God. My children had thus far been raised to love and trust Him. When they do wrong, we teach them to see the hurt they had caused God. Negative fear of God had damaged my relationship with God for so many, many years, and I swore I would never allow that in our lives now.
Yet, what I sensed in the call of yesterday was that I was not to water down or strip the words of Isaiah of its sternness. I was to give them as they were.
Deeply unhappy, I obeyed, all the while hoping I had read the call right.
As feared, in sharing the verse as it was, I hurt my child – which in turn, hurt me. I was not rewarded with flooding joy to tell me all would be well. All I carried away with me was the wounded look in clear, jovial eyes over the message that if change was not willed and adhered to, there would be consequences to live with.
It was deeply unpleasant to see my hurting child, and worse, to know I was the perpetrator.
This morning, dulled in spirit upon rousing, in the cold stillness of a day still caught in the dark of slumber, I heard the unmistakable strains of Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Ave Maria, in my heart. They followed the tune of a hymn I heard sung in a Fatima apparition video, The 13th Day, that we had watched as a family on Annunciation Day. Most mornings, I say the Rosary of Atonement – the Divine Mercy chaplet, and I had intended to do just that today.
But the Ave Maria strummed stronger than ever against my heart. It blocked out every other hymn I tried to play against it. It was odd, something I had never before experienced.
Hours after I had obeyed, joy began to trickle into my heart and into the heart of my child. This made me ponder the chain of events, the connection between points.
Isaiah. Obedience. Repentance. Fatima. Rosary.
Did this mean the sun would never retreat from this point on? That is not possible, I think. Raising children is rarely a perpetually happy jaunt through flowering meadows. The weeds of challenges and struggles is a constant presence in every family life.
These challenges are not to be made light of. Not to be watered down, plastered over, just to protect our beloved children from the unpleasantness of God’s judgment. Sister Lucia of the Fatima apparitions has said: “The final confrontation between the Lord and satan will be over Family and Marriage.” And she is right. What had happened to our family was not just a simple matter of exams or school. Our child’s problem had its roots in spiritual disinterest. A dangerous spiraling that starts out innocuous, but can see likely ending in spiritual death as it slowly chokes and leeches life out.
And when one life is affected, it hurts the entire family. That is the insidious power of spiritual lethargy. If we step aside and simply allow our lives and hopes to unravel by making excuses for it, by refusing to face it for what it is, then what happens to a single child can extend death to the marriage as well.
A year ago, I had a deeply upsetting dream that satan was hunting our children as recruits for his evil army. Since the dream, my husband and I have assumed the watchman’s post at every plausible point of entry.
But I think we made one mistake. We expected satan to come with a burst and a bang. We were on guard for the inevitable commotion and ruckus that would have heralded his attempt to enter our children’s lives.
But he is not called serpent and wily for nothing. He came to our children alright. But he came in the deadliest of silences – spiritual lethargy. He came in small and light and quietly. Like weeds in the flowerbeds. A prayer missed here and another missed there. Mild disinterest in Mass, lapses in attention. Typically adolescent, we assured ourselves even as we did reprimand and do the necessary pulling back.
We failed to go into battle. Because I came from endless chaos in my growing up years, I wasn’t about to overreact and resurrect that same tumult now. That was my priority. Not God. And that was where we tripped. Satan had come in some distance before the poor exam scores led to some soul-searching.
It was then that we realized we had left one of the gates wide open…..
We will not go meekly. Every child given is to be returned in holiness to God some day. We must go to battle against this darkness as it seeks our children to build its own dark army. We needn’t fear bereftness. Through humility, obedience and the Holy Rosary, we have the power of an army beyond compare.
Any gardener with a heart and will, will fight to save his flowers from weeds.
Even more so, parents. For what we have is far, far more precious
Lent 27 ~ Curses and Stones
I saw the Holy Father in a very large house, kneeling before a table, with his face in his hands, crying. Outside the house were many people, some of whom cast stones at him, others cursed him and said many ugly words. Poor Holy Father! We have to pray a lot for him. – Blessed Jacinta Marto, Fatima seer
Lent 28 ~ Go Among Trees and Stones
After these apparitions he seemed to have received the vocation of an anchorite; he hid behind the rocks and trees in order to pray alone… ~ of Francisco Marto, Fatima seer.
Lent 29 ~ Follow the Consoler
After the apparitions ended, Francisco played truant from school as often as possible. Our Lady had told him that his life on earth was to be short, and Francisco did not see why he had to attend school when there was something far more important to be done: he preferred to spend time praying to the “Hidden Jesus” in the Tabernacle. His great concern was to console His sorrowing Lord and the Heart of His Mother. ~ of Blessed Francisco Marto, Seer, Fatima Apparitions.
Praying to the Hidden Jesus, and going among trees and rocks to hide to pray – those were the things which made a deep impression on me these few days. I decided to attempt to follow Francisco’s prayer footsteps on Saturday, the 1st of April. Since it was 1st Saturday Devotions, the prayer I prayed amongst stones and trees was the Hail Mary. Not the actual Rosary, but simple Rosary~buds said as breath~prayers throughout the course of the day. I tumbled Hail Mary’s down two need~burrows.
The Pope, and someone who was hurting me.
For the Holy Father, the Mary~rosebuds were for whatever his real needs may be.
For the present ‘thorn in my life’, well, the Hail Mary’s were my penance for every angry thought I entertained against this person. It was not that easy for me to be more generous; I could not pray deeper prayers for this person today.
The Hail Mary’s were simple and straightforward. And saying them just like that emptied the prayers of me; they were not shadowed by petition today.
I think it was my way of surrendering them completely into the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Immaculate Heart of Mary, with no dagger of a petition of how I think what should be done, slipped in within the folds of the prayer.
Jesus was alone among stones and trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. No one was there with Him to share His Tears. But the young child Francisco made reparation through his tender efforts.
Francisco was barely eleven when he sought to console his beloved Jesus and Mary.
Yet, he left us the biggest footprints to step into, to walk his journey of the Consoler ourselves.
Lent 30 ~ Let It End
Let the malice of the wicked come to an end ~ Psalm 7:10
Lent 31 ~ Light by the Door
Look, Mother, by the door . . . shining light, very beautiful. ~ Blessed Francisco Marto, Fatima Seer, moments before his death, 4 April, 1919.
What a great mother this child had. She returned, not one, but two beautiful children to the Lord in perfect holiness. She watched them fall ill, nursed them as best as she could. She had to let one be taken away from her, she must have known when breath left both. As there are books on all three seers, I wish there was at least one on Francisco’s mother. Just to press close to her life, be a part of it through the pages.
To know the heart that beat through both grief and joy.
And at the end of it, to whisper a plea that she press to that same heart, mothers bound by a bond that marks and sets apart.
The bond of being blessed with children who saw the Light that is both a farewell and a welcome.
Blessed Francisco Marto, 11 June 1908 – 4 April 1919, Fatima, Portugal
Lent 32 ~ Priests
Some visitors were one day discussing in her presence the faults of a certain priest who had been forbidden to say Mass. Jacinta began to weep for sorrow and she said that people should not talk about priests but they should rather pray for them. She herself often prayed for priests and asked others to do the same. ~ of Jacinta Marto, Fatima seer.
I am tired and worn out by the week, yet able to pray, but unable to pray for others since the past Sunday. The only prayer allowed me as I reach for the Rosary is the prayer of an emptied vessel. Since Sunday, it feels as if I am only allowed to approach God in this way.
Yet, it is not a form of spiritual dryness. Despite my physical weariness, my heart sings in a skip of joy. It’s just that although I cannot pray for anyone, the feeling is Someone is assuring me that those of my old prayers are all taken care of. And this was one of the messages in a double dream I had last year on the feast day of St Jude.
These puzzling developments in my prayer life take me back to an October 28th dream of a huge white map in the sky. A map that showed Africa especially, a bit of Europe and to diminished extent – Asia. A blank, brilliant white map of Africa. In the dream, I chose to ignore the map in the sky. As I walked on, I saw a big statue of Our Lady of Fatima. When I saw it, I looked back up at the map suspended in the sky above, and I was filled with a deep, deep fear.
Right after, the second dream began. I was at a St Jude church, where I saw people crammed into a little green church. Happy people.
They seemed well take care of. Spiritually well taken care of.
I had the sudden feeling that they were those I had prayed for. And that they were secure in the Arms of God. Sensing my work there was done, as I moved to leave the church grounds, I felt a voice write this on my heart ~
Pray for others
In a way I cannot explain better, I knew immediately, the exhortation was linked to the dream of the white map in the sky. That I was to leave the old petitions behind, and move on to the new.
Since that dream in the old October of 2016, I’ve gone back to its core over and over again, wondering especially at the call to leave behind the old prayers and to move on to others. As often as I’ve wondered, I have looked out for new causes and tried to pray about them too.
But it has not been entirely successful. I kept getting pulled back. I didn’t understand why it was that I couldn’t move on. I didn’t understand why God didn’t help me if that was what He wanted me to do.
It was pretty frustrating.
Yesterday, I had wanted to journey with Blessed Francisco Marto, one of the Fatima seers. I wanted to keep him close to me and to console Jesus as he did. But it was a tough and busy day, and Francisco got lost in the hours. I arrived at the humid night chimes, annoyed with myself.
Before I went to bed, I made one last stab to place my heart close to Francisco. I prayed that he and Our Lady of Fatima come and be beside me.
I believe they did.
When I awakened, the October dreams appeared before me. Suddenly, I realized why the white brilliance of the map had seemed familiar. It was the white of Our Lady of Fatima. Something of Fatima was going to touch and completely envelope the continents. Beginning with Africa. But for the spirit of Fatima to take root in hearts there, I think pain might have to come first.
As my mind stayed with that illumination, another was brought – the second dream and the call to leave behind old prayers and to move on to new calls. My previous efforts hadn’t worked because I had wrongly interpreted the timing. I had erred in assuming that I was to heed the call immediately. And so, I had thrust forward of my own accord, but because the timing was not in His will, my efforts went up against a wall.
I wasn’t meant to move on then; but I was to, now.
That was why the petitions were being dried up since Sunday. Petitions were mine. Even if they were about people I cared for and needs close to my heart, they were ultimately mine.
God was now asking for a complete surrender of my prayer~will to Him. He would allow prayers as long as they were emptied for Him to fill.
As the light dawned brighter, my eyes were turned to that account of Jacinta Marto who had been upset that people preferred to tear down a priest, however justified it seemed, than to turn to the mercy of prayer. As I read the account again, I knew it was no coincidence that I was led there because I had lived that same experience.
Ten years before, I had been with a seriously sick child in a hospital room. A child who had feared our then parish priest because of his terrible, uncontrollable temper. Some visitors came to visit us in the hospital room. Like it had been with Jacinta, with us too the conversation steered towards priests, that priest in particular.
And the conversation was far from charitable.
Although I didn’t contribute any morsels to the character assassination, I disliked the priest immensely. In fact, I feared him for his ability to hurt.
As the conversation wore on about this priest, I began to sense an odd, odd sadness. It was a sadness deep and heartbreaking.
One spirit glance at it and I knew it was not mine. It was coming from elsewhere.
In the next instant, I knew it was this very sick child’s sorrow. This shy, gentle child so very much like little Francisco Marto.
This little one with me who feared this priest and his violent anger, was grieving over the way the priest was being torn down.
The realization seared and shocked me then.
And today, after a night kept in counsel with Francisco Marto and Our Lady of Fatima, the pearling of the dawn skies brought with it the discernment of old dreams, and the understanding of what I am to do next.
To withdraw from malice. To pray for priests.
Lent 33 ~ Blue
For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked! ~ Jeremiah 20:13
Lord, rescue the poor from the wicked. I say this prayer today for children everywhere. The little ones Jesus loves so much. Those who have no real voices, who look to us adults to keep them safe from harm. I say this prayer today for the young who are taken advantage of, abused and maimed in every way, by the very ones entrusted with the care and protection of them.
I’m saying this prayer to battle the rising anger in my heart. I’m saying this because I feel helpless. But I don’t want to feel helpless. That would mean I was conceding defeat and opening the gates and letting in the very people I should protect children from.
No, I want to spirit away these little ones and flee to the mountains where they are safer. But too many are against me; they stand at the ready to thwart every rescue attempt.
Their numbers shake me; their vengeance and darkening hardness of heart, even more. These shepherds charged with the care of the young sheep are unmasking themselves.
They are no shepherds. They never were. They have always been wolves. Lord, rescue the poor from the wicked.
I pray the prayer over and over, willing myself to believe in the hope Jeremiah has brought this morning. Yet, nothing changes within me; doubt still laps at the shores of my heart.
I tell my God, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.
Still in a knot that refuses to go away, I go to my window, to look at the waking skies and to leave my prayer in His hands. Rose-tipped clouds ribbon out from the sun’s old bed of slumber. Dully, I rest my eyes on the rousing vista. My heart remains troubled.
And then I see it.
A wide swathe of the most still of blues, in the skies west to the birth of day. No one looking at it would see anything out of the ordinary in it. And yet, it was a blue that fell straight into my wavering spirit.
The instant the blue touched my spirit, I crossed the break.
Gone was the fear. Gone was the anger. Gone was the doubt.
The blue felt like a light to my soul. It was a blue that was still, deep, quiet.
It was a blue that held in its expanse a strength beyond compare.
In that searing joy, I knew that the prayers prayed for children by every one of us have been received.
I know because I know that blue.
Lent 34 ~ Stone by Stone
There have been times when an element has come up a lot for me in a period of time. Last year, and last week, it was stones. Everywhere I turned, stones turned up too. Metaphorical stones.
Stones that hurt and kill.
Stones that shield and protect.
I cannot be sure what it means. I have both wounded others with stones I had hurled against them, and I have been wounded by stones others have trained on me. On the eve of the Feast of St Francis of Assisi two years gone, I was shown stones – smooth, uniform ones, stacked up together to form the walls to a safe house, a refuge, that was said to be mine.
On Sunday last week, after the day before was spent in deep prayer, with nothing to precipitate it, no disturbance, no wounding, I felt a sudden change.
I felt stones in my spirit. And the petitions I had been praying dried up inexplicably.
Stones were being stacked up, the wall going up higher and higher. In a slight panic, I fought them. I didn’t want stones in me. Not after a night of prayer. I wanted to pray more, but I couldn’t anymore. I ran after every prayer need that had hitherto been entrusted to me, and I tried to carry them back to the altar of God.
But they all tumbled away from me. And soon, I could no longer even summon the memory of them. Because the stones had begun to go higher around me.
I was being walled in.
Yet, there was no anger, no sin I could discern. Who was this, doing this to me? I wondered. Try as I could, I could not make out the mason. I began praying, Lord, tear down these walls, Lord, tear down these walls, Lord, tear down these walls.
All through the hours, I prayed that prayer. And then, it slowly came to me. I could still pray. I could pray the Rosary. I could pray other prayers. Wall of stones or not, there was no impediment to prayer! What had changed was that I could not summon a need or a plea to those prayers. I could pray as long as my prayers were emptied of my petitions.
That illumination sobered me up. I didn’t like it any more than I did before. But I was no longer agitating over what black nail I was hanging from. It was willed by God.
Nonetheless, the stacking of stones continued undeterred. I understood the new way of praying God wanted of. I understood that it could go on for any length of time He had willed.
But I didn’t understand the stone walls. Why was I being walled in?
The illumination didn’t come till now.
I think I am being placed in a room away from others. For now, I think it is a room with tiny openings. Too small for others to enter; big enough for God.
I cannot be totally sure, but I suspect I am being called to an inner hermitage. Walled in against distractions; yet, walled and sealed to the Church. In days of old, this was what a hermitage was like. Those called to this were known as anchorites. A religious rite, almost a funeral rite, was performed as a sign that the consecrated soul was now dead to the world, but living in God and for God totally. And then, the anchorite would be walled in.
I’d be a downright hypocrite if I didn’t say I am relieved no funeral rights have been performed upon me. I belong to that unfortunate group with nine of ten toes still firmly and happily stuck in the world, sparing only one for God. This is why I think, I just think, that I am not being called to the level of asceticism of an actual anchorite.
But it is a journey that will lead me away from myself, towards the Light I seek. The walls of stones rising within me portend an inner seclusion. How long have I yearned and prayed for an inner cloister to escape to, just to be with my God.
That prayer is now slowly being answered, stone by stone.
Just not in the way I had imagined.
Lent 35 ~ Believe. Adore. Hope. Love.
My God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee. I beg Thee forgiveness for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope, and do not love Thee. ~ Prayer taught by Angel of Peace to Fatima seers, First Apparition, 1916
Lent 36 ~ Water from the Wounds
Since Sunday, I have been trying to get the family to reduce the hours we spend on ourselves, and instead, carve out minutes for the Lord through an additional Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Throughout the course of each day, when school and work ends and we come home, we slip away to our nooks for a bit, and offer a decade as often as we can.
It’s not much, I know. Not when you compare it with the greatness of what many others offer the suffering Lord in this most holy of weeks. Not when churches are being bombed and lives being snatched away. Not when even those short minutes we give Him are pock-marked with distractedness and hurry and so many other mottles.
But small it may be, it is willed by heaven for us. And I know it because I am not capable of pulling this out of my own head. It wasn’t until some days into it, that I realized that we were, in fact, consoling the Wounded Heart of Jesus. It has given me much joy to be able to at least offer this; greater joy that the family is part of it too for the first time. All we offered were our minutes. We didn’t ask for anything in return.
And yet, the short days we have lived since Sunday are different. There’s a depth and gentle peace overshadowing the tired hours. Despite the hectic work-calls. Despite the little pricks of hurt and humiliations that form the fabric of every life.
I put out my hands and receive this grace of Holy Week peace and strength with deep joy. And with sadness too because what we have received is so very much more than what we have given. Jesus had no one with Him in those terrible hours of Agony. Today, so many lifetimes later, my family and I timidly approach Gethsemane; sometimes we reach out and touch Him, often we stay among the shadows of busyness and self.
And yet, He holds it not against us, but sears us with His Love, far beyond the worth of our blighted offerings.
This love which I suddenly feel with a new keenness enflames my heart with a yearning to go beyond our Gethsemane offerings, to do more for the Suffering Jesus. This too is new for me. I do not belong to the company of those who willingly suffer for Christ. Spiritual timidity renders me a shabby candidate for this esteemed group who love their Lord with all their soul to the point of death. The prayer to escape suffering must be, by far, the prayer I most often pray.
Hence, the wanting to suffer for Him now takes me a bit by surprise. Do what? I wonder. Almost instantaneously, I see a situation unfold itself before me. It is a work situation with several very unpleasant people. People bent on making other lives a misery. People who thrive on the pain of others. And I sense Jesus wanting me to go forwards and face this lot for Him. Not to run away, to avoid them – even if it is to keep the peace. But to bravely face them if need be and to be genuinely sweet about it. To do it for Jesus.
I wanted to run and hide instead.
I didn’t want to see these arrogant and rude people, much less be sweet about it, because I know who they are and what they were capable of. I didn’t want to be punched in my face, so it didn’t make sense to go looking for a punch.
An hour later, striding into work, hoping not to be asked to be sweet, I saw a familiar form on a nearby seat. There she is, I thought caustically, my sour little owl, praying rain on everyone.
Then I heard my own voice in my head, Do it for the Wounded Jesus.
For my Wounded Jesus, I whispered obediently. Before I could even process that, I realized I was smiling at the woman.
I got a sullen stare for my efforts, and I’d be lying to say it didn’t hurt because I’ve never done such a thing to anyone. But I whispered again, For my Wounded Jesus, although I felt no love in my heart for that woman.
That was the only test I faced today, and in the later hours, I did wonder why there weren’t more. After all, I didn’t fare that well; my heart wasn’t flooded with love. Not for that person. Not for the Cross either. It felt more like failure than anything else.
It wasn’t until I stumbled home from work, bone-weary, very late in the day, that I realized something had happened as a result of the single For my Wounded Jesus. From that moment of suffering, tiny though it was, a gentle and cheery patience had begun gurgling and bubbling thorough my spirit like a happy brook, silvering its way through quiet fields. Despite the tough work day, on and on that little stream went forth, spilling its diamonds into one weary riverbed pocket after another.
Again, for one paltry offering, an overflowing of grace in return.
The eyes of my heart go to the Divine Mercy. The stream of comprehension slowly reaches me. Rays of Blood and Water emanating from the Holy Wounds.
I realise what I have received today. Water from the Wounds.
Lent 37 ~ Pressed to His Heart
When our Lord announced to His Blessed Mother what was going to take place, She besought Him, in the most touching terms, to let Her die with Him. ….She did not weep much, but her grief was indescribable, and there was something almost awful in Her look of deep recollection. Our Divine Lord returned thanks, as a loving Son, for all the love She had borne Him, and pressed Her to His heart. ~ Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich
Lent 38 ~ For Love
Love never abandons.
The Blessed Mother walked each step of Calvary.
As He wet the rugged stones with His Precious Blood,
She wet it with Her Holy Tears.
Stone by stone they traversed, Son and Mother,
He wiped the blood from His eyes so that He could look again at His Mother…
Till the very end, His Mother in His Heart.
She receives His Body from the Cross
Asks for the Blessed Weight against Her once last time.
Of a Baby held against Her shoulder
Tight and comforting then,
The leadenness of Him against Her now
Knives score Her broken Heart
For She was as much a mother like us,
as she Is the Mother of God
She weeps for the Son She gave up
That He may belong to us all,
Lent 39 ~ Memories
Hours upon hours of stillness. A world frozen. A world in motion. One has ended, the other in a flow that barely paused. Voices filter through the bars, laughter even. Huddled in spots, people gather for the news, casting for details they might have missed. Mouth to ear, word by word, a story gets told.
Almost forgotten is a mother, whose heart beats in the shadows of anguish. Surrounded, yet alone, travelling the length of remembers.
Of a Baby She held to Her Heart, a life loved, a life lived, lit by lamps of a million memories. Thoughts and words, so many, many, tucked into each crease of times gone by. Old yet fresh, anguished yet tender, in its unveiling.
Held again, this Mother Her mutilated Son, in farewell poignant, one last time. Released now as Light to the world.
That life may live again.
Lent 40 ~ Fear Not, He Is Risen
I was with Him when He rode into town
And crowds gathered ’round Him like a king
Their smiling faces joined a sea of branches waving
Though they were masquerading in the end.
And my heart rose in my throat
When I heard them sing
Hosanna in the highest.
We went upstairs,
Broke the bread and drank the wine
From the only living vine that we would taste
And I watch them take Him up the mountainside
Where He was crucified though innocent
And they mocked Him
And cursed Him with their mouths
And told Him to come down if He was God.
And my heart broke in my chest
When I heard Him say
Forgive them, it is finished.
I remember in the garden
When He sweat like drops of blood
And how He begged the Father to let Him pass the cup
I can still feel the anguish
When they pierced Him in the side
And how the ground beneath us shook
Upon the very moment that He died.
Three days later we found an empty grave
And the stone was rolled away where He had been
Tears of joy streamed down my face
When the angel said,
Oh, fear not, He is risen
Oh, fear not, He is risen. ~ Sean Carter, Passion Song