ATONEMENT

Lent 22 ~ Apples from My heart

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Last night I went out, as always to say good night. The night air had a slight touch of coolness. In the sky, I saw the Milky Way. This is rarely visible, so of course I went out to the field to get the best view. There were more than a million stars out and I made a lot of wishes. The familiar scent of apples in various stages filled the air. I stood amongst the fallen apples and under a trail of stars for a good while. . . . and when I was able – I said good night with a grateful heart.   ~ Michele Warren, The Rabbitpatch Diary

 

          In one of her latest comments, Linda Raha mentioned about going over the blessings of the day when we go to bed. If it didn’t stick with me as it should have then, it certainly did now.

          It is a terrible thing to not be grateful. In my life, some of the most trying people have always been the ones who are incredibly ungrateful. They bite and snark more at life than life deserves simply due to diminished gratitude. In an ungrateful heart, there’s little softness to absorb the hard knocks of life, to soften the blows that must fall upon us in its seasons. So, not only is pain felt in all its depth, I suspect it is also exaggerated because it has too much space to grow. Life with an ingrate can be beyond tolerable. You can be worn to the bone of soul trying to make the ingrate happy and keep it that way for some hours of sanity. Life in a home shared with one is to live in perpetual darkness; to be in the light you have to be away from that person.

          But that only makes coming home that much harder. There’s nothing worse than having light touch your soul but then later having to return to a darkness that abhors the light. Some forms of ingratitude is exactly that: a dark that cannot tolerate the light of thankfulness.

          Today is Friday and it is my day of atonement and reparation. Today, I atone for all the times I have been anything less than grateful for every little sweetness God has pressed into the fold and creases of my life – and sadly, there have been too many of those instances. It is always the easier option to call someone out for a failing; looking inside and facing up to the same fault is never pleasant.

          But that is the special grace of Lent.

Even now, says the LORD,
return to me with your whole heart,
for I am gracious and merciful.   ~  Joel 2: 12 – 13

          Tonight, Michele Warren’s memories of apple~days stir to life one of my own, of a child long ago, nourished by the sweetness of apples gifted from the heart.

          So, to my God I return with a gift I haven’t offered my Lord enough, apples from my own heart.

 

 

Lent 28 ~ Let No Leaf Be Lost

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Shall we all be saved? Shall we go to Heaven? Alas, my children, we do not know at all! But I tremble when I see so many souls lost these days. See, they fall into Hell as leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter.   ~  St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, the Cure of Ars

 

          Yesterday, I wrote about a dream I had in 2016. A white map in the sky. A warning. Yesterday, the meaning of the white in the map was made clear. It referred to winter. Not the winter we know. Not just the winter of spirits either. But a winter of actual withdrawing from the world and remaining indoors.

The winter of stay-home orders and of lockdowns due to Covid-19.

          On this Friday of repentance and atonement, I am choosing to offer up my day for the leaves which may fall as this winter nears. May they be pierced and warmed by the Son’s saving rays, as my sinner’s heart has been. May those leaves come to know what it truly means to be loved and cherished, as I have learned through my own brokenness.

          May the approaching winter bring a light and warmth never before seen nor felt.

          Let no leaf be lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waters of Grace

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          Yesterday, I came across a prayer by Pope Francis:

Lord, roll back the stone in my heart

          It’s Easter now. The time of fasting and sorrowing over our sins is supposedly over. The Lord has risen, and by right we are to be all light and joy.

          But here I was, stuck in an unbeliever’s world – not because I do not believe – but because something was holding me outside the circle of Light.

          The Lord has risen but I was still in the tomb.

          I went ahead and (unenthusiastically) said the prayer, Lord, roll back the stone in my heart. Frankly, I was unhappy to pray the prayer. I didn’t like to admit that stones might still be stacked up God knows how high in my heart. It’s as if Lent didn’t work out for me. Everyone else has done their spiritual cleaning and de-stoning during Lent; here I was, wondering if I was only just beginning!!

          Maybe it’s because of the Roll back the stone prayer, but last night, my thoughts returned to the hymn, He, and the refrain,

Though it makes Him sad to see the way we live,

He will always say, I forgive.

          In the last week of Lent, seeing no hope of change in my place of work, I opened my heart and asked God if it were not possible for just a little kindness. I wasn’t asking for much, I reasoned, because before, I had asked for much more. Before this, I had asked to be allowed to leave this town due to its rejection of me and my family for our Christian values. I asked to leave because it’s been 20 plus years of trying to live out our witness to our faith. More than 2 decades of welcoming the people of this town into our hearts. Of suffering with them. Of journeying with them, respectfully, in the ecumenism of different faiths.

          Yet, the long and bitter years to love as Jesus asked have not  changed this place nor its people for the better. If anything, this town and its inhabitants are becoming increasingly radicalized. They have begun turning on us for refusing to cross over to their side, for steadfastly choosing Jesus. Exhausted from navigating upheaval after upheaval, I asked to leave.

          But this year, God made His voice heard on that petition. He told me that if we left, this town would never know Jesus again.

          It broke my heart to hear that. It was not what I wanted. But I never prayed that prayer again because disappointed or not, some part of me bowed in obedience to God’s will.

          Suddenly, last night, hours after the prayer of Roll back the stone in my heart, I decided that the next new day, every time someone hurt me, every time a situation made me want to run and hide, I would face it in silence and allow it to pierce me instead.

          And I would pray, Jesus, forgive me. Even if I had done no discernible wrong, that would be my prayer for the next day.

          No prizes for guessing how the day worked out.

          I tripped the very minute I stepped into my work place. I came face to face with the colleague who’s made my life a misery for years. I don’t normally see her so early in the day but there she was, bright and early, primed for malice.

          The second I saw her, I didn’t remember anything about rolling back any stone. I didn’t remember the purposing of my day for atonement. Instead, I distinctly felt my heart inflame and harden remembering the injustices she has meted out.

          Scant minutes later, I belatedly remembered the response I had planned. Fed up with myself, I honestly wanted to bin the intention of the previous night. What was the point anyway, I never seemed to move beyond the biggest rocks in my life.

          But a promise to God was a promise. So, I bowed my heart and listlessly prayed,

Jesus, forgive me

          Although I knew I had done this colleague no wrong, although I had loved her with all my heart for more than 20 years and didn’t deserve this bulling and abuse of our friendship, once more I forced myself, as self-inflicted penance, to repeat,

Jesus, forgive me

          Then something strange began to happen.

          Kindness began to trickle my way – not from this colleague, but from others. It may not have seemed like much, but it was a lot to me. I had prayed for kindness the week before, just enough to be able to go on. Then, I had shushed myself, fearing that prayer was a rejection of my Cross.

          But strangely, unexpectedly, a pure spring now gently silvered into my day and my burdens lifted. Although almost every day before this had been difficult, now it seemed as if the walls of the day no longer bore nails to hurt.

          For some moments, I struggle to understand what I did to deserve this reprieve. And then, I realise that it’s not about what I’ve done. This is grace. Jesus was pierced as He hung on the Cross. Blood and water had flowed from that pierced side.

          The miracle of kindness I experienced today was that water of grace that came from the piercing of my Jesus’ body. As often as I pray with heart and soul, Jesus, forgive me, not the easy prayer in idle moments free of pain and hurt, BUT praying each time I face piercing, the stone in my heart rolls back further and further.

          2 years ago, at Christmas, I had dreamt of water filling a room in my home right to the ceiling. I had opened my door and the powerful rush of that clear water had knocked me down. I had then felt the words,

Momentarily overwhelmed

          I now know what it means. Opening the door means to roll back the stone in my heart. And I will be knocked down by the in-rushing waters of grace when my spirit bends in humility as I pray,

Jesus, forgive me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Choose Jesus

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On awaking, enter in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and consecrate to It your body, your soul, your heart and your whole being, so as to live but for Its love and glory alone.   ~ St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          This was set before me on this First Friday of the last month of this old year. And with it, my journey from yesterday became very clear. Upset over my niece’s choice of life partner and her increasing distance from the Church and Catholic values, upset that novenas for her and others haven’t yielded positive results yet, upset that I had given till I had nothing left to give and the journey was not over yet, an odd thought had come to me yesterday ~

Choose Jesus for those who won’t

          It came and it took root and it wouldn’t go away. I didn’t for the life of me understand what it meant or how I was to go about choosing Jesus for those who had not the slightest inclination to. Forcing someone to align their beliefs with mine was distasteful to me. I don’t even do it with my own children. But here I was, hearing it loud and strong in my heart, my spirit in waiting readiness to obey the call.

          So, I got started. When I saw dishes in the sink that needed washing, although I honestly wanted to leave them right there, I thought of my niece who couldn’t keep a small room clean and I fought my wee bit of tiredness and got the dishes done, saying, I choose Jesus for… When Rosary for the day seemed much harder than usual, when I didn’t feel like that extra prayer for the Holy Souls, I dragged myself to them for the sake of everyone else with the same struggles, saying, I choose Jesus.

          Throughout the remaining hours of the waning, wet day when the skies took to sobs in fits and bursts, I tried to do what I least felt like doing, each time with a resigned sigh and the prayer, I choose Jesus… Even then, I didn’t know if this was actually what I was meant to do. But I figured I had to start somewhere and this was my wobbly, Yes to God. He would take it from there.

          And He did.

          This morning, when I saw the words from St Margaret Mary’s quote that meant to consecrate my living for the glory of the Sacred Heart and to live for that glory alone, I suddenly saw before me:

Reparation

          It was then that the bean slid into its pod. Choosing Jesus for someone who couldn’t or wouldn’t, through my daily, mundane life choices or through tough decisions made solely for the glory of God – was REPARATION.

Reparation is the repairing or making up for the offenses against God. This covers a wide variety of areas from the fact of Original Sin to our own personal sins and even to the sins of others no matter how large or small the offense might be. (What is Reparation, Fr Robert Altier, http://www.courageouspriest.com)

          For the first time, I understood with my heart what reparation was. I saw that it went beyond selfless sacrifice, itself great and honourable,  because it meant ‘marrying’ my own struggles to those of others. It was not made from the lofty, snooty perch of superciliousness that saw and judged only the failings and weaknesses of other people. It was certainly not about the hidden smugness that might be present when we sacrifice for others.

          I finally realized that reparation was to atone for both my failings and those of my brethren pilgrims.

          Something else tugged at me once I reached this point. Apart from a few searing occasions, it is never easy for me to atone for my own sins. But yesterday, in joining my sins with those of others, I remember being infused with a subtle strength to atone. Strength that had not quite been there before. A strength born from acknowledgement  and purpose. Acknowledgement of my own sins. Purpose that came from wanting to make amends  – for myself and on behalf of others.

          The skies slowly part their cloak of white and grey fleece for the sun as he moves slowly across his court. The hours of the day tendril out before me. Hidden in its tucks and joints lie moments that await I choose Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATONE

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          Wild gales marked the opening of 2017 for me. Almost every day has been a whirlwind of duties and tasks and meetings and deadlines and I’ve been skidding from one port of call to another. There have been pockets and deeps of happy days. Days when blue~gold morning winds played elfin tunes as they darted between tree arms and fingers green. Even the sudden showers we’ve had were lovely, the darkening of skies bringing a delicious quietening within my heart.

          But the pace has been wild, and its first victim – prayer life.

          Specifically – our night time family Rosary.

          This year alone, I’ve missed more Rosaries than I ever have since we began it in earnest in 2012. No amount of resolutions and adjusting of timing helped. If we made it one day, we missed the next two. It gnawed at me, for I knew just where we were headed with this – right back to before 2012 – when missed days led to missed weeks and then, months marked by endless tearing and scratching of spirit. That was one rutted path I did not ever want to go down again. I needed climb back up the wagon, and get on with it.

          But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

           Trapped by an odd malaise, I felt caught in a vice of tiredness, frenzy and muddled thinking. My will abandoned me. Something needed to be done to arrest the slip, but I felt like I had been rendered…. stupid.

          One night, after we did manage the Rosary, yet without the conviction that we were back on track, the days’ stress having curdled my spirit, I decided to sink my heart into some much needed spiritual dew. Opening my precious Christmas gift from a more precious friend, the book – Left To Tell – by Rwandan genocide survivor, Immaculée Ilibagiza, I returned to where I had left off from a previous reading. It was when the machete-armed Hutus were descending upon Immaculée’s helpless and defenseless family and thousands of other hunted Tutsis like them, with the sole intent to slaughter and massacre them all. All escape avenues cut off, no weapons except some spears and stones against the enemies’ machetes, guns and grenades,  Immaculée’s father, Leonard, rallied his fellow Tutsis:

“Let us use the time we have to repent.”

          It was past midnight, and finding that I could not read on anymore, I called it a night. But before I went to bed, I reached for my alarm clock, and did the unthinkable (by my pathetic standards of willpower) – I set it back to 4:40 a.m., from my usual 5 a.m. wake up time. Already sleep deprived, it sure wasn’t something I had planned; something just took over me.

          By 5 the next morning, I was ready for my Holy Hour, and Left To Tell was far from my mind. I didn’t feel like my usual prayers, though. It might have been tiredness. I wanted to pray something different. Then, I had the sudden thought to pray the Rosary. Not as a replacement for our nightly family one, but an extra one, an addition to the night’s one. Just me and my beads. I thought I’d use it to ask for forgiveness for all the times I had missed. About to recite the first Mystery, I felt someone whisper in my heart,

Atonement Rosary

          I went still for a moment. My mind returned to a night last year, when I had been in the car, waiting for my husband as he ran an errand. I had felt the sudden urge to pray to St Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy mystic, to ask her to come to me, to journey with me. And the very second I did, I felt her presence close to me.

          My soul was then filled with a strange sadness, but it was not mine. I somehow knew immediately that it was St. Faustina’s sadness, and asked for its reason, but she chose not to answer my question. About to revisit my own considerable list of sins to find the culprit, St Faustina stepped in and stopped my thoughts with the knife-slice of a single word:

ATONE

The word left me with a cold that reached to the pit of my stomach.

          I knew now that I could not in any way lay claim to the urge to say the Atonement Rosary. It was not from me. It was not a mere whim. I was led to it by unseen hands. Why, I briefly wondered. It should have been obvious, but I never seem to learn. The answer came before the next breath. Immaculée’s father’s words in Left To Tell came back to me:

 “Let us use the time we have to repent.”

          Use the time we have. Repent. Atone. The Divine Mercy call. The call many heard last year. The call we might have forgotten with the closing of the Year of Mercy, and with the Christmas rush. The call renewed in some hearts yet again this year, with a deeper, more powerful urgency.

          In the time we have left,

Atone.