Battle

Time to Fight

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May the malice of the enemy be stunned.   ~ St Albert of Trapani

          Today was one of those days when I did not ask for my prayer for the day but it came nonetheless, slipping in on the breath of warm breezes. On this last day of the month of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I had prayed the battle prayer of the August Queen for the final time this month, my heart joined in mourning with the brethren of my country, for all that has been lost, for all that could have been.

          At my altar this morning, I prayed for the soul of an old man who had died 4 days ago.  Late last year, this man had been severely beaten, just for doing his duty. A victim of someone else’s incomprehensible rage. Poor, his voice was too small and no one came to his aid.

          For months, this old man had lain bedridden and comatose. But he died 4 days ago. From the depths of grief, his wife in quiet had spoken, He has died and left me. 

          I found it very hard to love when the news broke  yesterday and the videos of the brutal beating from last year found life once more. It was as if this poor man’s death brought to the fore every meaningless loss this broken nation has endured for 64 years. No tree nor rock for any of us to hide from the searing lash of shared sorrow.

          A few days ago, I began sensing an inner call to go before the Blessed Sacrament. Since we have been under lockdown since mid May and likely for another couple of weeks, my weekly Friday visits to church have become a thing of the past. But here now was this call, gentle yet insistent,

Come before Me in the Blessed Sacrament

          Then, it dawned on me that there was a way: find a livestream of perpetual Eucharistic Adoration. And so I did, and began my visits. One of the first things I did was to place into the Heart of Jesus my red rage against the killer of this old man. I wasn’t having much success with hate the crime, not the person – but I figured God would know what to do.

          And God did. The rage was gone this morning. I wasn’t suddenly filled with goodwill towards the one who had done such a terrible wrong. But quiet and deep peace had come into my heart and with a mind free of anger and hate, I was able to finally pray, Lord, may Thy Justice and Mercy meet for this poor old man. While it was not brave and noble as a prayer of forgiveness for the accused would have been, this was a great improvement from some of the other darker things that had been skidding across my mind yesterday.

          A short while later, the winds began to gently stir the windchimes outside. With the rising of the last August sun, the calls of the day beckoned smilingly. But I was not done yet. I wanted to touch the Immaculate Heart of Mary one last time today. Moments after I had recited the August Queen prayer, ready to move on with my day, Someone put out Her hand and stayed me with these words,

May the malice of the enemy be stunned.

          And I knew then that it is time to fight.

He Will Not Refuse You

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I advise you to have recourse to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ, if you want to conquer your enemies and obtain the strength and consolation you need; He will not refuse you this help, if you ask it of Him.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          Covid-19 cases continue their surge in my country and I am once again under home quarantine due to 2 close contacts testing positive.

          Last week, as I was being swabbed together with 80 plus others from my workplace, a team leader posted a message saying that our additional work assignment under her was to continue. That unnecessary assignment required us to return to work after formal hours and to work in cramped rooms with little regard for social distancing. Of course, being under mandatory home quarantine, I needn’t have worried about it. But her posting angered me. Since there were so many of us involved in this latest cluster, we were all being swabbed in the community centre in our place of work. Photos of the event were posted on our work groups. Those being swabbed were beset by frustration, anger and worry. Nobody, absolutely no one, could claim ignorance of what was happening.

          And yet, this woman chose to turn her back and her heart against our collective pain and worry, and to insist that her programme continue. I decided enough was enough.     

          There’s one thing that singles out narcissists like this particular team leader: their fear of ridicule or a public put down and the like. In any dispute, I’ve always gone one-on-one and in private. But this time called for something different. Since the woman had put her announcement out in the open, so to speak, I decided I’d meet her there. I felt I had to make a stand once and for all and I had to let others know what I was doing. So, I posted my own reply notice saying I was pulling out of her programme as long as Covid remained an issue and especially due to the fact that we were now already seeing more and more close contacts test positive for the illness.

          As far as words go, mine appeared to be like bubbles, small and ineffective. But no public slight is small enough for a narcissist. She went completely, uncharacteristically silent. Soon, 2 other voices joined in, urging her to scrap the programme. I expected more to join the chorus of protests but it stopped at 2. Of course, behind the scenes there was plenty of bitter noise but none of that mattered as it didn’t fall on the ears which needed to hear it most.

          Strangely, despite doing something so out-of-character, I was untroubled, my mind clear, my heart calm. More than that, I was glad I didn’t trouble myself to try and save others who couldn’t be bothered to help themselves.

          Close to midnight that day, a directive came from higher up, effectively cancelling the programme. I had deepened the lines of enmity between that woman and myself but at least, we had some respite now.

          Still, for how long?

          In the days since then, I’ve been reflecting. There have been times before when this woman has successfully forged ahead with her ridiculous plans. There have also been a few clear occasions when she has been unexpectedly thwarted. By and large, it has been disruptive and frustrating. This sort of turbulence is unnecessary distraction to anyone who just wants to work and especially to those who work hard and work well. During Covid uncertainty, with our daily worries about our own families, such disruptions and upsets bite deeper and harder. How much of this could I take? I wondered.

          One thing becoming more and more clear to me is that this pandemic has set into motion a massive reset. It has shown us we need to return home in deeper ways. That even as we hold down jobs and work, we need to return to some aspects of life as it was in the past – spend more time with home chores, cook more, making caring for others a priority. Create gardens, tend to vegetable plots. Watch the sun rise and set. Listen to the rains and winds, learn their songs and understand their word to us.

          Enjoy our kids. Teach our own kids. Learn how to teach our own kids.

          Learn to be silent, learn to love silence and stillness.

          In a painful way, this scourge is making us undo some of the knots we have worked into our lives.

          But some people, like my team leader, do not seem to want us to rectify the wrongs in our lives. They are resisting this reset and straining against the ropes to return to imprisonment – and insist that we too return to our prison cells. They are, in effect, willing us to believe that the prison should be our home. And there are also the many enablers who do not try to resist but instead choose the easier path of acquiescence to all that is wrong simply because it troubles them less.

          About 3 years ago, just before Covid came upon us, I had a dream of a dark, dark night. My family and I were on the darkened streets. I seemed to be leading them. Some danger was closing in on us. Then, I ran into a bamboo hut. Inside it were some of my colleagues. Desperately, I pleaded with them to leave the place, to run to safety. While they looked up and listened to me a bit, there was barely any reaction from them. Soon, they had returned to their business. 

          At that moment, we were attacked. A massive tiger was pricing and tearing apart the bamboo walls of the hut. Somehow, I managed to escape. But escaping only put me out on the dark streets again. Out in the open. In trying to go out and warn my colleagues, I had taken my family with me away from safety and now because of me, they were in danger too.

          Many times since then, I have gone back to that dream, pondering it. The message was clear: it is not my mission to save my colleagues. If I save my family and if my colleagues wish to learn from it, they are most welcome to.

          But my workmates are not my mission. My family is. This week, I learned that lesson anew.

          And as long as one chooses family, there will be forces against it. Like the woman at work who will not allow us to choose family because she won’t. She will trouble us until we admit defeat and resign ourselves to her will.

          In a moment of quiet yesterday afternoon, I sensed a tiny movement in my spirit.

         I advise you to have recourse to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ, if you want to conquer your enemies and obtain the strength and consolation you need; He will not refuse you this help, if you ask it of Him. 

          I think of the many things that have happened this week. Incidents, realizations, choices and decisions. Each invisibly linked to the other, creating a little bridge across this Jordan of my life. The other side still some way off, I need a way to win this battle and reach it.

Have recourse to the Sacred Heart of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

He will not refuse you this help, if you ask it of Him. 

          And so I do. And I ask big. I ask for all the miracles possible to end this battle.

 

 

Lent 1 ~ The Angel’s Lent

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          My Lent direction came a little early this year – only it took me some time to realise it and to reconcile myself to it. One bright blue Sunday morning, as the winds sang aria after aria around our old home, my eldest son did something he doesn’t normally do – and certainly not on a Sunday. He began to clean his room. And one of the things he cleaned was his tiny St. Michael figurine I had bought him years before. With characteristic tenderness, he held the figurine and probed its contours with a damp cotton bud. I smiled and left him to it.

          It was late in the evening, much of the day run its course, when I had some time to my thoughts. From my seat in the living room, I gazed outside at the sun~warmed evening, winds stirring strong the leaves on the trees. Watching those breezes, I felt them lay something by the door of my heart.

The St. Michael’s Lent prayers

          And a stillness stole into my heart. It was the second time the prayers had come by this week. The second time accompanied by these unusual winds, singing and singing hymns only the angels knew the words to. Each time the winds came upon me, I would tilt my face towards them and silently ask the same question,

Is it you, St. Michael?

          For some years ago, St. Michael had taught me that when the winds blow strong and  a quiet comes upon my spirit, that would be the sign of his angelic presence.

          In reply to my asking, I almost felt his quiet yet strong affirmation borne by those winds as they brushed against my heart. So, it was him. And he was asking that I say those Lent prayers again.

          Still, I hung back. It was only 3 years ago that I had become acquainted with the St. Michael’s Lent prayers. Both times, they had come during deep personal strife, my anchor in the storm of pain. They were indeed prayers for when the whip and lash of the storm is great.

Battle

          That very word had resounded several times to me as January quietly folded her heart and passed her life to February.

Battle

Battle

Battle

          Now, both the word and the prayer formed side by side before me. It should have sufficed. And yet, my heart sought a final confirmation – because the St. Michael prayers is no simple undertaking. To be said for 40 days, they were for me by far the most demanding of prayers. Coupled with their significance of being battle prayers, prayed when in deep suffering, I was more than a little reluctant. I wanted peace. I was tired of fighting.

          At that very moment, my son came into the living room. Quietly, he placed something on the hall cabinet. Daddy will mend it, he said. Turning away from the waning evening marking the skies with its final pinks and tangerines for the day, I saw my son’s tiny St. Michael figurine on the cabinet top. Its sword had detached.

The St. Michael’s Lent prayers are also known as the Sword of St. Michael.

          Just like that, it was enough for me.

          My Lenten devotions this year is to be the St. Michael’s Lent prayers – but begun on the very evening of my understanding and acceptance. My Lent is to be one of battle.

          This year, it will be one of healing too as I sense heaven ask for a decade of the Luminous Mysteries Rosary each day.

          As the sun rises from its slumber on Ash Wednesday morn, it rises more golden orange than ever before. My angel’s sign, tender reminder that he walks beside me.

          And so it begins, this Lent of 2021. The Angel’s Lent.

Winding Down

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          It has been a week like no other. Busy with work, I was at home on quarantine due to a non-close contact coming down with Covid, and trying not to get frustrated over my town’s bungling health system. Then, on Tuesday, I got the dreaded call. I had to be swabbed due to a truly close contact from work testing positive for Covid the previous week. At the testing centre, I stayed calm, not wanting to add to the inexperienced staff’s stress. One other colleague had no such concerns and raised a ruckus as we were all quarantine tagged for a second time.

          I drove home from the test, filled with noise inside of me, thinking about how another 10 days of quarantine was going to find its form. Since my town is on Enhanced Lockdown for 2 weeks and the rest of the country on Lockdown, there was no chance of travelling anywhere. But being quarantined at home meant not being able to even go out to town for grocery shopping. It meant relying on my husband to do it. I thought of the shopping list I had carefully written out for him just a few days back. One list that would keep us comfortable for a week – if not more.

          My husband had come home with a quarter of the items on that list – despite staying out far longer than I usually did. He is a very capable shopper but that day, he went into one store and that was it. No zipping around town for him. Clearly, he had none of my frenzy. And that told me just how the shopping for the next ten days of my quarantine was going to be. 

          Determined to pick my battles, I let that slide. We weren’t going to starve. And I was capable enough of making meals out of anything.

          Funny how such a tiny moment like that could set the tune for the rest of the days. The hours went forth from that little choice, falling into more mellowed lines, unmarked by any unnecessary hurry.

          It was into this slow hours that I realised that Lent would be upon us soon. Every Lent for years now, God has come to open a door, leading my spirit on a journey never taken before. But in order to discern, I have to still my spirit and ask – and listen.

What is my Lent to be, Lord?

          Today, something began to take form. The winds had been blowing for days now. Some of its words I understood, some I didn’t catch. Yet, slowly, understanding had begun to slip its arms around my heart.

Every message must be discerned.

And every discernment put to the test.

          Just as I was to go deeper, a dart was fired from outside. All the hundred plus members of my organization had to be swabbed for Covid now. No clear reason was given; we were just expected to obey or the Law would be invoked against us. Still, not wanting to have a swab up my nose or throat more times than necessary, I hastened to make some calls. After some conflicting information by the authorities, it was nevertheless settled that I had to be swabbed yet again, 4 days after the previous one, and despite testing negative for the virus.

          I decided quickly, hurriedly dressing and driving fast to the testing centre. I wanted to be there early and out before the rest of my noisy, garrulous lot descended. I wanted to get everything over and done with and return to my relatively orderly life.

          I was done in less than an hour. Reluctantly driving home along deserted roads, wanting so much to drive fast and drive long along familiar tree-lined routes, I went over the sudden change in the past hours. A calm and serene morning, blessed by gentle sunshine and tipsy birdsong. Then, a shot of confusion out of nowhere. The ensuing ruckus. Granted, I was not the only one affected; everyone was – in their own way. 

          But the personal timing of it set off some bells. Coming just as I was going to step inside this inner room, deepen my discernment, make out the path ahead, it was obvious to me someone or something didn’t want me leaning in to God. It wanted me frazzled and distracted, overly busy.

          Short weeks ago, just before life turned upside down, I saw the words, The Time for Work is Over. While I didn’t think it meant quitting my job, I sensed a hidden layer to the words – as I did an invitation to parse and to understand what it meant to me.

          Today, the mists part a little. I am going into a time when work will surely continue but must not be allowed to dominate. As with the background music that plays in a restaurant, that music has its purpose but it is not there to take over the dining experience. Likewise, this is something I need to learn to manage. To continue to work hard and honestly earn my wages, yet not allow it to cloud my vision nor mute my listening. 

          For the winds that continue to blow insistently have words hidden in their lows and swells. Only the quiet of winding down can reveal all.