BLESSED FRANCISCO MARTO

Lent 34 ~ Stone by Stone

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          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.

 

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Lent 32 ~ Priests

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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 31 ~ Light by the Door

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          Look, Mother, by the door . . . shining light, very beautiful. ~ Blessed Francisco Marto, Fatima Seer, moments before his death, 4 April, 1919.

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          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.

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Blessed Francisco Marto, 11 June 1908 – 4 April 1919, Fatima, Portugal

 

Lent 29 ~ Follow the Consoler

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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.