CONSECRATION

Pray for Judges

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Pray for judges

          After weeks of praying, Save my country, praying for our leaders, for our people, the Lord unexpectedly placed this exhortation on my heart in the dark hours of Sunday morn.

          It was not a prayer that fell right into my heart, I’m not sure why. Nevertheless, I gnawed at it all the way to Mass even as I obeyed the call.

          But upon hearing our pastor’s sermon at Mass, I had no doubts I had heard right: Father unexpectedly preached on wrongful incarceration.

          This comes after the sorrow caused by the judgement in the Alfie Evans case in the UK. When judges play God and deny parents their right to that final struggle and that final suffering for their dying children. I don’t think Alfie’s young parents really expected a miracle cure in Italy even if they hoped for one; what their hearts must have yearned for most was a safe place to love their baby as he waned from this earthly life. Safe from the distractions of struggles and tussles with medical staff.

          Safe from the sickening fear of court judgements that tore children from their parents.

          And when going to Italy was ruled against, all they wanted was to take the boy who would never grow up, home.

          But the courts denied them that.

Pray for judges

          How many lives are being altered along wrongful lines just because of flawed judgements? Even if there are aspects I do not understand about the Alfie Evans case that might have guided the judge to his decision, there are many, many more lives the world over,  scarred permanently by judgements made without the fear of God.

          And this scarring is seldom limited to just that one life because suffering is rarely contained. Often its pain is borne by and marks every other world entwined with that one world turned upside down by a judge who forgets he is not God.

          An unseen hand beckons that I step into the rushing currents of cries of my suffering people. Time is short. Sensing an urgency, I turn my heart towards the call. Every vocal prayer, every struggle, every hurt – I offer them all as prayers for judges and their judgements.

          It is then that something slips into my prayers,

Pray for their conversion. That they love God.

 

 

 

Words for the Red

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          From the joyful red~shine of Advent days here, rose a red of a different kind, one far removed from joy and hope. It is an insidious thorn that rears its head at the end of almost every year since my husband and I started a family life moons ago. I had assumed that with the deep, illuminating spiritual journey that this year was, my husband and I would be in a better place in this largely lively and joyful marriage. Then came the morning and a thoughtless, dismissive statement and we were right back where I thought we had left for good. Granted, my grievance is nothing in comparison to what many people  are facing. Many would even consider it laughably trivial and so might I some distant day, but that reasoning fails to stamp out the red flames today.

          I try to turn away from the hurt. I try to shrug it off and fill the sun~dappled morning hours with home chores and yard work. But the red follows in waves and dips. As soon as I have crested one, as soon as I dare to think the hurt has gone, the next rise comes.

          But there’s a difference to my anger. It is not rage. There is no wild slant to it. The sadness it evokes in my heart burrows deep. It brings to life old disappointments and frustrations that I had assumed were in our past.

          As hour spills into hour, I struggle with myself. I struggle to not return to twisted ruts of old. Nonetheless, numerous retorts, rebuttals and accusations march steadily and stormily though my mind.  Snatches of speeches and choice words I conjure.

          The very second they form, I force myself fight them off, to turn my back on them. And then I realize, they need to come out. They are all reactions to my hurt that must have some place to go. So, I give them to Jesus, saying, I chose You, Jesus.

          On and on I battle until I am overwhelmed. I tell God I cannot do it anymore. I cannot pretend, neither can I overlook. I place my husband in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You take over, Lord. I can’t.

          Hours later, the flames have died. In their place an odd quietness – which I put to the test immediately. No, it is not of wanting to forget and make up. Yet, the stillness within me tells me that I am no longer in control of my spirit. I am no longer in control of anything or anyone.

          Someone else is now in charge. I am content to let that be. For once, I do not want to lead. I am tired. I can barely make out the path in front of me.

          My chores for the day done, I cautiously open my door to God. Although my injury is real, in my struggle to overcome my hurt and in my inability to pray in humility for my husband, I am not sure that I am walking in the will of God.

          Timidly, yet with a strange certitude, I ask my God, Lord, give me my prayer. 

          The Almighty’s response is swift, as if He has been waiting for me to ask. His prayer for me is unexpected.

          Prayer of St. Anthony of Padua

          O Light of the world, Infinite God, Father of eternity, giver of wisdom and knowledge, and ineffable Dispenser of every spiritual grace; who knowest all things before they are made, who makest the darkness and the light: put forth Thy hand and touch my mouth, and make it as a sharp sword to utter eloquently Thy words. Make my tongue, O Lord, as a chosen arrow, to declare faithfully Thy wonders. 

          Put Thy spirit, O Lord, in my heart, that I may perceive; in my soul, that I may retain; and in my conscience, that I may meditate.

          Do thou lovingly, holily, mercifully, clemently and gently inspire me with Thy grace. 

          Do Thou teach, guide and strengthen the comings in and goings out of my senses and my thoughts. And let Thy discipline instruct me even to the end, and the counsel of the Most High help me through Thine infinite wisdom and mercy.

 

          Oh no, I groan. The last thing I want is to speak. Words have had no effect on this situation that arises without fail every year end holidays. Same fight. Different words. Same failure. Year after year. And now God asks me to pray, put forth Thy hand and touch my mouth, and make it as a sharp sword to utter eloquently Thy words?

          I begin to think that I may have been mistaken about the prayer being for me. That’s when St Anthony, a saint close to my heart, steps in swiftly and takes my eyes directly to the line,

Do Thou teach, guide and strengthen the comings in and goings out of my senses and my thoughts.

          That closes the door on my doubts. That prayer line directly addressed my struggles with my emotions since the morning. It told me God saw the back-and-forth, the tug-and-push, and that He was with me. He understood my hurt. He saw my struggle to contain it and cope.

          I was not alone. That realization suffices.

          I raise my eyes to heaven. Give me Thy words, I pray.

          Not mine but Yours. 

 

 

 

         

An Old Promise

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          First Friday of the month. First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. First time in a long time that I’m able to observe this devotion.

          But I dispense with the usual prayers. I wish to gift Jesus with something of my own, from my heart. I begin with a consecration – pressing the family and others, name by name, deep into the depths of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Then, I offer up my own Chaplet ~

Blood of Christ,

Mark our hearts.

Each decade – a different petition of need. Is this right? Should I be dispensing with the usual formula? I honestly do not know. But what I do know is, if it is wrong, God will set me right.

          I leave my Holy Hour and move on to house chores. With Christmas fast approaching, there’s much to do. Busy in the depths of planning, listing, wielding and scrubbing, I feel the lightest nudge, and the strains of an old hymn unfurl their petals in the inner ear of my spirit:

THE OLD RUGGED CROSS

On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the Dearest and Best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.

Refrain:
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it someday for a crown.

Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.

In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.

To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me someday to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.

          I run the words of the hymn through my heart to see what sets anchor in my spirit. When the winds dip, I feel the words:

old rugged Cross

          On a day when the grey~blue winds sing hushed notes through green weaves, and the shy sun blesses the land, on a day when my spirit skips in joy, reveling in the respite from bitters and stings, my Jesus gently reminds me that no life lived for Him can be lived away from the Cross. That to pray asking to be marked with His Blood is to pledge my acceptance and love of the cross in my life.

          It is to love the Cross through the weave of months and years, until old breath. And by that, to bring to fulfilment His promise to me one anguished night nine years ago, when I had begged for death in order to find heaven. Jesus had turned me resolutely back to this earth and its awaiting sufferings, promising me,

When you have done My Will, I will come and take you home.

Moving On

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          On the 28th of October, I had a dream. Walking down a street bordered by old, old, whitewashed buildings, on a sunny day with the clearest and bluest of skies free from even a hint of cloud.

          And then suddenly, in those skies appeared a huge, pure white map. A blank map consisting of the continents of Africa, Europe and Asia. No cities or towns marked on that map, no names of the countries. Only their boundaries, drawn in black.

          Among the continents and countries I saw, only Africa stood out clear and bright; all the rest seemed to be in a slight shadow – but I understood that to mean that the focus was on the African continent.

          In the dream, looking at the map in the sky, I mused if I now had to pray for Africa as well. Somewhat disinterested, I dismissed it and turned away from the map, intent on my journey. A few steps on, for some reason, I stopped and turned to look behind me.

          There on the side of the street, was a big statue of Our Lady of Fatima, looking out at the street.

          I have never been afraid of any statue, none has ever struck fear within me. But seeing this statue of OL of Fatima, I was gripped with a sudden fear.

          But not of the statue itself. In that fear, my gaze immediately shot towards the white map still suspended in the blue sky, and I had a deep realization:

I have to pray for them.

          I awakened briefly after the dream. The fear from the dream was not deep, but it sat firmly enough on my heart. I fell back into sleep.

          And into the next dream.

          I was outside a St Jude church, one I had never seen before. Its walls were a fresh, clean, soft shade of green. There was a Mass going on inside the little church. It was packed to the brim. The congregants seemed happy and cared for.

          As I moved to leave the church grounds, I felt these words etched deep in my heart –

Pray for others.

          And immediately, the memory of the white map flashed before me.

          The message seemed clear enough, but there were missing pieces, as in – what do I pray for? who do I pray for – which others are these? And I wondered about the connection between the white map and St Jude. When I awakened, I realized it was the feast of St Jude – one that I have always marked by saying the 9-day novena, but which I did not do this year simply because I didn’t feel like it. So, did the saint come to me through the dream, to tell me I needed to continue my prayers for others? It seemed so, but even that didn’t make sense. 99% of my prayers were for others. It has always been that way. The strength for my own journey has always come from the nourishment of praying for others.

          But St Jude had clearly said, Pray for others.

          A mere reminder to carry on doing it? Somehow, I felt there was more.

          So, I took my dreams to the Interpreter of Dreams – St Joseph, and asked him to make them clear. After a period of quiet, a single word floated up before me ~

Consecrate

Consecrate a nation? Wasn’t that for the Pope to do? I could barely manage my own life, I didn’t believe I was being asked to do the work of the Pope now. It must be pride, I surmised.

          So, I shrugged off consecrate.

          Short days later, at Mass, the weekly prayer for the Year of Mercy was recited. One word of the many there reached out and caught my spirit ~

Consecrate

          This time I could not shrug it off. All this was now clearly beyond me and I needed spiritual direction. Suddenly, I was filled with an odd urgency to seek out my spiritual advisor, ensconced in a parish many miles away.

          Father listened to my tumble of words. Then, with a calm sureness, he confirmed that the call was indeed to place the continent of Africa into the hands of Our Lady of Fatima.

          I was still slightly unconvinced. And more than a little unwilling.  Africa had never been on my personal news-scape. I knew little of that country, and nothing before this had tugged me to it.

          Except that in recent days, for some reason, I had been rolling the name of Sierra Leone on my tongue.

          I had totally forgotten that this priest had an on-going mission with Africans. More than anyone I knew, he has a firsthand understanding of the situation there. And sure enough, he immediately grasped the meaning of the first dream:    Mother Mary was not before you; She was behind you. This indicates Africa has pushed aside the Mother of God to the far back. They have replaced her with other gods. They need to return to loving Her again.

           And on seeing Her behind you, you immediately looked up at Africa again. That is Her call to you, he explained. That you pray them back to Her.

          He advised me to consecrate Africa by offering up the continent during Mass. He reminded me that St Jude was the patron saint of hopeless cases, and his call to me in the second dream was to pray for others – hopeless cases.

          How serious was the situation in Africa, I asked, still seeking that final escape chute.

          Very, Father insisted. In some places, the faith is strong. Others – not so.

          Like where? I pressed. I knew of the fervor of pure faith in Rwanda, and flippantly assumed Rwanda represented the faith of the whole of Africa.

          Nigeria, Father offered.

          Anywhere else?

          Sierra Leone, he supplied matter-of-factly.

          I was startled. Of all the places.

          Then, Father gently but firmly added, Go beyond your family and present prayer needs.

          His words reminded me of a phrase that had come to me a long time ago ~ Spread your nets further. I wasn’t clear about it then, but the haze mysteriously cleared up a bit now. I had understood enough. Still less than eager, I was, however, determined to do what I was called to.

          Yet, my spirit remained in a hold. Not soaring in zeal. Not on fire.

          I lashed myself in obedience to the needed prayers. For the first few days, it felt right. But soon, I began to sense a drying up within me. A drying that took with it all prayer. I fought and fought it. But the aridity streamed in further and deeper.

          I was about to get myself into a twist of frustration when I remembered my vow to not revisit old haunts of behavior. Instead, I offered up my dryness to Our Lady of Fatima. The very next minute, I recalled a prayer given to me some time ago.

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit.

As I prayed it with an earnestness deepened by the agony of the spiritual aridity, I felt my spirit sink in relief into the prayer. This was strange. It was as if my spirit had been searching for home, an anchor. And found that anchor in that prayer of Surrender to the Holy Spirit.

          In the days that followed, over and over, I went to that prayer. When I wanted to pray but couldn’t. When I could pray but failed to find a prayer that rested in ease on my spirit. Over and over,

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit.

          On the 5th of November, the First Saturday of the month, I went to Mother Mary for the first Saturday devotion. I give you my will, my heart, my mind, my soul. I give you my motherhood, my vocations, my job, my everything. I want to pray but cannot. There is no prayer in my heart. Please, Our Lady, give me my prayer.

          And in a whisper of a moment, I felt these words press deep into me.

Rest your heart in Jesus.

          Again, my spirit reached eagerly for the new prayer. Jesus, I rest my heart in You.

          It was then that the mists parted over months of signposts and I saw their meaning.

Blow the breath of my Mother into the realms.

Spread your nets further.

Sing a new song.

And now – Africa, the packed church, the call of the St Jude dream, Pray for others.

          Jesus shone His light on the signposts.

          Heaven had received the hearts of those I had loved through prayers. They were now in the church – the heart of God. They were now safe. It was time for me to leave and blow the breath of Mary into other waiting souls.

          Beginning with Africa.