Lent 13 ~ Remember Her Apples

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Then I heard the words, ‘I am glad you behaved like My true daughter.  Be always merciful as I am merciful.  Love everyone out of love for Me, even your greatest enemies, so that My mercy may be fully reflected in your heart.’   ~  St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Entry: 1695


          Last Sunday brought yet another early morn dream. I had dreamt of an old colleague from work. But unlike the other dream before it, this one did not move me in any tangible way. Whoever brought it just gently laid it before me and quietly stepped aside. In the dream, I was inside this colleague’s home which was made up of many, many small, square, clear-glass windows. In each window was some decoration or another, each one utterly pretty and exquisite.

          But they were all mud-spattered. Interiorly, I was aware that the mud was rising in her home. While the woman was clearly upset about this, she was oddly more concerned that I would come to know what was happening to her and this agitated her. She was standing outside her home, trying to prevent people from informing me. And all the while, the mud was rising inside.

          I awakened from the dream and went to my day. Mud is rarely a good thing to see, not even in dreams, certainly not in this one too. It was clear to me that if the dream meant anything, it was that trouble was headed my old friend’s way. Mud on her decorations likely pointed to troubles and loss of what was most dear to her – the things which money could buy, things on exhibition in her life.

          I once loved this lady with all my heart and immensely enjoyed her company. She had a sharp tongue and we often got nicked, but it never mattered because she was always one who spoke the truth. The fact that she was never short of friends of all ages was a testimony to the goodness of her heart. When tragedy struck my life years before, she was my support in some ways and I loved her all the more for it.

          Then, came a time when she began to sell her soul to money. With that, things began to change with her. She no longer valued marriage, children were an inconvenience. She used the power she had over so many others to undermine their relationship with their own spouses. She encouraged her friends to choose self and enjoyment over the caring for children. She advised abortions when babies came at “inconvenient times”. Then, she began to cheat in her work – she who had been so skilled and talented at it, with a clear gift to do what few could. But now, worshipping at the altar of money, her heart began to die and with that, our friendship too.  She now stood against all that was sacred to me, especially that of marriage and family – which, for me, was the heart of life itself.

          We soon had many disagreements because I could not allow her to do wrong and to get away with it. More than anything, in fighting her, in many ways, I think I was fighting for the dear soul I once knew and loved. Yet, knowing I was no longer a part of her circle, not only did she turn against me and begin to attack me, she influenced others to do the same too. The poison was clearly spreading.

          For some years, I suffered immensely under the onslaughts of her attacks. They were vicious. They filled me with fear and loathing for work because it was there that I encountered her viciousness on an hourly basis. The attacks seemed like they would never end.

          I prayed and prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to St. Joseph for a miracle. Often, I had little hope of one.

          One day, though, that miracle happened. My colleague was unexpectedly transferred to another department and to another workplace. We were as shocked as she was. But there was no regret in me in her going. If anything, the relief was immense. The Sacred Heart of Jesus had saved me – and others too. When she left, much of the poison leeched out as well. After a time, the cracks at work were sealed back.

          But this woman brought disharmony everywhere she went. Soon, stories from her new place of work drifted back to us. It seemed as if wherever she went, she sowed discord and brought out the worst in people. My friend in a managerial position at the new place suffered what we had gone through here, for there too my old colleague turned co-workers against the administration.

          Mercifully, God soon intervened once more. Without warning, this lady took early retirement from work. I suspect more than a handful of souls were saved because of this.

          Since she lived just a few houses away down my road, I often saw her but nothing remained of our friendship and nothing was kindled either. We were like strangers. I barely remember ever praying for her after that.

          Then came this dream on my Sunday when I try to live in more thankfulness. Did God want me to pray for her? If so, why wasn’t the nudge… stronger?

          Give me my prayer for her, Lord, I asked as obediently as I could, but with no great desire to pray either.

          Not a stirring out of heaven.

          I thought of the mud and of the worse thing it could signify. Please give her a happy death, Lord, I prayed quickly, wanting to get on with my chores.

          Again, nothing moved.

          What do I pray for, Lord?

          At my sink, busy with the dishes, in the softest of movements, came an old, old memory, laid by the door of my spirit by an unseen hand. A memory of that time of terrible sorrow many years past, before my friend had changed. My child had been sick in hospital then and had refused all food. Then, one day, this colleague had come to visit. She had brought comfort and strength – and apples. My child who had refused solids somehow accepted the apples too, happily devouring apple after apple.  Never before had even I tasted such delicious apples. 

          Standing at my sink, my hands soapy, my heart was now pierced by a sudden sweetness of love for my old friend. Where once stretched an arid barrenness of indifference, now in an instant was flooded through with a deep, deep love. Plunged into that love, my heart found an impossible prayer,

Lord, have mercy on her. Forgive her for all she has done.

Remember her apples, Lord, and have mercy on her.

Lent 10 ~ To the Heart of God


That prayer is most likely to pierce heaven which first pierces one’s own heart.   ~   Thomas Watson

          Early this morning, someone visited me in a profound dream. A sports superstar, one of the greats in his field. He lives on the other side of the world. His world and mine have never intersected and never will.

          And yet in the purple darkness of a day just coming to life, it appears that he came to me in a pleading.

          When dreams are dramatic yet leave no lasting mark on my soul, it is the sign to me that they mean nothing. But this one today, in the darkest hour before dawn, pierced my heart with its sadness and regret. A man in an invisible prison, held behind bars no one could see, asking for the impossible.

          Many are the struggles of this human race, yet, the most public of them are seldom the hardest. Often, the crosses that bite the deepest constitute the most hidden of struggles. A man like this star, for whom money could buy almost anything, could certainly avail himself of any form of luxury or aid. But when success places one on the pedestal of worship and adulation, it can be hard to ask for help. It can be harder to even convince others that help is needed.

          In a dream many years ago, I saw a white map of the world, suspended in the bluest skies above an old European city of whitewashed buildings and clean but deserted streets. In that dream, I was warned of a coming nameless terror. Later, St. Jude indicated to me that it was time to “leave my church” and to go to another of need. Pray for others, St. Jude had said to me. Then, today, comes this searing dream, this voiceless plea from a man who has seemingly everything, a man in a European country, a world away.

          A dream come today perhaps to ask if I would pray for others as others have prayed for me. But more importantly I suspect, to first acknowledge my own sins and come clean before God, and then to pray for this man, icon of the world, yet as broken as any of us.

          All the more I turn away – because to pray for this soul, I will have to pass through the portal of my own weaknesses. There is no pleasure in that. But at the very moment I make ready to flee, I recall something I read just the day before: that before any form of prayer is prayed, we need to first squarely face ourselves. No hiding behind excuses or distractions but to come clean to ourselves. If we can be honest with ourselves, only then can we open our own hearts to God. Only then can we reach out and give help where it is needed, exactly as it is needed.

          And so I turn back to face myself. Then, I gather up my sins and go before the Heart of God. I reach into this Great Heart and leave them there. Finally, I lift up this man and into this same Heart, I place him and his needs as I have perceived them.

          Still praying, a while later I realise that only the memory of the dream remains. The sadness is no more, not a trace.

          It tells me that my work is done. We have both gone to the Heart of God.

Room for a Miracle


          I awakened early Friday morning for work, and found 2 song lines tipped into my heart,

Is there room in your heart

for God to write His story?

          At my altar for early morning prayers, I was too tired to think, so as I sealed my heart in Jesus’ Heart, I told Him that my prayer of Adoration today would be the work I did this day, given as an offering for Him. It turned out to be a gentle, unremarkable day lived in the happy slowness that Friday sometimes brings. I didn’t rush nor push much. I went from sweetness to sweetness.

          Yet, by afternoon, I was deeply exhausted. With an apple cake waiting to be baked for several days now, there was no putting it off; the kids were waiting for it and what better way to celebrate the end of another work week than with a lovely cake for tea?

          I planned to begin the baking right after lunch but being so tired, I went to lie down a bit to get my energy back.

          And I had a dream. I dreamt that one of my superiors at work was in my bedroom. She had come to check on my preparations for a programme she was overseeing. She had brought along someone else and she came to make sure that person was settled in my bedroom. In the dream, she wasn’t entirely pleased with my efforts but I wasn’t in the mood to appease either. I was clearly tired, fed up and couldn’t care less as she set about impatiently making up the extra bed as it should have been done. When she finally left the room, I didn’t bother to see her out. Instead, I stood in my room, agitated about having a stranger in my private abode, wondering too how I had allowed this woman to bring her work right into my home.

          What was the dream saying to me? That if I didn’t make room for God, trespassers from work would push their way further in? But I was making room for God, I knew I was doing all I could under the circumstances. What more was God asking of me?

          Again, this strange exhaustion washed over me. Why was I so very tired today?

          It was well after dinner that night that I made the connection between the afternoon dream and my overwhelming tiredness. This brazen woman inside my home, worse, inside my bedroom, dictating who else should be given access and how the room should be prepared, showed how emotionally and physically invasive her projects have been, this year especially.

          Her insane year end project, most of all, had trespassed right into my home life and stolen my rightful rest. I had been working on it for several weeks now, giving my very best. Now, I had 2 more days left of it. One – on Sunday – which broke my heart because working with Muslims, all my life I have refused to work on a Sunday to make it clear to them how important Sunday was to me. But now, with no one else willing to give up their Sunday, I was up against the wall with no hope of a slot exchange.

          My final slot in this woman’s programme was on the last day of work for the year for me. I sign off at 1 in the afternoon on Friday the 18th but despite knowing that, my superior had gone ahead and scheduled me for an entirely needless and taxing evening programme with her.

          My thoughts returned to the afternoon dream. Why had God come to point out the obvious? What was God asking of me?

          Discussing it with my husband, I came to a decision. I had already quietly rescheduled the timing of my Sunday programme, making it an hour earlier so that I still had 2 hours of my Sunday morning afterwards for my Lord.

          Then, I made a final decision. I would cancel the final programme on Friday. By scheduling it, this woman had trespassed into my rightful rest. She had no right and I wasn’t going to allow her, come hell or high water.

          That night, I slept soundly.

          A Saviour King who had no home
Has come to heal our sorrows

Is there room in your heart
Is there room in your heart
Is there room in your heart
For God to write His story?

          I awakened to a soft moss green morning misted by rain~breaths, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Am I not here, I who am your Mother?

          The moment I recalled Mother Mary’s words to St. Juan Diego worrying over his ill uncle, a little thought bud to life.

A Saviour King who had no home
Has come to heal our sorrows

Is there room in your heart
For God to write His story?

          What if the lines in the song weren’t meant to be a chiding? What if it wasn’t about what I hadn’t done and still needed to do?

What if it was an announcement?

          Had my angel sung those lines by the lip of my ear to announce a coming miracle?

          A miracle beyond compare, so huge and magnificent that it would stretch the room of my heart to its limits to contain it.


Boys in Prison


          I had a strange dream this morning. In it, my immediate family and I spent 3 different days visiting boy inmates of a prison. The other visitors to this prison comprised strangers and even members of my extended family. This dream was like a reel of snapshot moments, focus sharpening on certain scenes, on certain individuals. The dream raised no alarm of distress within me. It was even a little vague, as details I remembered during the dream immediately faded out when I awakened. For me, that is always a sign – those details were not to be focused on.

          The dream showed roughly 4 main groups of visitors –

my family and I,

a cousin, her sibling and his wife,

an aunt and her family, and

another unknown woman, somewhat wealthy, and her brood of many kids.

It appeared that we were all visiting different inmates. Except for the cousin’s family, I was either told or shown who the other inmates were but I was not detained there.

          In the dream, on the first day, it appeared as if I was visiting my son. This was not clear – I never actually saw him in the prison cell, just that it was vaguely alluded to. Visiting there too were all the others as mentioned above. In reality, I am extremely close to those members from my extended family. But in the dream, while they were aware of my presence and scooted over to make place for me on the visitors’ benches in front of the cells, and despite the fact I could sense their compassion, their focus was totally upon whoever it was that they had come to visit. That told me that each group was there for only one person.

          The next thing I was very clearly shown on that first day was that other wealthy mother. She was visiting an incarcerated son who didn’t seem to much appreciate the visit. He wore that bored, disinterested look so many kids have, totally impervious to his mother’s busy efforts to secure his release. And busy she certainly was, moving swiftly here and there to get his papers in order, yet oddly at ease with the system.

          Interiorly, I knew that she was used to the drill. That it wasn’t her or her son’s first time in jail.

          She was also the only one there at this stage of seeing to the release documents. So, her son’s time in jail was coming to an end. Yet, looking at his insouciance, I thought to myself,

The kid doesn’t care. He’s taking his mum’s efforts for granted.

          The dream then folded into the second day. We were all there again, each group sitting on those benches in front of a specific cell. There was a lot going on for that other woman again. This time, I could see the assortment of release documents she held. They were ready. Her boy was walking out of his cell when suddenly, his release hit a snag. A commotion  ensued – although the mother remained unperturbed. She took it on her chin and moved on quickly to undo the knots.

Her son didn’t do a thing to help.

He was indifferent to her buzzing around, with all his much younger siblings following her like little ducklings. He had no interest in them either, no interaction whatsoever.

He was a kid who clearly lived for himself. And it looked like he was going back in.

          Then, came the third day. This time, my husband and I were driving up to the jail and parking in its tiny porch. As we alighted from our car, our son got out too. So, it meant he was no longer incarcerated. There was another family in their car beside us and they were leaving, their car in reverse, when all of a sudden, their car battery died. The husband tried to get the car started but each attempt failed. My son, normally shy and reluctant in social settings, suddenly went up to this car, then turned towards me to indicate I should help that family to jumpstart their battery.

Oh no, I groaned. Trust him to get us into this.

Interiorly, I communicated to my son, I can’t help them. We would miss visiting hours.

          I know how it sounds but that response is uncharacteristic of me. If anything, I’m impulsively compassionate, often being where I shouldn’t be. And yet, this time, it was clear that I was not called to this need, that it was more important to me that we not miss the prison visit time. As if to confirm the correctness of my decision, yet another car leaving after a visit came into view, indicating that those occupants would offer the help needed now. And so, we hurried inside the prison.

          This time, in the first cell previously occupied by my son, was a new, unknown occupant. It was told to me that he had been anxiously waiting for me. This desperation was conveyed by the fact that he had used a thick, long  wire to snag the prison drop-down door and forcibly keep it open. He wasn’t trying to squeeze out from under it and escape, though.

          Instead, as I moved to go past this cell, this unseen occupant reached out from beneath the metal doors and caught my feet – in an abjectly pitiful gesture – of begging. In an instant, I understood that he was begging for prayers. That he had no visitor, no mother or father or relative keeping vigil on the bench before his prison cell, thus no one who’d pray for him – unless I did.

          Then, I woke up, a grey morning misted in rain, peering in.

          Immediately, my thoughts went back to the dream. It didn’t leave behind any residual emotion which I could use as an indicator of how to move forwards. Must have been last night’s movie, I shrugged, and dismissed the dream.

          But it wouldn’t go away. Like a gentle wraith, it stood close, quietly and firmly.

          I went to my morning prayers. At my home altar, I looked up at the Crucifix. At that moment, I recalled that 3rd day and the unseen boy begging for prayers. Movie-induced dream or not, at the very least, I was dutybound to pray for this soul. And so, I offered him up to the Heart of Jesus.

          And continued to offer him up several times more through the morning grocery shopping as I puzzled the dream out. At one point, waiting for my husband to return to our car from a quick errand, I opened my copy of In Sinu Jesu and began to read. The words gently floated by, evading my spirit’s open window. All except this,

I have saved you, through a particular intervention of My Most Holy Mother, from the fate the Evil one was preparing for you   ~  In Sinu Jesu, pg. 53

          But since my heart did not discernibly react to this, I shrugged off the words.

          For someone who shares everything with her husband, this time I had no urge to tell my husband about the dream. And I definitely wasn’t going to tell my son who was facing important exams and already so stressed out over them, that I had dreamt of him in a prison cell.

          But in the afternoon, a strange nudge pushed me towards my son and I found myself telling him what I had been shown. Far from being upset, he listened alertly and intently. I confessed that I wasn’t at all sure what he was to do.

          Then, recalling that wealthy woman and her ungrateful son, an answer from heaven came. I gently suggested to my son that perhaps he needed to work on his gratitude and thankfulness. Facing such an important exam, it was easy to lose yourself in them and shut out the rest of the world. It was easy to be so focused on yourself and on your academic struggles and to think little of the burdens others carried.

          And it was possible that he hadn’t given God the thanksgiving he needed to offer for the depth of support we and his siblings were giving to help him prepare for his exams.

          The minute I got that out, it was like a key which unlocked the next door of discernment. I suddenly knew who that unnamed, unseen occupant of the cell was: it was an acquaintance of my son, a boy who had made me very angry over the weekend by lying and trying to cheat me. Honestly, I had always disliked the boy. He was sly, honesty and sincerity not part of him. Since the weekend, I had been praying for guidance on how to deal with the situation involving him – whether to tell the boy what he had done was plain wrong or shut my mouth about it. I was veering towards letting it go because seeing how angry I still was about the incident with him, I’d likely say way more than I should. Like my son, this kid too was facing exams and I didn’t want to upset him in any way. Besides, after the exams, they’d go different ways, that would be that. He’d be someone else’s problem.

          Still, my conscience didn’t quite rest.

          The very next moment, my prayer was answered. In a 180º turn from what I intended to do, I saw another way to deal with that situation – and it was the best! Gentle yet calling sin exactly what it was – a sin – and then, giving the boy hope by showing him the way forward.

          It was then that I recalled the morning’s In Sinu Jesu reading. And I understood it. I had narrowly avoided falling into satan’s traps of indifference and of biting anger. Who knows what both actions would have led to –  for the boy, for myself?

          From the moment I spoke of my dream to my child, I understood all the other aspects of the dream as well. Never before has discernment of a dream come as swiftly and as clearly.

          The dead car batteries of the dream referred to dying faith. This is different to faltering faith or faith struggles. For some reason, while God has called me many times to be there for others who are struggling, He somehow holds me back when it involves faith that is dying. Even when He has shown me those whose faith is dying, it is never about me undertaking intense intercessory rescue efforts; all He has asked is that I call others to minister to this need.

          And that I resist feeling guilty about walking away. Because it is never about indiscriminate compassion, spreading ourselves thin running to jumpstart every dead or dying battery. It is never about occupying every visitor bench outside every prison cell. Working in God’s vineyard is always about obedience to Him – not to the dictates of others, not to the impulses of the heart.

          As I write this, the date of the dream, October 28, tugs at me. It takes some time before I realise it is the Feast of St. Jude – the very saint who told me exactly 3 years ago, to Pray for Others. In that dream, he had shown me that all those I had been praying for at that time, family mostly, had been prayed safely into the Church. It didn’t mean the job was done; just that they had been passed into the next pair of hands. And that it was time for me to move on, to pray for others.

          Today, on his feast day, he came once more bearing this call. St Jude had slipped into my morning, to bring me a boy from prison.