FORGIVENESS

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 11 ~ No Going Back

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          In mid-January, my mother-in-law who lives 2 hours away, suffered a stroke and fell. Apart from the concussion, her speech and memory were somewhat affected. My husband comes from a family of 3 siblings. His older brother lives next door to Mum, his older sister resides in another state, some 4 hours away from us. In the aftermath of what happened, my husband and I felt it would be best if Mum moved in with us. It wouldn’t be too far a move for her and as such, less upsetting. No one else disagreed with us so we began to make plans.

          There was no vacant room in our home but we planned to bring a spare bed into our bedroom and make Mum comfortable there. It would require a huge adjustment on the part of all of us. Worrying about how I’d balance this with my work struggles made me deeply afraid of what was ahead. I saw that same fear in my loving children’s eyes too but I soothed them without sugar-coating it. In times of difficulty, I believed that we needed to focus on love. We would do that now too. Focus on loving Mum as best as we can, give her the very best from our hearts and God would take care of us. Granted, we had no clear idea of how we would manage as both my husband and I were both working full time. There were absolutely no care services in our remote town that we could rely on, but we figured that since the stroke had not impacted Mum’s mobility much, with help from our kids who were all studying at home, we could try and work something out. It would not be easy but we are pretty resilient as a family. Even if we messed things up initially, we’d learn fast.

          What mattered was that Mum be surrounded by family in a secure and loving environment. I had suffered from fears all my life; I didn’t want Mum to fear being alone or anything. Because coming to live with us was hell enough for her. I had married her favourite son and early on in my marriage, she had made it clear she felt I wasn’t good enough for her boy. Besides, I wasn’t my mother-in-law’s idea of fun. Mum was an extreme extrovert; I went out of my way to avoid most social situations. She had 2 tongues in her, I sometimes had trouble finding the one tongue I had. We were polar opposites and Mum had scant patience with my dull ways. But she was good, old soul and over the years, I learned to not just accept her but to love her too.

          But her move into our home was not to be. Without warning, one day, the hospital announced that they were discharging Mum into home care. With equal suddenness, my husband’s older sister who had been silent during family discussions, announced that Mum should be with her. We were concerned that my husband’s sister was taking on too much. Although her children were all grown-ups – unlike our much younger brood – her own husband was a recovering stroke victim as well. But there was virtually no time to talk things through.

          What started off as a normal but busy day filled with meetings for my husband, ended very late that night. With suppressed anger and frustration, my husband packed his aching heart away and hastened to do his older sibling’s bidding. After work, he drove alone to the town Mum lived in. Strict lockdown rules did not permit me to cross the district border with him. At the hospital, he dealt with the discharge paperwork alone. 

          It was late evening when Mum had been securely strapped into her seat for that long drive to her new life. As the waning sun watched over that old town, so many people were returning home. But Mum was leaving the town she had come to live in as a young mother almost 60 years ago. Leaving the house where she held court as queen of the home for decades, the sepia memories of golden days spent with faithful friends. Leaving the graves of her husband, and her beloved baby grandson, the only death that had broken her to tears. Leaving without a chance of bidding her last farewell because her mind was going.

          My husband had to slowly and carefully drive his frail mother to the meeting point with his sister at our state border. Mum was understandably not quite herself. She took time to understand things and it took a lot out of my husband to keep his eyes on the road and at the same time make sure Mum didn’t attempt open the car door midway through the journey. All through that long drive, she fiddled with knobs and levers just like every one of our babies had done years before. Still, she asked him nothing, as if the contentment of just being alone with her little boy was all that mattered.

          Then, as the purple twilight skies gave way to night, someone must have whispered something in her heart. In a sudden shot of lucidity, Mum told my husband that she didn’t want to stay elsewhere. That she wanted to come home with him. I can only imagine how much it must have cost my husband, a devoted and filial son, to choke back his tears and instead, find the words to comfort his old mother, knowing that she now somehow knew that she was going where she least wanted to go all her life.

          To be fair, my sister-in-law was having a very hard day too. As we were under lockdown, the rules were very strict, to the point of being inhumane. My poor sister-in-law had to rush to get a police permit to cross state borders, then, make that long drive to pick Mum up and immediately drive back across state lines before midnight that same day to avoid a hefty fine. After a rushed pick up, the poor woman finally made it home at midnight. My husband came home exhausted too but at least he came home to a hot meal and a loving family waiting to fuss over him and soothe him. While my sister-in-law pulled up to a comfortable home, it was empty save for a husband not quite himself. She had returned to a house with empty rooms because all her children now resided in other states, and she returned to a marriage she had marked and wounded in so many ways.

          It felt so sad that it had to be this way but it was my sister-in-law’s call after all of wanting her mother with her. At some deeper level, I could guess at her intent. Facing failure at any age is difficult but it’s worse when you are older, close to retirement age or beyond, because in some families, some aspects of marriage and bonds with kids are cast in stone by now. We can hope for the sun to rise some day and some of us will strive to the end to make that happen.

          But some of us just aren’t made to hope, to forgive or to seek forgiveness. Some of us find it too difficult to strive for a better ending to life. So, we try to return to a life lived years and decades ago, when things were much simpler and affairs of the heart less complicated.

          For my sister-in-law, that meant taking into her home the mother who had petted and doted on her even into adulthood. Ever the optimist at all the wrong times, my husband’s sister refused to try to understand that even if Mum healed and improved, something in Mum had already been set into motion. There was no going back into the past where Mum stretched herself thin doing everything to ensure ease and comfort for her only daughter.

          For a month, Mum was with her daughter and did pretty well. After holding our breaths, we finally exhaled. Mum’s physical recovery was good. My sister-in-law was a tender and loving caregiver, very efficient in her care. Still, we were worried. The nation was under lockdown so some of us like my sister-in-law and I were mostly working from home. But with the lifting of restrictions coming in February and with it a return to full time work for all of us, there would be no one to watch Mum at home when my sister-in-law was at work.

          My husband’s sister is a difficult one to communicate with, if I may say so. On good days, everything goes well. But there are days too when this wall comes up that nobody can scale.

          That wall was well in place when we tried to discuss Mum’s care going into February.

          Suddenly, early this week, with no warning in the almost daily conversations, my husband received a text from his sister saying she had it with taking care of Mum. That she couldn’t go on. And she wanted my husband to come up with something. The change in her was sudden, to say the least – but less so to my husband. This was the way she had always been whenever the going got tough. Her coping strategy was to check out for a period of time and have others scramble to pick up the pieces.

          In this case, those pieces was Mum’s sudden mental deterioration from early this week due to another stroke. Mum now required fulltime care but with lockdown, getting a homebased caregiver was not an option. And my sister-in-law had no backup plan in place for what we saw was coming and had tried to warn her about.

          We had no care options in our town either but there were good nursing homes in the closest city in our state. Quietly, without letting on to my husband, I did some research. I looked for a facility that would allow us to bring Mum home on weekends, to let her be with family. Her mind was going fast. She barely remembered or recognized people who had been in her life. Whether she was with us or remained in fulltime care, it would not make much of a difference to Mum who would likely never go back to who she was.

          But I wanted to try. 3 years ago, one day after Christmas, I had a dream. It was of Mum, living with us and utterly happy and at ease. In that dream, I had been warned by an unseen person that in having to care for her, I would be

Momentarily overwhelmed

          What if that time warned of was now? To suffer for heaven knows how long but in the end to receive the joy of seeing Mum happy and well again, finally at peace with the world? I had to at least try.

          City rates being what they were, it would cost much to keep Mum comfortable. There would be no chance of either my husband or I retiring early. But on the bright side, I figured that since I was at the losing end of keeping my weight down, maybe having less to spend on food would yield early blessings for me.

          Yet again, it was not to be. After a few tense days and many prayers, my sister-in-law instead found a good nursing home just a few minutes’ drive from her home. Their rates were something we could afford. And they agreed to take Mum in immediately.

          By evening, Mum had left the house again, intent on her secret journey, shutting gate after old gate to open new ones. All our efforts to hold her back are futile. It’s like she is growing wings.

          And day by day, even as her body weakens, her wings strengthen, taking her closer and closer to the sun, one gate, one door at a time.

          As I search for the final words for this post, the warm yellow~white winds outside rise to sudden high notes, strong yet gentle is their evening song. For long minutes, I lay my heart against them.

          Then slowly, one by one, the winds gather gently. Softly, softly they lay the meaning of their song by my heart. 

 

Lent 7 ~ Prayer for the Green

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          It’s a terrible thing indeed to be ruled by the green of jealousy. I grew up in a home where both my parents suffered from this wound. I remember going out with them, meeting people, the forced polite comments and the pretending over someone’s good fortunes. But I remember also, once we returned home, the roiling that went on endlessly. They seemed to live in an eternal fire. As a result, I learned early on to fear any good news coming from other people because of the effect that would have on my parents. They just couldn’t be happy for anyone. My mother always excused such reactions by blaming her difficult life, how much harder it had been for her than for anyone else and that it wasn’t fair that she had to still endure so much and yet receive so few blessings from God. Inevitably, it would all wind back to me. I was the blockage that prevented God’s blessings from coming through, because I wasn’t sufficiently smart, diligent or pretty to bring her the fame and glory that others had.

          This morning, my thoughts went back to that reliable stand-by: that our jealousies should be excused because of our sufferings, because we have far less than others. It is very convenient, isn’t it, to blame personal hardship for our inability to join our hearts to the joys of our friends and loved ones.

          But we can’t all have the same kisses from heaven, can we? If we were to argue that we deserve to be blessed the same way others are, then it also means we ought to receive their crosses too. Yet, we grind to a halt there. We want the good others have but none of their pain.

          It makes for a very sad and unpleasant life, being chained to this demon that never dies. To look at skies blue and gold and yet not see it. To watch the winds sing their hymns as they play among trees and blooms, but not hear a single note because we live in the demon’s lair where another’s happiness is our worst pain.

          Today, I read the words of my friend, Ann, that we pray for those suffering from jealousy. Some days I can. But some days, the remembered pain is just too close. Today is one of those days. Today, I am a little hard of heart. I tell myself I will not be hypocritical and pray a prayer I do not mean for those who have hurt me and who continue to hurt me in this way.

          Still, Ann’s words hover gently nearby. How do I love? I finally ask myself.

          Then, ever so lightly I sense the angel speak, “You do not have to name them.” 

          And just like that, the prayer slips forth with ease.

Return to the Garden

Anemone Coronaria, Flower of Israel

May He teach you what He desires of you, and may He give you the strength to accomplish it perfectly! If I am not mistaken, this, in a few words, is what I think He chiefly requires of you: He wishes that you should learn to live without support – without a friend – and without satisfaction. In proportion as you ponder these words, He will help you to understand them.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          On Wednesday last week, longstanding issues resurrected themselves at home. Deeply hurt and frustrated that even the beauty of time with family and nature couldn’t resolve old habits, I took my heart and placed it in the Sacred Heart of Jesus – because left within me, my heart was sure to fall into the depths of anger and unforgiveness.

          Then, I threw myself at the feet of heaven, asking for guidance.

          Its answer came from the mother~heart of St. Margaret Mary.

May He teach you what He desires of you, and may He give you the strength to accomplish it perfectly!

          Stunned somewhat, I realised this unpleasantness was willed.

He wishes that you should learn to live without support – without a friend – and without satisfaction.

          That broke my heart into pieces, for loneliness and aloneness due to being misunderstood and maligned, has been my cross for a great many years. To see now that even that was willed, was just too much.

          Upon praying to St. Anne and to my guardian angel to keep my tears, within a few short hours, they brought me Jesus’ words,

Love as I have loved you.

          And with that, I resolved to get up and start all over again.

          But even as I went to my day and busied myself in the depths of a beautiful, sunny blue day, I wondered about St. Margaret Mary’s last words,

In proportion as you ponder these words, He will help you to understand them.

           Those words remained before me in the weave of gentle wind brushed hours. Curious as to what St. Margaret Mary meant, I went in search of her, and this I found,

Every night between Thursday and Friday I will make thee share in the mortal sadness which I was pleased to feel in the Garden of Olives, and this sadness, without thy being able to understand it, shall reduce thee to a kind of agony harder to endure than death itself. And in order to bear Me company in the humble prayer that I then offered to My Father, in the midst of my anguish, thou shalt rise between eleven o’clock and midnight, and remain prostrate with Me for an hour, not only to appease the divine anger by begging mercy for sinners, but also to mitigate in some way the bitterness which I felt at that time on finding Myself abandoned by my Apostles,…   ~  Jesus’ words to St. Margaret Mary

 

I will make thee share

Garden of Olives

Without thy being able to understand it

Agony harder to endure than death itself

Mitigate the bitterness

Finding myself abandoned by My Apostles

 

          There is only one hurt worse than all others for me and that is the hurt caused by the family I love beyond all else. And of the many hurts to be endured in a family, it is the hurt of being cast aside in favour of professional work, which cuts deepest. It is not the childish and narcissistic petulance about wanting to always be first in your spouse’s heart. Rather, it is the pain of knowing that whenever it comes to a choice between passion for work and staying close to your spouse’s heart, work has always won.

It is a hurt that falls within the shadow of the Abandonment in Gethsemane.

          Despite knowing what Jesus has to soon face, the Apostles – those closest to His Heart – chose the less troubling option of indifference. They chose the appeasement of slumber.

They choose themselves over Jesus.

          In a marriage, in family life, when we choose ourselves over even the littlest wills of heaven, we once again become the apostles in Gethsemane – because we choose what we want, we choose what stimulates and excites and what drives us. While marriage and family life is every happy and joyful tale we hear, it is also filled with heartaches, struggles and stretches of mundanity. Yet, these are the crosses God weaves into our lives to enable us to walk in His Son’s footsteps – for that is the only road to heaven.

It is the only path to Life.

          By willfully and defiantly choosing external lures and satisfactions, we choose the side of the apostles in Gethsemane. In choosing worldly consolations, we choose another path. We delude by comforting ourselves that this too is just another road that leads to Life.

          But it isn’t and doesn’t. Because that path bears not the footprints of Jesus.

          Despite the resurgence of old cheer within me, a note of sadness has stolen into the glorias of the winds and the sun. No matter how happy I am, there will be many more returns to the Garden of Olives.

          For Jesus has made it clear in His last words for the day. He needs my suffering to

Mitigate the bitterness I felt on finding myself abandoned by My Apostles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 29 ~ He is Going Home

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          In the darkness of Thursday morn, the day following the Feast of the Annunciation, I was roused from sleep. In the silence that followed, someone sat by my heart and lifted the veils a little.

          One of it concerned someone I love with all my heart. I learned that this old man would die.

          The whole of that Thursday, all through its hours, my heart remained calm and steady, accepting of that death if it were to truly happen. For ever so long, I’ve fought heaven, demanded that I be allowed to return home, to love and care as I’ve always done.

          But one day, years ago, in the midst of my anguished cry to heaven, I felt and heard the breath of Jesus upon my ear, saying,

There will be different ways to love

          In the years that followed, I began to understand that I would never return to my old home. Because to do so would only bring death upon my own family here now.

          It took a few more years before I could quieten the rebellion in my heart against that knowledge, but when I did, I slowly learned that God wanted me to now love through prayers, sacrifice and consecration.

          Only when I had fully accepted that did Jesus gently lead me towards yet another revelation. That this man will return to me with his old arms raised in the joy of absolute freedom and forgiveness – but only through the gates of death. Because only death could free this beloved man from the fetters that have imprisoned him from birth, right up to the present hour.

          And so, that is why, even when I was told on Thursday that he would die soon, even through my tears, my heart is ready for it.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 12 ~ Open the Prison Gates

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Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You;
with Your great power free those doomed to death.   ~  Psalm 79: 11

 

Yesterday, I told Jesus, Help me to pray the prayers You want me to pray. Then, I had a very brief and quick vision: It was daytime, perhaps in the morning. I saw a clear blue sky and a mountain range. And from behind it, a small, very bright sun rose quickly. Reaching the highest point in the sky, a burst of light came forth from the little sun.

          I understood this to mean that yes, God would give me a prayer, and pray it I must.

          Early today, God placed before me one of the women He wanted me to fight myself to love. Actually, I only saw her back as she was walking some distance in front of me – I was not treated to a hard look or even the usual scornful swish as she strode past me. Even then, my first reaction was disgust.

          It was only a little later that I belatedly recalled the prayer I was to pray for her, I love you because Jesus loves you.

          Today, Psalm 79’s Let the prisoners’ sighing come before You; with Your great power free those doomed to death, arrived once more at my consciousness, as it has since 2017. Each time that verse has caught my attention, it has always been for one of my superiors at work.

          In 2018, after the verse came, I prayed for those who needed it. And then, I saw the word, Gates. I wasn’t told what it meant, and till today, I hadn’t come any closer to an answer.

          Seeing the verse once more now, I wondered if my prayer for today was to once again pray for my superior’s release from the sin of loving money.

          And then, as is always the case, I clean forgot about it.

          Past 3 in the afternoon, I saw this man’s car and was a little surprised that he was still around. But I had a list of things to tick off and that was that.

          Buzzing around town, about to pull into a parking lot, I saw another car. It belonged to one of the local business owners whom I had approached some weeks back for sponsorship. He hadn’t been happy to give and the brief encounter had left a bitter aftertaste. I avoided him after that, but here now was his car.

          Without pausing to think about my annoying sensitivity to the slightest nicks, I took the plunge and prayed from the heart, I forgive you – although, honestly, that was the last thing I actually felt for him.

          It was late in the evening that I recalled Psalm 79:11 once more. I remembered my desire to want to love God. Then, it came to me that God had used cars and registration plates to remind me to pray. Today too He didn’t bring me face-to-face with those who hurt me but who needed prayers. Instead, God showed them to me but He showed me their backs.

          On each occasion except for one, I failed to pray. I gave in to myself – my feelings, my busyness – and the moment passed.

          I could easily pray for my boss now that I remembered, and also the I love you prayer for the two women. But I had not prayed them at the moment of call.

          So, I wanted to make up for it.

          I looked about my day and there was scant little to offer, except that it had been a long and tiring day. So, I took each little difficulty and offered them to heaven.

          Everything endured today I offered for prisoners, as mentioned in the psalm.

          In a quiet moment, I suddenly understood the meaning of Gates: they were prison gates. Each one of the three people God had brought me today were prisoners behind different prison gates – money, pride, hatred, jealousy, revenge. Yes, they had hurt me, and it was very difficult to pray for them.

          Yet, each one is loved by God. He loves them as much as He loves me. If I want to love God, I have to love them as well.

          Because only love will open those prison gates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Forgive Myself

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O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers. O St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms. I dare not approach you while He reposes near your heart. Press him in my name and kiss His fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us.

 

          3 years ago, I opened up about my work troubles, about 3 specific people, to a stranger. He had posted something on a forum earlier and when I read it, I had found strength to go on. So, I wrote to let him know and to thank him.

          Some months later, he wrote to me once more and told me about a St. Joseph novena he had said for workplace woes. It had brought amazing results for him. He had a feeling I would have need of it too.

          I certainly did. St Joseph had been coming to me in the days before so when I saw the prayer, I knew it was for me. I was in deep suffering then due to the 3 vicious bullies. So, I plunged myself into the St. Joseph prayer.

          At the end of the 9 day novena of it, I too received ‘results’. However, it was not the sunny outcome I had hoped for. Instead, something akin to satan’s whip lashed me and I suffered for it.

          But I experienced 3 miracles as a direct result of that novena. I saw my own sin and for the first time and acknowledged it. God gave me His strength to carry my cross of hurt and humiliation. Mother Mary came silently one morning and gave me hope.

Sight

Strength

Hope

          It’s been 3 years since that day. One of the three has been spectacularly removed from our company. It left behind 2 wound-ers – a superior and the other, a female colleague. For a while, despite the neverending woundings, life went on.

          But yesterday, I responded to a minor situation with the female colleague, in a way I’m not proud of. It was a small thing and yet, I wish I could have done things differently.

          I was upset with that person. I was now also upset with myself for my reaction. Worse, the incident brought back memories of rusted knives and forced me to face the towering mountain of old hurts caused by this woman. This is something I try not to revisit because the pain is bad and it makes my cross that much harder to bear.

          Yet, here it was again. And I wept at the seeming futility of it all. 20 years of suffering, almost a year of enduring this specific type of cruelty. And no end in sight. At the same time, so much learning on how to endure in Christian faith, so many prayers and yet I didn’t seem to be spiritually progressing. I wasn’t scaling the mountains before me. I was still stumbling over roots.

          Friday yesterday was supposed to be my Friday of atonement and reparation. God gave me one chance and I flubbed it spectacularly.

          I alternated between crying out to heaven and clubbing myself. I asked for the woman to be consoled. But I asked that no consolation be given me.

          Late at night, before turning in for the day, I went to my prayer nook.

          The grinning Angel was waiting with a prayer for me. It was the old St. Joseph prayer of 3 years ago.

O St. Joseph whose protection is so great, …

          I was more than a little taken aback. What a time for this prayer to reappear, when  work is becoming a problem again.

          This morning, another Mother Mary Saturday, I beseeched Her aid but I didn’t know what I should be asking for. Reading the Readings of the day, I begged Her to speak to me through them. At the end, no breeze swept by my waiting heart.

          Undeterred, I went to my prayer nook for the prayer of the day.

          Imagine just how I felt to see the same St. Joseph prayer peeking back at me! In all my years of visiting this nook, I have never drawn the same prayer on consecutive days.

          Suddenly, I was alert. Something was up. To come on Friday and then Saturday, it was a sign for me that both Jesus and Mother Mary were asking for this prayer to be said. From the chest of millions of prayers, They were asking for this one.

          So, I recited it once more, sealing my heart to each line, yet not expecting anything beyond that I should be obedient to the call.

          And this time, this second time, my heart saw a line I did not quite see yesterday.

St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us.

          I didn’t know what to do, what to think.

          So, I rose and left the house to run some errands. It was a beautiful golden blue day, the gentle,  sun~blessed breezes bringing sweet notes of birdsong to my heart. As I drove, happily watching the green trees run past, it became very clear just what I needed of Mary.

          Mother, take my sin of yesterday.

Take this garment of mine, the how’s and why’s of it.

Take it to Jesus.

Plead not on my behalf but let Jesus judge me fully and completely.

Then, bring me back His judgement.

Let it pierce me, really pierce me.

Let nothing stand between His Word and this piercing.

          I stood and waited.

          A tiny vine uncurled itself.

I forgive her.

          I did not even pause to think. Neither did I have to tie myself to it. Immediately, I said the prayer, the words coming straight from my heart.

I forgive her

          I discerned no change in me. No light, no sunburst, no burden lightened. But like the passing green trees, I let it go, not pausing to seek a reward for praying. I forgive her, I said once more, ready to say it over and over.

          But before I could repeat it, the tiniest of roses, a pink one, misted before me.

I forgive myself

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiven

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          How long have I waited for October 13 of this year – 100 years after the Final Great Fatima Apparition, waited in hope of a sign that the God I knew was there was indeed there. Like every other broken being, I needed  a special assurance of God. For the now. For the weave of journeys that lie ahead.

          Here, rain wept into the earth from the eve, well into the deep hours of the 13th. It was like 1917 all over again and my hope deepened. I held on to this sign because inside me, I sensed a shifting, and it was going where I did not want it to go.

          As I waited for a sign or a miracle of some sort, my spirit was headed towards the unpleasantly familiar numbing deadness, which no sun nor rain could rouse.

          I didn’t want this numbed spirit. Not now more than ever. I wanted every bit of me to be fully alive to savour the mystical memory of October 13, 1917. I wanted to touch that day a hundred years ago with my spirit, and seal my brokenness to the hope and life that had flooded into the many souls there that great day, a hundred years before.

          All day long, I clawed the air trying to keep death away from my spirit.

          Sadly, so preoccupied was I trying to hold air in my hands, that I failed to keep watch over my living in the hours of the day. Keeping an eye on the grey~shrouded skies for a Fatima miracle, I let slip words and thoughts in caustic comments and snide jokes that should never find berth in any Christian soul.

          Hours later, orange breezes gently danced in to sweeten the somber winds of the aging day. And to illuminate for me the rutted track along which my day had fallen.

          It was then that my numbed and disappointed heart learned two sorrows.

          That the miracle I had primed my waiting for was not coming that day.

          And a worse one – that even had it come, I would have been found wanting, because I had sullied my garments by dipping into pools I had no business going by.

          How easy it was to be distracted, to lose sight of the goal – love of God, love of neighbour. How easy it was to scan the skies for light and yet not see God in my fellow men. How easy to slip and fall, a stray thought, a joke here, an observation there.

          When so many other humble souls had spent the day in Masses and Adoration and prayers to love as Mary had, in pursuing my wayward will, I had set up watch by the wrong harbor, waiting for a ship that was not meant to be.

          And worse, like the bridesmaids of old, who had been waiting for the Bridegroom but failed to keep watch over their conscience, I had soiled my waiting hours in reckless speech and empty mirth.

           When it dawned on me just where I had allowed myself to go, I didn’t try to evade the bite of remorse that cut deep. While the incense of Fatima must have risen hidden in a great many spirits all over the world, I sang the dirge of lament for the stain I had allowed on my soul. Will I ever, ever learn to choose silence and restraint over unnecessary chatter and empty laughter? Will I ever resolutely seek the inner cloister over social circles that have never known or will ever care to know Christ?

          Will I ever learn that to see God, I must love my brethren as Christ did?

          Over and over, hidden from earthly eyes, I tossed and turned over my sin.      

          Yet, this time, despair was not my lot. I was determined to admit my wrong at the only Knee that welcomed saint and sinner. Because I knew that only there would I find Pure love and Supreme forgiveness. Over and over, I went before the Seat of Mercy. I allowed nothing to distract me from this secret pilgrimage. As hour latticed into hour, every time the angels placed the memory of my transgression before me, my spirit knelt before the Miraculous Image.

Forgive me, Lord. Forgive me.

          Suddenly, my spirit straightened to attention. 

          The thorn of remorse had been silently plucked from my spirit. Noiselessly, no stirring of the air did I sense.

          It was gone. In a breath of a moment, I had been forgiven.