HOLY EUCHARIST

God and Man At Table

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          A trying weekend. An extended family getaway that didn’t quite live up to even our simple hopes of bonding and quiet fun. We hardly did anything, yet we missed Sunday Mass. I felt as if the whole lot of us were running in circles, plans didn’t stick; so much of effort yet almost everything didn’t hit the intended mark.

          After such a severe year, my kids and I had been looking forwards to this time of rest, with loved ones and enough time by the shores of quiet water. Instead, by the time the getaway wound to an end, the inside of my heart was scratched good from disappointment and irritation.

          We returned home, each one trying to find a silver lining in the weekend that was and trying to hold on to that lining. But that was made harder by the fact that due to the getaway, our year end Christmas gathering had to now be cancelled because many in our group couldn’t make two trips so close.

          This morning, waking up to find my pot empty of energy and happy cheer, I went to chores and errands with a leaden step. The winds must have known, for they gathered around our home, earnestly trying to sing us back to joy. Feeling and hearing them, I tried to rouse the embers back to life. I prayed prayers from my mind because my heart simply refused to partake of them.

Jesus, give me Your hope, Your joy, Your strength

          Hours later, spirits still sagging, I went to lie down. Tracing the Cross on both my ears, I wearily asked God to speak to me.

          I awakened with a hymn in my ears, as clear as a bell , God and Man At Table Are Sat Down.

O, welcome all ye noble saints of old,
As now before your very eyes unfold
The wonders all so long ago foretold,
God and man at table are sat down,
God and man at table are sat down

Elders, martyrs, all are falling down,
Prophets, patriarchs are gathering ’round
What angels longed to see now man has found,
God and man at table are sat down,
God and man at table are sat down

Who is this who spreads the victory feast?
Who is this who makes our warring cease?
Jesus, Risen Savior, Prince of peace,
God and man at table are sat down,
God and man at table are sat down

Beggars, lame, and harlots also here,
Repentant publicans are drawing near,
Wayward sons come home without a fear,
God and man at table are sat down,
God and man at table are sat down.

          As I went back to my day, puzzling the import of this hymn, its place in Advent, this line played over and over,

God and man at table are sat down
God and man at table are sat down

          I sensed no change within me, my heart remaining a mute lead ball within me. But an unseen voice sang his line undeterred,

God and man at table are sat down,
God and man at table are sat down

          That line took me back to a post written in October, to the accompanying picture of a table by a river made golden by the sun. And once more I read words He had spoken to my heart through another’s.

I will not abandon or forsake you. I am faithful. I have chosen you and you are Mine. My blessing is upon you and the designs of My heart are about to unfold for you. You have only to trust Me. Believe that I will keep you as the apple of My eye. You are safe under My Mother’s mantle. I will hold you close to My wounded Heart. Trust that I will bring about all that I have promised you  ~  In Sinu Jesu

          I understood then that through the Holy Eucharist hymn, God and Man At Table Are Sat Down, Jesus was calling me back to the beach of hope and trust, to await the time of unveiling.

The designs of My heart are about to unfold for you.

Trust that I will bring about all that I have promised you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feed Souls

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          A strange, blurry dream yesterday showed me preparing meals for Muslim memorial gatherings. It was a fuzzy dream, but long enough for me to remember its central theme: the preparation of food for this particular reason.

          I awakened wondering if I should shrug it off; after all, it was November 30, the last day of November when Catholics remember the souls of those gone, in a deeper, special way. I reasoned that if God really wanted me to do something about it, He’d have alerted me sooner. Besides, something else about the dream didn’t make sense – the memorial gatherings – because Muslims here rarely organise memorial get-together’s for their dead. They are very quick to bury their dead, often even before family members can gather. And the grieving are hurried to healing. Memorials are not the done thing.

          But something about the dream lingered on, just like the one about boys in prison. Gentle, like a soft breath against my hours. Not forcing me to focus on it, yet quietly willing me to turn my heart towards it.

          Given what our life here is like with Muslims in this country, I had scant desire to pray or do anything as in the dream. Yet, in issues concerning the departed, my heart bends in a strange softness; the call of their souls one I cannot turn away from, no matter what their faith or creed.

          It was no different this time. Although the rest of me scowled in rebellion, my heart ignored me and went ahead.

          I tried the easy way out first.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let Thy perpetual Light shine upon them.

May their souls rest in peace.

          The prayer faded out of reach pretty quickly, but I couldn’t be sure if it was just me or something more. If it was my reluctance asserting itself, then my offering for these particular departed souls needed to be something I did not actively think about. So, I stood before my altar and offered up my day for the souls. I thought I’d make it a busy chore day, pushing myself with the Christmas cleaning, especially the bits I wasn’t too keen on – to deepen the element of sacrifice of the day for those souls.

          My hours of the 30th of November instead slid into gentle, languid ease. The heavy work day I planned simply misted away. Apart from the daily ‘usuals’, I got nothing else done. It was not due to apathy; more like my plans for the day were moved out of my reach.

          The prayer didn’t fit, the offering didn’t work out. I must have read the dream wrong, I thought ruefully to myself. It was just a dream, not a call from heaven.

          As those thoughts tread through my mind, an old dream came before me, of a coming reunion, a dark day of approaching danger, yet also a day where I saw our beloved long gone, living with us once more, in happy play with the other children, yet not too busy to give me a hug.

          Then, from behind me, in the dream, appeared a Muslim man, dressed in almost white. His hands stretched out in a gesture of heartfelt pleading, he said,

“At least you can see them. Give us some hope too.”

          So many, many times since that dream of 2015 on the eve of the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, I’ve pondered those strange words from the unknown man, At least you can see them. Give us some hope too.

          What hope was he referring to? Hope of seeing those gone alive once more amongst us?

          Why could he not see them?

          How did he know I could?

          And how was I to give him the hope of this seeing?

          Years later, no clear answer was forthcoming.

          But this new November dream was still here, asking me for something for Muslim souls. What it was, I didn’t know, but I suspected it was something that was not a part of Islam.

          On last night of old November, as the night rains mouthed a soft chorus outside, I read something about the Holy Souls that I have never come across before.

For the souls in Purgatory then, Holy Communion is one precious personal gift which they can receive from us. Who can tell how helpful Holy Communions are toward their liberation? One day St. Mary Magdalene de’Pazzi’s dead father appeared to her and said that one hundred and seven Holy Communions were necessary for him to be able to leave Purgatory. When the last of the one hundred and seven was offered for him, the Saint saw her father ascend to Heaven. ~ http://www.marys-touch.com/Eucharist/ch3.htm

          In a fall of Light, I suddenly saw and understood something I hadn’t before.

          This year, I’ve been moved to do something odd- to ask God permission each time I went to receive Holy Communion, to bring along Poor Souls. I had not read about this practice anywhere before, nor heard of it done by someone. In fact, every time I prayed to “bring along” a Poor Soul, I thought I was bone mad. But in the depths of my heart, I also wondered if coming with me to receive Holy Communion placed the departed souls as close to Jesus as possible, at least for a few moments, thus momentarily appeasing their flaming sorrows at the separation of atonement.

          I wasn’t even sure if this act was theologically sound but I was confident that if it wasn’t, God would right it Himself.

          Yesterday, upon reading the above passage, it became very clear that taking the souls for Holy Communion was not an act of madness. It was an asking of God.

To enable the expiation of sins through the power of the Holy Eucharist

          There are many written accounts of Saints like Padre Pio who tell of souls serving their Purgatory by expiating in very specific ways, of sins committed during their time on earth. I personally know this to be true, although I do not know if what I saw was Purgatory or Hell itself.

          But until last night, I had not known that we on earth can help to expiate for sins against the Holy Eucharist by the receiving It on behalf of the Poor Souls of Purgatory. And now, it appears that even in death, we can give Jesus to souls – including Muslims, for whom Jesus is a prophet, not the Messiah.

          Every year, I seek to know what Advent my Lord asks of me. This year was no different. Today, on this first day of Advent, an answer begins to take form. The memorial meals I saw myself preparing in yesterday’s dream was significant. I’m being asked to feed souls – but with the Eucharist.

          But it is what a priest does.

          I’m no priest and I’m not about to ordain myself.

         But as a sinner who was long ago taught to love and care for the souls of the departed, I am now being asked to feed them through my faith and belief in the presence and power of Jesus alive in the Holy Eucharist. As I receive my Jesus in Holy Communion,  carrying with me the departed in my heart, in a supernatural way, in a way I do not understand yet believe, they too will receive Jesus.

          Even Muslims.

          And by this open that final window to eternal freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 34 ~ Two Roses

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          This morning, I returned to an old garden, hidden from the busy walkways of life. There, I plucked two blooms and carried them back with me in my heart ~ my two children returned to Heaven through miscarriage.

          Later, a struggle with anger against oppressors attacking my kids, anger worsening with every mile to church. All through Mass. Wanting to protect my children. Planning. Then, not sure if anything I do will work. Twenty years of this, worse now because of the kids and the danger they face.

          I tried saying the Rosary during our drive to church but I couldn’t focus on a single Mystery then. So, I resorted to simple Hail Marys, little roses for my Mother. I couldn’t seem to offer anything else.

          I just wished She would say just one word to me.

          Just before Mass began, I was with my Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul. Speak to me, please, I begged. The entries I read were to do with Confession. I read them carefully, searching for His voice. I couldn’t hear anything clearly. So, I moved on.

          Then, I remembered that we were planning for Confession. I went back to the Confession entries.

Concerning Holy Confession.

We should derive two kinds of profit from Holy Confession:
1. We come to confession to be healed;
2. We come to be educated-like a small child, our soul has constant need of education.   ~   #Entry 376

          I understood the words. But I still could not access the direction and comfort I was desperate for. Then, somehow, I lost my place in the book. Searching, I stumbled upon something else – O Blessed Host… Despite my inner turmoil, I was drawn to those words.

O Blessed Host, our only hope in the toil and monotony of everyday life.

O Blessed Host, our only hope amid the ruin of our hopes and endeavors.

O Blessed Host, our only hope in the midst of the ravages of the enemy and the efforts of hell.

The efforts of hell. Yes. That aptly described what I was facing, what the kids and my husband were facing.

          As the Host was raised, I cried out with heart and soul,

Save us, Jesus!

Save us, Jesus!

          Later, during Confession, listening intently to my pastor’s words, quiet and gentle, unhesitating in his counsel, my soul was educated, and directed towards hope.

And towards the seeking of angels.

          Just before his final prayer, this gentle priest who has known much suffering, told me to offer Heaven a gift. Two Hail Marys. Roses for my Mother. A softness stole into my heart.

          I knelt to pray. Heart and soul, I offered up the Hail Marys. I begged Mother Mary to keep my children safe.

          Then, I remembered my two wee babies returned to Heaven through miscarriage.

Two children

Two Hail Marys

          Two roses. One for each child, for our Mother. Gift of angels.

 

 

 

Broken To Save

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          “And make sure you forgive.” Those were my friend, Susan Skinner’s firm words to me in her comments to my previous post, Unbeliever. I had written about a hurtful experience with a relative on the day of my child’s First Holy Communion. Our child had received Jesus for the first time. During Mass, we saw something we hadn’t expected to experience and we were deeply affected by what had happened. While this man surely did not know of our experience, for sure he saw how preoccupied we were with our little one on such a meaningful day, but instead of rejoicing with us and heaven, used it to his advantage and backed us into a corner.

          When I saw Susan’s words later, And make sure you forgive, my instant self-assured reaction was, Sure I can, nothing to it.

          But the very next second, I wasn’t so sure. I no longer heard Susan’s voice; a Supreme Being was speaking through my friend. Still trying to believe that I didn’t have a problem forgiving this man, I imagined seeing him again at church and set up the scene in my mind.

          I found myself running into the church to hide from him. And after Mass, I saw myself running into the car to escape bumping into him.

          I knew then that I had a problem forgiving this relative.

          So, I plunged headlong into prayer. I tried to fashion the words for it. I came up short. Later, in Susan’s post, Dreams and Preparation, I saw this prayer:

Lord, send your Holy Spirit to convict …. repent of their sins,…..confessing them to their priest.

          Is that for me? I gave it a go.

          Truth be told, I could say the prayer only once before I fell from the weight of it. Even the prayer for the grace to forgive seemed lighter than this. This other prayer was heavy. I’ve never experienced this. It was not due to reluctance on my part. It was not because I wanted to say another prayer. It oddly felt like a heavy door.

          And that it was not my place to push it open.

          Yet, I didn’t sense it was the wrong prayer.

          So, I did the next best thing. I did what I could do: I loaded this relative onto my prayer cart. Then, I loaded in my sinfulness and every difficulty I had in dealing with this situation, especially the struggle to forgive. I asked for His Mercy (I loaded that too). All weekend, I filled up the prayer cart because I didn’t have the words. I couldn’t come up with a simple prayer sentence; I couldn’t even read one with my heart even if I saw it.

          But I was not troubled. I knew it was in Good Hands.

          Arriving at Mass the next Sunday, I forced myself to look out for this person – as a way of fighting my real desire to run and hide from him. But I didn’t see him. I must say I entered church with more than a little relief.

          There, I dropped to my knees. Fixing my gaze on the Miraculous Image, I told my Lord,

Lord, I set down my prayer cart before Thee.

          Then, I sat back and waited for Mass to begin.

          Our parish priest had never been even a minute late for Mass but this time he was. Minutes ticked by and the congregation became slightly restless, with many turning to the back to see if Fr had entered. My thoughts still on my prayer cart contents, I kept my gaze forwards but I heard the distinct bang of the confessional doors. I knew then what had delayed the priest.

          Soon, the Mass began.

          Right after Mass, the relative who had hurt us sought out my husband. Uh oh, I thought.

          “My mother had a fall last Sunday after Mass,” he announced and went on to describe his 90 year old mother’s condition. She was unhurt but shaken.

          I wish I could say that my concern immediately shifted to the poor woman. It didn’t. Too full of myself, I instead held my breath, waiting for the axe to fall. But nothing of that sort happened. We soon parted. There was no apology but neither did he make any attempt to twist us back to where he had us the previous Sunday.

          Genuine thankfulness filled me over this conclusion; I had merely tried to forgive him as best as I could. God had done the rest. That was enough for me. It didn’t matter that our relationship would forever be marked by the wound of caution. I didn’t feel like asking for more, because my thoughts were now on something else the wind had rested on my ears.

          And what I heard troubled me.

          Deep in my pots later that night, my husband sauntered into the kitchen. We chatted about the day again. After a short pause, he asked me if I had noticed that our priest that day had been late in starting the Mass. When I nodded absently, I sensed him hesitate. Then, he asked me if I knew why.

          Someone had gone to him for Confession, I replied.

          Do you know who? my husband pressed, watching me carefully.

          I shook my head, puzzled over the line of questioning. My husband is the last person on earth to keep tabs on others, much less take attendance at the Confessional doors, so I didn’t know where he was going with this.

          It was him, said hubby.

          I almost leapt at my husband, pot, scrub pad and all, so great was my shock and excitement and incredulity. So many go for Confession, yet I could not name a single person despite years of being a parishioner here because it is simply not something I keep a look out for, much less brand into my memory. But that day, both my husband and I had been alerted in different ways to a stirring behind the door – the greatness of someone’s hidden humility to seek Jesus’ healing love.

          It matters not to me what had passed between our relative and the priest, if our matter had even been mentioned. For some reason, our unpleasant experience has diminished in its importance. The mere fact that that he had run to Jesus, considering all that had happened in the space of that week, both stunned and touched me deeply.

          And it placed the eyes of my heart squarely on the whispers the wind had brought me about this poor man’s hidden struggle. It told me why my husband and I had to suffer for that wee while.

        My relative’s problem(s) was the bigger rock, hitherto hidden. Our trouble with him was the light that fell on it and unmasked it. This time we were not called to pray this person to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That was why that prayer was so heavy. All that was asked of us was that we forgive him.

          I’ve heard many times that forgiveness frees both sides. However, till this time, all I knew personally was the healing and freedom I received when I forgave someone. This was the first time I saw the power of forgiveness at work on the other side away from me.

          For the first time, I learned with my heart that when I forgive, even wordlessly, in secret, or as part of an ongoing struggle, my forgiving becomes a key that unlocks the jail cell of the prisoner who has hurt me. Forgiving leads to healing – of forgiver and forgiven. And healing leads to conversion.

          I cannot see the wind of road ahead for this person. That sight is not afforded to me. But what I do see is that my husband and I had to suffer shock and hurt to save a soul, possibly that of a secret gambler.

          We were called to suffer briefly, to be bread broken, that through our forgiveness, a lost sheep might return to its rightful fold.

 

 

 

Unbeliever

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         Preparing for a moving and joyous family celebration this past Sunday, ‘something’ wasn’t happy. So, it sent its emissary – a relative – to trouble us, distract us from the miracle of the Eucharist. The person was successful in a sense, managing to upset my husband and I terribly, bringing us close to an argument on a Sunday of golden breezes, stilled spirits  and tickled hearts.

          It was a clear and direct attack on the family.

          We fought back. And our weapon was family too. We made it very, very clear that no one, not even relatives, could force us to put marriage and family on a lower rung of priorities just to accommodate the will of others.

          Given our response, this person will likely hesitate in future to go to where he had. I hope he does. Because despite being Catholic, a Communion minister at that, by what he did to us, he chose to kick Jesus into the gutter – right after Mass.

          It’s been a few days and I’m still not over it. It’s not the hurt so much as it is the utter shock of it. We never saw it coming, not from this friendly, cheery man who always had a sunny word and a stomach-in-a-stitch joke for everyone.

          Last night, the word ‘unbeliever’ popped into my mind.

          Seven years ago, after enduring years of a fun but very, very tumultuous friendship, I awakened to days and days of an unseen chorus of voices relentlessly chanting a caution to me:

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

          Day and night, hour after hour, there was no escaping the ceaseless chant. The fold of hours into days did nothing to diminish the urgency and insistence of this unseen clamour. I went to sleep and I awakened with those voices in my ear.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

Do not be yoked with unbelievers.

          Just as it is now, so it was then. A staunch, church-going Catholic friend from my university days had fallen into a pattern of abusing our friendship. Only when the blade of her knife came too close to my family did I realize this was not how someone who loved Jesus treated others. True love does not begrudge someone her closeness to her family.

          True love will never allow one to stealthily usurp the first place marriage and family occupies in another’s life.

          I left that friendship once it sunk into me that there was nothing to go back to.

          But I did not completely understand the word unbeliever, never liked it even. In the community I work and live in, I am often referred to as an unbeliever simply because I am Christian and no one else is. Yet, seven years ago, this word was brought to my spirit as a warning.

          Now, seven years since, unbeliever has returned like mist, the reminder at once gentle and sorrowful. As if someone knows I have need to reacquaint myself with it despite the pain and bewilderment it will once more bring. 

          This time I did not sidestep the teaching.

          An unbeliever is a Christian who bears the mark of the beast. Because he has rejected Truth. I do not know if the unfortunate soul is spiritually dead, but I know with a deep certainty it means he is on his way there.

          Because he once chose Jesus and lived Christ’s life but has now disowned the Lord. Something else has entered the heart where Jesus once lived. The human will has embraced this entity but disowned our Lord and His teachings. It is not about the occasional lapses of conscience, of the random missing of the moral mark that almost everyone is guilty of. It is much, much more than that.

          It concerns a deliberate and calculated casting aside of Christ’s teachings – either through a dilution, a misrepresentation or a distortion. There’s a first time, then a second. One dismissal leading to the next distortion. And finally a rapid spiraling away from Truth towards death.

          A hardened conscience. Spiritual death.

          I believe that God has bade me understand through this connivance of our family member, that the unbeliever can be anyone who claims to be a Christian. He can even  be a pillar of the Church. He might come across as spiritually superior. Enlightened. Progressive. 

          A face seemingly set in the direction of the sun.

          But in the deepest folds of his spirit, hides the ice he swears allegiance to : that he does not accept Jesus. That Jesus’ teachings hold little true value for him because they contradict the worldly values he lives by.

          He believes himself to be a Christian. In reality, he is a Christian shaped by deceit.

          For the unbeliever, the life Christ lived which He wrote with His Blood on every human heart is no longer relevant in these modern times. Christ’s and His apostles’ lives might only be something to be recalled during Mass, read about in daily readings or an act he emulates to put on display for others his Christian-ness, but those principles are not lived in sincerity in the everydays of his real life.

           I remember a day years back, when we went to this same relative’s home. It was for a quiet get-together after a requiem Mass for his late wife, a beautiful soul, who had passed away a month before. There we caught up with his extended family, and it was a day of subdued cheer for they were a friendly lot.

          And yet, I remember a faint chill in that home. In that company. It was as if behind the smiles and friendliness and Bible-toting, eyes watched us. Eyes not theirs. I remember smiling and going along with the cheery banter, yet wanting to leave and feeling relief when we did. I thought it was just me and my social awkwardness. But it is slowly dawning on me that perhaps it wasn’t. What I had sensed that day in that home where a heart of gold once beat was not solely the chill of grief for the deceased. The pall of death extended beyond the physical. Only now do I see it.

          It was not mere loss that our spirits brushed against. It was the cold of a fading conscience.

          The beginnings of the mark of the unbeliever.