HOLY SOULS

We Leave Thee

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          There is a temptation to write off and stuff this old year into an invisible drawer never to be opened again. But I cannot yield to it, for despite the darkness and the stress endured, there has been much beauty in this mottled, troubled year.

          There is no way I can turn my heart away from His gifts to us because God gave us so much. So very much. He softened the difficulty of studying and working online from home through the consolation of good health and of our jobs being intact at a time when so many lost their livelihoods, when so many fell ill and too many did not return to life. Yes, like so many, we struggled to make adjustments to stay home orders and to unfair and poorly thought out government directives. But He buoyed us on with hope through happy news concerning our children. At the end of each day, we stumbled away from our laptops and phones, mentally drained from work, upset and frustrated with our employers, little wine left in our barrels.

          And God changed water into wine through the miraculous renewal of our family life. He taught us how to lock our gates against trespassers and instead, to turn the gaze of our hearts towards the gem of family, of time spent together.

God gifted us with laughter. Precious laughter.

This year, for every day of anger and hurt, there were ten times more of mirth and joy.

          Then, the sky of Advent dawned quietly in the frenzied churn of life. For years, the road to Christmas has been dark for me. Even when the sun began to slowly pierce the winter, the cold and dark hovered too close by. Even as I built fires for everyone else, my own hearth remained unlit.

The light would not come.

          Year after year, I would ache in hidden disappointment that God had passed me by yet again, my outstretched heart left empty, my seeking bereft.

          This year, not wanting to hope for a miracle (yet going ahead and hoping all the same), I took to heart the words of my friend, Linda Raha, – Make every day Christmas. I decided then and there that my Christmas would be that.

That the Light of Christmas in my hearth would be the Light of Christmas let in for others.

          That I would stand by the windows of other hearts and rejoice as the sacred Light of a newborn Babe warmed and healed those spaces. That even when I had to return to my own empty and wind-chilled heart, it would only be to resolutely light and stoke to life fires of thanksgiving and gratitude.

          And not forgetting – to gather up more wood to make more Christmas fires for others. Prayers for friends braving so many unsurmountables yet forging forwards in love. Love for those who hate the Jesus they do not know. For those who need Christmas in order to love. For poor muslim friends hiding their poverty behind brave smiles. For the old and the sick in our family, separated from loves by Covid.

That would be my Christmas and that would suffice, I schooled my heart firmly.

Heaven must have smothered a smile at my efforts, and angels surely clapped back their mirth. For they knew what I did not.

On Christmas Day, Heaven spilled Light into my heart.

          Not bright, joy-giddy Light, but a different Light. Many Lights. Gentle and playful Lights, little lamps loved and released yet cherished in secret. Lights wan yet so sweet, passed through hearts gone before us. Lights lit from love old and worn from waiting, yet firmly steadfast in the quiet of Hope Eternal.

          Today, as the winds blow their last notes among plump, white clouds and sun-drenched swaying boughs, my heart traces the whorls and lines of the old year once more.

          It is then that I see something. Strangely, today, none of the old anguish, those dark sentinels which have jealously guarded bitter memories, charge towards me. They are gone. Even as the memory of difficult days remain, the stain of pain is no more.

          Pondering this, I recall the words of my pastor in his Christmas Vigil sermon, his heartfelt exhortation to each one of us to pray for a miracle at the Crib of the Wee Child. Taking his words to heart, I had obeyed promptly that night. In spirit at the Crib’s edge, my plea had been direct,

Please Lord,

Miracle

Miracle,

Miracle.

And a miracle it was!

          Through the power of the Crib, the old shadows have gone, mysteriously brushed away from my spirit’s sight.

          The night grows old now, the last rains of the year fall in final benediction. Poised for flight into the new year, one last look at all that was,

Farewell!–we leave thee to Heaven’s peaceful care…

Pray for His Soul

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          For some reason, 9/11 wouldn’t leave me this year.

          I’ve had some terribly busy days since last week. When work oversteps my coping boundaries, for some time, it renders me numb and too worn to care.

          But not this year. Not since I matched the image of a grieving Robert Peraza to my post, Every Tear. Several times in a day since the 11th of this year, I’ve returned to that image of a father, kneeling in sorrow, and perhaps relief, at finding that beloved name, etched in bronze, paying homage in a love only a true father can have for his child. Over and over, I have slipped away from busy, noise-filled hours to place my heart beside Mr. Peraza, willing him to at least share his grief with me, that his cross may be lightened.

          In almost every media article that accompanied that portrait of abject grief, I read Mr. Peraza’s words upon finding his son’s name at the North pool.

“I was just honoring Rob. … I was saying a prayer for his soul.”

I couldn’t stop going back to that moment of 9 years ago, so public, yet so private. A father praying for the soul of his son.

          Yet only today, did a question tug at my heart.

          Why did I keep coming back to that photo? Why that one – out of all the others? Why this anguished yearning to reach out and absorb all this man’s pain?

          On a whim, I decided to scour through the internet to see if there was something about Robert Peraza that I needed to know.

          It was as if someone had been waiting for just that. Almost immediately, I learned that Mr. Peraza had passed away in 2016. New thoughts then stole softly into my heart. To have worked so hard all those years, in the hopes of a happy retirement and maybe for a few more pearls on that necklace – a bit of travelling, more family time, quiet days to savour what work holds out of reach. Then, 9/11. Your loved one snatched away because the right to life means nothing to some.

          Still, even as I thought them, those thoughts slipped through and away, unwilling to stay. Even of the sadness I had felt from last week, barely a mist remained now.

          What had suddenly closed that door to that hidden world of grief?

          Slowly, quietly, someone pushed these words, like tiny vessels across my spirit.

I was saying a prayer for his soul.

          And then I understood.

Home I Have Come

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          My Christmas surprises came a little late this year – they came this week. Little things longed for, but on which I didn’t dare linger in yearning too long, lit up my tree the first week of 2017. Little gifts, left to surprise, in misted pockets along my path.

          So, it has been a happy week. Tiring but happy. I flew to duties, I flew to tasks, with an energy I hadn’t felt in a long while. And it felt good to see things work out. It felt even better to see how I handled life when the road dipped unexpectedly around the bends.

          I should have been up in the sky of a hundred blues, twirling next to the shy gold sun.

          But I wasn’t.

          Something was missing. I missed my Lord’s voice.

          I missed Him in the press of spirit I sometimes feel when searching for Him. I missed Him in the unseen Hand on my will, holding me back from something. I missed Him in the songs sung by unseen voices somewhere deep within me.

          This week, it certainly felt like He had released me to skip along my own path in wildflower meadows hiding a thousand surprises of light and joys. And skip and dance and spin I did, for it was great to feel light and unburdened for once.

          Yet, I came to the quiet sunset of the week, feeling a slight emptiness, despite the successes and happiness of the busy days past, no sorrow or suffering casting their shadows. I didn’t feel abandoned. But I did feel as if my Lord had skipped town for a bit.

          And the lights dimmed for me.

          That was when I realized that as much as I longed to be carefree and in a perpetual jolly frolic, I only felt anchored to my God in suffering – whether it was through my own suffering or through the pains of others. In the days past, Heaven had blessed me with the freedom to wander unrestrained amongst dancing grasses and singing blooms, and even as I sang happy ditties, my spirit ached from an odd loss. The missing of something that had always been there. That should have been there, but it was not. It was much more than an attachment to something.

          I was feeling the bereftness that binds a life lived away from the sun of suffering.

         Today, I came late to the morning hours birthed from a cloud-festooned grey~blue sky. Hence, I missed my usual rest by God’s door, and that poked more than a bit at my heart. I didn’t like missing my morning Holy Hour of sorts. It wasn’t much, by any standards, and to not keep even that was to sink to a low I was not comfortable with. But there was no chance to slip away.

          Deep in chores I had offered up in lieu of my still~time with Him, I sent God my yearning:

I want to pray. Not like this, on the go, but to really immerse myself in prayer.

          The wish had barely left my heart when I heard unseen voices, singing a familiar song in a somber timbre. I leaned in to listen. It was the Litany of Saints. Sung by a choir hidden from sight. I recognized the tune, but while the voices were clear, the words were oddly muffled. I immediately wished I knew what the response was to each saint mentioned in the litany, because, while I didn’t know the Litany off by heart, but I knew enough saints to be able to concoct my own litany. I just needed to know what the response was. I could then pray as I worked.

          On cue, the voices sang, St…Pray for us.

Pray for us. That was it.

          About to begin the prayer, I felt an imperceptible tug on my spirit, like Someone was holding me back a wee bit. So, I stepped back from the choir, and tried to discern the message – if any. I thought perhaps it was to understand what to pray for, or to focus on a specific saint.

          Instead, I felt I was led to focus on the hidden voices singing the litany. The mystery choir.

          Who are they, I wondered. Angels? It didn’t seem so. Monks or priests singing it on recordings I have surely heard many times before? Quite possibly, yet, it didn’t feel that way.

          I leaned in deeper. 

          And made out a quality of sorrow in their voices. Unmistakable notes of pleading woven through the grave cadences. Something familiar about them.

          And once I had reached that, I felt my attention led to the next lamp:

Pray for us.

Angels wouldn’t ask us to pray for them.

          And then I knew. Those were the voices of my friends, the Holy Souls.

          When I had expressed the wish to pray deep, it was to sink deep into my friends’ and their children’s prayer needs, those I had been informed of. I had their faces before me, and I wanted to be there for them.

          But it was not to them that God turned me to; He instead led me to the most loyal of my friends, the ones I love, yet, often forget. The ones in the deepest pain – the Poor Souls.

          I had asked to be able to pray, to touch the pains of my friends and loved ones, for Jesus. And so, He answered me by letting the pleading prayer of the Holy Souls fall on my ears, so it may be my prayer too. To their suffering I was led, their song I joined.

          And there I found Jesus. Home I have come.

 

 

 

 

We Shall Meet

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          When June slipped in, I suddenly remembered friends I had long left to themselves in a dusty corner. They were the best friends one could ask for. They never settled comfortably in my life only to make me uncomfortable. They didn’t bang on my door demanding what I could not give. They visited, casting no shadow on my day, but in quiet and gentleness, breathed upon the wind chimes by the door of my heart, and tinkled my awareness of them and their only need:

          That I pray paradise open for them, whose abode lay in the shadows of heaven.

          And so, in a guilt-tinged haste, I went back to an old calling, and began to pray for the Poor Souls who need prayers to unlock the door of Mercy that opens to Divine Rest.

          Sacred Heart, release them.

          As joyful June days tumbled one into the other and I flitted from parcel to parcel of happiness, through an act of will I tried to step away from earthly sunnies to pray the only prayer asked of me by these yearning souls, who have journeyed long and faithfully with me, helping me, protecting me, guiding me away from the rocks in the shadows of earthly life.

          Sacred Heart, have Mercy on them.

          Yesterday, I awoke to a day whose early hours were dipped in rain. The joys of the day beckoned beguilingly and I waited to go to them. Pausing awhile by the window, watching the sun spill its gold through water diamonds, an old hymn fell on the ears of my spirit ~

In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore;
In the sweet by and by,
We shall meet on that beautiful shore.

          The moment I heard the lines, I was like a cat caught in water, clutching at life in panic. That was a funeral song, for goodness’ sake! Was I going to die?

          Not wanting to meet anyone on any shore, I made a frantic attempt to silence that song within. I tried to blanket it over with happy, carefree ditties more in keeping with the bouncy day. On such a beautiful day washed and refreshed by the tipping of heaven’s jars, the last thing I wanted to hear was a funeral dirge, because that was all that refrain meant to me.

          In the sweet by and by, We shall meet on that beautiful shore….the voices sang on cheerily undeterred.

Please don’t take me now, Jesus, I countered.

          For long minutes, I ran as far I could from that refrain, but it followed me like a chuckle train.

          And then, in a waterdrop moment, the angel reached out and stilled my panic.

          We shall meet on that beautiful shore was not a heavenly summons for my life. It was a promise-gift left me in the joyous parting wave of friends finally going on to the bosom of joy and peace, their release secured by prayers. In the eyes of the sneering world, those hurried, distracted prayers might not have seemed like much.

          But my Holy Soul friends had come on the breath of morn to tell me they had sailed to life eternal on my paltry offerings, offered in homage to the Sacred Heart of my Jesus.

SOULS TO SAINTS

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In the home I grew up, when someone that mattered passed on, there’d be a couple of Eternal Rests, and a shrug and moving on with life. The realm of the Holy Souls was not one we lingered at. It was worlds removed from the life of Self we led.

One still night, decades ago, everything changed. I was home alone in my sitting room, reading a book on messages during an apparition, when I chanced upon a section on the Holy Souls and their need of our prayers. As line by line swam before my eyes, the agony of the Poor Souls buried their arrows in my heart and I was moved to a depth of pity I never thought was possible.

Suddenly, I was shocked out of my skin by a violent rattle of the windows. Gasping, I put down the book and looked around. Slowly, I became aware of a growing wreath of darkness and evil around me. That rattle earlier could have been explained by any number of scientific and logical reasons, but the menacing venom that encircled me told me the rattle on the windows was beyond science.

I shivered like a leaf, my heart raced in terror. I wondered if I had the strength to run up the stairs to the relative security of my bedroom and plunge beneath the covers, get away from the dark, invisible feral fangs that were reaching out for me. Never in my life before, had I been so terrified of something I could not see but only sense.

It was then, that I became aware of the heat. A slow, deep, yet gentle heat that began in my neck, and tendrilled down my back. An unseen cloak of warmth placed around me and drawn close to my body. As I sat in mute awareness of what was happening, my thoughts turned to the  blackness I had sensed, and I was stunned to realize that my fear was rapidly dissipating. I moved my chair to right beneath the fan that was turned on at full blast. I tied up my hair.

But the heat on my neck remained.

And soon, the fear was gone.

I put it to the test. I stretched and looked towards the dark kitchen that seemed so terrifying mere moments before. I scanned the room and its shadows. Not a whit of residual fear or anxiety.

The snaking terror had left.

The warmth on my neck remained.

In a silver instant, I knew that hell had come to stop me from praying for the Holy Souls. It didn’t want my heart beating for anything, anyone else. It wanted me to remain chained to an idolatrous worship that starved me to the point I was too malnourished to love others, least of all those who had gone to their eternal rest. I didn’t understand much that night, but I knew with a deep certainly that if evil had come to wrench me away just as my heart was being opened to showing earthly Mercy to those who had gone on, then, I had to answer the summons to free souls from Purgatory. I had to echo, in deed, Padre Pio’s words ~ Pray unceasingly. We must empty Purgatory.

A firm resolve sank into my heart, and eased its roots into my soul. On that night was born the prayer that has never left me since – the prayers for the release of Souls to Saintdom.

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