HOLY SPIRIT

Lent 4 ~ Candles. Emergency.

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          An urgent wind parting the trees from sunny morning hours. There were some things I wanted to get done but for some reason, the winds wouldn’t leave me. I stopped and listened to their melody. It was not troubling. Neither was it comforting.

          Listening deeper, I sensed this: Listen, Listen, Listen.

          From yesterday, reading something, two words lingered awhile even as others moved on: Candles. Emergency. Even at that moment, I sensed it was not about stocking up on emergency candles. And that it was not to do with ‘candles’ and ’emergency’ as we understood it. When the winds raised their call, I stepped off the road and went back to the words, trying to touch to discern.

          But the second I did, they misted out of reach.

          Undeterred, I sought to understand. I looked up candles and learned something I never focused on before. That candles symbolize Jesus.

The wax is the Flesh of our Lord; the wick, which is within, is His Soul; the flame, which burns on top, is His divinity. ~ St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury

          I felt the words swim before me again – a personal sign that the veil was being dropped back in place. I sat back and in my heart, went over what I had been shown thus far and the little I understood about Light. That there will come a time when the darkness around us will deepen to the point where ordinary illumination will no longer suffice. And that when that time comes, it is the Light within us that will shine the path ahead that we may see. The less we block it, the brighter the Light for us to see ahead.

          And then I understood that, that Light is Christ enthroned within us.

          I returned to what I had learned about the symbolism of the wax, the wick and the flame. I thought about how a candle looks like. From wax to wick to flame – in some ways, an allegory of a spiritual journey.

          The journey of enthronement.

          Then the door closed completely and I couldn’t see anymore.

          Until hours later, when I went to In Sinu Jesu. Until I saw,

Abide in Me and I will abide in you, speaking through you, and touching souls through your words. 

Allow Me to be the physician of souls and bodies through you. I want to live in you and pursue on earth all of those things that I did out of love and compassion when I walked among men in My flesh. You are My flesh now, and you are My presence in the world. It is through you that I make Myself visible to men. It is through you that I will speak to them, and comfort them, and heal them, and draw them to My Father in the Holy Spirit. 
          You are My flesh now.
          You are My presence in the world. 
          It is through you that I make Myself visible to men.
          Flesh. Presence. Visibility.
          The wax. The wick. The flame.
          We must be His flesh. We must be His presence in order that His Spirit shines through us as the only Candle that can pierce the deepening darkness – for ourselves, for others.
          I sit back and turn this over in my heart. The teaching of the Candle is not entirely new. Yet, something has settled in deeper.
          About to take leave of my perch, something moves behind me.
          Emergency.
          Facing it squarely to get a deeper look, it is there.
          And then I see it no more.
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Rocks Not Seen

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         This is the day when prayers come easier. A thick sheet of rushing clouds had teased the morning with kingship of rain but determined north winds soon sent them on their way. The skies are now a wide expanse of golden~blue, with soft mists of clouds in gentle journey. As the playful morning breezes dart about to greet old friends, I listen to their blue, sun~warmed notes rustle melodies through the leaves and trees. This First Saturday of the month of Lourdes, I want to make a worthy offering to my Heavenly Mother as reparation for the sins against Her Immaculate Heart. Resting my will, I look to the sound of the happy winds among the trees to guide my heart.

          For that was my morning prayer in the Rosary of Tears today, that no matter how good my intentions, that I may never reach beyond the shores of the Divine Will in work and in loving. Anything and everything must be discerned – to be contained within and restrained by the will of God alone.

          Because that is the lesson I have been learning in many ways these past weeks. That no good done be of mine, but of God’s. In my workplace efforts, in the way I love my husband and mother my children, how I reach out to others – in every single one – I must discern right, so that Jesus reigns in all I do.

          Because it is so easy to go wrong. Because it is becoming dangerously easy to seek right in wrong. A great Deception has begun to cloud more and more minds and wills. The more deaf we become, the more our blindness increases, the louder and more strident we get, unwittingly luring innocent souls to emotional, mental and spiritual shipwreck upon rocky shores.  

          That was what I began to learn early in the year and I am mightily thankful that lesson has come early. I had been so sure that all was well with my children but through a troubling dream about one of them, the Spirit illumined another danger that had lain hidden amongst invisible rocks, one that I could not have foreseen but for the intervention of God’s Helper.

          But, long before this latest dream, one day years back, having prayed that Mother Mary rest by my side as I napped, I had a dream that had cut me with its anguish. In this old dream, I was warned of a coming calamity. A calamity where there would be  casualties.

          And that the casualties would be the souls of our children for Satan’s Army.

          My fear and sorrow at what I saw was so great that I shrank from what I saw. But a woman’s voice sounded another warning rebuke in my ear,

Time is short!

          It was the memory of this old dream and the maternal urgency of the voice in my ear – Time is short! – that pushed me to action when I awakened from the second dream of a few weeks back. Had I been caught deeper in the Deception of over-busyness, of over-preoccupation with external demands, I would not have seen the rocks.

          If not for these two dreams, and others too, years apart, I would have perfectly  done the will of the one who deceives. I would have been that siren that delivers my  innocent, trusting child and God knows how many others, into the deceiver’s claws, to swell the ranks of his infernal army.

          To the outside eye and ear, even be they Christians, this danger my husband and I overcame recently, might even be a thing to be shrugged off in the face of far more severe and obvious trials plaguing our young. Had we cared to share about it, there would have been those who might have cautioned us against over-reacting, seeing snakes where there were none to be seen.

          But this is not about over-reacting – although that too should be a legitimate concern for any parent. This is about being so vigilant on many issues, yet missing the one that can make all the difference. The worst dangers do not slither and saunter merrily in the open; they lurk hidden amongst rocks we do not always see. This morning, when I came before Mother’s Eyes, offering her the Rosary of Tears, I believe it was She who pressed my spirit to pray for the Gift of Discernment, to ask for it in a deeper way.

          Because such are the times we are now in. The eyes in our head are not sufficient for the battle we wage as parents to keep our children’s souls safe. We need to be led by the Spirit in totality.

          The voice of the Spirit must be the only one we heed if we are not to trip on rocks not seen and trip up others as well.

 

 

         

 

Fire On My Ear

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Put Thy spirit, O Lord, in my heart, that I may perceive; in my soul, that I may retain; and in my conscience, that I may meditate.  ~ Prayer of St Anthony of Padua

 

          Six years ago, I was attending an outstation meeting. Late in the evening, having some time to myself, I decided to visit a church nearby. Living so far away from a church, I have seldom been able to enjoy visits alone to a quiet church, far removed from the bustle of Sunday Masses. But that sultry day, yearning to be freed from empty chatter and work thoughts, I hoped to give myself some quiet time with the Lord.

          There was not a soul about, not even the parish priest with whom I was hoping to have a chat. I walked into the stillness I sought, the waiting hours outside the church slowly falling into the sunset slumber of day’s end. Settling into the front pew, I cast my burdens aside and as best as I could, fixed my heart on Jesus on the Cross before me.

          Never short for a word, I beat God to it and launched into my monologue.

          He patiently allowed me to unreel every whine, rant and squeal, till the babbling no longer made sense even to me. Then, I sat back and waited. Long minutes passed, yet the winds were not stirred, the earth never shook, nor was a great message given. A tad disappointed, I made ready to leave.

          It was then that I felt a searing heat on my outer right ear.

          Someone’s holding my ear, I thought, flummoxed because I didn’t even know where that thought had come from. Then, it hit me. The Divine is holding my ear!

          I quickly sat back and hurried to stuff and shove my recalcitrant spirit into some state of created holiness. God was here, and ready to speak, and there I was, on a flight of my own, totally not dressed to face Him. Giving myself a good, great shake, I froze myself and waited for the other ear to burn.

          I don’t know how long I waited, but nothing more happened. I even clumsily tied up my hair, away from my ears, just to give God a hand. But He had no need of it. The heat stayed on my right ear, and it stayed for a time.

          Then, it gently began fading away, taking with it my quivering restlessness and getting ahead. It left my spirit subdued, recollected. Quiet and pliant.

          Without any effort on my part, in my spirit, I suddenly knew that God had given me a sign. Fire on my ear. A personal sign for when He wanted me to pay close attention to the hidden notes in the coming winds.

          Today, I weave the tiny bell~chimes of St Anthony’s prayer through my heart,

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

          I write these words on my heart, chiseling them deep.

          Because on this rain~dewed morning, the fire fell on my ear yet again.

 

 

Moving On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have to pray for them.

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

          And into the next dream.

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

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

Pray for others.

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

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

          But St Jude had clearly said, Pray for others.

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

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

Consecrate

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

          So, I shrugged off consecrate.

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

Consecrate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

          Nigeria, Father offered.

          Anywhere else?

          Sierra Leone, he supplied matter-of-factly.

          I was startled. Of all the places.

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

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

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

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

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

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit.

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

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

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit

Empty me and fill me with the Holy Spirit.

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

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

Rest your heart in Jesus.

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

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

Blow the breath of my Mother into the realms.

Spread your nets further.

Sing a new song.

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

          Jesus shone His light on the signposts.

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

          Beginning with Africa.

Last of August

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Appenine Mountains, Italy

 

          This last day of August here is a joyous gathering of wind souls, in a camaraderie understood best by the busy cloud vessels sailing the skies, and the sage welcomes adorning the trees. All morning, the breezes have been in a delightful tumbling, giddily greeting one wind~friend after another. From the dawn hours, they have been linking arms and dancing the merriness of spirit, as the soft, white sky-pouches race to partake of this sacred joy.

          For anyone tired or afraid of what September holds, they need only to rest their gaze against the cloud-laced skies of this last of August, and feel the love caresses of brethren winds that see far beyond the hollows and ridges of today.

         No matter what the ninth of the year keeps hidden in its bosom, in the cusp between old Augusts and September mists, I realize the sunlit winds of the morning have brushed a question against my heart: am I willing to let go of the old, and make way for the new? Am I willing to be born again?

          I’m not sure what I am being called to, but with a sudden ease, I fall into seeking the Holy Spirit. I allow it into my heart, unhindered.

          I’m putting out into the deep.

Spirit~Fall

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          Two weeks ago, St. Augustine quietly eased into my life on a blue breeze when I began saying the shortened, 9 day Preparation for Consecration of the Family to Jesus Through Mary. Tucked into that 9-day novena, was a daily prayer by the saint:

St. Augustine’s Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe in me O Holy Spirit that my thoughts may all be holy;

Act in me O Holy Spirit that my works, too, may be holy;

Draw my heart O Holy Spirit that I love but what is holy;

Strengthen me O Holy Spirit to defend all that is holy;

Guard me then O Holy Spirit that I always may be holy.

          I was pleasantly surprised to read such a simple, straight-to-the-heart prayer from an esteemed Doctor of the Church, whom I always associated with loftier works. One of the little lessons the Spirit brought me through St. Augustine’s prayer was that those closest to God will always endeavor to simplify life and living, for themselves, for others. And that is one of the signs of someone whose heart was right beside His Shepherd’s, united with His Master in bringing heaven’s lights to the somber clutter of erred living.

          I made the consecration and left St. Augustine in the prayer booklet I had used. A week after, I became aware of a mild interior barrenness. Of an inner abode cleared of many of its burdens, yet lacking the silver tinkle of joy to wreathe the inner spaces with life-giving light.

          That was when St. Augustine came right back into my world. He slipped in through Nancy Shuman’s post in The Breadbox Letters, Holy Spirit, Enlighten…

 O Holy Spirit, descend plentifully into my heart. Enlighten the dark corners of this neglected dwelling and scatter there Thy cheerful beams.  ~ Saint Augustine

          I read the words and right away knew it was what I needed – a scattering of cheerful beams. Not a firing up, not a lancing through, not even a flooding, but a scattering, so Light is drizzled far and wide, over every mottle of shadow left in my soul.

          I went back to that invocation several times, for myself, for others, each time, praying the hope St. Augustine had spun into prayer.

          A day later, returning home as the afternoon sun had begun to tease the western skies, I suddenly sensed a tiny joy~bell chime within me. My breath caught as a faded memory of old days danced before me. Days dimpled in exquisite peace and joy. Times gone by, years and years and years past.

          And now suddenly, right after the prayer, with no fanfare to herald its coming, a hundred wee bells tinkled their lilt of joyousness into the folds of my spirit. Ringing and tinkling, ringing and tinkling, they watered the empty burrows I had grown accustomed to. Once more, long, long years since the last, I felt again the joy~jingles birthed only from the shores of heaven’s streams. A deep serenity and peace bubbled and unfurled within the folds and creases of my weather beaten spirit, smoothening out every wrinkle.

          Since Pentecost, I had been looking out wistfully for the holy fire of the Upper Room to fall upon me. I had tensed in hope in every crescendo moment; in rigid readiness sought the spirit~fall in the crash and bang of dramatics.

          But for me, the spirit~fall was not to be found in the passion and widesweeps of life.

          Instead, it came in the quiet streams of Sacred Blood and Water, to tinkle awake the sleeping bells of my soul.

MESSENGERS

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There is a Call going out, far and wide, streaming over hills, echoing through valleys. The One seeks messengers for His vineyard of daily toil, to trumpet His call through prayer, word and deed.

I, the Lord of sea and sky,

I have heard My people cry;

All who dwell in dark and sin,

My hand will save;

I who made the stars of night,

I will make their darkness bright;

Who will bear My light to them?

Whom shall I send?

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Do you hear the Call? Do you sense it deep within? Do you feel it written on your heart?

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What answer will you give? Will you turn away? Will you ponder? Will you shrink back in fear and doubt?

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Or will you inch open the door, your heart you give?

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Here I am Lord,

Is it I, Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night;

I will go Lord,

If You lead me,

I will hold Your people in my heart.

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Oh, messenger, with courage, joy and faith you step out, searching for this vineyard of His choosing, love for the suffering human race burning deep within. You make your way through doubt and darkness, your light – His Love and Truth. Nothing else matters.

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Striving to attain the heights,

Turning in a new direction,

Entering a lonely place,

Welcoming a friend or stranger.

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The sun dims, and the moon a fading somber glow. Soon, weariness weaves into the fabric of each day of service, a tiredness prayer cannot seem to dissipate.  Rejection, mocking, derision… your constant companions. Slowly, you look back on the life that was before, and the comfort of old life familiarity beckons.

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Silver is of passing worth,

Gold is not of constant value,

Jewels sparkle for a while,

What you long for is not lasting.

 And when the turmoil peaks and tempests wild, when your step falters and it’s too dark to see….you feel a Voice.

I am here, I am with you,

I have called, do you hear Me?

I am here, I am here,

I am with you.

The Holy Spirit Comforts and Guides.