LENT MEDITATION

Lent 30 ~ You Called Me Senõra

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I remember a mother with young children, whose husband had left her. she did not have a steady job and only found temporary jobs a couple of months out of the year. When there was no work, she had to prostitute herself to provide her children with food. She was humble, she came to the parish church and we tried to help her… I remember one day – it was during the Christmas holidays – she came with the children… and asked for me… She had come to thank me. I thought it was for the packet of food from Caritas that we had sent to her. “Did you receive it?” I asked. “Yes, yes, thank you for that, too. But I came here today to thank you because you never stopped calling me Senõra.”   ~   Pope Francis, The Name of God is Mercy

 

 

Lent 29 ~ Do Not Compromise

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I speak about a poison from which are all suffering: a virulent atheism. It permeates everything, even our ecclesiastical discourse. It consists in allowing radically pagan and worldly modes of thinking or living to coexist side by side with faith… We must no longer compromise with lies.   ~   Cardinal Robert Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 28 ~ Another Name

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          I’ve barely given St. Thomas much thought, despite worshipping for decades at a church named after him. The prayers to him that we sometimes recite as a congregation have never touched me before. He was just not someone who moved me. And that’s a little strange. He is commonly associated with his unfortunate moniker – Doubting Thomas – which should have made him my spiritual kin, as I too often struggle with doubts. Yet, I’ve never sought his company.

          And I’m not sure he sought mine, either!

          But then came Susan Skinner’s post, The Weight of St. Thomas. And her story of her dog and the Pay Attention to the Dogs message. I certainly paid attention because dogs have recently become a ‘stronger’ presence in my life as never before, leading me to wonder from 2 years back if dogs were to be some sort of sign for me, a warning sign. After Susan’s post, I went over our own latest experiences with dogs.

          As I began to literally pay attention to the dogs, something began to reveal itself – but from the side of my consciousness.

China

The question I had asked myself very recently, of why Pope Francis had crushed the hopes of Vatican ordained Chinese Catholic bishops by ceding to the corrupt power of the Chinese Communist Party under whose power the church in China will now come.

The headline I had read just minutes before, Chinese Muslims Ordered To Hand Over All Copies Of The Quran Or Face Punishment.

Why China all of a sudden? I wondered.

          Heaven remained silent. Won’t You tell me? I prodded once more.

          The air would not stir. So, I returned once more to the dogs. What did they mean for me? Why was I sensing something there that I needed to understand and yet could not see?

          The line in the next article I had picked at random, We were ordered to take down the Crosses on our churches, wrote a Chinese priest.

China. Again.

Banning of the faith.

Decimation of religion.

          I didn’t know what God was asking of me. But we were going for Mass, to our parish of St. Thomas. I figured I’d ask Him then.

          However, in church later, I completely forgot to ask God about dogs and China. Sitting in a pew, at a side we have never sat, after praying, I opened my battered copy of Diary of A Soul. I had been feeling empty all of that day and while I accepted it as consolation for Mother Mary, I didn’t feel there was any harm in knocking on heaven’s door. I said a quick prayer asking God to speak to me through St. Faustina and Jesus’ words to her. Give me something, Lord, I prayed.

          … I have pressed my lips to the bitterness of the cup   Entry 385, Diary of A Soul

          I hastily shut the book. Yet, a soundless voice followed me into my heart, Drink of the cup of bitterness. I looked up the large Crucifix at the front of the church. I gazed awhile at the Divine Mercy image to the left of the church. Drink of the cup of bitterness, intoned that same voice.

          At that very moment, I spied someone staring squarely at me. It was a statue outside the church, placed in the peaceful side gardens, seen now  through the long glass windows, very far from my new place in this pew. For a few seconds, I wasn’t even sure who it was. And then, I knew.

St. Thomas

          Of course, it being the Church of St. Thomas, this shouldn’t have come as any surprise. It’s also a statue which I’ve seen so many times from my quick stops at the quiet parish gardens.

          But at that moment, just before the start of Mass, St. Thomas had firmly placed my eyes on him.

          Why?

          After Mass, I forgot about St. Thomas for a while. Wanting to write out Mass intentions for a beloved soul who had just passed away, I moved to the side of the church closest to the statue of St. Thomas just a few feet away outside the church. Once I had slipped the Mass envelope into the Intentions box, I moved to leave. Genuflecting, I looked up and saw the words mounted on the wall behind the sanctuary, My Lord and my God. They had been there for some years.

          But now, for the first time, I said the words aloud, My Lord and My God.

          During the journey home, my thoughts happily darting from one earthly port to the other, a soundless voice broke through,

Thomas the Twin

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          I was mildly taken aback. I had forgotten about St. Thomas, what more, Thomas the Twin and Didymus. I suddenly realized that St Thomas was rapping insistently on the window of my consciousness.

          Once home, I immediately looked up the saint to learn about him, and received my next surprise of the day.

          My Lord and my God was attributed to none other than St. Thomas, who spoke them in shock and awe at the moment the eyes of his soul were opened to the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection.

          It was clear that St. Thomas was not some random saint passing through the desert of my Lent. For some reason, St. Thomas wanted my eyes on him. Every time I turned my attention somewhere else, he seemed to be coming and tugging at my eyes.

          Why? I asked yet again.

          A whole night passed.

          This morning, before he came, I went to him. I didn’t try to read up some more on this saint. I merely sat and waited for him to speak.

          Two words from Susan’s post drifted in like a soft breeze,

Thomas. Atheism.

          In the hours after his beloved Jesus’ Crucifixion, Thomas had suffered immensely as his world crumbled. He who had been so sure of his belief in Jesus’ words, he who had been willing to follow Jesus to possible death in Bethany when the Jews were seeking to kill Him, was now broken and crushed at the death of the Jesus he had loved. All that Thomas had fought and worked for seemed to be for nothing.

          Perhaps, in his deep anguish and grief, he even doubted God. If so, then, in those pain – wracked hours, Thomas had entered into the suffering of an atheist’s soul. If before he knew of it, after the Crucifixion, he had been immersed into and was burned by the cold flames of atheism.

          As the morning winds sing a soundless hymn, I slowly begin to understand.

China. Crushing of the flame of faith.

The seer’s words,

When Communism comes again, everything will happen. The rise of atheism.

          That was why St. Thomas had come to me. To warn me of the rise of atheism. The hell he had once known and lived.

          The spirit of atheism is an oppressor’s spirit. This Lent, I have been called to pray for oppressors. I had assumed it was confined to those in our family’s lives.

          Now, St Thomas has come to lay another name on my spirit. 

          That of the oppressor known as Atheism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 27 ~ Light the Darkness

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Come, Holy Spirit, enlighten the darkness of my understanding and sharpen my conscience, so that I may recognize God’s will in all things. Send forth Your light and truth into my soul!

 

          Susan Skinner has written about a disturbing dream that speaks to our now and to what is coming:   a deadly confusion – embraced as truth and reality  – by more and more people. A confusion that will lead us to leave our faith – willfully – or without realizing it. We will give up all that is important for what isn’t.

          Because the world will become our master and it will guide our choices. No longer will we choose Jesus in our families, in our places of work, or even, I suspect, in our worship. We will choose the god of the moment – anything that the world compels us to worship at any one time.

          What Susan wrote hits very close to home as this is my suffering, my family’s suffering too. Each and every day, we are spiritually and emotionally hurt, sometimes even assaulted, by people who are angry that we are trying to choose Jesus when they won’t. My husband and I are suffering this on a daily basis at work. Our kids are struggling in school. It is not the usual disagreeable co-worker antics or the errant student or teacher.

          It is far, far worse. It is a pervasive, multi-headed slave-owner mentality that seeks to control and force us all to bow down and worship its many gods – money, self, whatever the idol of the hour.

          At the root of this abuse is the spirit of narcissism. We have the Holy Spirit. Satan’s is the spirit of narcissism.

          It is the spirit of narcissism that will encourage us to neglect our children, spouses and loved ones, to favour ourselves. It will delude us to believe that as we try to break the glass ceiling at work, we are doing what’s best for our kids at home. Narcissism will whisper accolades into our ears as we go deeper and deeper into work, drawn not by need, but by the siren’s call to worship of money and self idolatry, leaving our homes, our marriage, our kids emotionally and spiritually starved. It is not about earning the honest dollar; it is about money replacing our hearts.

          The spirit of narcissism feeds the winds of boredom. Suddenly, the Rosary is slow and ineffective, the Mass dull and uninspiring. Why isn’t the priest prancing around, where are the sermons of fire-and-brimstone? Narcissism pretends to commiserate with our spiritual lethargy  – only to slyly draw us away from the Eucharist, from the Word of God, from the hard truths of the tenets of our faith, towards fads and trends, modern gurus and spiritual ear candy.

          As the hour deepens, the voices that insist that we obey satan’s spirit will become louder and more convincing. It is easier to resist this nefarious wrecker’s wiles when it’s a single voice.

          Not so when it is a chorus gaining in size and volume by the day as more and more people succumb to narcissism in all its shades and forms. People like our closest friends, co-workers, our superiors.

          Our own family members.

          Not so when those who have fallen employ various means, even emotional blackmail, to get us to cross over to their side.

          Not so when we can no longer discern the fading line between truth and deception.

          It will be very, very hard to resist but it will not be impossible. Susan Skinner’s words to us are to walk blind to know what is real. To not depend on our sight but to allow the Holy Spirit to lead.

          To seek God in every way the Holy Spirit reveals to us, and then to depend on God to light the darkness for us.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 26 ~ Immerse

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         Two days ago, when I had very little genuine and unforced compassion and charity for my superiors and co-workers, I asked God the question, How long more till the promised help comes?

          God answered me early the next day with, God will help it at the break of dawn   ~   Psalm 46: 6.

          While it gave me deep consolation, it didn’t tell me how I was to bridge the gap between the now and the fulfilment. So, assuming this ‘how’ was hidden in the petals of a bloom I had once known, I returned to prayers I had prayed in the past.

          Then, a small hand pushed a wreath of words towards me. Words I had read, believed and prayed as a prayer 3 years ago.

Today bring to Me ALL MANKIND, ESPECIALLY ALL SINNERS, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me.   ~   Chaplet of the Divine Mercy novena, 1st day.

          The words immerse and console pulsed strong. I had been firmly drawn to consoling Jesus through my recent night and early morn offerings of, I seal my heart in Your Tabernacle. Now, in a deeper way, I understood that it was not me; it had been Jesus drawing me closer to Him through that prayer – leading me to the next prayer:

Immerse souls in the sea of my Mercy.

          Later that day, through another person’s sharing of a troubling experience with nightmare neighbours, yet again, Jesus deepened the lesson that the never ending duels with my superiors and co-workers had a purpose:

Only through suffering would I be hurt enough to cry to heaven.

Moreover, I had to cry to heaven not just for myself, but for those oppressors as well.

And the prayer for my oppressors now was to be,

I immerse them in the sea of Your mercy.

          I stepped back from the call of life to meditate on this development. I realized it was no random prayer. I had journeyed to this point from the very early days of this Lent when God told me this was to be a Lent to console Jesus through the fasting for oppressors. I had discerned and obeyed as best as I could and that took me to the next stop and the next prayer for oppressors,

Replace his blood with Yours

          And now, after that, after whatever offerings of sacrifice and obedience of worth, I had come to,

Jesus, I immerse them in the sea of Your mercy.

          Each time, the darts of anger pierced my heart, I prayed,

Jesus, I immerse them in the sea of Your mercy.

          Every time they annoyed me. Every time I observed my oppressors desecrate whatever was good and pure and blessed. Every time I felt that I could not go on another day in this hell.

          Then, my husband shared his sufferings with me. And it was the same  wounding too.

Jesus, I immerse them in the sea of Your mercy.

          And also with our children.

          Each and every time the spirit moves me, I pray that prayer. Through the day. Each awakening in the night. In hope. In brokenness. When I can. When I cannot. When I don’t want to.

Jesus, I immerse them in the sea of Your mercy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 24 ~ House of my Heart

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Act of Humility

from the Small Roman Missal

O GOD of sanctity! Who am I, that Thou shouldst come to me?

“The heavens are not pure in Thy sight,” and wilt Thou dwell in my heart?

“Lord! I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof.”

The consciousness of my unworthiness would prompt me to exclaim: “Depart from me, O Lord! For I am a sinner.”

But oh, the wonderful condescension of Thy love! Thy pressing invitation encourages me, and dispels my fears.

Here I am, for Thou didst call me.” Come then, O Jesus! Take possession of a heart that wishes to belong to Thee.

“Behold! They that go far from Thee shall perish.

But, O my God! this house of my heart is too narrow for Thee: do Thou enlarge it;

it is falling to ruin; do Thou repair it;

it has been defiled by sin: do Thou cleanse and purify it.

Look Thou upon me, and have mercy on me. Oh, heal my soul, for I have sinned against Thee! Let Thy tender mercies come unto me, and I shall live!

 

Lord! I am not worthy that Thou shouldst enter under my roof;

say but the word,

and my soul shall be healed.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 22 ~ Spring is Starting!

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Let us know, let us strive to know the LORD;
as certain as the dawn is His coming,
and His judgment shines forth like the light of day!
He will come to us like the rain,
like spring rain that waters the earth.   ~   Hosea 6: 3

 

          Spring is starting! I know it. I know it differently from the still quiet of the morning, rinsed and blessed by new rains. Before this, my knowing was of hope. Today, it is of certainty. Joy tingles my fingertips. To the physical eye, little has changed from the old hours. Yet, my spirit is curled in the delight of knowing the secret whispered among angels,

Spring is starting!

          Suddenly too, emerges a desire, gentle yet sharp, to get my ‘house’ in order.

To clean,

to remove

To rebuild,

to restore.

Spring is starting!

Rejoice!

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 15 ~ Change

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          On the second day of my Holy Spirit Rosary, I had intended to pray and meditate on the Second Sorrowful mystery – Jesus’ Scourging at the Pillar. But try as I might, I just couldn’t anchor my heart in it. Instead, I felt strongly drawn to the first and second Glorious Mysteries – The Resurrection and The Ascension. As I prayed those mysteries instead, I felt myself sink into them. There I stayed, waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak.

          All was still.

          After some minutes of forcing myself to be still, I began what I always do – digging. I scratched and dug into the earth of those Mysteries, seeking a reply that obstinately clung to secrecy.

          Of course, one doesn’t order the Holy Spirit around. So, I got nothing for my efforts.

          After waiting some more and not hearing anything, I rose to go to my day. That was when I felt a slight prick.

Change.

          Death to life in the Resurrection. Earth to heaven in the Ascension. Yes, that was change. But what did it mean for me? I was impatient to know.

          When no answer was forthcoming, I became suspicious. I doubted that it was the Holy Spirit. ‘Change’ was rather obvious. I expected to be hit on the head, caught by the heart, that sort of thing. Not though by something as unsurprising and as mundane as… change. It must have been me. Again. Just me.

          But change was like a dog that had just found its beloved master – it followed me everywhere, all through the rush and inert heat of the next day. I dismissed it as being akin to an irritating, inane lyric of a song that plays on and on in your mind.

          Yet, from time to time, I sneaked glances at the 2 Mysteries, wondering if they held a secret not yet divined to me. Change. What change? Was I being asked to change? If so, what was the connection between this and the 2 Glorious Mysteries?

          Then, I recalled reading somewhere, Christian faith is to believe in the Resurrection.

Resurrection. Ascension. The afterlife. That hope doesn’t end with death.

          I still couldn’t connect it to change, not in a deeper way that would point to it being from the Spirit for me.

          A long and draining day came to an end and I drove home in relief. Some of my children had been away with my husband for much of the week. I had missed them. They would be returning later in the night and the other kids and I were looking forwards to having our beloveds close to us again.

          In the midst of that anticipation, came a sharp sting, shot straight out of a selfish heart. It caught me square in the middle. Someone wanted me to choose between my family and her demands. I chose my family and of course, there was a price to pay. In a flash, she fired two darts at me. With the snap of a winter twig, flames shot out of my own heart at this unfairness.

          So much for the peace and gentleness that had come into me heart; I hadn’t moved on from anything. I was just who I’ve always been and always will be, dry kindling just waiting for the lick of the tiniest flame.

          Suddenly, a mist rose up inside me. Something within me began to fight back to hold on to the peace in me. As I battled my anger and myself, I suddenly understood what change of the Resurrection and the Ascension meant:

          If I truly believed in the Resurrection and in the Ascension, then I had to live that belief by changing. Change had to come before anything else.

          I made my next choice easily. I chose change. I chose to move from anger to forgiveness. From anger to mercy. From revenge to leaving it in Jesus’ heart.

          But it was incredibly hard to remain in this change. Old habits don’t go easily into the night. I fought and fought the whole length of night. Even when I awakened in the hush of a new morn blessed by the embrace of rain, remnants of anger still mottled my heart.

          I battled on. Over and over, I went to the edge, then drew back. I searched my memory for a battle prayer and found one,

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

Have mercy on me,

Have mercy on her.

          Have mercy on her because this was a woman caught by the lure of money. What she said to me was all due this blindness in her mind and heart, caused by the enticement of easy money.

          It was so much easier to dislike her, to remember what she had previously done to me and to fight a battle from the angle of a victim. But something had taken over me now; it was as if God was directing my heart, No, this has to be fought differently.

          Although she had hurt me, I had to change tactics and fight for us both.

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

Have mercy on me,

Have mercy on her.

          I said that prayer all the way to work. Many times, I caught myself planning what to say to her if she confronted me. Each time, I ran and placed my plans in Jesus’ heart, Not my will but Thine be done. All I did ask of God was that He gift me with silence because my tongue was always my greatest undoing.

          It was late morning when she came to me, with tears in her eyes and a gentle hand on my arm, admitting her selfishness in what she had asked of me, in her unspoken words, an apology of sorts.

          Just like that, everything was over.

          I learned the lesson so many have learned long before. That in a hurting, there are always two victims – the wounded and the wound-er. In my life, I’ve mostly battled as a victim.

          It’s now time to change, to accept  and conquer my Everest of struggles – that from now on, I fight myself by fighting for my wound-er.

 

 

 

Lent 13 ~ Returning of Hopes

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          I read about the Holy Spirit Rosary on Susan Skinner’s blog, Veil of Veronica, and like her, I too was immediately drawn to it. The drawback was that it needed to be prayed as a group – to ensure we do not attribute to the Holy Spirit what is actually something out of our own heads. I didn’t have a group I could meet with to pray the Rosary together. Even with friends, no common time to come together as well.

          This afternoon, with the weather the way it was, sullen and sulking, I decided to go it alone. I prayed with all my heart that my mind, my will and my emotions be bound to the Hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. That nothing of me pierce through. It was incredibly difficult, to be honest. I viewed with suspicion everything that moved past the window of my consciousness. I felt as if I was all tightly bound up, stiff and rigid. Not the best way to pray, for sure, but there didn’t seem to be any other way.

          I decided to pray all 5 decades on the meditation of the Agony in Gethsemane. I imagined myself beside Jesus in the garden. Then, I wished I had done some research on this so as to better imagine the place. While I was dragging my scattered thoughts back to the garden, I somehow ended up in the desert with Jesus during His 40 days fast. I’m not sure how that happened. Nonetheless, somehow, that worked out a lot better than trying to imagine the Garden of Gethsemane.

          I believe I imagined Jesus sitting on a wide smooth slab of rock, facing straight ahead. And I settled myself beside Him. He didn’t seem to be aware of my presence. I likely imagined that too. I must have seen the time in the desert to be an intense time, of  deep, penetrating  silence. That would explain why I imagined or pictured Jesus in that still, unmoving, undistracted manner. I remember telling myself not to be a distraction to Him, not to squirm and wriggle trying to get comfortable on hard stone.

          Again, that was just probably my way of quelling my own distractedness.

          As I whispered my Hail Marys and tried to be as still and as unyielding towards travelling thoughts, I sank into a slight weary sadness. I saw hopes that were so long in coming true. I saw dreams that didn’t seem possible any more. Expectations being raised and then, dashed.

          As I struggled and struggled to meditate on His Agony all alone in Gethsemane/Desert, I felt a gentl-ing of my tightness. As I felt the ropes I had bound myself with earlier begin to loosen, I came face-to-face with an old shadow inside me:

The hopes within me were my own, not God’s.

          While He had given me signs and shown me glimpses into the future, I had taken them and embellished them with my own visons and expectations. I had sewed on my own buttons of desires, embroidering the garment with my ideas of how life should work out for me.

          And when what I had conjured in my head collided with God’s reality, hurt swelled  and soared like churning seas.

          Sitting by His side looking out at the expanse of sand and rock, I slowly returned to Him my tattered garments of hope, rent and stained by earthly wiles and wishes, by my own undoing of selfishness, pride and vanity. I gave back to Jesus,all the hope that was of me, born of my passions.

          He’d know what to do with it, I reasoned.

          I cannot be sure how I ended up here, at this point of returning. Was it the Holy Spirit Rosary? Was it just the way my thoughts were weaving through the haze of hours and events?

          I suspect it’s not me. Because despite the dulled spirit, when the Rosary ended, I rose and went to my chores with a lightness in my step.

          You don’t confront sadness and disappointment, and yet, leave in light – unless it was the Spirit’s doing.

 

 

 

Lent 12 ~ Would You Come Here?

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“Would you be so kind as to come here?”

 

          An entire night of endless coughing, each bout sending me scurrying to, Go to the spring, drink of it and wash yourself there.

          Then, I was put to the test and I failed.

          Yet, this morning, only the kind heart of a Mother awaited me.

“Would you be so kind as to come here?”

These were the words of Our Lady to Bernadette at the third apparition. These strikingly courteous and homely words are not a command but an invitation to leave everything else aside and come spend time with Mary.   ~   Father John Lochran, chaplain to the English-speaking pilgrims to Lourdes between 1985 and 1995, 150 Years of God’s Healing Care, Franciscan Media

          I’ve been unwell for close to a week, yet unable to take sick leave due to work responsibilities. I cleared some of that work last Friday and now, I suddenly suspect why I don’t seem to be improving fast enough despite medication: it’s time to take the leave from work. Time to be still.

To leave everything else aside and come spend time with Mary.