Love

An Answer Comes

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God has answered me. Troubled by the Sri Lanka Easter Day bombings, I had asked God to tell me what to do. Exactly 3 days after my asking, He answers through another person,

Pray a special Rosary for the Muslim fasting month.

From May till early June.

Pray for conversion of Muslim hearts.

 

          When I asked Him 3 days before, I was restless and anxious. Then, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque calmed me with,

This divine Heart is naught but sweetness, humility and patience, therefore, we must wait. . . He knows when to act.  

Her words made me realise that patient wait went hand-in-hand with humility. I saw that my fretting was caused by my lack of humility – I was impatient with God; I wanted to lead. Once I saw that, I returned to doing His will in my daily life. I went to work. I cared for my family. I worked as hard as I could in quietness. When the tough hours drained me of vigour, I forced myself to be grateful for littles. Over and over, I prayed from the depths of my heart, Lord, Forgive me for I have sinned.

          And all through the 3 days, I sensed the softest, lightest breath upon my spirit, saying,

For reparation

For reparation

For reparation

          On the evening of the 3rd day, a friend’s words moved me to pray to forgive those who hurt me. I did not think of my family members. Instead, immediately, I thought of my superiors and some co-workers. And again, from the depths of my heart, I prayed, I forgive…

          The very next instant, God spoke and told me He wanted the Conversion Rosary. The Muslim fasting month presents the same danger we as Christians face in Lent – the abyss of spiritual pride. Spiritual pride that comes when we think we are great for the fasting we do each day, for the number of prayers we recite, for the various added Lenten rituals.

          But in many ways, it is harder for them. They have no Jesus who fought off the devil. They do not have Jesus’ example. They do not have His words. So, when pride assails them in that desert of deprivation, it finds an easy target.

          And they emerge from the fasting month, worse than before, for being nourished by pride.

Pride in any hands is a deadly weapon.

          But we have a weapon far greater, far more powerful – the Rosary. It is a weapon that can defeat any other because it is a weapon of love and of humility – not of pride, not of arrogance, not of hatred.

          It is this same journey of humble and loving entreaty that God is asking of me in this May Rosary. Not to demand, but in love and humility, to pray for the conversion of brethren Muslim spirits.

          That with us, they too seek to love and obey the Divine Heart of Jesus.

 

 

 

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Bouquet of Weeds

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          When we come to the end of a path and we part the foliage to discern the next tread, often it is the littlest of blooms that point the way forward. In November, I began to pray for direction for my Advent Home Retreat – one I go on each end of year right in my own home, a different retreat each time. These retreats began years back with the book about Mother Teresa, Come Be My Light. I read that book, bit by bit every day of December, and it took me on a journey with the Saint of the Slums. From that year on, it has been a different book every year or even a particular blog, lighting the way forward all through December.

          This November, I thought I’d nudge God a little in my direction of want. I told God I’d very much like to read the book, A Pathway Under The Gaze of Mary, a biography on the Fatima seer, Sr. Lucia Dos Santos. I’ve wanted it for so long and I felt it would be a great retreat-maker for me this year. So, I winged up my yearning to God. And then, promptly forgot about it.

          Heaven didn’t, though. But the answer came in a way different to my seeking.

          One day at the end of November, Ellen Fassbender’s post, My Advent Preparations for Christmas 2018, reminded me about the Advent retreat I had prayed about and then forgot. The Advent Food Box gift she wrote about stirred a Christmas-sy yearning in my heart.

          But more than that, Ellen’s words finally softened my heart into some semblance of humility. Lifting my spirit, I asked God, What gift would You have me bring my Jesus? As I asked, I stretched my eyes as far as I could see over the busy landscape of the weeks ahead. Holiday or not, two of our children face important exams next year. Hence, against the backdrop of Christmas, was the grey pallor of studies and the long commutes for coaching sessions, alongside the inevitable heavy cleaning and de-cluttering. I knew it would take much out of me. After arduous work months, I wanted to be filled with something powerful and special and holy this Christmas; I wasn’t sure I had anything to offer the baby Jesus – if there was anything worth offering.

          That very evening, I felt a sudden longing for Christmas flowers inside the home. I thought of poinsettias and on a whim, looked them up. Imagine my surprise when I read the Mexican legend about poinsettias and Christmas. The story told of a very poor child, Pepita, who wistfully longed to lay a gift at Baby Jesus’ crib at her church during Christmas Eve service. Some accounts say that it was her angel who then told her to pick some weeds from the roadside and present them to the Child King. When the little girl hesitated, the angel encouraged her, telling her that, Even the smallest gift from a heart that loves would make Jesus happy.

          In obedience, yet, still embarrassed, Pepita made a little bouquet of the weeds which she took into church later that night, shyly laying it at the bottom of the nativity scene.

          Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds no eye would heed burst into bright red flowers known today as poinsettias. It was a miracle seen by all present. The common and the ordinary was transformed into something of luminous beauty by pure, simple love. In that miracle, everyone at that time and over the centuries, and now, I, saw the kiss of heaven on a little urchin’s gift from the heart that sought nothing but to love her Saviour.

          It gave me the will and strength to hold my spirit to loving my Saviour just as Pepita had. When the 1st of December blew in on a blustery, rain-pearled wind, no pigeon flew in with it, bearing a message for me from heaven on how my retreat was to be.

          Yet, no disappointment even whispered by my heart. If my Advent retreat this time was to follow the child Pepita into the virginal bloom of each day, I would.

          If it was to fashion a bouquet, out of the weeds of my simple duties as mother, wife and friend, and then to lay it by my Jesus’ Heart each day’s end, then I would too.

 

 

 

 

 

Lent 3 ~ While the Candles Are Lit

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          A long time ago, I saw these words on a sticker, Did you hug your child today? Although I didn’t heed them that very moment, I did later that night, but it was no longer the same. About two years ago, a fellow blogger saw something over the horizon. For a very brief moment, the veil was lifted for him, and his impassioned plea to me was, Hug and kiss your children.

          Sad days ago, in Parkland, Florida, a grieving Fred Guttenberg  reminds the world yet again, Hold your children tight, because in the school shooting, his daughter numbers among those who will never again hear their parents tell them how much they are loved.

          I hug and kiss my children a lot now. I tell them how much I love them. Some of the older ones squirm in understandable embarrassment, but that only gets a giggle out of me; it doesn’t stop me. Even if they don’t realize it or value it, every child, young or adult, needs to know they are loved. And they need to hear it now because the shadows of tomorrow will not always be made known to us.

          And the candles bequeathed to the world will not always remain lit.

 

 

 

Lent 38 ~ For Love

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Love never abandons.

The Blessed Mother walked each step of Calvary.

As He wet the rugged stones with His Precious Blood,

She wet it with Her Holy Tears.

Stone by stone they traversed, Son and Mother,

As before

As always.

He wiped the blood from His eyes so that He could look again at His Mother…

Till the very end, His Mother in His Heart.

She receives His Body from the Cross

Asks for the Blessed Weight against Her once last time.

Memories

Of a Baby held against Her shoulder

Tight and comforting then,

The leadenness of Him against Her now

Knives score Her broken Heart

For She was as much a mother like us,

as she Is the Mother of God

She weeps for the Son She gave up

That He may belong to us all,

Love,

Love everlasting.

 

 

The King Reminds

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          It had been a gentle and tender day of household chores. Busy hours under the quiet of cloudy skies and a light breeze, wet from old rain. Deprived of my usual morning Holy Hour, I tried to find the time to pray simple prayers as I worked, but the call of the pots and the stovetop and the laundry clanged a loud clamour for my attention. In the later hours of the sulking day, I went to my room for some quiet time, intent on saying a chaplet. But it had been taken over by blankets and soft toys and two very busy little people charming the air with giggles and smiles, toothy and toothless.

          I found another chore crooking its little finger at me, and to it I sailed, prayer forgotten.

          By night, little things began to rile me up. Gone was the gentle unhurried pace of the day. All I saw were the many little things that needed to be attended to before bedtime. But my household of people, in happy anticipation of a good rest, did not share my urgency. So, a little fuse was lit and the night veils heard a song of carping and fuming.

          Still bent on getting to bedtime with a home in apple pie order, I unconsciously decided to help one of my children with his ironing. I wasn’t even aware of moving to his cupboard to get the shirts out.

          As the hot iron moved over crease after crease, I felt a gentleness settle into my heart. While I still kept my tone firm with a slightly subdued family, giggles muffled and their eyes lowered to hide the dancing in them, Someone began to release a soothing wetness to quietly flow over the little fires lit in my heart earlier. Suddenly aware of the change within me, I paused. It was then that I heard the insistent strains of a hymn,

Ubi Caritas,…..ubi caritas…..

I couldn’t remember what those words meant, but I let them flow unhindered over my spirit because they brought with them the dew of peace. Before I went to bed, I looked up the hymn. Its English translation told me while I had not remembered my God as much I should have, He hadn’t forgotten me. He came to me to remind me that I should not make Martha’s error mine – that in every little thing I do, only one King should hold court.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Love of Christ has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice in Him and be glad.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And from a sincere heart let us love one.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time, therefore, are gathered into one:
Lest we be divided in mind, let us beware.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease.
And in the midst of us be Christ our God.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
At the same time we see that with the saints also,
Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good, Unto the
World without end. Amen.

LENT 27 ~ Our Hand in Heaven

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A Treat For The Children ~ by Hermann Werner

         

          Heaven is God’s grace to us. But the grace comes to us only through the doors of the life of holy obedience we lead on earth.

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received – only what you have given.  ~ St Francis of Assisi

 

LENT 25 ~ By Love, on love

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At the end of our earthly travails, we will be judged by Love, on love.

 

ALL THAT MATTERS   by Edgar A. Guest

When all that matters shall be written down
And the long record of our years is told,
Where sham, like flesh, must perish and grow cold;
When the tomb closes on our fair renown
And priest and layman, sage and motleyed clown
Must quit the places which they dearly hold,
What to our credit shall we find enscrolled?
And what shall be the jewels of our crown?
I fancy we shall hear to our surprise
Some little deeds of kindness, long forgot,
Telling our glory, and the brave and wise
Deeds which we boasted often, mentioned not.
God gave us life not just to buy and sell,
And all that matters is to live it well.

The Pilgrim Christmas

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          It’s the season when Christmas carols waft over and around us, and a quickening in our spirits anticipate the happy day. People merrily busy with gifts and plans for dinners and reunions, happy panic of the much not done yet. Cards being bought, gifts to be wrapped. Homes we pass, busy ovens, busy windows. New drapes, streamers, fresh cakes and cookies, evergreens being dressed. Christmas wreathes its magic, all and sundry caught up in the hope, love and joy it heralds.

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          But for some of us, our place is in the frost just outside of that circle of enveloping Christmas joy. To watch from the periphery. With aching hearts to see the Yuletide light twirl around, and choose to not settle on us. To see everyone else caught up in the giddy joy of the festive days, and wonder what we did wrong to not feel as light and as free and as hopeful. Within us we carry a quiet hurt that God’s magic wand somehow missed us. We hurt that we seem to carry burdens not cast on others. New burdens, old ones from years and old years before. Always us, the choice beast of burden. The grief inside us is a hurt we try to damp down and hide, because it seems to uncharitable to mar the beauty of the season with something that shouldn’t be there. It’s a shame we try to camouflage, that the joy everyone is experiencing is withheld from us, and it’s a wart we don’t want others to see.

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          So, some of us retreat from the world during the season of goldreds. Why inflict our black of hopelessness and despair on others? we ask ourselves. Why beg sympathy from the abundance of the joyful? We retreat, and we hope no one notices because we have no answers to their prodding queries. We retreat out of shame because we bear the black mark of sorrow, a defect that stands out more in the face of so much surrounding merriment. We retreat and hide because it’s much easier on everyone this way.

          But if retreat from cheer is not an option in the Christmas season,  we might plaster on a smile, pretend an ebullience that is not there, so as not to be singled out for a Yuletide inquisition. It gives us anonymity, and allows us to blend into the background of happy. No worries here, move on, please, we grin till it hurts. Pretense buys us the relief of space and time away from the reality of the emptiness in our own lives, where lives a barrenness that refuses to die. And so, we laugh along with others, and hope the hollowness doesn’t show, and pretend to love and be loved.

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          Yet, nothing blinds us from seeing that emptiness has a weight that bears down harder than fullness.

          And the cross bites deep into our wounded shoulders.

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          In our little nook in the frost, an ancient truth almost escapes us ~ Christmas is not about us. A Christian pilgrim Christmas is about Love. Love born of holy obedience. Love blossoming and flourishing in the kingdom of hardship. Love birthed to bring joy to sorrowing hearts.

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          A Christian Christmas is the wounded pilgrim taking Jesus-joy to the fellow wounded. It is the meal we cook for the lonely when we too only have emptiness to return to. It is the card we send to someone who needs to know love, although ours is the address everyone forgets. It is the prayers we sob for broken hearts in other homes when our own children have broken our hearts. The gentle empathy offered by a lonely widow whose husband will never return, to a young, frazzled wife whose husband works far from home.

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          The pilgrim Christmas is taking love to where it has long been dead. To coax life and joy back into bitter deserts. To inject hope and resurrect life. It is to love even as we weep from our own unhealed wounds. It is to draw from our own pain to touch the sometimes, lesser wounds of others.

          And this sowing of Jesus-joy in souls is inadequate if it comes from a filled heart, for there’s sometimes, nothing more dispiriting than to receive from material abundance, because it underscores a grieving soul’s squalor.

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          So, it is precisely when we feel we are running on empty, that the purest giving can we bequeath to others. The parchedness of our own waiting for Jesus-joy must lead us to a Bernadette response ~ to dig streams of Lourdes in the lives of other pilgrims, so that they may receive the gifts of healing and hope. Our seemingly empty lives must never lead us away from the pilgrim path of giving, onto the dark alleys of self, because to feel our barrenness is to be filled with God, and this Light must be shared.

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          The pilgrim Christmas is the antithesis of the world’s Christmas. Ours is a light for the poor, and a holly wreath of tender charity foreign to the world we occupy, and it will earn us ridicule and derision. But it is the way of heaven that for the sunrise joy of Christmas to bloom in us, we must first take it in obedience to where God wills us, and sow it in hearts not ours, so that the mourner’s dirge be transformed into a Gloria.

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          For the Christmas cannot come to us before it comes to others.

EVE OF MY HEART

Eve of my heart. Loyal, even when I wasn’t. Patient in silent wait as I ran far to get away. A hand reached out to comfort and caress, to support and hold up. Never to hit. Never to pinch.

Listened to my litany of peeves and grouses every day of my life. Held me close in prayer. Kept my secrets. Never taunted. Never mocked. Humiliation was not her way. Neither was force or coercion. With her, no fear, betrayal or abuse.

Helped me build my marriage when I was bent on destroying it. Taught me how to cook, and to laugh when I couldn’t. Held me when the children didn’t come, but insinuations did. Patted and burped babies when they did come. Taught me that the best perfume was found in the folds of a baby’s fat neck, the softest pillow against a wee one’s fine down head.

Then, one day, she looked to me in silent question, and I didn’t know how to say no, because how do you refuse a mother who watched her son die a violent death just because He loved? All I know is what she took, she keeps safe. I gave up to my mother because all she asked of me was to love. And when the grief mists refused to subside, she sent me tangerine butterflies in the rain to teach me death has no power over us.

Many journeys through caverns and valleys where the sun was not welcome. On a great search and wanting to be alone, although I never was, for Mother stayed close.

Lessons of trust and yielding finally learnt. I’ve finally come home to my Mother.