Mercy

Lent 13 ~ Remember Her Apples

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Then I heard the words, ‘I am glad you behaved like My true daughter.  Be always merciful as I am merciful.  Love everyone out of love for Me, even your greatest enemies, so that My mercy may be fully reflected in your heart.’   ~  St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Entry: 1695

 

          Last Sunday brought yet another early morn dream. I had dreamt of an old colleague from work. But unlike the other dream before it, this one did not move me in any tangible way. Whoever brought it just gently laid it before me and quietly stepped aside. In the dream, I was inside this colleague’s home which was made up of many, many small, square, clear-glass windows. In each window was some decoration or another, each one utterly pretty and exquisite.

          But they were all mud-spattered. Interiorly, I was aware that the mud was rising in her home. While the woman was clearly upset about this, she was oddly more concerned that I would come to know what was happening to her and this agitated her. She was standing outside her home, trying to prevent people from informing me. And all the while, the mud was rising inside.

          I awakened from the dream and went to my day. Mud is rarely a good thing to see, not even in dreams, certainly not in this one too. It was clear to me that if the dream meant anything, it was that trouble was headed my old friend’s way. Mud on her decorations likely pointed to troubles and loss of what was most dear to her – the things which money could buy, things on exhibition in her life.

          I once loved this lady with all my heart and immensely enjoyed her company. She had a sharp tongue and we often got nicked, but it never mattered because she was always one who spoke the truth. The fact that she was never short of friends of all ages was a testimony to the goodness of her heart. When tragedy struck my life years before, she was my support in some ways and I loved her all the more for it.

          Then, came a time when she began to sell her soul to money. With that, things began to change with her. She no longer valued marriage, children were an inconvenience. She used the power she had over so many others to undermine their relationship with their own spouses. She encouraged her friends to choose self and enjoyment over the caring for children. She advised abortions when babies came at “inconvenient times”. Then, she began to cheat in her work – she who had been so skilled and talented at it, with a clear gift to do what few could. But now, worshipping at the altar of money, her heart began to die and with that, our friendship too.  She now stood against all that was sacred to me, especially that of marriage and family – which, for me, was the heart of life itself.

          We soon had many disagreements because I could not allow her to do wrong and to get away with it. More than anything, in fighting her, in many ways, I think I was fighting for the dear soul I once knew and loved. Yet, knowing I was no longer a part of her circle, not only did she turn against me and begin to attack me, she influenced others to do the same too. The poison was clearly spreading.

          For some years, I suffered immensely under the onslaughts of her attacks. They were vicious. They filled me with fear and loathing for work because it was there that I encountered her viciousness on an hourly basis. The attacks seemed like they would never end.

          I prayed and prayed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to St. Joseph for a miracle. Often, I had little hope of one.

          One day, though, that miracle happened. My colleague was unexpectedly transferred to another department and to another workplace. We were as shocked as she was. But there was no regret in me in her going. If anything, the relief was immense. The Sacred Heart of Jesus had saved me – and others too. When she left, much of the poison leeched out as well. After a time, the cracks at work were sealed back.

          But this woman brought disharmony everywhere she went. Soon, stories from her new place of work drifted back to us. It seemed as if wherever she went, she sowed discord and brought out the worst in people. My friend in a managerial position at the new place suffered what we had gone through here, for there too my old colleague turned co-workers against the administration.

          Mercifully, God soon intervened once more. Without warning, this lady took early retirement from work. I suspect more than a handful of souls were saved because of this.

          Since she lived just a few houses away down my road, I often saw her but nothing remained of our friendship and nothing was kindled either. We were like strangers. I barely remember ever praying for her after that.

          Then came this dream on my Sunday when I try to live in more thankfulness. Did God want me to pray for her? If so, why wasn’t the nudge… stronger?

          Give me my prayer for her, Lord, I asked as obediently as I could, but with no great desire to pray either.

          Not a stirring out of heaven.

          I thought of the mud and of the worse thing it could signify. Please give her a happy death, Lord, I prayed quickly, wanting to get on with my chores.

          Again, nothing moved.

          What do I pray for, Lord?

          At my sink, busy with the dishes, in the softest of movements, came an old, old memory, laid by the door of my spirit by an unseen hand. A memory of that time of terrible sorrow many years past, before my friend had changed. My child had been sick in hospital then and had refused all food. Then, one day, this colleague had come to visit. She had brought comfort and strength – and apples. My child who had refused solids somehow accepted the apples too, happily devouring apple after apple.  Never before had even I tasted such delicious apples. 

          Standing at my sink, my hands soapy, my heart was now pierced by a sudden sweetness of love for my old friend. Where once stretched an arid barrenness of indifference, now in an instant was flooded through with a deep, deep love. Plunged into that love, my heart found an impossible prayer,

Lord, have mercy on her. Forgive her for all she has done.

Remember her apples, Lord, and have mercy on her.

I Will Act

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          Sometimes, even the brightest days can be troubled by ribbons of cold winds. Something just didn’t like seeing me skipping about, and so it brought me a troubling update on my job, to dampen my happiness. I stood still for a bit as I took in the news. It was as real as bad news can be and it was draining away the last vestiges of hope. Then, I made up my mind: It was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. In honour of Her, despite the news, I decided to make that little leap of faith and willfully choose to cling to Our Lady’s hand. Mother, I prayed, help me trust in Jesus. I returned to my day, brightened again.

          Some hours later, those cold slivers made another attempt to unsettle me. Feeling their presence, I didn’t want to pretend I wasn’t a little anxious. I didn’t want to pretend to be strong. I wanted to be honest with Jesus. And so, I prayed once more. Lord, give me a sign. I am worried and afraid – but I don’t wish to be. Help to me get on with life. Then, I turned to Mother Mary once more. Keep me close to Jesus, Mother. I think I was/am tired of being afraid, of being spooked. There comes a time in every Christian’s life when we realize that the way to really live is to trust fully in Jesus, and I might have finally arrived at this point of realization and of wanting it for myself. Trusting doesn’t suddenly make merry our walk through life. There will still be valleys to traverse and tears to shed. But for me at least, to trust fully might mean a lot less of the inner wobbling I fall victim to so often.

The wavering in trust, as Jesus called it.

          And the minute I made this decision to trust, Jesus answered my prayer for a sign for the way ahead, but in His way. He sent me His beloved emissary, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque,

          I must no longer concern myself about anything it may please my Sovereign Master to do with me and in me; He has told me He will cease to take care of me only when I am preoccupied with self. I have experienced this many times through my infidelity, the outcome of which was the thwarting of my wishes. But I no longer have any desire but to do what He has told me many a time: “Leave it to Me to act.” 

          When I heard Jesus’ words in my spirit, I was infused with a soft yet strong desire to not be a hindrance to my Lord’s work in any way. Jesus wanted me to stop looking over my shoulder and He had shown me the way to do it:

 

Beloved:
Let no one have contempt for your youth,
but set an example for those who believe,
in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.
Until I arrive, attend to the reading, exhortation, and teaching.
Do not neglect the gift you have,
which was conferred on you through the prophetic word
with the imposition of hands by the presbyterate.
Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them,
so that your progress may be evident to everyone.
Attend to yourself and to your teaching;
persevere in both tasks,
for by doing so you will save 
both yourself and those who listen to you.   ~   1 Timothy 4: 12 – 16

 

          My fears about our future were being fed by the attention I was giving them. And every time I fed my fear, even a little, I took my eyes off Jesus. But the Jesus who knew me so well also understood that I could not simply force myself to stop fearing; I needed to be focused on something instead. So, He exhorted me to be absorbed in my job and in my studies.

          I immersed myself immediately in both calls. Soon, I could feel the shadows retreat and joy bubbled within me once more.

          As I worked and rested in the deeps of joy, the angels came by to gently lay His promise upon my heart once more.

I will act.

The Secret

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What happens in Adoration may be likened to what happens when someone receives a transfusion. It is as if God places a very tiny needle into the soul of the adorer, and by means of an attached tube, transfers His very life into the soul of the adorer. As in a hospital, the tube brings medicine and liquid and helps to heal whatever disease the person is suffering from. This is happening on the spiritual level, bringing spiritual healing. But it is not just the soul of the single adorer that is affected. Through the mystical communion of all believers, that transfiguring and healing divine energy is passed through the single adorer into the entire mystical body of the Church, purifying the Church.

When we go into Adoration, we are disposing ourselves to become nodes, conduits, for the purification of the entire Church, and through the Church, of the entire world.

So it is not a meaningless action, or even an action aimed at one’s own personal purification. It is the essential action to bring Christ’s eucharistic purification into the entire body of the Church, to do reparation for all sins and abuses, and to begin to heal them.   ~  Author of In Sinu Jesu

 

          A few days ago, on my leave, I sensed a faint burning on my right ear. From about 8 years ago, this fire on my ear has been a personal sign that God is holding my ear, firmly asking me to listen out for His voice.

          And so I tried to still myself, to empty myself until my Father bade me to come into His presence, all the while  wondering what God had to say to me.

          It turned out to be about the secret of Eucharistic Adoration.

          Although a few years ago, I began to feel a strange pull towards being alone in a silent church, living so far away from one made it impossible. Almost in a kind of agony from living within endless chaos and empty, debilitating noise, I yearned for the silence of an empty church. For a while, that yearning was appeased through webcams in certain churches which allowed me to enter in spirit for daily Adoration.

          Then, this year, unexpectedly, my schedule required me to travel every Friday to the city where our parish is located. In nothing short of a miracle, I found myself with about an hour of Friday afternoons in church for Adoration.

          When you’ve been forced to live in the desert of pandemonium and unnecessary ruckus for so long and when you come upon an oasis of silence, you do everything you can to make full use of the gift that is given. And so it was with me. Often, I went to my Friday Adoration armed with prayers and meditations and of course, petitions. I was happiest when my Holy Hour was filled to the teeth. My way of saying thanks to the Lord was by bringing basketfuls of offerings.

          Although I’ve been led many, many times to spiritual emptying in order to be filled, it never occurred to me that even in Adoration, my Lord would prefer the humility of an emptied heart – to be filled with Him, to be used by Him.

          Today, after the 9 day novena of offering everything for God, 2 years after my Lenten journey with In Sinu Jesu, Jesus tells me the secret of humble Adoration: the unfurling of the Mercy of the Eucharist.

The infusing of the Spirit of Jesus into our souls

The transfusion of that purifying and healing Power,

through us,

to every member of the Body of Christ

          As this revelation pierced me, golden and orange, the evening sun suddenly swelled through the heart of a tree.

 

 

 

 

The Hour of Smallness

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Evening Prayer to God

O eternal God and Ruler of all creation, You have allowed me to reach this hour. Forgive the sins I have committed this day by word, deed or thought. Purify me, O Lord, from every spiritual and physical stain. Grant that I may rise from this sleep to glorify You by my deeds throughout my entire lifetime, and that I be victorious over every spiritual and physical enemy. Deliver me, O Lord, from all vain thoughts and from evil desires, for Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.   ~   Saint Macarius

 

          Today, from the birdsong morning hours, I vowed to give glory to my God.

          I did all I could to stay close to my Lord’s heart.

          Hurrying from one appointment to the next, we squeezed in a quick stop at church in the city and I was delighted that we managed it. I seal my heart in Thy Tabernacle, I prayed and then got up to leave. Despite our busyness, I remembered to weave prayer buds into the hours, praying the Divine Mercy chaplet for the troubles in our land. Later in the day, returning home in the wan sunset blessed by rain dimples, a huge rainbow journeyed  alongside us, and I gave God glory for the reminder of His promise to me that help is coming.

          Today was one of those rare days when I had been busy yet immersed in prayer. I was quietly pleased I had lived the hours the way I did.

          Everyone was tired and I was eager to get dinner going for an early night in.

          But in a sudden moment, I let a dart of anger lead the way. Despite the prayer~laced hours before, in that split second of the present moment when the path forked, I chose to be Lot’s wife, I chose to return to the old me. I seemed to have stayed so close to Jesus today, yet something in my day nefariously assured that I had a right to indulge this old sin – the price of which is the company of sadness and regret even in the quiet midnight hours. Although dinner was good and laughs aplenty, that one moment sits by still my window of consciousness.

          How could I have let this happen? What I wouldn’t give to take it back.

          Then comes this sunset prayer, tiptoeing to my mourning,

Forgive the sins I have committed this day by word, deed or thought. Purify me, O Lord, from every spiritual and physical stain.

          I whisper its lines to my heart, feeling no comfort, no hope, wondering if I’ll ever leave this gnarled of old behind, these sudden bursts of anger. Suddenly, I’m made aware of my smallness, my inadequacy, and only now do I see that nothing of this day was through my power. Not the prayers, not the plans.

It was all by the grace of the Most High.

          There’s nothing I can do for now but place the hurt I’ve caused an innocent heart, and my own sorrow and regret, into my Saviour’s Heart, and whisper my plea,

Grant that I may rise from this sleep to glorify You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approaching the Throne

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For we do not have a high priest
who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses,
but one who has similarly been tested in every way,
yet without sin.
So let us confidently approach the throne of grace
to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.   ~   Hebrews 4: 14 – 16

 

          What would I do without the faithful hearts of friends? Those hurt and bleeding from their own wounds, bent from the weight of their own crosses, yet who immediately and unhesitatingly reach out to help brethren pilgrims who have fallen and cannot get up. Who leave their own wounds to tend to mine. Who carry my cross when I can’t.

          Who give from their own poverty.

          Where would I be without these souls who in love and tenderness mirror our High Priest, Jesus?

          Where would I be without this love born of pain and suffering?

          For it is this love that shines the light I need to see the Throne of Grace. When I would have shied away in doubt and anguish, it is this love that in loving insistence takes my hand and firmly sets me before Grace and Mercy supreme.

          It is time to approach the Throne for them, my brethren bound to me through the shared journeys of grey and gold, sorrow and joy.

          Jesus, I place these souls in Your Divine Heart. Grant each one the graces most needed for what lies before them, in the hours, days and years to come.

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

 

 

 

 

Vigil of Repentance

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          On a quiet day this week, just as a gentle dawn was rising from its east, I was sliced through my heart. I had a dream. In it, someone called me Widow.

          I shot out of the dream in severe shock. The minute I awakened, I felt a wall come up between my present hour and the dream. For a long time, that has been God’s sign to me, marking the difference between a dream that is a warning and one that is a premonition of a coming, certain reality. Yet, this time, it gave me no comfort. I held my sleeping husband, weeping silently, begging God not to take him. But I couldn’t hold in the silent screams for long. A wild restlessness tore at me.

          I rose and ran to God. Weeping and weeping, in deep fear, I gripped my Rosary and buried my torment in the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

For the sake of His Most Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Please, don’t take him, Lord,  Please, don’t take him,  Please, don’t take him.

           All through the first decade of the chaplet, I pleaded and begged for my husband’s life to be spared. I distinctly heard voices from the side asking me what right did I have to ask not to be widowed when so many others had suffered this same grief. Did I think I was so special that I could choose my Crosses?

          Even in that mind-numbing sorrow of what I saw in the dream, guilt taunted me. Was I rejecting a Cross God wanted me to suffer for His sake?

          Who was I to think I did not deserve that suffering? asked the voices.

          Then, somber, old lights began to stream before me. Memories of odd happenings recently – all related to marriage and family. Things I hadn’t understood. Things that had worried me. Did they all portend this terrible, terrible grief?

          Fear rose like a black storm and began to violently pound my heart.

          Desperately, I clung tighter to the Chaplet prayers. Then, I saw the millions of times I had sought to save my own peace and left my husband to his struggles. The times I had little patience for him. The times, uncountable number of times, I had taken his love and sacrifices for granted. And now, that love was going to be taken away forever.

          I repent.   I repent.   I repent.

          Forgive me, O Lord, I have sinned, I sobbed to my God who had given me the greatest gem in the man I had married so many years ago. A man I loved with all my heart, yet took for granted as deeply too.

          Praying the Divine Mercy chaplet before the Miraculous Image on my wall, praying it like one demented with fear and grief and remorse, I went into the second decade.

          At the tenth, a personal sign, these words streamed before me ~

 The Illumination of Conscience

          That precise moment the words unfurled, the black wave of fear receded. In its wake, a sudden stillness.

          I raised my head and looked at the Miraculous Image before me.

          Was this what this was about? The Illumination of Conscience. The Warning. I thought of the unknown, unseen feminine voice I had heard in the midst of a Rosary a year ago – The event of the Warning will begin with the Annunciation. I was not told the year, but I recalled how I had forgotten the Feast of the Annunciation this year, only to be reminded of it by angels. On and on their bells had tinkled until I took notice and asked why. Why was I reminded? Was it merely to observe the Feast?

          Or was it because, as the voice had spoken, it heralded the beginning of the falling of a Luminescence beyond words – into hearts?

          In a way I cannot explain, terrible, horrendous though my morning dream and subsequent suffering was, I just knew that was merely the first rays of that Day of the Sun. The first rays – and yet the nails that tore at me were severe beyond words.

          As I sat, stilled and in thought, in that unlit pool of revelation, no relief flooded through me. It was as if my frightened spirit had moved beyond that primal seeking. Comfort didn’t matter anymore. Instead, every part of me stared at my sin of ingratitude.

          Slowly, stealthily, I sensed a stirring from the side. Other memories sidled into my consciousness. Voices from the past. Warnings to be financially prepared. The naming of beneficiaries. Writing of wills.

          I turned my gaze away from my sin and looked to my side.

          Suddenly, suddenly, the black tempest of minutes before tore back into place, wrenching and spinning my heart in widening circles of freezing, choking fear. Gone was the stillness of the tenth. Gone was the calm. In its place, the madness that only abject fear can invoke.

           It was the ravaging of sanity that comes when we take our eyes off the Cross.

          I reared back, stunned. My spirit stared at the two contrasts – my inner state as I stood by the Cross and wept over my sins. And the other – when I turned and moved away from the Cross.

          I knew immediately that the practical preparedness of putting our combined finances in order – which seemed so right – was wrongIt was right, it had to be done, but it was NOT what God wanted me to keep my gaze on now. And yet, it was what the voices from the side were calling me to.

          Immediately, I wrenched back the eyes of my spirit from the side it was distracted to. I returned to my rightful post – by the streams of remorse and repentance. Here, despite the crushing pain over my falls, I did not feel as if I was being whipped and flung around in an unstable  vortex.

          I held my rose~beads resolutely once more, determined to face His Light and have it burn away my ingratitude for the gift of my husband. As I begged God for forgiveness,  God placed other sins before me. He showed me the dark extents I had allowed my anger when hurt to stream out into.

          He made me face the very many times I had wished the same pain of loss I had suffered upon those I had tried to love but who had hurt me when I had done no wrong to them.

          God placed face after face of my victims before me. Those who had knifed me when I was at my lowest. Those whom I had wished  would come to know the same sorrow that had pierced my own soul ten years ago, and to know the violence of that grief to its fullness. I had wished this upon others despite knowing it by its name – REVENGE. I had wished it not out of mere spite. Not because I couldn’t bear their joy while I walked the valley of grief; I had wished it so they would weep as I did.

          And so, stop hurting me.

          But in the eyes of God, that didn’t change the name of my sin. That others had struck me first. That I was merely reacting to their wounding. It didn’t mellow its stain on my soul. It remained as REVENGE.

          As He unmasked the dark inside me, I heard the words of my dream again, saw the reel rewind and play back. But this time, I felt the pain I had wished upon others.

How terrible that pain felt when it befell me.

          In my anguish at what I saw, I felt God was not unmasking enough. And so, I went within deeper, uncovering more and more victims of my particular anger. It was as if I was baring all to God, saying to Him – There are more, there are more!

          I’ve always struggled with an entire chaplet of the Divine Mercy prayed in one sitting but this morning, I went through two. Suddenly, nothing was too little or too difficult for expiation of sin when I was given a taste of the agony I wanted others to feel.

          The bitter morning dream had come on the last day of my novena to St Joseph – to plead that my heart – and the hearts of all I carry within mine – be prepared for the Illumination of Conscience. The dream was St Joseph’s answer to my prayers. But it was not a gentle answer from the Gentle Spouse of Mary. The dream felt like a spear through my heart. Because no other gentler means would have wrought this vital repentance. 

          I now repent, heart and soul, for what I have done to others in the secret of my heart.

          I repent for the times I led others down the dark path by my example of anger.

          And I repent of the way I treated my beloved husband. 

          Because of the dream, life will never be the same again. There will now be a shadow where there was none before. I will henceforth always look to coming hours with fear. I will fear delays. Fear the unanswered calls. Anything which separates my husband and I, even the most innocuous, will be a steel band that cuts into my heart.

          I will fear if everything is the last of lasts.

          Becoming a widow is no longer something I can block out. It will from now become the shadow that follows me everywhere. But I know I am not called to mere fear. That is a call that comes from the side. That is distraction. Even if the ice of dread manacles my heart from this day on, I am called to a different vigil to await the Illumination of Conscience.

          For by this dream, I have been given a foretaste of God’s judgment of my sins in the coming Illumination. My place is by the Cross of remorse.

          My vigil has begun. My vigil is that of Repentance.

 

 

 

Lent 23 ~ All Alone

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          We returned to my husband’s hometown parish for Mass this Sunday.

          When I had first married him, this Our Lady of Perpetual Help church was where we worshipped every Sunday. And it couldn’t have been more different from the churches I was used to.

          I had come from rather snooty ‘upper class’ parishes in the towns I grew up in and where I first worked before marriage, hundreds of miles from where I would eventually end up after marriage. Those churches I attended as a child and later, as a university student and working woman, were affluent churches where the rich and influential held every position of power in the church, and Sunday was the day to feel down and dowdy next to the stylish and exquisitely dressed womenfolk.

          Not being endowed with beauty or style of any sort, I never fit in. So, at every available opportunity, I opted to travel long distances to inner city parishes where the poor were more likely to be found, and no one gave you the eye for the simple clothes you wore.

          But the poor here were a distant and withdrawn lot. They were not unfriendly; they were just weighed down by money troubles and every other heartache under the sun. Being young, holding down a good job and with my whole life ahead of me, it never occurred to me to reach out, even with a smile, to tell those parishioners that they were loved.

          The parish priest too kept to his own corner. A troubled parish that was struggling with their faith and with their life couldn’t have been all that welcoming of the pastor’s advices and occasional admonishments delivered with a firmness through his weekly sermons. So, priest and people warily kept their distance from one another. Always being late to Mass, I too fled the church immediately after Mass, not wanting to risk a hello to Fr, only to receive a likely rebuke about my tardiness from the good priest.

          Again, it never occurred to me to accept whatever earful I might have gotten, just to spend short minutes lifting a tired priest’s spirits. I never thought that even a priest would need to be told he was loved.

          Short years later, I learned that Fr had been suffering from renal failure. Yet, he had pastored a difficult parish, with no assistant priest to depend on.

          Fr died soon after.

          When I married my husband, his parish gave me the shock of my life.

          It was a noisy, vibrant Catholic congregation that took a lively interest in everyone else’s affairs. Everyone knew the cheery and dynamic parish priest’s diary of meetings and movements. They knew his birth date and even news of his siblings. His family was theirs too. In fact, everyone was family to everyone else! No birth or marriage or illness amongst them escaped anyone’s notice.

          No chance for anyone to skip Mass either – they’d have to run the gauntlet of embarrassing inquisitions from every church member.

          It was a shock alright for an uptight me hailing from cold churches where no one really knew one another.

          For many years, we enjoyed the warmth of worship in Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The young resident priest was soon posted elsewhere, and his place taken by another, who, in his own powerful way, continued to light a fire of holy seeking in his parishioners’ hearts.

          But then, came a third, priest, troubled and lost, and something began to die in the most beautiful of parishes on the east of the country. Times were changing. Fortunes were changing. As Fr struggled with himself, his people lost a shepherd they needed. Personal problems, struggling marriages, wayward children and job issues began to darken the skies here. Soon, love for one another took a beating, and more and more often, I’d hear of squabbles and infighting among the members.

          Where life once thrived, death crept in stealthily.

          I was a witness to all this. I clucked and shook my head in disappointment. I was no longer a member of the parish there, because by then, with a growing family, my husband and I had to join a parish closer to our marital home. But on monthly visits home, I saw and learned anew of this dying. For a time, I prayed for the troubled priest. Soon however, I gave up.

          I wasn’t too fond of the priest; I didn’t like that he was not being the priest I expected him to be. And it grew to be more satisfying to take the lower road and condemn the man for his failings.

          For some years, that was how it was.

          Three years ago, yet another priest was sent to replace the troubled one, and what was left of the dwindling parish warily eyed the new aging but resolute pastor, anchored in calm and quiet steel. By then, many of the parish stalwarts who had tried to keep the congregation together, had either died or aged to illness or moved away. What remained was a disparate remnant, angry with the world.

          Condescending towards the new man of cloth.

          Fr struggled mightily with his people.

          They didn’t come to meetings, they bickered among themselves. They held back their children from being altar servers and from playing the organ for Masses. They ignored Fr when he tried to gather them together, they were greatly inclined to educate the humble, quiet priest on parish matters, believing themselves the wiser on church affairs.

          Again, none of this escaped me. Yet, not once did I turn to God to ask, What would You have me do?

          Today, three years on, returning home, sitting in the tired, old pew, I sensed a shifting. Something had changed. There was an undercurrent of life among the living tombs. A deep, deep peace permeated the church. I didn’t see outright love yet, but I saw smiles. In some eyes, joy had returned.

          In a sudden moment, I looked at the old and worn priest, delivering his sermon with an inner strength that belied appearances. And I knew then that Father had won the battle. I whooped with joy inside me.

          Later, as we were driving home, I reflected happily on the priest’s victory and the courage and faith it must have taken to win this.

          About to snuggle into my seat in contentment, I began to feel a strange inner sadness. A gentle, feather-light Hand traced grey lines across my joy. I held my breath and waited.

          Gently, the Unseen Hand lifted, and I felt the soft, sad words It had left behind,

You left him to do it all alone.

Lent 21 ~ Words on the Heart

Take with you words, and return to the LORD ~ Hosea 14:3

          Yesterday, in the story about St John Vianney and his mystical response to a woman whose husband had taken his own life, the saint said that the deceased had been spiritually saved because of the last prayer he had uttered: the Act of Contrition.

          For some reason, I felt I needed to give the words of that prayer to others contemplating various deaths. Not to physically send the prayer, nor to tell them to pray it. But to pray the words for them who cannot. To say the prayer on their behalf.

          To write the words of contrition on hearts that would otherwise never contemplate them.

          As ever the Doubting Thomas, I did wonder if what I was doing was right.

          But there was no time to be lost. I went ahead anyway, due to the exigency – I was saying the Act of Contrition to stop deaths by human will.

          Today, the verse from Hosea 14:3 holds my spirit as I drift by.

Take with you words, and return to the LORD

          I know it refers to my own penitence.

          But could it mean too the prayers we pray in the waters of love and mercy – which give the words of contrition to be written on dying hearts?

Lent 1 ~ Snatching

small-gold-bell

          I heard the call of three bells in the week before Lent as I prayed for discernment for my Lenten journey.

          The first came through the word, Charity.

          When it first brushed against my spirit, I sniffed and turned away, because in my estimation, I was doing pretty well there. If anything, I needed to say No more often.

          But as it is with everything of heaven, it didn’t leave to flit over to other flowers. It remained like a tiny bell over my spirit, strung on a weave of gossamer, the slightest breeze a-stirring it.

          When the drowsy evening winds had whispered their silvery orange endnotes, and the bell still hadn’t learned silence, I knew I was to face a shadow I never realized was a part of me.

          I turned my heart towards heaven, and with no delay, the waiting angels laid this on my spirit,

Charity from the mind

          As I firmly kept my gaze on the words, the Spirit filtered gentle light through my mind.

          In my relationships with others, every battle of spirit I have faced has been fought in the distant fields of my heart, although each battle had birthed in my mind. Instead of being snuffed out right there in its place of origin, each wounding was sent on its way to my heart, where the battle was often long and drawn out.

          Simply because the fires had been allowed to rage unchecked for far too long.

          The charity I was now being called to was the mental discipline of turning each hurt and negative thought – the very second it budded – to love – through a prayer of Mercy. If I spied a negativity or if anyone hurt me, I had to now immediately wrap that person in a prayer of Mercy.

          There was no time to be wasted. It had to be done swiftly. No weighing of options. No indulging in anger or hurt.

          As I continued to absorb this tutoring, I realized this kind of prayer felt almost like …. Snatching. Quick and abrupt. Snatching soul after soul, and depositing them in the Ark of Grace. And then, moving on to more souls.

          Snatching souls through Charity.

          Snatching…..because time is short.

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