Miracle

Song of the Seas

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Then he said to me:
Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
They have been saying,
“Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”
Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD.   ~  Ezekiel 37: 11 – 14

          Almost three weeks ago, bound by illness and fear, I searched desperately for hope, but none was to be found – only because I was searching in the wrong places. The medications which normally worked didn’t seem to be working. We have always been a family that recovered speedily from illnesses, but it wasn’t the case at that time. And never before had we all be ill at the same time.

          I was sick with fear. What if we needed to go into hospital? The pathetic excuse of a hospital we have in our town and the even worse medical personnel working there, charading as doctors and nurses, ruled out going there for treatment. Our next option was a reputable private medical centre but it was almost two hours away and despite being the strongest of the lot, I didn’t think I could drive the family there.

          What illness was this that we were having?

          Oh, the fear was deep indeed.

          In that state, hunting high and low for hope and not finding it, I suddenly quit searching. If there was to be no escape from this sickening fear, no respite from our illness, it dawned on me then that it was God’s will that we suffered this. Although no part of me embraced this suffering, a gentle visit from an old friend a few days later brought me to a door I didn’t want to open: the door to humble acceptance of suffering.

          Then, through the powerful intercession of St John of the Cross, my prayer changed to,

Help me to suffer this for Thy glory

          From then the mists lifted slightly from the path. Each time the fear came, each time I felt I could not go on, each time I struggled to rise and to walk and to work, I prayed in desperation,

Help me to suffer this for Thy glory

Help me to suffer this for Thy glory

Help me to suffer this for Thy glory

         Still, I struggled mightily, for to love my cross is my greatest cross. There is nothing I want less. It is my personal Calvary, the path along which I fall and fall and fall.

          And so, even as I prayed to accept my sufferings so that God be glorified, I could not find the love with which to embrace the prayer. Yet again, God showed me He never leaves us to suffer alone. He sent His beloved Mary to me. The Mother of God took pity on me and deigned to gather me into Her arms and to whisper to me Her words from that old day in September, fourteen years gone,

Sorrow before joy

          Upon hearing Her words once more, an odd strength began to flow into me, to ask in sincerity for the grace to suffer my then afflictions for the glory of God. One day wove its tendrils into the next, and into the next, and the next. When all of us felt dizzy and weak, when I felt I just could not cope with work, when the high fevers returned undeterred to all of us despite the meds, over and over, I prayed with all my heart and soul now,

Help me to suffer this for Thy glory

          Still, I puzzled at this change even as I welcomed it. How did this happen, I questioned as I peered through the remaining mists. I sure wasn’t praying better now because I felt good things were coming and that this was just a phase to get through – long years of suffering certainly put paid to that kind of hope even if it were true. I neither longed nor sought for joy as a respite from suffering. In fact, in a sudden turn of the seas, I seemed to have instead found an odd, indescribable vigour for suffering.

          Then, days later, without warning, the seas turned a second time.

My spirit began to sing through suffering!

          It was a full-bodied song which I have never, ever in my life heard. It began swelling and pouring through my dried out spirit, in silence and in gentleness and also in soaring power. Granted, each one of us in the family had begun to slowly recover from the flames of illness but the recovery this time was like climbing out of a grave after being buried alive. We were all still within the shadows of horrors of that pit. Thus, despite knowing we were getting better, our hearts could not quite sink into relief and happiness yet.

          But that strange, new song continued to pour its many cadences into my spirit. And I knew then, with an unshakeable conviction, that the raised skies of my heart was not due to relief nor simple happiness. It was something else. It was a secret, hidden joy, flowing and flowing through me each time I cowered before a cross and then, chose to pray in truth and sincerity, Help me to suffer this for Thy glory.

          Today, as the sun curls gold lights through me, heaven finally whispers the secret to me, of where this song of the seas comes from.

I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
Then,
I will put my spirit in you

that you may live.

Lent 33 ~ Even When I Cannot

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You have a plan for me
Even though I cannot always understand
Beyond what I can see
I know that I am held within Your Hands
So I will trust in You
And I will lift a song a praise for You
And never ever change
No matter what I am going through

Even Here, Rebekah Dawn

Go to Jerusalem

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          I didn’t go to my day as I should have, singing songs of thanksgiving for nearly 50 years of relatively good health. Going in to work, despite my morning resolve to live my day well, I was soon affected by tiredness and some physical discomfort which made me a little crabby.

          It was not going to be an easy day for prayers much needed.

          Earlier at home, during a quick stop at a religious online forum, I learned of 3 people’s intense suffering. One was a mother whose son had been suffering from mental health issues for some time. Things had gotten progressively worse and last night, he attempted suicide. Miraculously, the rope had snapped. And a mother got another chance with her beloved boy.

          The third person was a young man I had been journeying with, trying to save him from himself. Many times before, this guy has told me how much he felt helped by my prayers – and I prayed and hoped it were so because as God never granted me the grace of knowing, I always felt unsure. Often I felt overwhelmed, as one often does in dealing with mental health tribulations. Yet, turning away from him was not an option – not when I have struggled with depression and God knows what else for so many years.

          This morning, after trying to be brave and positive for so long, the young guy collapsed and had to be admitted into a hospital. I don’t know how many on the forum guessed or knew that it was actually a mental health facility, a place he had been in many times before.

          So, the call to intense prayer was loud and clear. Trouble was, the day had gotten off to a prickly start, with one irritating thing after another happening. Certainly not a day when prayer would come easily.

          Just then, a dear friend from another organization, who shared the same birthdate, texted me at work.

          “Are you happy?” she asked me. “Because I am so very happy today.”

          I’ve had worse days but I certainly wasn’t happy, there was no faking it. I wondered how to be honest without denting my friend’s happy day. In the end, I did what I do best. I made a joke out of my discomfort and got a laugh out of her. But I refrained from sharing about the suffering souls and their crosses today, because however much I loved my friend and I knew she loved me too, sometimes the body of water that separates our faiths is more than a mere puddle. This morning, troubled by other people’s grief, the gulf between Christianity and Islam was too huge to be crossed and I didn’t even attempt it.

          Just as I was wondering how on earth was I to pray from my heart in the midst of much distractions, I recalled something someone had mentioned before:

The prayer of gazing

          When words are too difficult. When the pain is too deep. When all we can do is gaze upon the Crucifix, or at a statue of Jesus or Mother Mary or of one of our favourite saints, our gazing is prayer.

          But it was one I hadn’t tried before in the thorny thicket of work.

          Earlier, hearing of those people’s pain, I had invoked the aid of St. Pio, my spiritual father. Now, wanting to deepen that invocation, I sought a photo of the St. Pio’s tomb in Pietrelcina, Italy. For some reason, I wanted to kneel at a sacred place and offer up that mother, her son and the young man who once dreamed of being a lawyer to fight for the oppressed.

          For some undefined reason, I wanted to kneel at a tomb.

          Searching for that picture, I instead found myself at Christ’s Tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.

          It was not an earth shifting moment with powerful signs. It was just as if someone unseen to me had lifted the veil on my search, directing me here.

          It was the lightest of touches on my spirit.

          With a photo of the sacred aedifice deep within the heart of that church displayed clearly on my phone now, I kept the phone on my desk. As I worked, I kept going back to Jesus’ Tomb, taking to Him pain and sorrows.

          Over the course of the next hours, there was a slight shift. I began to take others to Jesus, specifically 2 people who have made life difficult for me and for my colleagues for too long.

          For the first time in a long, long while, absolutely nothing interfered with my praying. Not my tiredness nor discomfort. Not the buzz of life from a few feet away. Not my work even. In fact, work progressed smoothly. Prayer and work ran on two lines, together, yet never disrupting the other.

          Much later, packing up for the day, I suddenly realised that my heart felt incredibly light. I was still tired and there was so much work to be chipped away at in coming days and weeks.

          But the air had sweetened and gentled. Even as the sun burned hot, still voices hidden in spaces sang hymns of joy and peace, their silver notes falling in feather-light grace upon my heart.

          What weight of meaning this bears for those I carried to the sacred Tomb of Christ, I do not know. Will minds and spirits heal? Will life return? Will we escape our prisons?

          Heaven withholds this knowing from me. But for now, it matters not. What I’ve carried to the holiest of sepulchres today rests deep within it now. As does my own heart, in trusting peace.

          Late into the night, pondering this, an old memory rises. And with it,

Go to Jerusalem.

Lent 13 ~ The Saint to Call On

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“Jude is my favorite of all the saints,” he says. “Patron saint of lost causes. The saint to call on when all hope is gone. The one in charge of miracles.”   ~  Jandy Nelson

 

          My country needs a miracle. As my heart scans the undulating sand dunes stretched out before me, I see no hope for my land. We have seen the government we voted in shockingly stolen from us. The sordid past once again occupies the seats of power and authority. Everything we fought for is gone. And yet, each day, we seem to lose more and more. And more. Corruption is rife. Money buys loyalty.

          I know the importance of hope, but there is none left in me to summon.

          Heart aching for my country, I consecrate her to St. Joseph. Please save my land, St. Joseph, I pray. Every fibre of my being wants to give up and to leave this country and start a new life somewhere else, but I’ve never run away and won’t start now.

          I call out to the night for hope. I seek and call, over and over. Please give me hope, I beg of heaven.

          Then, someone strikes a match in the dark.

Patron saint of lost causes.

The saint to call on when all hope is gone.

The one in charge of miracles.

St Jude