MOTHER MARY

Battle

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          When the old year went to its end, I had a feeling I was off to a tough start in 2018 – and how right I was! But nothing could have prepared me for the way the new year unfurled itself. My husband came down with a very severe sinus attack. Out-of-sorts and in pain, the cold evenings and nights were hard on him. I tried to help by taking on his load so he could relax after work each day. That pushed my own load to the brim. Every day was tough. Every day brought new demands. Every day I struggled to clear my to-do list.

          And every single day, although I was cheery and working with a skip in my step, it felt like I was falling behind more and more in my schedule.

          By the second week, the home schedule had begun to unravel as well. I forgot to get us fresh vegetables one day, dinner got more and more delayed, and I struggled to put together even simple meals. But as a family, we laughed it off and pushed on.

          I got to the end of the days very exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open and to think straight. Naturally, I couldn’t make my usual 4.30 a.m. wake up time for Holy Hour and prayed as much for God’s forgiveness as I did for strength just to get through the day, the week.

          Soon, we got to 5 straight days of no night Rosary. I’ve been at this point many times before and I knew I had to dig in deep and halt the slide. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. Every time, exhaustion won.

          Then, the dreams began. Messy, troubling dreams. Dreams that took me on draining and confusing journeys I could not afford to go on. I awakened even more tired and spent. But there was a new, unsettling, side to those dreams as well. It came with a negative kind of forcefulness that increased incrementally with each dream, trying to tug me towards a disturbed state of mind.

          In the midst of it all, was a flash of a dream one day. A quick one that softly planted itself in my consciousness, setting itself apart from the others.

          It was of my son, in a state of deep fear and panic, wanting to quit his studies.

          I honestly wasn’t sure what I was to do. I believe my husband and I have a great relationship with all our kids. Despite the crazy schedules we both keep, the kids are always near us and we know every story of their hearts – especially of this son I had dreamed about.

          After the dream, I began to keep an even closer eye on him and his activities, in case I was reading things wrong. But his joy and exuberance, his sincere commitment to his studies and athletics  remained undimmed. The dream might be something for the distant future, I told myself.

          It was mid-week then, and I waited to get to Friday when I could draw in breath and put things in order and get us all back on track, Rosary and all. A few more days, I placated myself.

          But the dark never waits for when you’re prepared and ready, to strike.

          In a matter of a few brief hours, my sunny and cheery son went from light and bright to morose and subdued. The change was extreme. Sudden. Obvious even to the blind, it seemed.

          I thought he was coming down with the flu or something and so, I made him soups and health drinks and insisted on early bed time. Oddly, he remained alert and responsible in his home chores and school assignments.

          Yet, it seemed like in an instant, something had reached in and turned off my child’s inner light. I tried everything but I could not reach him.

          I banged on heaven’s door. My vigilance went into overdrive. But despite my deep concern for my son, I was also aware that I felt no panic. Yet the situation was not something I could turn away from. Some force other than my mother-heart was keeping the eyes in my head and heart riveted on my son and this mysterious shift in temperament.

          And this force was allowing me no panic, but insisting that I keep my eyes on the ball.

          By the second day, and no change for the better, even as I got a better grip on my work and home schedules, concern furrowed deeper. Then, late in the evening, my son got into a minor argument with his siblings, forcing me to step in to rear him back. He went off quietly into his room and I went back to the kitchen to get on with dinner preparations. I was undisturbed and thought the matter was over. Nonetheless, suddenly remembering how St. John Bosco had once helped me to discern an approaching danger  concerning my son, I sent up a quick prayer to him for help.

          It was then that a dewdrop fell on my spirit. I recalled a dream this same son had had just before Christmas this year when we were having some family struggles. He had dreamed that we were going to be under severe and unexpected spiritual attack. He had dreamt that he was being attacked by an entity and that my husband had come to his aid and as he was trying to help my son, he was attacked by the same entity.

          My son had dreamed that it was he who was going to release to freedom something that shouldn’t be free.

          In all the busyness that was Christmas, we had forgotten about that dream. Till now. In that moment, I knew what it was that my boy was facing. A demonic attack of some sort.

          Dropping everything, I traced the sign of the Cross on my forehead and lips, and went swiftly to him. I made him look at me and told him the sudden change that had come about now was unusual and wrong and insisted he tell me what was going on.

          My beloved child broke down and wept. He told me he was struggling with his studies. He told me he didn’t know how he was going to cope.

          My mind went to that flash of a dream. It had indeed been a warning.

          Yet, my spirit turned away from his words. My son wasn’t lying to cover-up something else but this kind of a studies-related panic is gradual; it doesn’t happen over a space of two hours. And not to a boy who had just begun the new academic term, who practically hopped and skipped to classes and who was coping well. This belief didn’t stem from my unwillingness to read the handwriting on the wall, wanting to conveniently blame this on the spiritual. It came because just when I had prayed to St. John Bosco, I had been reminded about the dark dream of a coming attack – incidentally one that would target both my son and his father.

          With an insight even I didn’t know I had, I began to talk to my boy. I took him back to his own dream, walked him through the discernment. I opened up and shared about some struggles my husband and I had been having, which the children had not been aware of.

          Without even thinking about it, I found myself telling him about times we had turned the eyes of our hearts towards work, consequently, neglecting family, not loving the family as we should, as was willed by God.

          Something took hold of my tongue. When we love our family, I told my son, when we stay close to their hearts and be a part of their daily lives, it is like building a wall around our home. A wall that keeps us safe within. But when we stray away, even for a while, it is like making a gaping hole in our fences, and evil will steal in.

          As my son stared at me, I said to him, That was what happened with you in the space of a few hours. You turned away from the family to focus on your studies – even though it seemed like a good thing – that was the hole that let the dark in.

          I didn’t know where that had come from. I hadn’t even thought of it.

          Long minutes later, I left him with a kiss and a hug.

          He did lighten up slightly after that, but it was clear to my eyes that he still remained in the iron grip of that darkness.

          I finally told my husband and insisted he battle with me for our boy. Together we fought. We went into the next day, but the hours did not herald the change we were praying for. Still, my heart lifted when I saw that my son too was battling this dark hold. Even though he clearly didn’t feel like it, I saw him try and be a part of his siblings’ hearts. He listened as we shared about our days and plans and failures. He listened despite what it must have been costing him to. There was still no light in his eyes. Fear still ruled.

          So much prayers and all for naught, came a voice close to my ear. But we ploughed on undeterred. We returned to the Rosary.

          Later, stopping by my prayer nook for the prayer for the day, I found an unknown saint waiting for me:

Do not grieve if you do not at once receive from God that which you ask. He wishes to benefit you still more by making you persist longer in your patient prayer before Him. For what can be higher than to address one’s converse to God and be in communion with Him? ~ St. Nilus of Sinai

          I chiseled the words to my heart, new strength flooding me.

          Later, about to doze off in the afternoon, I latched my spirit to prayer. I called upon the saints who had come to help me with my son in the past, St. John Bosco, St. Francis of Assisi.

          Then, a vague image of Our Lady with a scepter in hand passed through my mind. I lightly sensed the words,

She will lead in battle.

          Mother, St. John Bosco, St. Francis, fight for my son. Save him, I prayed with calm and faith.

          I awakened about an hour later and immediately went in search of my son. He had been reading. When he saw me, he jumped up and bouncily announced that the rains that day seemed to have eased up.

          My spirit saw it even before my eyes perceived. The old joy was back! He had come out of it. It had lifted. Still, I put the hours that followed to the test.

          No trace of the dark remained, not even the vaguest stain of it.

          It was clear: we had indeed won.

          This time.

 

 

 

 

 

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Words for the Red

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          From the joyful red~shine of Advent days here, rose a red of a different kind, one far removed from joy and hope. It is an insidious thorn that rears its head at the end of almost every year since my husband and I started a family life moons ago. I had assumed that with the deep, illuminating spiritual journey that this year was, my husband and I would be in a better place in this largely lively and joyful marriage. Then came the morning and a thoughtless, dismissive statement and we were right back where I thought we had left for good. Granted, my grievance is nothing in comparison to what many people  are facing. Many would even consider it laughably trivial and so might I some distant day, but that reasoning fails to stamp out the red flames today.

          I try to turn away from the hurt. I try to shrug it off and fill the sun~dappled morning hours with home chores and yard work. But the red follows in waves and dips. As soon as I have crested one, as soon as I dare to think the hurt has gone, the next rise comes.

          But there’s a difference to my anger. It is not rage. There is no wild slant to it. The sadness it evokes in my heart burrows deep. It brings to life old disappointments and frustrations that I had assumed were in our past.

          As hour spills into hour, I struggle with myself. I struggle to not return to twisted ruts of old. Nonetheless, numerous retorts, rebuttals and accusations march steadily and stormily though my mind.  Snatches of speeches and choice words I conjure.

          The very second they form, I force myself fight them off, to turn my back on them. And then I realize, they need to come out. They are all reactions to my hurt that must have some place to go. So, I give them to Jesus, saying, I chose You, Jesus.

          On and on I battle until I am overwhelmed. I tell God I cannot do it anymore. I cannot pretend, neither can I overlook. I place my husband in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. You take over, Lord. I can’t.

          Hours later, the flames have died. In their place an odd quietness – which I put to the test immediately. No, it is not of wanting to forget and make up. Yet, the stillness within me tells me that I am no longer in control of my spirit. I am no longer in control of anything or anyone.

          Someone else is now in charge. I am content to let that be. For once, I do not want to lead. I am tired. I can barely make out the path in front of me.

          My chores for the day done, I cautiously open my door to God. Although my injury is real, in my struggle to overcome my hurt and in my inability to pray in humility for my husband, I am not sure that I am walking in the will of God.

          Timidly, yet with a strange certitude, I ask my God, Lord, give me my prayer. 

          The Almighty’s response is swift, as if He has been waiting for me to ask. His prayer for me is unexpected.

          Prayer of St. Anthony of Padua

          O Light of the world, Infinite God, Father of eternity, giver of wisdom and knowledge, and ineffable Dispenser of every spiritual grace; who knowest all things before they are made, who makest the darkness and the light: put forth Thy hand and touch my mouth, and make it as a sharp sword to utter eloquently Thy words. Make my tongue, O Lord, as a chosen arrow, to declare faithfully Thy wonders. 

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

          Do thou lovingly, holily, mercifully, clemently and gently inspire me with Thy grace. 

          Do Thou teach, guide and strengthen the comings in and goings out of my senses and my thoughts. And let Thy discipline instruct me even to the end, and the counsel of the Most High help me through Thine infinite wisdom and mercy.

 

          Oh no, I groan. The last thing I want is to speak. Words have had no effect on this situation that arises without fail every year end holidays. Same fight. Different words. Same failure. Year after year. And now God asks me to pray, put forth Thy hand and touch my mouth, and make it as a sharp sword to utter eloquently Thy words?

          I begin to think that I may have been mistaken about the prayer being for me. That’s when St Anthony, a saint close to my heart, steps in swiftly and takes my eyes directly to the line,

Do Thou teach, guide and strengthen the comings in and goings out of my senses and my thoughts.

          That closes the door on my doubts. That prayer line directly addressed my struggles with my emotions since the morning. It told me God saw the back-and-forth, the tug-and-push, and that He was with me. He understood my hurt. He saw my struggle to contain it and cope.

          I was not alone. That realization suffices.

          I raise my eyes to heaven. Give me Thy words, I pray.

          Not mine but Yours. 

 

 

 

         

Lent 33 ~ Blue

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For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked! ~ Jeremiah 20:13

 

          Lord, rescue the poor from the wicked. I say this prayer today for children everywhere. The little ones Jesus loves so much. Those who have no real voices, who look to us adults to keep them safe from harm. I say this prayer today for the young who are taken advantage of, abused and maimed in every way, by the very ones entrusted with the care and protection of them.

          I’m saying this prayer to battle the rising anger in my heart. I’m saying this because I feel helpless. But I don’t want to feel helpless. That would mean I was conceding defeat and opening the gates and letting in the very people I should protect children from. 

          No, I want to spirit away these little ones and flee to the mountains where they are safer. But too many are against me; they stand at the ready to thwart every rescue attempt.

          Their numbers shake me; their vengeance and darkening hardness of heart, even more. These shepherds charged with the care of the young sheep are unmasking themselves.

          They are no shepherds. They never were. They have always been wolves. Lord, rescue the poor from the wicked.

          I pray the prayer over and over, willing myself to believe in the hope Jeremiah has brought this morning. Yet, nothing changes within me; doubt still laps at the shores of my heart.

          I tell my God, Lord, I believe, help my unbelief. 

          Still in a knot that refuses to go away, I go to my window, to look at the waking skies and to leave my prayer in His hands. Rose-tipped clouds ribbon out from the sun’s old bed of slumber. Dully, I rest my eyes on the rousing vista. My heart remains troubled.

          And then I see it.

          A wide swathe of the most still of blues, in the skies west to the birth of day. No one looking at it would see anything out of the ordinary in it. And yet, it was a blue that fell straight into my wavering spirit.

          The instant the blue touched my spirit, I crossed the break.

          Gone was the fear. Gone was the anger. Gone was the doubt. 

          The blue felt like a light to my soul. It was a blue that was still, deep, quiet.

          It was a blue that held in its expanse a strength beyond compare.

          In that searing joy, I knew that the prayers prayed for children by every one of us have been received.

          I know because I know that blue.

Lent 7 ~ An Army Beyond Compare

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          I am aware of a deep serenity in the winds that keep vigil amongst the greens of boughs and grasses lush. Even in its gentle dance in the sweetnotes of a pink sky leaning to its night rest, I sense a reverent hush.

          It is more than the peace of an old day lived well. This softened windcalls is a sign Someone is near.

          My spirit is stirred and I look towards heaven.

          Within minutes, through the press of spirit by the words, rock and pines, I come across an old story:

In 1454 in Portugal, a devout, dying woman named Sister Filipina revealed: “A statue of the Most Holy Virgin will speak about very grave future events, for Satan will wage a terrible war. But he will lose because the Most Holy Virgin Mother of God and of the Most Holy Rosary of Fatima, more terrible than an army in battle array, will defeat him forever.”

          The Most Holy Virgin Mother of God and of the Most Holy Rosary of Fatima. Mother of God. Mother of the Rosary. More terrible than an army in battle array.

          My eyes turn to the sunset skies again, seeking the last ribbons of pink and tangerine. Instead, I am surprised to see none of those colours. Not a trace.

          In its place is a vivid blue.

          It is Mother Mary’s colour. It is Her sign to me that I must go heart and soul to the Rosary. Something lies beyond the rest of day. A cold that will touch every living soul, at different times, in different ways. Knowing we would feel powerless before it, the Queen of Heaven bids us to seek grace supreme. Grace wrought by the Rosary. Humble prayers on little beads.

          Seek grace. I recall the words written on my heart days back:

Pray to seek

          Seek grace through the Rosary ~ an army beyond compare.

 

EYES WE CLOSED, LOVE WE STILLED

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Forgive us, Lord,

For the Wisdom we gave no need

Heads we turned against children

Worldly gold that focused us

Pursuit of treasure in the field

Any wagon riding the railway of Self.

 

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Forgive us, Lord,

For the cries we deafened our ears to

Numbed our hearts against

Pleas from the womb, orphan shelters, secret graves

Homes wreathed in hidden ribbons of abuse

Children in a hidden world not right.

  

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Forgive us, Lord,

For the paths we chose to tread

Angled away from buried sorrows

Bitterseeds birthed and grown old in the drought of hope

But received first in the cold earth

Of reluctant mothers and fathers.

  

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Forgive us, Lord,

For the children we failed to love

Born of us, born of others

Left to pain, forever weep

Gnarled, twisted lives to lead

Because our eyes we closed, our love we stilled.