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.