OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE

Eagle of Mexico

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          Last Friday, when warm joy began to flow through me once more, thawing the ice of old winter, my daughter pointed out two eagles perched atop a swaying fir branch. They were so far away and we were in the car, moving fast. Yet, my girl saw those beautiful creatures and was able to point them out to me. And I had enough time to gaze in awe at their beauty.

          They were indeed very far away and I don’t have that great eyesight. But something about those twin eagles stirred the depths of my spirit. I felt a silence fall into my heart. A peaceful silence.

          The next morning, deep in the breast of a golden~blue sky, a single eagle soared and called out from the heavens. I watched him for a while, enjoying him, for eagles are a rare sight here. The following day, again, an eagle soared and called out once more in the eastern skies readying for night’s welcome slumber. It could have been the same eagle. Or not.

          It didn’t matter, because by then, I was aware of something: every time I saw eagles, everything in me and around me stilled. And I was filled with the deepest peace, even as my spirit straightened in awe.

         Who are you? I asked the soaring magnificence.

          That night, I set about to find out about the symbolism of eagles. At a Christian website, its author, himself intrigued by eagles, had written about this great bird’s characteristics.

          One characteristic which reached out and caught me was the eagle perching for days even, awaiting the right wind conditions for it to soar in the sky. Because of the heaviness of their wings, it is imperative for an eagle to soar – to fly without flapping its wings, as much as it can, in order to preserve energy. To soar, the bird requires wind thermals – a big gust of wind – and so, the eagle sometimes has to wait a long time for them.

          They are patient, I learned. I had always thought of eagles as business-like, focused but I’ve never equated them with patience.

          After that revelation, I never saw another eagle in the sky.

          But soon something else caught my heart. Mexico. When that name was laid upon my heart, I felt gentle arrows of joy once more embed themselves into me. Why this joy over Mexico? I wondered. It didn’t make sense to me as anytime Mexico made the news, it was rarely positive. Earthquakes, drug cartels, gangs, corruption, drug wars, murders – all those were associated with Mexico for me. Yet Mexico for me was also about the warmth and love of family, the strength of old and tested faith.

          On a whim, I looked up pictures of Mexico, to get a deeper feel of that country. I was taken aback when I pulled up an image of the Mexican flag.

 At the centre of it was an eagle.

          It became clear then that someone was trying to tell me something.

          I decided I’d let it rest, and that I’d rest myself too. God would make things clear in His time. No sooner had my head touched the pillow when I suddenly recalled why Mexico is special.

          It was the home of the Guadalupe Marian apparitions. I myself have a special devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe because whenever I’ve struggled with Islamism, She has been close by.

          Her presence has always indicated that particular battle.

         Guadalupe, I breathed. Guadalupe and its personal significance, coming when my family and I are praying the special Muslim fasting month Rosary. It was no coincidence. My thoughts went to Jesus’ words that touched me some weeks back, I alone know what lies beyond the bend. I thought about the way I knew those words were meant to mean something to me, and yet, I could not feel it when I first heard them. But this very day, I recalled those words once more, and this time, they stirred the depths of me.

Something lies beyond the bend, my spirit intoned.

          And a strange, quiet excitement took hold of me, even as I sensed there would be trouble of some form ahead.

          What does this mean? I pondered.

The eagle

Mexico, Guadalupe

Something lies beyond the bend

          I decided to write to a friend strong in the faith. She replied, telling me eagles were often associated with contemplation. Yet another thing I hadn’t known. I pondered that too.

Eagle. Guadalupe.

So … contemplate Guadalupe?

          Although I felt I knew pretty much all there was to know about the Guadalupe apparitions, I looked them up anyway. Imagine my utter surprise, when I came across something I didn’t remember reading before. That the native name of the poor, humble man who saw the Virgin of Guadalupe in the 1531 apparitions was Cuauhtlatoatzin.

Which meant talking eagle.

          I could sense my spirit still inside me once more. This was the path I needed to take. St Juan Diego.

          So, I went to learn about St Juan Diego, the name the humble Aztec native took upon his conversion to the faith.

          And the second surprise of the day awaited me.

          During the apparitions, when Mother Mary asked Juan Diego to take a message to the Bishop, asking for a temple to be built on the Tepeyac Hill, the simple man had hurried to obey. However, after listening to the message, he was turned away by the Bishop. Returning to the Lady, he told Her all that had happened. Reluctant to return to the bishop’s residence, he pleaded,

“I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf.”

          I must have read about those apparitions many, many times. And yet, only today, did I learn of that anguished utterance from a heart so humble.

I am a nobody, I am a small rope, a tiny ladder, the tail end, a leaf.

          Again, I turned all this over in my heart. I could sense a door open all through this discernment and that door had not yet shut, indicating I was to go on deeper. Then, I came across something.

Juan Diego had died on May 30.

          Was this Diego journey, begun yesterday, to be a 9-day novena, ending on the 30th?

          And then, I saw what else was to be celebrated on the 30th of May.

Ascension of our Lord.

          For some reason, the Eagle of Mexico has come to take my hand. I have none of his humility, none of his steadfastness of faith. I crumble easily. Although I can love deeply, patience is a virtue very much in want in me.

          But he has come. His hand I will take, his voice I will listen to.

And the message of his heart I will learn.

 

 

 

 

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Blood and Water

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          When the angel placed my eyes upon the Divine Mercy prayer, Jesus, I trust in You, it was the hardest prayer for me to pray, on that day and especially, in the days that followed. I had gone instead, to every spiritual pool I knew, to every saint’s door, begging for discernment,  for relief, for strength, as Jesus, I trust in You stood by resolutely. I searched in so many places, yet, nothing reached out and caught my heart.

          As I dithered, waiting for another nudge, a commenter told me to read Psalm 102 – the Psalm of the Afflicted – and to say Jesus, I trust in You, at the end of each verse. So, I read it and made the offering each time. While some of the lines encapsulated what I was facing now, at the end of the reading, what remained was, again,

Jesus, I trust in You.

          Heaven was being very firm with me; I had to say that prayer – regardless of how I said it or how I felt.

          And so, I began. I said the prayer every time the breath of despair swept close to my heart. Every time desolation threatened to take hope away.

          There was no answering strength that I discerned, no bloom of light.

          But late, late in the depths of night, I suddenly felt I had spent too much time among the stones of lament. I had left Jesus out in the cold, alone with the sorrows of the world. Wanting to make amends, I went to console Him.

          Taking up my Rosary, intending to say the Divine Mercy Chaplet, Someone slipped into my heart a prayer I had forgotten – The Divine Prayer of Conversion,

Blood and Water that gushed out from the Heart of Jesus as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.

           As I stared at the prayer, something gently folded around my Rosary beads, and I slipped into

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

          Over and over, like with the Hail Marys, my spirit nestled into a quiet, resolute rhythm,

Blood and Water,

Heart of Jesus,

I trust in You.

In place of the Mysteries, I placed before my heart the images of places, people and practices that hurt and wound my family and I. Around each image, on my rose~beads, I wove Blood and Water, Heart of Jesus, I trust in You.

          At dawn the next day, I saw the word, Emissaries. Recently, I learned that for me it indicated the close presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe – Mother of those in battles. Barely had my thoughts gone there, when from the dark green breast of trees awakening to the touch of shy sunrise, I heard a sudden burst of baby~bird melodies. I’m accustomed to hearing the little tweets of bird~lings, but today, it seemed like many little bird babies lifted their voices to joyously sing, spilling diamonds into the night sweetened air awaiting the embrace of the sun.

          A melody never before fallen on my ears.

          I went to work later. The hurts and the wound-ers, in their usual positions,  as solid as ever. The night’s prayers and sleep hadn’t lit strength in my soreness; nothing seemed different.

          But I saw immediately that the blade of anger sheathed within my heart was blunted.

          I think I understand. My anger takes me into a battle that serves no purpose. It takes me away from where I am most needed – the Guadalupe Battle.

          The battle for the conversion of souls.

          Through that unexpected avian hymn of unearthly sweetness, Mother of Guadalupe had sent Her emissaries again, to tell me that The Rosary of Blood and Water was Her answer to my anguished seeking.

          It is Her wish that I wield it for Her in the battle for souls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emissaries

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          The work pace has been relentlessly and exceptionally brutal since June. Often I feel as if some hidden force has unsheathed itself here, dragging us, forcing us to speeds and depths that don’t always work out for our individual or collective good. This week was no exception. I stumbled home each day barely able to think straight, much less pray. Not being able to say my night Rosary bugged me because I had promised to pray it for a blog pal. But I just couldn’t. Every night this week I worked on plans and reports and projects late into the sable hours.

          I mourned over this.

          And then, a tiny bell chimed.

Come into the peace of wild things

          It was like the glimpse of land from where I was on the stormy seas. Wendell Berry’s Come into the peace of wild things was the harbour I sought. Suddenly, I felt hope light up within me. Unconsciously, a change silvered into my spirit. Despite the mountains that awaited me each morning at work, despite the continuing hurt by a colleague, a stillness began to descend into me.

          And I began to hear birds.

          I began to hear them as never before. A joyous chirping from deep in the green breast of trees. Every time I heard them, no matter how much I had to get done, I slowed down and accepted the avian song~gift the angels brought me. Then, I read of a woman who had suffered so long and so terribly that she reached the point of ending her life. As she was about to, she saw a bird fly by gently before her. And as it did, it took away her desire to leave this world before her time.

          Birds again. Birds bringing life.

          I began to wonder if there was more to birds that was coming to me at this time. Was it a sign of something?

          The next day, pondering some surmounting difficulties, I thought of the word ‘mantle’. And my thoughts went to Our Lady’s mantle that I had prayed for. The very next second, I read Our Lady of Guadalupe’s words,

Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under My protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within My fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.

          The apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico to Juan Diego had been preceded by the sweetest birdsong. As I looked over the little signs, the birds, their song, the prayer invoking the Mantle and finally, Our Lady of Guadalupe’s words, I knew that my heavenly Mother was making it known to me that She was by my side in the fire of work and in the bitterness of hurt.

          The little birds had been Her emissaries. Through their lilting serenades and gentle presence, Mother had sent them, to remind us that we are not alone even if we think we are.

 

 

 

 

Let Go and Let God

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          In another stew yet again. I had, some weeks back, heard about Reparation Mondays – one Monday a month for 9 months – where the sufferings for that day were offered for sins against the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For some reason, I felt drawn towards it – although I have a great fear of suffering. And knowing just how bad my memory is getting, I figured why wait for a Monday every 9 months. Why not just offer every Monday up for reparation and get the 9 over with. And if God wants more than 9, well, ….well, I will try to obey.

          So, timidly, I offered up my first Monday. It turned out to be a rather rough day but I got through it without maiming anyone. After that was the next Monday – a rather tame affair.

          Then, came the next. A hit when I least expected it. And ensuing almighty stew of emotions.

          I struggled and struggled with myself over the bitter sting of unfairness. I tried to pray but my anger over what I had received was so great. Yet, cognizant of my sin, I kept returning to heaven’s door – anger in tow. Every time it surged, I buried it clumsily into the Holy Hearts.

          After several hours, Someone gently nudged Our Lady of Guadalupe towards me.

Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain.  Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under My shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”       Our Lady’s words to Her servant Juan Diego in the 1531 Guadalupe, Mexico,  apparitions

 

          Are you not under My shadow and protection? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? 

          Still in the binds of anger, I beseeched Mother Mary, Take me under the folds of Your mantle. Bind my heart in Your mantle.

          And then, as an afterthought, knowing how intent I was on avenging the wrong done to me, I tacked on, Bind my tongue with Your mantle too.

          Much later, busy with dinner preparations, I slowly sensed the firestorm within abate. Not trusting myself, I continued speaking to God. I told him of my anger, my disappointment with the person who had hurt me. But I also told God I wanted to do His will. Or at least, a small part of me did.

          In the midst of cooking, I suddenly saw the words, Reparation Monday. It had slipped my mind completely. So, this was why it was so bad, I acknowledged. My suffering was needed someplace.

          What do You want me to do? I asked God again. I had a couple of plans lined up.

          I heard the softest whisper,

Let Go and Let God.

          I felt the fight go out of me.

 

 

 

 

Thank. Listen. Love. Pray.

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Appreciate what you have. Listen to the warnings, hug your children, and thank God for today and yesterday, and pray for a better tomorrow.

~ Natali Rojas, Corpus Christi, whose statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe was the only item to withstand a devastating fire that destroyed three Corpus Christi-area homes during Hurricane Harvey, August 2017.

 

 

 

 

SEEK REFUGE

12247-summer-flowers-wallpaper-hd[1]Bubbles of joy in music filled hearts. Not a care, not a worry, not a fear. Happy skips in the playgrounds of gaiety. Flower blankets blooming beneath the love of the unblighted sun.

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Food aplenty, open displays of feasts. No gnawing hunger, no fear of an empty larder. Raucous pursuits, a different joy every day. Freedom to scale any hill and mountain. No restraining leash tethered to pains and needs of those around us. Everything we want is there for the taking.

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Golden sunrise of hope, clear skies. Not a tear, not a shadow. We skip and dance past imprisoned souls, Live life to the fullest, we call out. Seize the day, we chime to teary eyes, Join in our song of camaraderie, we sing before we breeze on.

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Happy sojourns, success in every form, at every turn in the road. Eyes unseeing, ensconced within our walled-in sphere of accolades and shallow mirth. The still in the winds we sense not. The gathering hush comes slow and stealthily.

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Muted tinkle of warning. Ribboned our way by a wind chime stirred by the first rain winds. For an instance, our skip is stilled. We look up from our preoccupation, irritated at the intrusion.  We might see the burgeoning waves on seemingly distant seas. What’s new? That’s life, – we  reason impatiently. Then, we turn away. A crow call of nothings, we shrug and damp down the sparks of messenger whispers.

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The Storm hits from behind, a wild and feral fury unleashed. We latch our doors and cower in shock. Our houses are pummeled. Every pocket wherein we stored our hopes and faith torn and rent to shreds. In fear we flee the houses we occupied, tearing down streets where we built our other abodes, seeking open doors, ready welcome, comfort and refuge. Panic surges and overwhelms.

No door, no welcome.

No comfort, no refuge.

We crumple to the ground. Our life in ashes lie. Knifing through us, a wrenching grief of loss of the familiar. Mater dei, Mater dei, the cry slips from us.

An ember of light flickers to life within us. Sepia-stained memories of an ancient Call. Am I not here, I, who am your Mother?

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Stumbling to our feet, we search for hallowed ground, seek the Mantle we once knew. Grateful collapse, our knees we bend in humble homage. Winds screaming all around, yet, an oasis of Comfort in holy remorse and repentance. Refuge found.

 

ROSE OF GUADALUPE

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Today, St Francis purposefully led me to Our Lady of Guadalupe. She had come to me twice before, this year, but I did not see, and chose to graze elsewhere. Today, I am at Her feet, because St Francis told me to rest the eyes of my heart on the Rose of Guadalupe. In these past hours, through the birdcalls and lilting family melodies, I have come to know more about the Rose of Guadalupe today than I ever did before. And yet, I sense I have not come even within whispering distance of Her true essence; there’s so much more beyond the pink veil.

Like before, I stand uncertain, unsure of what to do.

I think about Her.

She appeared on a hill, heralded not by trumpets, nor by choirs, but by birdsong in the early rose of dawn. To make Her presence felt, She perfumed the air of Tepeyac with the welcome chorus of feathered joys, to be heard only by a saintly soul seeking heaven in his every day.

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She chose to appear to a simple, humble man who loved God more than anything else. Who walked solitary paths to attend Mass. One who loved family and knew with a keenness, the grief of loss, worrying and aching for loved ones.

Our Lady comforts Juan Diego

When Juan Diego’s human love for his ailing uncle surpassed his love for his heavenly Mother, no sullen anger from Her. No strident demand that he forget his pain. Instead, She reached into his human sorrow, placed hope there, and wiped his tears away. She kept Her promise, took away the illness of his uncle who had given up and awaited the angel of death, giving him sight of purpose of days ahead, saying, I am She who crushes serpents.

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In a life surrounded by serpentine values and hidden snares, Her words a promise for those wearied by battles, then and now. We are not alone,

We are not forsaken,

We are not forgotten.

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She worked the Miracle of Pink Roses, to thaw the frost of doubt and weariness in pilgrim hearts. The perfume of that hope reaches us even today, spurring us on to hills and valleys we must traverse, although we fear, because of uncertainty in our weakened hearts. Over, and over, She tells us, I am the Mother of the Impossible. Fear not, fear not, fear not.

Grieving Mother, Aborted Child

Grieving Mother, Aborted Child

Her mantle over us when we storm heaven with prayers, sacrifices, vigils, and yet see the crimson tide threating to overwhelm. She is there when despair stands too close as we contemplate defenseless children abandoned by reluctant parents, for every child saved, too many more lost. Where is the hope, where is the hope?  Our cry presses Her heart.

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Mother of Guadalupe, Defender of the Unborn. She had shone the Light of Her Son into Aztec hearts that had hitherto only known shadows, converting them from the bloodlust that had kept them chained to the worship of darkness and blinded them to the jewel-glory of children. Once more, hope echoes down the tunnels of time. Their cries I have heard. Save the Unborn, I will, for I am their Mother. Hope springs anew.

She is here, She is here. Tell the Children, tell their Defenders.

Mother for all, young and old, strong and weak, lost and found. She meets us on rutted trails through the gathering shadows, a Hand reached out when the thorns of life snake across our everyday journeys. No promise broken, no hope in ashes lie. Clothed in the majesty of the sun, She comes again, as before.

She sees us hurrying past.

She sends messengers of nature to bid us pause.

And She says to us now, as She did then, “My dear little one, where are you going?”

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LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH

I struggled with a minor disturbance recently, struggled to keep the sun shining and the clouds at bay. I was aggrieved at the irritant, and in need of a sympathetic audience, took my angst to God. In a whitesilver flash, He cut through, and gave me this hymn:

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LET THERE BE PEACE ON EARTH

 

Let there be peace on earth

And let it begin with me.

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Let there be peace on earth

The peace that was meant to be.

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With God as our Father

Brothers all are we.

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Let me walk with my brother

In perfect harmony.

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Let peace begin with me

Let this be the moment now.

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With every step I take

Let this be my solemn vow.

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To take each moment

And live each moment

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With peace eternally.

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

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