Gift of Hope


          A storm of sorts taught me a gentle yet potent lesson about the power of hope.

          About 2 weeks ago, one of my Muslim colleagues quietly let me in on a little secret in her heart: she was finally expecting her first baby after many years of marriage. While the news filled me with joy, there were frissons of worry too as my friend was experiencing intermittent bleeding. The government medical services in my town being what they are, I suggested that she seek a second opinion at a reputable hospital in the city, some hours away. I also recommended my gynaecologist at another medical facility in the same city, but I didn’t push it knowing fully well how deeply entrenched racial and religious biases are in this community here.

          My friend listened carefully but then came the weekend and a work week filled to the brim with another round of distractions. Unsurprisingly, she got caught up in a swirl of office parties, non-essential tasks and inane hysterics. Concerns were dismissed.

          This morning, I got a call from her, the quiver in her voice betraying her emotions as she told me that the doctor at the local hospital had told her the baby was gone. He had also administered an injection to ‘speed up the process’ and given her some pills as well. In pain and frightened, the woman had sought a second opinion at private clinic not known for much beyond an insensitive doctor. There, the doctor had performed an ultrasound and told my friend that something could still be seen in the womb.

          Now, my friend is hardly the sharpest knife in the drawer, and she hadn’t equipped herself with sufficient knowledge about foetal development. Hence, she didn’t ask the questions she should have. The local doctor’s words instead gave her hope that the baby was still alive; they also filled her with agonizing regret and anger that she hadn’t sought the services of a good doctor earlier.

          Thankfully, that second doctor knew she was out of her depth in this and wrote a referral letter to another private clinic, frequented by Muslims, in the city. It was on her way there that my colleague called me and told me about all that had happened.

          When I heard where she was going, with a firmness even I didn’t know I was capable of, I told my friend to forget about the place she had been referred to and to instead go to my doctor. Rudderless and in tears, her wits all about her, she now clung to me. She agreed to see my doctor, and asked for directions.

          This was where another little miracle took place. I am hopeless at reading maps and at giving directions. I can’t even correctly direct people to my own home. But on the phone at that moment, you wouldn’t have know that. The directions came out crisp and clear and more importantly, correct.

          An hour later, my friend called to say she had safely arrived and that my doctor would see her.

          I breathed a little easier. I knew that whatever happened, my friend would be safe. There were reputable Muslim gynaecologists in the city; I could have easily directed my friend to those of her own faith and she would have been in expert hands and everyone at work here would have clucked approvingly that she hadn’t besmirched herself or something at the hands of a non-Muslim. Yet, I sent her instead to not just a highly regarded non-Muslim specialist, but one who was also a devoted Christian – because I wanted her to be safe. Under this Christian doctor care, not only would she get the care and advice she needed, she would be made to understand the facts other doctors of her faith may prefer to gloss over.

          And whichever way this swung, I was certain only this doctor could bring heaven to her frightened heart.

Through him, she would receive Jesus.

          In the ensuing wait, despite the odds stacked against her, I prayed hard for a miracle. If it is Your will, I told the Divine Mercy, but He surely knew which outcome I was hoping for.

          There was so much riding on this baby.

          Some years back, this woman had caused a good deal of trouble to me. Angry and hurt, I had run to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Krakow, Poland, and laid bare my heart. Very quickly, the Lord had let me know that she was under some kind of spiritual attack. With my hurt no longer at the forefront, I was freed to pray for her to be released from whatever it was that was binding her.

          Once I began praying for her, the Lord allowed me to overhear bits and pieces of office conversations, and I learned that hers was a marriage in deep trouble. Although she clearly had a fondness for children, she adamantly refused to start a family. As the years went by, I knew my friend and her husband were drifting further and further apart.

          So, I began to pray for the gift of a child for her. When she told me the happy news weeks back, it was the sweetest news for more than one reason.

          But just like that, here we were in a sudden squall risen out of nowhere.

          A few hours later, I heard from my friend again. Her baby was indeed gone.

          This is not a community that can keep a secret. She must have texted the others at work, for I saw people huddled together, furtively whispering. Before long, people were airing their own miscarriage stories and although she wasn’t there to know it (and gladly), my friend was left to bear her cross alone. The workplace being what it was, concern and empathy were quickly spent and this woman’s closest friends then moved on the next revelry.

          Staring at her words, Could not be saved, grief came to life once more. Even if it was beyond others, I wanted to help my friend get through this.

          More than that, I wanted this baby to live. Not to come back to life from a miscarriage – but to live on, hidden in her mother’s heart. That was so important because the Muslims in my country subscribe to the belief that a foetus is just a clump of cells until the third or fourth month. That is why they seldom trouble themselves to do all the right things in the first trimester. That is also why many here think nothing of aborting a baby at this time – or even later. Even for those who lose a child for whatever reason, due to religious edicts against mourning, combined with a cavalier attitude towards the preciousness of life, that loss and that child is soon cast out from memory. They see grieving as weakness, not love.

          I didn’t want blatant lies to take root in my friend because lies devastate and kill the body and ultimately, the soul.

          So, I shared with her a truth I had come to learn:

That her baby would always love her.

And that they would meet some day.

          I didn’t tell her how I knew. That would have to be her journey. I just placed my words in the Spirit and released them from my heart. Still, I feared my words would seem strange to her, and that when the gaggle of so-called chums returned to feed on her sorrow, they would bury that wee baby and not allow it to live.

          Nonetheless, it was vital that I do what I had to do. And so I did.

          Surprisingly, so very surprisingly, my friend took my words to her heart once more.

          And then, she told me about my Christian gynaecologist and how he had helped her and her husband, who was very emotional, to understand what had happened. He didn’t shove the painful details out of sight, he didn’t assume they weren’t bright enough to understand. Instead, he gently walked with them as they came to terms with their pain and regret.

         Even at the end of such a harrowing day, this Muslim girl, raised in a climate of crippling suspicion and mistrust, could testify in love and joy, that a Christian doctor was the best. And then, she told me that despite the loss, the world suddenly seemed like a brighter place.

Jesus had truly touched her through the doctor!

          In a whisper of a moment, I went from sadness to exquisite joy! A baby had gone and yet, here I was shot through with gentle arrows of sun~bright happiness. I couldn’t understand my own feelings but it was clear that all 3 of us – this lady, her husband and I – were filled with a sudden, inexplicable light.

          In one moment, it came to me:

This is what the hope of heaven is like.

          Christian hope is not always privy to what lies beyond the bend, it knows not today what the morrow will bring. Yet it blooms, even in death, when we choose life as God wills. My friend and her husband had made that terrible, anguished journey to the city to save a baby that their faith did not fully acknowledge but whom their hearts had loved from that first day of knowing. That selfless Christian doctor they saw had said the words they needed to hear to keep their grieving hearts open to God’s gift of life.

         And even if her womb never loves another baby, I hope I helped my friend to understand that she is now a mother too, with one wee baby patiently waiting for her.









Lent 1 ~ Voice from Lourdes


          From a few weeks back I’ve been praying about Lent this year. For some sign, for direction. A prayer maybe, or better still, a book. But nothing came. I went to bed the night before Ash Wednesday with a mound of prayers left by God’s door. Well, not really prayers, but just one, said over and over:

Give me a Word at least.

And just before sleep claimed me, Our Lady of Lourdes, let me hear Your voice.

          No book, no discourse. No soft, sweet voice either. So, one single word for Lent, it wasn’t much that I was asking for.

          A busy day came and went. I received no Word from God on this 1st of Lent – although I did have a far quieter heart and strength not mine for a long and difficult day.

          Then, late in the evening, despite prayers and attempts at hope, we received news of a setback. I tried to bravely accept this setback involving my son, and live out my faith as I should, but I faltered after a few hours of make-believe.

          Rather than hide my tottering column of faith and compound matters further, I took my disappointment, the whole cart of it, and dumped it before God.

          Why, I demanded angrily, why did You not answer our prayers in the way we wanted? What was so wrong with our prayer that You chose to answer it in the negative? I thought of my boy, his long struggle, and now, trying so hard to be strong in the face of defeat.

How do I mend his broken heart? I hurled my anger and sorrow at God.

          Heaven did what it does best – it remained silent.

          Some hours later, still hurting and confused but trying to surrender and accept, I told God through gritted teeth,

Let my hurt be, but hold my son close to You. Do not forsake him. Bind his heart to Yours.

          I had some minutes to myself. Wanting to take my mind off things, I reached for the book I am reading now. But my gaze strayed to another – Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul by St. Faustina Kowalska. I had no intention whatsoever of choosing Divine Mercy in My Soul – I wanted cheering up and that was sure not the book to get the lark singing in my heart.

          However, something began to pull and tug at my conscience. It’s Lent, you know, hissed an exasperated voice from within me. Choose the Diary – for the sake of Lent.

          Still at war with God, I thought of my Ash Wednesday. It had been a day like any other, filled to the brim with endless work and another round of hurt. I didn’t have anything for my Lord, not even on this day when He asks to be consoled. No Lent prayer. No Lent meditation. Now, the day was drawing to its close. Clouds clustered together in the purple night skies, softly weeping. What was a few last minutes given to Jesus?

          I dropped my book and picked up Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul. Give me a Word, Lord. You speak so much to the saints, why won’t You say just one Word to me? I threw one last dart of a grumble in God’s direction.

          Opening the book to a folded page, a bookmark fell out from elsewhere. It was a prayer card someone had left in our pew after the blessing of the sick on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes back in February.

A Message to the Sick

Cheer up,

God is with you

You suffer

it is true,

But He is near you.

Trust in Him.

If He has let you suffer,

It is because He sees something good in it,

which today you do not know.

Your peace of mind is in your

“Trust in God”

Who can never let you down.

          I went still reading those words. Not a prayer, but a message to the sick. Message – as if fully expecting that I’d likely dismiss it if it said ‘prayer’.

          Message – as in words sent by someone.

          For Ash Wednesday, I had asked for a Word from God. He gave me Words.

          I asked to hear Our Lady’s voice. She answered me through the healing message of Lourdes.

          The moment I heard Her voice, my spirit ceased its struggle. I saw what I could not accept in the earlier hours when the dry branches of winter tore at our hearts. I saw that the setback we experienced today was God’s answer to our prayers – as well as His answer to my son’s toil and struggle. Strange and unfair as it appears to our earthly sight on this side of heaven, while I cannot yet see how this disappointment is good for us, God certainly can and He knows the hidden value of a great and good gift.

Trust in God.

          I lay down my sword. And with it, my heart.




Tearing Winds


          It hit without warning. Just like the last time. But this time it hit with a violence that had me gasping.

          On the morning of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I awakened very early to an unearthly silence in my heart. And an unsettling feeling, but nothing I could put my finger on. It was not a premonition, no uneasiness. Just a fleeting troubling of inner waters. Of something riding in on the crest of slight waves – there, yet not making itself seen.

          Within the hour, a terrible wind had been loosed in my heart.

          It smashed and rammed against every part within. In its immense power to cow and subdue, these winds tore and ripped my spirit to shreds. On and on and on, it hit and hit, keening from one corner to the other.

          And I could only sit in stupefied silence, frozen in shock at what I was sensing. I scanned every landscape of action and inaction, sin and prayer alike I had crossed in recent days, searching for the abyss from which these ferocious gales awakened. But I could find no discernible start point. No actual fall that unleashed them.

          And then, it got too hard to even think or recall; the ripping inside was horrendous.

          Suddenly, in the swirling dark, I found my prayer~will. Or rather, what tatters that remained of it. Clutching at them, I gasped out prayers: the Hail Mary, snatches of the Divine Mercy Chaplet, the 7 Dolours, even my own chaplets.

          And every one of those prayers were unfinished, snatched from my heart by those howling winds.

          For hours the struggle played out.

           This was so different. Different from anything before. It was tearing, tearing at my soul. The world around me was in its usual motion. As far as I could see, what was happening with me wasn’t affecting anyone else. The calls to work and home and life – chimed in normalcy. No madness there. And in it I was functioning normally, efficiently even. No one looking at me could have seen a difference in me. Chores got settled, work got seen to. All that needed to be done got done, and no shadow of delay fell across my hours. No meltdown, no tears, no daze either. The shock and tumult I was experiencing within was hidden; I did not even need to make a stab at concealment – the storm inside was not visible to eye. It was as if I tread two worlds, one visible, and one not and that to do it was normal.

          I thought of the words I received the previous week – Flee to the hills. Did I fail, I wondered? It certainly felt that way. It didn’t feel like I had reached the sanctuary of the hills. I didn’t feel safe. It was more like I had been caught in the very winds I had been told to flee from.

What winds were these? 1 Kings 19 came to me:

          Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; 12 after the earthquake, fire—but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound.

…..a strong and violent wind ….but the LORD was not in the wind…

          So, in all likelihood, this was not a wind from heaven. Thank God for that, I thought. But it didn’t feel like something unleashed from hell either. The spectre of dark malevolence was missing from it.

          Deeply weary, I had reached the point where I did not know what to think. And I did not care to probe further. But for some odd reason, always having been one to flee things, I did not even want to escape this.

          I just wanted the prayer for it. All that mattered to me was that I be given my weapon for it. In addition to the others, I surmised that there had to be another prayer – for the present moment.

          While waiting, I kept on with the Hail Mary’s. And repeatedly invoked Our Lady of Lourdes – I knew She could hear me. If it was a dark wind, it was after my spirit, and I didn’t want victory to go to the dark.

          That was when an old, old prayer fell into my heart like a light.

Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.

          Stunned for a split second, I lunged for it. In a relief so deep, I repeated it, over and over.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

Into Your hands I commend my spirit.

          Suddenly, the mad, tearing tumult stopped. In a heartbeat, the winds had died down. I was stunned. It had been stopped by the Prayer of Spirit Safekeeping that I was led to through the doorways of the Holy Rosary and the Chaplets.

          It was late in the following day when I felt a soft whisper alight on my heart, but didn’t stay long. I hadn’t recovered from the tearing of the previous day; everything felt painfully empty inside. So, I wasn’t in the mood to go over what had happened during the hours of Lourdes.

          And yet, two to three more times, that silken gentleness came to caress my spirit. Finally, I turned to it. I saw someone’s face in my mind.

Tell her.

          I was to take this experience and press it into this person’s heart.

          I groaned. The person concerned had enough on her plate without this madness added to it. I wanted to give hope to others, not burden and weigh them down.

          And yet, once more, it came: Tell her.

          In the dark sable hours of the night, I walked back to the experience and found the words for it for an email. Halfway around the world they went, to this beautiful soul. She read it and immediately brought clarity and understanding of the experience to me. God’s emissary told me I had been given a foretaste of what is to come. It was not of the past nor the present. This was why when I examined my conscience, I could find no open manhole to blame.

The tearing winds were from the future.

          When one is led through such a troubling, there’s a heavy weight of responsibility attached to it, because nothing happens without a reason. When you are given a glimpse of the future, it is so you act in His Will in a way you might not, under normal circumstances. As I read this golden soul’s words again and again, I knew with a certainty that whatever was coming, was coming for our spirits. That was the ultimate prize. In no way was this a new revelation. From the birth of the word of God, this has been the siren sounded to man: the alerting of a vicious ripping away of souls, an alerting repeated through the approved Marian apparitions around the world.

          Up till now, I had only heard and read of this coming terror. Maybe the experience of 12 Nov 2015 had something to do with it too. But on the Feast of Lourdes of 2017, I truly felt its outer winds.

          It is no mere suffering that is coming. Even severe suffering might not suffice to explain what lies ahead. This is different.

          It is the Warning. And it will rip and tear our spirits beyond what we can ever imagine.

          Having understood this much, this time I flee. No backward glance. But I flee not to save myself alone; I try to carry others. I flee and fall into the prayer Jesus taught me on Sept 14th, 2015 – on the Feast of Triumph of the Cross – Mother, into Your hands I commend my spirit.  His own words on the Cross, but it was now to be prayed to His Beloved Mother – Mary.

          Back then, the prayer was just for me. Now it was for every soul on earth. 









          A gentle press on my soul on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Light and undemanding. So, I read on St Bernadette to commemorate the feast.

          When the hours had grown old, I left the feast day, and moved on to other things.

          But something lingered, holding on to my spirit.

          Searching, trying to discern, I sensed it was connected to the Lourdes water, specifically. Sensing a call, I turned it over in my mind, and waited for more illumination.

          Then, today, it came, on a breath of blue.

          Immerse souls, dying and lost, in the healing waters of Lourdes.

          I was ready to obey. As we recited the family Rosary, I felt another interior tug. Why the Water of Lourdes? Understandably for its miraculous healing powers, but there was a sense of something more. I went over what I knew of the apparition, and the beginnings of the stream that St Bernadette had dug. I pictured her there, on all fours, parting the earth, oblivious to the mocking of the gathered crowd.

          What was the source of the water? I asked as I prayed on.

          Then, for no reason, not besieged by any emotion or storm of heart, my eyes filled with sudden tears. What is the water of Lourdes that it has this power to heal?

          And then I knew.

          Tears of the Mother.

          Immerse souls, dying and lost, in the tears of the Mother.

LENT 1 ~ Humble, Holy, Hidden


          Whenever the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes gently asks remembrance, my thoughts always lead to the Lourdes seer, St Bernadette Soubirous, and the three little goldpearls which describe this saint and her life ~ Humble, Holy, Hidden. A life led only to seek God, taking nothing for herself – no accolade, no comfort, no elevation.

          In my mind, I see my plans and ambitions, the career moves I pursue. The prayers prayed against the holy will of God. I recall my anger and disappointment at thwarted hopes. In my responses, in each of them, I had cast aside humility ~ the diamond of heaven, seeking instead the false gold of the world. It is a dangerous foolishness I have sought with vigour, but must now desist if I am to see heaven some day.

          For St Bernadette, God was her only consolation through poverty, suffering, sorrow and humiliation because she allowed herself no other comfort. God was the only light she yielded to. 

My God I love You, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength.

          Hers is a journey I am beginning only now. To make God my all, as Bernadette once did. But how hard it is, how deep the craggy rocks of obedience and holiness cut into my bare soles. The pain is felt ever so deeply because I do not love enough. Too much of me is still attached to this world and its sordid allures. Yet, although I have not completely surrendered to the will of my Lord, I can at least pray her prayer to pave the way. My God I love You, with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength. And even if my heart has not fully yielded, it will begin to.

          This journey of mine, into the heart of God, must be hidden, for the most part. Hidden to not incur unnecessary derision and hurt. Hidden to protect me from pride. Hidden to keep my seeking pure, unsullied by blighted sight and impure motives. This hiddenness costs me, though. It brings with it loneliness and aloneness. The steeper the climb gets, the fewer the companions, lesser the comfort of pilgrim empathy and understanding.

          This journey of the soul, from earth to heaven, should never be like an interrupted train journey, undertaking and disembarking on a whim although it pauses at many stations, weakening at the behest of capricious winds. It is one that calls for resoluteness and stoicism, though many its tumbles and falls. Humble, holy, hidden is an arduous, yet joyful journey, leading to an embrace of life that will see heaven some day and bring souls the peace yearned for – that which surpasses understanding.