Repentance

A Father’s Prayer

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          There are days in my life when, like anyone else’s, everything stills. Further back in the week, there were a couple of such days when the breezes stirred not and no birds brought their song close to us. There was no unease within me at this odd quietening, though; there’s a time for everything, I figured, even for winds and birdsong.

          Today, things are a little different. The softest of breezes gently finger the windchimes hanging right outside our living room, and birds come by to chatter before winging off. And yet, a deep stillness permeates the air unlit by sunshine. This watchful stillness stretches its presence into my heart, rendering to silence the many voices there.

          But from that silence floats up a single prayer,

Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been

         I can’t help but smile a little. A few short days ago, I was reminded of a little story about my spiritual father, St. Padre Pio. Two young girls had gone to his friary to attend Mass. Spending the night there before Mass the next day, they had heard about St. Pio’s advice to people to send their guardian angels to him with their prayers. Wanting to put it to the test, the girls spent the night sending their guardian angels to St. Pio with various prayer requests. The next day, when they went to St. Pio to seek his blessings, he grumbled good naturedly, telling them he had been kept up all night by their angels.

          Remembering that story, I decided to do the same. There were a few very important things I needed help with. So, I sent them with my guardian angel, telling him to take my prayers to St. Pio, all through the day, every day, until I received my answer. And then, I tucked in a final entreaty: that I be given the prayer I am to pray, given all that I am asking for.

          This morning, with the sun busy with his own thoughts, in that soft stillness, that tiny vine of an old prayer stole into my heart.

Jesus, forget and forgive what I have been

          Although I didn’t seek it, nevertheless, as the prayer uncurled itself, I felt a name written on my heart. Padre Pio. Although I had forgotten what I had prayed for, clearly my spiritual father hadn’t.

          As I remembered my beloved St. Pio and quietly said the prayer, the sun pierced through the fleeces to place upon us his benediction.

Lent 9 ~ How Do I Come Home?

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          The turbulent days behind me, I am now in a place where the winds keep counsel among the sodden trees. Even when they occasionally blow by my path, it is in careful, measured breaths. The skies sob in bursts and fits, but it is not for this that the winds mourn.

          It is because I chose to rebel against God and His Will.

          Since that rebelling, I had gone to the hours of my day. I had been very busy. There was much to do and much that I got done. I came to the end of the work day satisfied.

          Yet, there had been a serrated edge to the day. Because a wound had been sewn up but stitched up roughly because I chose to rebel. I had given in to a wounding by heaven but I had given in in anger.

          Old anger always looks different in the morning after.

          Still, remorse sits distantly within me. I know I have sinned but if it happened again, I’m not sure I would choose another path of response and reaction. I don’t know if I am even capable of it. I think of Jesus~in~my~heart. I feel He is near. Heaven has not shut its doors against me despite where I chose to go.

          But something keeps me from throwing myself into His arms. There is a breach between us. I am rooted to my side. I do not know how to cross over.

          How do I come home? I ask the air about me. The night hours take my question but no answer do they yield. I think of all the saints close to my heart – Padre Pio, St. Francis of Assisi, St. John Bosco. I think of taking their hand and asking them to lead me back to God. But the thought mists away as soon as it comes, as if brushed away by an unseen hand.

          Then, I think of Mother Mary and my thoughts stop there. No words knit to form my plea. I sense none is needed. I sense I must let it be for now.

          In the early grey morning, a tiny silver bell slides across my spirit. It chimes,

Adoration.

          That is the way home.

 

 

Vigil of Repentance

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          On a quiet day this week, just as a gentle dawn was rising from its east, I was sliced through my heart. I had a dream. In it, someone called me Widow.

          I shot out of the dream in severe shock. The minute I awakened, I felt a wall come up between my present hour and the dream. For a long time, that has been God’s sign to me, marking the difference between a dream that is a warning and one that is a premonition of a coming, certain reality. Yet, this time, it gave me no comfort. I held my sleeping husband, weeping silently, begging God not to take him. But I couldn’t hold in the silent screams for long. A wild restlessness tore at me.

          I rose and ran to God. Weeping and weeping, in deep fear, I gripped my Rosary and buried my torment in the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

For the sake of His Most Sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Please, don’t take him, Lord,  Please, don’t take him,  Please, don’t take him.

           All through the first decade of the chaplet, I pleaded and begged for my husband’s life to be spared. I distinctly heard voices from the side asking me what right did I have to ask not to be widowed when so many others had suffered this same grief. Did I think I was so special that I could choose my Crosses?

          Even in that mind-numbing sorrow of what I saw in the dream, guilt taunted me. Was I rejecting a Cross God wanted me to suffer for His sake?

          Who was I to think I did not deserve that suffering? asked the voices.

          Then, somber, old lights began to stream before me. Memories of odd happenings recently – all related to marriage and family. Things I hadn’t understood. Things that had worried me. Did they all portend this terrible, terrible grief?

          Fear rose like a black storm and began to violently pound my heart.

          Desperately, I clung tighter to the Chaplet prayers. Then, I saw the millions of times I had sought to save my own peace and left my husband to his struggles. The times I had little patience for him. The times, uncountable number of times, I had taken his love and sacrifices for granted. And now, that love was going to be taken away forever.

          I repent.   I repent.   I repent.

          Forgive me, O Lord, I have sinned, I sobbed to my God who had given me the greatest gem in the man I had married so many years ago. A man I loved with all my heart, yet took for granted as deeply too.

          Praying the Divine Mercy chaplet before the Miraculous Image on my wall, praying it like one demented with fear and grief and remorse, I went into the second decade.

          At the tenth, a personal sign, these words streamed before me ~

 The Illumination of Conscience

          That precise moment the words unfurled, the black wave of fear receded. In its wake, a sudden stillness.

          I raised my head and looked at the Miraculous Image before me.

          Was this what this was about? The Illumination of Conscience. The Warning. I thought of the unknown, unseen feminine voice I had heard in the midst of a Rosary a year ago – The event of the Warning will begin with the Annunciation. I was not told the year, but I recalled how I had forgotten the Feast of the Annunciation this year, only to be reminded of it by angels. On and on their bells had tinkled until I took notice and asked why. Why was I reminded? Was it merely to observe the Feast?

          Or was it because, as the voice had spoken, it heralded the beginning of the falling of a Luminescence beyond words – into hearts?

          In a way I cannot explain, terrible, horrendous though my morning dream and subsequent suffering was, I just knew that was merely the first rays of that Day of the Sun. The first rays – and yet the nails that tore at me were severe beyond words.

          As I sat, stilled and in thought, in that unlit pool of revelation, no relief flooded through me. It was as if my frightened spirit had moved beyond that primal seeking. Comfort didn’t matter anymore. Instead, every part of me stared at my sin of ingratitude.

          Slowly, stealthily, I sensed a stirring from the side. Other memories sidled into my consciousness. Voices from the past. Warnings to be financially prepared. The naming of beneficiaries. Writing of wills.

          I turned my gaze away from my sin and looked to my side.

          Suddenly, suddenly, the black tempest of minutes before tore back into place, wrenching and spinning my heart in widening circles of freezing, choking fear. Gone was the stillness of the tenth. Gone was the calm. In its place, the madness that only abject fear can invoke.

           It was the ravaging of sanity that comes when we take our eyes off the Cross.

          I reared back, stunned. My spirit stared at the two contrasts – my inner state as I stood by the Cross and wept over my sins. And the other – when I turned and moved away from the Cross.

          I knew immediately that the practical preparedness of putting our combined finances in order – which seemed so right – was wrongIt was right, it had to be done, but it was NOT what God wanted me to keep my gaze on now. And yet, it was what the voices from the side were calling me to.

          Immediately, I wrenched back the eyes of my spirit from the side it was distracted to. I returned to my rightful post – by the streams of remorse and repentance. Here, despite the crushing pain over my falls, I did not feel as if I was being whipped and flung around in an unstable  vortex.

          I held my rose~beads resolutely once more, determined to face His Light and have it burn away my ingratitude for the gift of my husband. As I begged God for forgiveness,  God placed other sins before me. He showed me the dark extents I had allowed my anger when hurt to stream out into.

          He made me face the very many times I had wished the same pain of loss I had suffered upon those I had tried to love but who had hurt me when I had done no wrong to them.

          God placed face after face of my victims before me. Those who had knifed me when I was at my lowest. Those whom I had wished  would come to know the same sorrow that had pierced my own soul ten years ago, and to know the violence of that grief to its fullness. I had wished this upon others despite knowing it by its name – REVENGE. I had wished it not out of mere spite. Not because I couldn’t bear their joy while I walked the valley of grief; I had wished it so they would weep as I did.

          And so, stop hurting me.

          But in the eyes of God, that didn’t change the name of my sin. That others had struck me first. That I was merely reacting to their wounding. It didn’t mellow its stain on my soul. It remained as REVENGE.

          As He unmasked the dark inside me, I heard the words of my dream again, saw the reel rewind and play back. But this time, I felt the pain I had wished upon others.

How terrible that pain felt when it befell me.

          In my anguish at what I saw, I felt God was not unmasking enough. And so, I went within deeper, uncovering more and more victims of my particular anger. It was as if I was baring all to God, saying to Him – There are more, there are more!

          I’ve always struggled with an entire chaplet of the Divine Mercy prayed in one sitting but this morning, I went through two. Suddenly, nothing was too little or too difficult for expiation of sin when I was given a taste of the agony I wanted others to feel.

          The bitter morning dream had come on the last day of my novena to St Joseph – to plead that my heart – and the hearts of all I carry within mine – be prepared for the Illumination of Conscience. The dream was St Joseph’s answer to my prayers. But it was not a gentle answer from the Gentle Spouse of Mary. The dream felt like a spear through my heart. Because no other gentler means would have wrought this vital repentance. 

          I now repent, heart and soul, for what I have done to others in the secret of my heart.

          I repent for the times I led others down the dark path by my example of anger.

          And I repent of the way I treated my beloved husband. 

          Because of the dream, life will never be the same again. There will now be a shadow where there was none before. I will henceforth always look to coming hours with fear. I will fear delays. Fear the unanswered calls. Anything which separates my husband and I, even the most innocuous, will be a steel band that cuts into my heart.

          I will fear if everything is the last of lasts.

          Becoming a widow is no longer something I can block out. It will from now become the shadow that follows me everywhere. But I know I am not called to mere fear. That is a call that comes from the side. That is distraction. Even if the ice of dread manacles my heart from this day on, I am called to a different vigil to await the Illumination of Conscience.

          For by this dream, I have been given a foretaste of God’s judgment of my sins in the coming Illumination. My place is by the Cross of remorse.

          My vigil has begun. My vigil is that of Repentance.

 

 

 

Day of the Sun

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Prayer for Protection from Despair
by St. Claude de la Colombiere

Lord, I am in this world to show Your mercy to others.
Other people will glorify You
by making visible the power of Your grace
by their fidelity and constancy to You.
For my part I will glorify You
by making known how good You are to sinners,
that Your mercy is boundless
and that no sinner no matter how great his offences
should have reason to despair of pardon.
If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.

          On this morning which night rains have rendered green and silver, the last three lines of the prayer settle gently but deeply, pressed by an Unseen hand into my spirit. The lines go beyond a nudge towards humility. They hold a meaning deeper than caution.

          The last three lines tell me the little trees have meaning. Wee trees, always hidden before, that have suddenly, and oddly, stood out in the forests of my every days. As I coursed through the busy hours of each day, these little trees caught my attention, but when pursued, misted out of discernment’s reach.

          These trees were sometimes random words. Words that caught my heart in a fleeting vice of cold. Pines. Palms. Bridge. Snake. Flood. Hills. Wedding garments. Wedding feast. They were colours. Bright orange. Red. Black. Numbers. 370. 10. 2017. They were certain birdcalls. Warm, robust winds that occasionally rendered my heart and spirit still and watchful.

          The smell of roses when there were none. Bits and bites of dreams becoming reality.

          Sudden, unexpected occasions of contrition.

If I have grievously offended You, My Redeemer,
let me not offend You even more
by thinking that You are not kind enough to pardon Me.

          These last words press into my faltering spirit the urgency of repentance and conversion and the grace of unwavering faith. They tell me I have not misinterpreted the speed of events unfolding, that I have not overreacted.

          The Day of the Sun is indeed coming. The winds of that Sun are already here. I have begun to pray a prayer I have never before prayed.

           That our lamps be trimmed in readiness. That I and everyone I hold in my heart be not taken by surprise.

          And finally, that in the aftermath of the Illumination of Conscience, love prevails over despair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiven

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          How long have I waited for October 13 of this year – 100 years after the Final Great Fatima Apparition, waited in hope of a sign that the God I knew was there was indeed there. Like every other broken being, I needed  a special assurance of God. For the now. For the weave of journeys that lie ahead.

          Here, rain wept into the earth from the eve, well into the deep hours of the 13th. It was like 1917 all over again and my hope deepened. I held on to this sign because inside me, I sensed a shifting, and it was going where I did not want it to go.

          As I waited for a sign or a miracle of some sort, my spirit was headed towards the unpleasantly familiar numbing deadness, which no sun nor rain could rouse.

          I didn’t want this numbed spirit. Not now more than ever. I wanted every bit of me to be fully alive to savour the mystical memory of October 13, 1917. I wanted to touch that day a hundred years ago with my spirit, and seal my brokenness to the hope and life that had flooded into the many souls there that great day, a hundred years before.

          All day long, I clawed the air trying to keep death away from my spirit.

          Sadly, so preoccupied was I trying to hold air in my hands, that I failed to keep watch over my living in the hours of the day. Keeping an eye on the grey~shrouded skies for a Fatima miracle, I let slip words and thoughts in caustic comments and snide jokes that should never find berth in any Christian soul.

          Hours later, orange breezes gently danced in to sweeten the somber winds of the aging day. And to illuminate for me the rutted track along which my day had fallen.

          It was then that my numbed and disappointed heart learned two sorrows.

          That the miracle I had primed my waiting for was not coming that day.

          And a worse one – that even had it come, I would have been found wanting, because I had sullied my garments by dipping into pools I had no business going by.

          How easy it was to be distracted, to lose sight of the goal – love of God, love of neighbour. How easy it was to scan the skies for light and yet not see God in my fellow men. How easy to slip and fall, a stray thought, a joke here, an observation there.

          When so many other humble souls had spent the day in Masses and Adoration and prayers to love as Mary had, in pursuing my wayward will, I had set up watch by the wrong harbor, waiting for a ship that was not meant to be.

          And worse, like the bridesmaids of old, who had been waiting for the Bridegroom but failed to keep watch over their conscience, I had soiled my waiting hours in reckless speech and empty mirth.

           When it dawned on me just where I had allowed myself to go, I didn’t try to evade the bite of remorse that cut deep. While the incense of Fatima must have risen hidden in a great many spirits all over the world, I sang the dirge of lament for the stain I had allowed on my soul. Will I ever, ever learn to choose silence and restraint over unnecessary chatter and empty laughter? Will I ever resolutely seek the inner cloister over social circles that have never known or will ever care to know Christ?

          Will I ever learn that to see God, I must love my brethren as Christ did?

          Over and over, hidden from earthly eyes, I tossed and turned over my sin.      

          Yet, this time, despair was not my lot. I was determined to admit my wrong at the only Knee that welcomed saint and sinner. Because I knew that only there would I find Pure love and Supreme forgiveness. Over and over, I went before the Seat of Mercy. I allowed nothing to distract me from this secret pilgrimage. As hour latticed into hour, every time the angels placed the memory of my transgression before me, my spirit knelt before the Miraculous Image.

Forgive me, Lord. Forgive me.

          Suddenly, my spirit straightened to attention. 

          The thorn of remorse had been silently plucked from my spirit. Noiselessly, no stirring of the air did I sense.

          It was gone. In a breath of a moment, I had been forgiven.

 

 

 

 

Their Tears

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          For ever so long, what I’ve wanted most is to not cry over anything anymore  because there’s been enough shed for two lifetimes.

          Yet, in the strangest twist of yearning, my heart is asking for more tears.

          I have had this yearning before, and two days ago, it whispered by my heart again,

Grant me the grace of remorse, I had asked.

          Remorse – because I’ve often wondered why is it that I’ve never been stricken to the core, or cut to the heart – over my sinfulness. I’ve been tossed about and troubled mightily alright over my various wrongdoings, but secretly, there has always been that puzzlement as to why the shadow of callousness is never too far away from my repentance.

          If I am truly repentant, why isn’t it more ….full? Why do I keep sensing the element of hardness in me, even as I admit and acknowledge my wrongs? Such questions sometimes beat against my heart like a trapped bird. 

          And from the Feast of the Assumption this year, those same questions have come by slightly more insistently.

          Yesterday, a strange storm stirred up the waves within me. Try as I did, I just could not put my finger on the why of it. I raked through every event and action of the day, and nothing seemed to stick. On and on it progressed, till the churning weighed heavy and deeply within me. With the beginnings of desperation, I fled to the only place I believed held the answer or at least, the appeasement: the Shrine of the Divine Mercy in Cracow, Poland – streamed live around the world.

          No sooner had I settled my spirit in front of the Miraculous Image, when a vine of small roses was tumbled into my spirit:

Forgive me, Lord, I have sinned.

          It was a sunburst out of nowhere. What sin? I am, without doubt, riddled with sin, but what specific sin had tossed my spirit about so forcefully? Again, I went through my day. Again, nothing made sense. Finally, it got too much. I was weary, and it had been a long day. Rather than claw the air for answers, it was oddly far easier to bend my spirit into humility. And so I prayed in obedience the words the angel had misted before me,

Forgive me, Lord, I have sinned.

          Over and over. Not understanding anything, not really caring anymore, but unable to resist the strange, powerful force of that simple prayer of supplication. Forgive me, Lord, I have sinned… Forgive me, Lord, I have sinned… Forgive me, Lord, I have sinned.

          The minute I wove the prayer through my heart, I felt relief wrap its arms around my spirit. Gone were the wild tempests. Gone was the dead weight of the unseen grief that had come out of nowhere and taken me captive. 

          I awoke this morning to the petals of the previous day scattered on the ground. Sifting through them, once more, nothing made sense. Yet, I knew I hadn’t imagined it; something powerful had happened.

          Nothing became clearer until the night hours, distant rain~dewed breezes weaving quiet paths through our trees. Over at Susan Skinner’s blog, Veil of Veronica, she had a new post up – Harden Not Your Hearts. The fingers of my heart traced the words.

          I sensed a movement, and then it was gone.

          Reading on, I saw the words, I am Our Lady of Sorrows.  My heart is Sorrowful.  My son’s heart is Sorrowful…..embrace your cross and truly receive.  This is how you console our hearts….Be contrite.  Be thankful.  Do not be afraid.  Receive what My Son gives you.  ~ The Immaculata

          The words swarmed before me. Suddenly, I knew my questions, my puzzlement, had its answer here, right here, in the words the Mother of God spoke through Susan! But I could not comprehend a single thing. I understood the words, and yet, paradoxically, I understood nothing.

          I ran to my prayer nook. Give me my prayer, Lord. May the prayer enlighten me.

          I lost my breath a bit the moment the prayer of enlightenment I asked for came ~

 

Hail Mary, Full of Sorrows
favored by Bl. Pope Pius IX

Hail Mary, full of sorrows, the Crucified is with Thee: tearful art Thou amongst women, and tearful is the fruit of Thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of the Crucified, grant tears to us crucifiers of Thy Son, now and at the hour of our death.

(Bl. Pope Pius IX desired this prayer to be said with contrite heart in honour of the most holy Virgin in her desolation.)

          Grant tears to us. My mind raced to the vine of prayers that had treaded through my days since the Feast of the Assumption.

Grant me remorse, I had prayed.

And Heaven’s answer had been that odd heaviness in my spirit, and the prayer – Forgive me Lord, I have sinned.

…..this prayer to be said with contrite heart….. in honour of the most holy Virgin …..in Her desolation.

Be contrite…. Do not be afraid. Receive what My Son gives you.

          In a searing moment, I saw it all. I saw the storm of yesterday. I saw the heavy despondency. I looked at the memory of strange grief that I had sensed was not mine. Receive what My Son gives you.

          That sorrow hadn’t been mine. It had been my Jesus’ and my Holy Mother’s. It had been placed on my soul in response to my plea for the grace of repentance for myself. I had prayed to be able to grieve in fullness over my fallen~ness. But God knew I was asking for a grief I was not capable of mustering.

         And so, Son and Mother gave me Their Tears, that I may learn, for the briefest of hours, the depth of Heavenly grief.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rain for a Fire

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          For days, I had been in a pot-o’er-the-fire, in a stew of my own making: I had thoughtlessly spoken and hurt someone. I felt wretched, yet, in my sin, I boiled more over the repercussions than over my wrongdoing. Trying to douse the flames within, I swam from harbor to harbor, running from the fire seas. Favourite prayers. Favourite saints. Rosary.

          But it seemed like heaven had chosen to maintain a stony stance against me.

          When you hurt someone, you must expect to get hurt back, for that is how many of the wounded manage their pain. Yet, anchored firmly within my obtuseness was the expectation that when I kick, others should absorb. That when I hurt others, even unintentionally, it is the ready roses of forgiveness I deserve.

          As the wild afternoon winds reached for their evening stoops, no rose of peace made root within me. If anything, the tempests scaled the highs. Wearied by the firestorm, I went to sleep by heaven’s door for a while. St Pio, St Joseph, help me, help me, help me, I prayed, before I sank into the knotted nap of one suffering the consequences of upsetting others.

          Roused shortly after, I expectantly reached for the peace I thought would be mine. Instead, heaven remained as closed as before, my hands came away empty. And restlessness resumed its keening. Deep in the frenzied whipping of guilt and hurt, I sought discernment and escape. I went to my favourite blogs. I returned to pearls tucked within the folds of precious mails. I roamed and searched the plains for someone to tell me I had done no wrong.

          I read of clouds and of rain, and longed for the hope of wetness to rend to ashes this terrible fire.  I traced those words and others, and longed for the peace and strength they proffered. Slowly, ever so slowly, since this all began, I learned to stoop, to humble lines in prayer.

          I have sinned against You, I wrote on my heart. I have sinned against You.

          As the nightwinds sang its hymn, I sensed a door crack open, and little leaves wearing orange floated quietly in. One by one, they softly settled on my spirit, and turned me towards Truth. When I made to move away from what I found hard to admit, the winds blew in more leaves through blogs and words I read that night, until they encircled me in the vine of Truth that held the rain of peace I sought for my flames.

          I knew then what I had to do. I stopped trying to escape flames I had stirred to life through my wrong. I sank to the ground, and began to pray the Rosary, weaving through its ancient prayers my own litany of remorse ~ Forgive me, Jesus, for I have sinned. Forgive me, Jesus, for I have sinned. Through each Sorrowful Mystery, I held Jesus’ Feet as the woman once did, yearning for the same forgiveness she received.

          On the last rose~bead, I felt the first sprinkles of rain….