ST FRANCIS OF ASSISI

Go Indoors

cavalos-selvagens-a-galope.jpg

          Sometimes, the most random things we read and shrug off tend to return to us later, more real than before, as if an unseen cloak had been shed. It is then that we realise that it had come earlier to warn, to alert to what was ahead.

          Amidst the wild~yellow weeks when the kingfisher called out in desperation as it raced around my home, I saw the words,

Go indoors.

Over and over and over.

          I knew immediately what it meant.

Storm coming.

Hasten to safety.

Return to family.

Shed the world and its claws. Turn the heart towards the family. Be alert to them and their needs.

          But to know is one thing; to really step back from the world is another. The duties of work these past weeks have been unbelievable, taking almost everything in me. No matter how loudly the blue king pleaded, I could not tear myself away from work. Every time he sounded his warning notes, my heart would look up and I would will him to understand that I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.

          This week, one morning, my blue avian prophet fell silent. It was then that the storm hit. A single lightning bolt. I was out in the plains, in the open field of professional work. There was nowhere to shelter. Had I heeded the saint behind the king, St. Francis of Assisi, I might have been beyond the reach of the worst of that hit. But I hadn’t and so, I wasn’t.

          On the 16th of July, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This year that day, I read a prayer that asked for Her mantle of protection. I’ve read those same words many times before. But this time, they glowed differently. And so, I prayed it with a caution I lacked before. I asked Mother to wrap Her mantle around my family and I.

          Then, I took up my tools and left for the fields.

          Short weeks later, this hit.

          However, this time, I tottered but did not fall. I would have had it not been for the Mantle that held me safe in its securing confines. Careless as I have been in my devotions these past weeks, my heavenly Mother kept Her Mother’s-promise to me. She protected me from a worse wounding.

          The hurt has driven me right into where I should have been – the refuge the blue king has urging me to hasten to.

          Into the heart of family.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Battle

man,-gas-mask,-old-house,-hdr-227859.jpg

          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.

 

 

 

 

 

Thrust Out

crowd-walking-crossing-street-new-york-city-ny-nyc-pedestrian-people_4jwnaalz__F0000.png

          I go to begin another tough day and I begin with a grumble – too much work, too little time, no quiet space, I mutter to myself. It’s been raining ever so often, the capricious skies wet~greening trees with pretty rainpearls. How I love driving past sodden trees, freshened and nourished from rain baths, beautiful beyond compare.

          But I am too much in a rush to prolong Nature’s embrace. Too much work, too little time. I begin the day with a grumble.

          It comes to me that I should take my discontent to the Lord. To ask that my hours  be painted another colour. For a soft moss~bed among flowers for my weary head and heart. After all, I deserve a break as much as anyone else.

          And so I do.

          But this was God’s reply:

May we love our neighbours as ourselves,
and encourage them all to love You,
by bearing our share
in the joys and sorrows of others,
while giving offence to no one.  

~   Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi

 

          No ear for my whine. No pillow for rest. But a firm thrust to go back out unto the highways and byways.

          To gather the poor and the broken for the wedding feast, by loving them as Christ wills me to.

 

 

 

 

Gambler

leigh_gambler

          On Sunday, the 1st of October, I think I sensed a slight tug towards an 8 day Jesuit retreat. By way of spiritual tugs, this must rate as one of the lightest yet for me. Nevertheless, I followed it, researched Jesuit retreats online and all because I thought I needed to begin that day or at the very latest, the next day.

          But I came up empty. I saw things, I read up but the prompts dried up immediately. Then, I prayed to St Francis of Assisi for help as I sensed this retreat was in some way linked to this saint.

          Because in recent days he had come very strongly to tell me to Quieten Down, Listen Up.

         It’s been some days and the wind has remained silent. Another round of poking through the Internet earlier today came up empty as well. When I tried to force the discernment, I could feel an instant inner drying. So, I backed off.

         Until a short while ago. I was watching the news reports on the Las Vegas shootings and heard the word ‘Gambler’ used to describe the shooter.

         Gambler.

          My heart went still. It would be the second time I was hearing that since that incident after Mass 2 weeks ago with my relative. Right after that unpleasantness, an unseen hand began to press that word into my spirit. I didn’t catch on initially but the minute I did, the anger and shock over what had happened retreated into the background. My feelings no longer mattered as much because I knew I was beholding something far worse.

         I turn the word over in my mind. What do I do with this discernment? Pray? Meditate? What? Again, the winds retreat and I am left without an answer.

           If I am meant to be on some retreat, maybe a silent retreat, if Gambler is somehow meant to flag off the start, then I must receive it even if mists cloud the discernment. I can think of no better way than to load up my prayer cart and go before the Miraculous Image.

          Today is the Feast day of St Francis of Assisi. Tomorrow will be St Faustina’s. I’ve called on both recently. I feel both close by today, yet they are not coming any closer. I turn my heart towards them and ask them to accompany me, to stay by my side, to intercede with me as I lay down my prayer cart and its sorrowful contents before the Lord.

         Gambler. Victims. Madness. Death. I press all into the Heart of Mercy.

When Night Falls

          A2.jpg

          It has been quiet weeks. An endless stream of activities with threads of quiet woven through. Busy though I was, I roamed my inner home, very much bare and unadorned. Looked out the plain windows to skies of sunrises and sunsets that seemed to shift and evolve, telling me something I am not able to understand. Something is out there. But completely hidden from me, I thought, mildly vexed. Hidden perhaps because I was not emptied enough. From time to time, though, the mists would part slightly, for the briefest of minutes, and I would be allowed a glimpse of something,  quick flash of understanding, before the breath of angels blew the hazes into place again.

          Lately, mountains have been tugging at me. The mountains of Italy, specifically. When I am stressed, tired, Italian slopes and summits feel like dew on crushed leaves. Why mountains, why Italy – I am not sure. Is it a call to further pull away, and go into God’s heart, as Jesus did?

          And it came to pass in those days, that He went out into a mountain to pray, and He passed the whole night in the prayer of God – Luke 6:12

          I tried it but withdrawing into the mountains to invoke the name of God only worked as long as I was home on leave with the hours to spare; most days, my hectic working life and family needs kept me firmly rooted to the plains. Praying as I worked? Yes, it worked sometimes; often, those prayers dangled like the wash drying in the wind.

          And yet, the bell from the mountains continued to chime its call.

          Holy Mother, teach me what I need to know, I prayed twice when I was done cracking my head over mountains and hills.

          This morning, as the rain-soaked night hours awakened to the blush of a demure sunrise, the Blue King sat on a sodden tree branch by my door and caught my spirit before it scurried into busyness. As I heard his throaty warble which had seldom fallen on my years in the months past, I knew St Francis of Assisi was calling, for this was his sign to me – the call of his blue-robed emissary – the kingfisher. With the same hidden call woven into its avian melody- Quieten Down, Listen Up.

          So, I quieted myself as much as I could. In the stillness of a dew-blessed morning reluctant to bloom pink, I waited.

          And waited.

          There was nothing. The winds chose to play elsewhere. The fat white puffs that ruled over the bright blue skies took my questions but stared back solemnly at me. No answer was forthcoming. But I was hardly troubled. A new kind of quiet had made its home within me in recent days. The pot bubbled a little less.

          When the tangerine evening winds lifted their arms to welcome the sable mists, I had the house to myself for some precious minutes. Into the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I sank my spirit.

          As the minutes streamed into hours, the angel lifted the mists for wee breaths, and Mother Teresa answered my prayer. To go into the mountains was not a journey to be planned and fitted into a schedule. The mountains was a place I was going to be taken to. Lifted by unseen hands, beyond my control, away from comfort and appeasement. Surrounded by beauty and love that would fall upon my eyes and ears and heart, dew that would nourish and strengthen my soul, but not touch my spirit in a way I can feel its consolations. From afar, I am given a glimpse of the ethereal beauty of slopes and summits where I will call home. The peace on those mountains wets and soaks into my spirit now.

          Because the memory of this must sustain me when night falls.

LENT 24 ~ Breath In The Shadows

xCBhr0uY7ttJY7yxGGd2dL31WNg7NimqqUo64e5IyFCUiIiSbp-Yzmytj05W8ZI9-hrb=h500[1]

          A saint loved by millions, it was only late last year that St Francis of Assisi came to mean something to me, as I wrote in Why Him and Call of the Blue King. I will forever remember him as the saint who led me to Our Lady of Guadalupe. And after that, he left.

          After a silence of three months, on Sunday, at Mass, I felt a quick but firm tug of spirit towards St Francis again. I should have been ecstatic, but instead took a deep breath in wariness. Since last year, I have come to learn that when he ‘appears’ to me, it always means – Quieten Down, Listen Up.

          Oh dear, I thought guiltily, I haven’t been good.

          I went towards him, Speak to me, St Francis, signaling my readiness to listen. And I trudged back to the sentry post I had deserted over much of the weekend.

          I didn’t have to wait long. St Francis spoke through a commenter’s sharing that her favourite book was The Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi. I had never heard of it. But something about flowers and St Francis lit a burst of sudden joy within me. To feel this way for no discernible reason could only mean one thing, and one thing only: get the book.

          My first day on Little Flowers, expecting a downy pillow for my spirit, St Francis spoke with an unexpected firmness:

          Beware of being angry, as thou appearest to be; for anger woundeth the soul, preventing it from discerning the truth.  ~ The angel at the gate to Brother Elias, Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi, Part 1, Chapter IV

          Having a low boiling point, anger is always a struggle for me. Of late, sensing something ahead but caught in a shifting fog, not being able to discern, I’ve been praying for discernment. The fog clears, but for a wee while, before it’s waved back again by some entity. I blamed my discernment blights on people, situations.

          Now I know the culprit by its name: ANGER. The red mist that blocks the light of discernment.

          Unseen hands continued to lead me on.

          …the pride of Brother Elias made him unworthy to converse with an angel  Little Flowers of St Francis of Assisi, Part 1, Chapter IV.

          I had hidden a yearning in the deepest folds of my heart:  to see and be able to speak to my angel. I spoke about it to no one. But it was brought to the light. And now, I am told in the silver lance of truth that my pride puts me in the shadows, away from the counsel of angels.

          The arrow has found its mark again….yet again. There’s a part of me that seeks breath in the shadows. It’s not a fight I can ever win on my own.

          For the sake of His sorrowful passion, have mercy on me and on the whole world.

CALL OF THE BLUE KING

Sunrise Easter through cherry tree[1]

One August day, in the violet predawn hours, I was insistently awakened from a deep sleep by the hymn, Canticle of the Sun, the original lyrics of which were attributed to St Francis of Assisi. It was a puzzling experience for me, being one who neither walks through life with a hymn in my heart nor a prayer on my lips. If anything, there’s too often some worldly form of caterwauling in my heart and in my mind – certainly not a hymn.

Hence, to hear strains of hymns, often old hymns, from a place within me, is not something I am overly familiar with. And yet, in recent months, stumbling through the mists of sleep, I have been hearing hymns being sung. Hymns almost forgotten. They haven’t come from any music source. No other Christians here. Just a hushed chorus of unseen voices singing a hymn. And every hymn has had a special meaning, been another signpost in my faith journey.

Sunrise through flowers, Yazoo National Wildlife Refuge, Mississippi

So, I looked up the lyrics to Canticle of the Sun. An ode of praise to God for His gift of nature. As I sang the hymn quietly, Sir Brother Sun lighted up for me, pulsing with an invisible life of its own.

I was being asked to look at the sun. The sun is the sign.

st_francis[1]

Week knit into week, and again, I was led to St Francis of Assisi. Led to read nuggets of his life, sampled his teachings some. But I sensed an air of waiting too. Like I had crossed the threshold into someone’s home and had begun to look around, while my host stood off to one side, waiting patiently and in quiet, for me to finish taking in the sights.

I was soon done with my cursory acquainting with this saint, and I too waited, but my silent host made no move. No word. No hand reached out to me.

Unlike other journeys into other lives I felt compelled to learn about. In those, there was always a tangible leading. And in me, an inner expectancy and anticipation to proceed to the next part of the journey. To delve further, unlock mysteries, find common threads that tie me to someone, something. But not this time. I liked what I had read about St Francis. I pondered some of his words. I liked that he had a friend called Juniper, and that St Teresa had called Juniper ‘Toy of God’. But beyond all that, there was no thirst to know more. No inner agitation to part the veil.

Yet, I knew, St Francis was no passing lantern along a darkened street. He was a light that stood in still, silent wait, illuminating a little of the space around him that I may see. Angels had taken me to him, and they had taken me for a reason. He didn’t beckon that my heart follow him. Perhaps, he wanted me to make even that initial move.

Stairway to Heaven, Assisi

Stairway to Heaven, Assisi

So, I prayed a puzzled prayer twice. St Francis, teach me what I need to know.

And promptly forgot about it in the mayhem of daily busyness.

It came back to me soon enough, this seemingly unanswered prayer. And the moment I recalled the prayer I had winged up, heaven told me it had been answered:

1466281_m[1]

Some days before, up for my dawn Holy Hour, a tiny blue kingfisher on a nearby branch had warbled out an avian melody of joyous welcome. In the hushed stillness of a world still in the last vestiges of sleep, no other sound competed with the little bird of blue as he bade me come to share his dawn. I put down my meditation book, let the prayers slide away. My feather-friend’s serenade to the awakening sun was a gentle chiding that I was not to mute God’s voice through blind adherence to a prayer routine. Through the bell-clear chime of his lilting call, God sent a little blue creature of His to remind me that the morning Holy Hour was not mine to direct but His grace for me. And so, no impediment must I erect to the outpouring of His mercies.

IMG_3623[1]

In the blend of the following days, my blue feathered joy came to visit often, but only in the still silence of gray peach dawns did I hear his call to revere my Lord before his other differently feathered mates joined in the morning chorus to set the grind of the new day in motion.

francis_giving[1]

I had asked, St Francis, teach me what I need to know, and the saint had answered me through the call of the blue king with the rise of the sun, sent forth to fish for my soul, that it may always be free of fetters to worship in freedom the King of Kings.

1395157195001-bird-on-Saint-Francis-of-Assisi[1]

WHY HIM?

wallpaper-1861471[1]

This morning, I was doing some online research, intending to write about how people suffering from illnesses and various infirmities have bravely carried their crosses and become a light to others. Slowly, I began to sense a leading, somehow connected to St Francis, Our Lady, Rosary, Healing, Angels and St Raphael…

In a while, unawares, I felt myself gently placed at the feet of Our Lady of the Angels.

I had never heard of this particular devotion before, so, curious about its origins, I continued to search, and it brought me to St Francis and the budding and blooming of A Call…

20130802-082202[1]

The Portiuncula is an ancient church dedicated to Mary under the title Our Lady of the Angels and is located in Assisi, Italy. It was a spot very dear to the heart of Saint Francis. The Portiuncula was an old church dedicated to the Virgin Mother of God which was abandoned. Francis had great devotion to the Queen of the world and when he saw that the church was deserted, he began to live there constantly in order to repair it.  Some attribute the name of the church to the singing of angels which had been frequently heard there. St Francis too heard that the Angels often visited it, so he decided to stay there permanently out of reverence for the angels and love for the Mother of Christ.

He loved this spot more than any other in the world. It was here he began his religious life in a very small way; it is here he came to a happy end. When he was dying, he commended this spot above all others to the friars, because it was most dear to the Blessed Virgin.

This was the place where Saint Francis founded his Order by divine inspiration and it was divine providence which led him to repair three churches before he founded the Order and began to preach the Gospel.

This meant that St Francis progressed from material things to more spiritual achievements, from lesser to greater, in due order, and it gave a prophetic indication of what he would accomplish later.

As he was living there by the church of Our Lady, Francis prayed to her who had conceived the Word, full of grace and truth, begging her insistently and with tears to become his advocate. Then he was granted the true spirit of the Gospel by the intercession of the Mother of mercy and he brought it to fruition.

He embraced the Mother of Our Lord Jesus with indescribable love because, as he said, it was she who made the Lord of majesty our brother, and through her we found mercy. After Christ, he put all his trust in her and took her as his patroness for himself and his friars.

St Francis died, in his cell, not fifteen yards from the church, at sunset on Saturday, 3 October 1226.

Angels-singing-nativity[1]

PRAYER FOR

FAITH, GRACE & THE INTERCESSION OF OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS

Heavenly Father, You filled the heart  of St. Francis with a special love  for the Mother of Your Son, Jesus, and for the Portiuncula. In this hallowed place You nourished his spiritual life and inspired him to found the Franciscan Order.

Through the intercession of Our Lady of the Angels may we be steadfast in our faith and remain true to You.

Grant us the faith and grace always to do Your will.
Grant this through Your Son, Jesus Christ.

AMEN

 Rosebush-Tree[1]

Why was I brought to this, I wonder. To discover that years before his passing, there was a terrible temptation, a deep struggle, and he sought the pain of rose thorns to stay true to his Jesus. To read, for the first time, that St Francis died on the 3rd of October, and to read it on the very day today.

Why was I brought to this, just after the Feast of the Guardian Angels, Oct 2nd? The stillness in my heart, the gentleness in the leading, unseen hands making a path before me, urging me on…

P1000448[1]

Most of all, why this saint for me?