ST MARGARET MARY ALACOQUE

Lent 18 ~ He Will Give Strength

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          As I was about to receive Holy Communion, our Lord told me that He would come Himself to imprint on my heart the mystical life which He leads in the Holy Eucharist, a life entirely hidden and annihilated in the eyes of men, a life of sacrifice and seeming inactivity. He added that He would Himself give me the strength to do what He required of me.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          Today comes this quote from a saint who has become my work and study companion. She comes just after I prayed for strength to make it through the mountains and deserts, the hills and the valleys, the ups and downs of life.

He will give me strength

          I ask this of heaven for all of us here, for those whom I love and hold in my heart, young and old. We all have our crosses and some days, they will weigh more than other days, perhaps asking more than we can give.

          May He Himself then come, and give us all the strength to do what He asks of us.

Lent 7 ~ Because You Loved Me

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          In all your needs, trustfully have recourse to the divine Heart, and I am confident that our Lord will provide for your wants; but above all be very grateful for the many benefits He has bestowed on you.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          Yesterday’s court case was postponed. On another front, a very important meeting is to be held today to discuss a similar issue. I am not sure how that will go. But along comes my beloved St. Margaret Mary to give me the hope I need. And to gently cup my face and turn it towards the sun.

Be very grateful

          Since last year, this has come to me over and over. Be grateful, be grateful, be grateful. When others suffer, pray for them but above all, pray the prayer of lived gratefulness. For every loss you come to know, go beyond words, go home and embrace what you have been blessed with. Touch the wounds of others through your own gratitude.

Be very grateful

          What else have I not been grateful for? Today, I look over my life, seeking areas gratitude has not touched. Immediately it comes. The trials and tribulations. The sorrows and pain. The grief, the tears. Those terrible valleys where streams of wounding-s flow undeterred.

Be very grateful

          Where do I find the words for this gratitude, I wonder. How do I embrace in truth and sincerity this pain I never want again?

          Once more, barely have the thoughts formed when I see an image flash before me.

          Lean against the Heart of God.

          And I do. And immediately come the words for the gratitude,

You blessed me with those wounds

Because You loved me.

Lent 1 ~ In the Heart of God

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My greatest happiness is to be before the Blessed Sacrament , where my heart is, as it were, in Its centre.   ~  St Margaret Mary Alacoque

          I have been looking forwards to Lent for a few weeks now. Like Christmas, Lent marks an especial time of inner quieting, a time when heaven grants me a singular strength to withdraw from the world and to place my heart into God’s, at Its very centre. 

          Where my journey will take me this year I know not, but no one is ever the same emerging from the time spent in God’s Heart.

Come to Me, Eternal King

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MAKER of all, eternal King,

who day and night about dost bring:

who weary mortals to relieve,

dost in their times the seasons give:

Now the shrill cock proclaims the day,

and calls the sun’s awakening ray,

the wandering pilgrim’ guiding light,

that marks the watches night by night.

Roused at the note, the morning star

heaven’s dusky veil uplifts afar:

night’s vagrant bands no longer roam,

but from their dark ways hie them home.

The encouraged sailor’s fears are o’er,

the foaming billows rage no more:

Lo! e’en the very Church’s Rock

melts at the crowing of the cock.

O let us then like men arise;

the cock rebukes our slumbering eyes,

bestirs who still in sleep would lie,

and shames who would their Lord deny.

New hope his clarion note awakes,

sickness the feeble frame forsakes,

the robber sheathes his lawless sword,

faith to fallen is restored.

Look in us, Jesu, when we fall,

and with Thy look our souls recall:

if Thou but look, our sins are gone,

and with due tears our pardon won.

Shed through our hearts Thy piercing ray,

our soul’s dull slumber drive away:

Thy Name be first on every tongue,

to Thee our earliest praises sung.

All laud to God the Father be;

all praise, Eternal Son, to Thee;

all glory, as is ever meet,

to God the Holy Paraclete. Amen.   St Ambrose of Milan

          Today is the feast of St Ambrose of Milan to whom the prayer/hymn above is attributed and to whom I owe so much. He first came into my heart 2 years ago, with the hymn, Maker of All, Eternal King, at a time when I could barely see or feel my way around life due to exhaustion. He came, cupped my face and lifted my eyes towards heaven. And there, I found the hope that was missing from my days.

          Today, I sought him once more, in the relentlessly drying gullies of my life. While my work has become manageable, my studies have formed a storm of shouts. What was once so interesting and life-giving has become very stressful in recent weeks due to a course I have to take where I am not being given sufficient support by the distracted and rather disorganised lecturer. From not knowing anything, I am forced to practically tutor myself through the course in order to complete assignments. It’s the last thing I wanted, this being Advent especially. I am mourning the days which are too passing quickly, taking with them all the quiet time which Advent brings to me each year. No matter how hard I try, I can do little to hold my hand out and slow the passing of time.

          Into this disquiet I have come, yet in a strange way, I am holding Jesus’ Hand even more tightly. More than ever, I feel I am truly walking on water, somehow making it from hour to hour, despite the churn of waters below me.

          Still, I would exchange it all in a heartbeat for the stillness which would allow me to rest my head against Jesus’ Heart.

I can hardly express my joy at seeing the increase of devotion to the Sacred Heart of my Saviour. I seem to live for that alone. Sometimes such an ardent desire to make It reign in all hearts is kindled within me that there is nothing I would not do and suffer to bring this about.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          So, even this is willed, I realise, and it resigns me to these severe days. This is why I have to endure what I am enduring, this is where it all goes, into the Heart of my Eternal King.

          As the day rises and sets once more, I turn my eyes toward heaven,

Maker of all, Eternal King,

To Thee my work and life I give;

All is Yours, Eternal King, all is Yours

Come and rest in me.

I Will Act

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          Sometimes, even the brightest days can be troubled by ribbons of cold winds. Something just didn’t like seeing me skipping about, and so it brought me a troubling update on my job, to dampen my happiness. I stood still for a bit as I took in the news. It was as real as bad news can be and it was draining away the last vestiges of hope. Then, I made up my mind: It was the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. In honour of Her, despite the news, I decided to make that little leap of faith and willfully choose to cling to Our Lady’s hand. Mother, I prayed, help me trust in Jesus. I returned to my day, brightened again.

          Some hours later, those cold slivers made another attempt to unsettle me. Feeling their presence, I didn’t want to pretend I wasn’t a little anxious. I didn’t want to pretend to be strong. I wanted to be honest with Jesus. And so, I prayed once more. Lord, give me a sign. I am worried and afraid – but I don’t wish to be. Help to me get on with life. Then, I turned to Mother Mary once more. Keep me close to Jesus, Mother. I think I was/am tired of being afraid, of being spooked. There comes a time in every Christian’s life when we realize that the way to really live is to trust fully in Jesus, and I might have finally arrived at this point of realization and of wanting it for myself. Trusting doesn’t suddenly make merry our walk through life. There will still be valleys to traverse and tears to shed. But for me at least, to trust fully might mean a lot less of the inner wobbling I fall victim to so often.

The wavering in trust, as Jesus called it.

          And the minute I made this decision to trust, Jesus answered my prayer for a sign for the way ahead, but in His way. He sent me His beloved emissary, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque,

          I must no longer concern myself about anything it may please my Sovereign Master to do with me and in me; He has told me He will cease to take care of me only when I am preoccupied with self. I have experienced this many times through my infidelity, the outcome of which was the thwarting of my wishes. But I no longer have any desire but to do what He has told me many a time: “Leave it to Me to act.” 

          When I heard Jesus’ words in my spirit, I was infused with a soft yet strong desire to not be a hindrance to my Lord’s work in any way. Jesus wanted me to stop looking over my shoulder and He had shown me the way to do it:

 

Beloved:
Let no one have contempt for your youth,
but set an example for those who believe,
in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.
Until I arrive, attend to the reading, exhortation, and teaching.
Do not neglect the gift you have,
which was conferred on you through the prophetic word
with the imposition of hands by the presbyterate.
Be diligent in these matters, be absorbed in them,
so that your progress may be evident to everyone.
Attend to yourself and to your teaching;
persevere in both tasks,
for by doing so you will save 
both yourself and those who listen to you.   ~   1 Timothy 4: 12 – 16

 

          My fears about our future were being fed by the attention I was giving them. And every time I fed my fear, even a little, I took my eyes off Jesus. But the Jesus who knew me so well also understood that I could not simply force myself to stop fearing; I needed to be focused on something instead. So, He exhorted me to be absorbed in my job and in my studies.

          I immersed myself immediately in both calls. Soon, I could feel the shadows retreat and joy bubbled within me once more.

          As I worked and rested in the deeps of joy, the angels came by to gently lay His promise upon my heart once more.

I will act.

Go Forward On Your Way

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Place over the eyes of your soul the bandage of holy and loving submission to God. . . Thus without reasoning or swerving from your path, go forward on your way.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          St Margaret Mary is a saint I’ve become acquainted with only in recent years. I cannot recall exactly when, but I suspect it was since I began a sincere devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus – for St Margaret Mary is the saint of the Sacred Heart.

          Since God sent her to be my friend, I’ve found that she comes just when I’m about to reach a fork in some road. And so it was this time too. She had come last week, on a very happy Friday, after I had an hours long call with my beloved godmother, talking, sharing and laughing over so many things. I had come out of that call suddenly aware that the deep drying out of my spirit had lifted and that I could feel and touch the sun~joys once more. Happy to be back to my old self, I was nevertheless visited by disquiet when I saw St Margaret Mary’s words,

Place over the eyes of your soul the bandage of holy and loving submission to God. . . Thus without reasoning or swerving from your path, go forward on your way.

 

          Oh, what could she mean? I agonized. Incidentally, there had been a number of things we had been discussing as a family. Decisions were being made and we were weighing everything. But suddenly comes this,

Thus without reasoning or swerving…

          I was so very troubled. Were we wrong about the working decisions we had made? How could we have gone so wrong in discerning? What had we missed? Every time I pondered that together with St. Margaret Mary’s words, my anxiety deepened. Even as tickles and laughter found me, I remained afraid and troubled deep inside.

          Today, just after receiving some sweet news about work, just as I was about to celebrate it, the ground beneath me cracked open slightly with a shocking turn of events. I was cut to the core by what my government had done, by its cruel deceit. Once again, just as it had been with the defenseless old man’s death, anger and hurt found easy entry into my heart. I knew I had every right to be angry.

          But deep down, I also knew it wasn’t God’s way.

          So, I went before the Blessed Sacrament, and deep into Jesus’ Heart, I placed every thorn and wound, every fear and weight. I had barely begun when I sensed an unmistakable lightness. Where there had been a painful heaviness before, it was now light and quiet, swept clean. Greatly surprised at this, I instinctively sought out St. Margaret Mary’s words once more.

Place over the eyes of your soul the bandage of holy and loving submission to God. . . Thus without reasoning or swerving from your path, go forward on your way.

          Suddenly, her words filled me with a deep peace! Where there was tension and anxiety before, now there was only relief and gentle quiet within me. I was stunned by the change. Over and over, I read the saint’s words. And then, I understood. Her words were meant for now, not last week.

 

Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place.
Indeed, I tell you,
there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah
when the sky was closed for three and a half years
and a severe famine spread over the entire land.
It was to none of these that Elijah was sent,
but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon.
Again, there were many lepers in Israel
during the time of Elisha the prophet;
yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”
When the people in the synagogue heard this,
they were all filled with fury.

They rose up, drove him out of the town,
and led him to the brow of the hill
on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.
But he passed through the midst of them and went away.   ~  Luke 4: 24 – 30

 

          The mob will take us to the brow of the hill, they will move to hurl us down headlong. 

Place over the eyes of your soul the bandage of holy and loving submission to God. . . Thus without reasoning or swerving from your path, go forward on your way.

          But by fixing our gaze upon God, in trust and in loving obedience to Him and only Him, without giving in to the mob, without attempting to engage with them, we will pass through the very midst of them.

          And we will go forward on our way.

 

Take Refuge

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Let us take refuge in the Wound of the Sacred Side, like a poor traveler who seeks a safe harbour in which to shelter from the rocks and tempests of this stormy sea of life, for here below we are continually exposed to shipwreck, unless we have the help of our all-wise Pilot.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Be at Peace

Be At Peace

One day, as I was yearning to receive Our Lord, I said to Him: “Teach me what Thou wouldst have me to say to thee.” Nothing but these words: ‘My God, my only Good and my All, Thou art wholly mine, and I am wholly Thine.’ They will preserve thee from all kinds of temptations, will supply for all the acts thou wouldst make, and serve as preparation for all thy actions.’   ~  The Lord, to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

          I’ve been mulling doing something new for some time now. It’s a major decision and fills me with more dread than hope or excitement because it’s been so long since I’ve done something like this. I’m afraid it will end up a mistake and that I will have to deal with the fallout.

          Plus, my husband wasn’t on board with it. He felt it would be too stressful. He didn’t see why I needed to. Only now learning to leave busy streets to walk in meadows, would this decision take me right back to the point I must never return to?

          I never do anything without my husband’s support, more so for something as huge as this. Nonetheless, while I understood and shared his misgivings, there was no concealing the hurt that he wasn’t giving me his support. I would have welcomed him by my side, examining our options together. If it wasn’t right, then, I knew I would shut the door and get on with life. In dismissing my asking, once again, I felt as if I always had to be the one to make the greater sacrifice. I don’t think I’ve ever held him back from anything. Instead, if there ever was something he wanted, even if I had reservations, I always gave him the freedom to go for it. Yet, now, when I needed it most, I found myself alone by the gate. 

          In the past, having come up against such a wall, I’d have retreated. However, this time, something just wouldn’t let go. I found my thoughts returning to this decision over and over again.

The time for work is over

          Still, in trying to discern from afar, I didn’t get anywhere. So, last Sunday, I pushed open my gate and ventured out a little. I told my husband that I had registered for a virtual session and went in with fingers crossed. There were a number of ‘rooms’  before me and suddenly I felt so small staring up at at them for they seemed like towers to me. Everything about the experience seemed so foreign, so different from all I’ve known. I would have immediately left had it not been for a very persistent friend rooting for me from the sidelines. For his sake, I stayed on, if only to be able to go back to him and at least say that I tried. Still, there was no denying how lost I felt in this new world, huge and shot through with noise. Maybe my husband was right after all, why did I need this?

          Wandering around, I saw a door. Against my friend’s advice to try a different door, I turned this knob and stole in. Almost immediately, I saw something that caught me. Something I hadn’t expected, something that indicated that this might work after all. But I had questions and sought answers for them. The few unseen people I interacted with were polite but offered little by way of the specific encouragement I needed.

          At that point, my home was calling out to me. I wasn’t even physically visiting this particular place, yet, I was beginning to feel overwhelmed. So, just a few hours in, I felt I had enough and retreated home. Perhaps this was a sign that this path wasn’t for me.

          Late that night, I looked down and in my palm was a tiny flower from that room. It had followed me home. As if to say, Don’t give up just yet. 

          That night, I struggled to fall asleep. The fear of doing something new beat hard at me. That I would be doing something for myself after all these years worsened it. And going ahead without my husband’s backing was the hardest blow of all.

          Needing comfort, I called upon St. Anne, the grandmother of Jesus, and asked her to hold me. As I lay my heart against her, I told her I didn’t want anything to come before my husband or children, no matter how enticing it was. And then, I asked St. Anne to help me retreat from this venture. To give me the words for my friend who was hoping I’d do it. To retreat – but with no regret nor rancour.

          I fell asleep and awakened pretty early the next day, unusually fresh and alert. I put in some work but also spent a lot of happy time with my children. All through the day, sun-warmed westerly winds blew against the old windchimes hanging just outside our living room. The cheery lilt of the chimes was a gentle caress, just like the laughter and happy chatter of my kids, loving arms about my heart. Sinking deep into that joy, I gave myself up to it. 

          Soon, no trace of apprehension stained its mark upon me. I was filled with a deep quiet.

And with that quiet, came an unexpected nudge.

          My husband was home from work and I found myself telling him of what I had discovered during that virtual session I had attended on Sunday. It wasn’t with the intention of getting him to change his mind; he was my best friend and I never kept things from him for long.

          This time, I found a very different person before me, attentive and wanting to understand where I was coming from and where I wanted to go with this. Stunned at his change, it helped me to hold nothing back from him, not even my own fears and doubts. At the end of it, he even accepted it and encouraged me to explore my options.

At that, my heart swelled even more with that strange inner quiet.

          Armed with a new, silent confidence, I went back and did some searching, then, made some enquiries. And all through, my heart was at peace. It was basically the same journey of Sunday, and yet it couldn’t have been more different. I took the first polite rejection calmly and went on to knock on another door.

Past midnight on the 1st of June, I got some answers.

Something had been set in motion.

          My discernment is far from over. I still have a ways to go. What lies where the road dips out of sight? Will I go on and take the plunge, will I turn back? Will this journey of discernment be all there is to this experience?

          Give me a sign, I ask Jesus. In reply, He sets before me all the stages of my journey thus far, one by one. My lack of confidence. My nervousness at venturing into new lands. The shame of how little I actually know about anything.

Am I a fool to leave newfound grazing ground to head for the mountains once more?

          Give me another sign, I ask Jesus again. But I sense the time for asking is passing.

          Give me one last sign.

         Jesus’ reply is one I do not anticipate.

Be at peace, He says.

 

Return to the Garden

Anemone Coronaria, Flower of Israel

May He teach you what He desires of you, and may He give you the strength to accomplish it perfectly! If I am not mistaken, this, in a few words, is what I think He chiefly requires of you: He wishes that you should learn to live without support – without a friend – and without satisfaction. In proportion as you ponder these words, He will help you to understand them.   ~  St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

 

          On Wednesday last week, longstanding issues resurrected themselves at home. Deeply hurt and frustrated that even the beauty of time with family and nature couldn’t resolve old habits, I took my heart and placed it in the Sacred Heart of Jesus – because left within me, my heart was sure to fall into the depths of anger and unforgiveness.

          Then, I threw myself at the feet of heaven, asking for guidance.

          Its answer came from the mother~heart of St. Margaret Mary.

May He teach you what He desires of you, and may He give you the strength to accomplish it perfectly!

          Stunned somewhat, I realised this unpleasantness was willed.

He wishes that you should learn to live without support – without a friend – and without satisfaction.

          That broke my heart into pieces, for loneliness and aloneness due to being misunderstood and maligned, has been my cross for a great many years. To see now that even that was willed, was just too much.

          Upon praying to St. Anne and to my guardian angel to keep my tears, within a few short hours, they brought me Jesus’ words,

Love as I have loved you.

          And with that, I resolved to get up and start all over again.

          But even as I went to my day and busied myself in the depths of a beautiful, sunny blue day, I wondered about St. Margaret Mary’s last words,

In proportion as you ponder these words, He will help you to understand them.

           Those words remained before me in the weave of gentle wind brushed hours. Curious as to what St. Margaret Mary meant, I went in search of her, and this I found,

Every night between Thursday and Friday I will make thee share in the mortal sadness which I was pleased to feel in the Garden of Olives, and this sadness, without thy being able to understand it, shall reduce thee to a kind of agony harder to endure than death itself. And in order to bear Me company in the humble prayer that I then offered to My Father, in the midst of my anguish, thou shalt rise between eleven o’clock and midnight, and remain prostrate with Me for an hour, not only to appease the divine anger by begging mercy for sinners, but also to mitigate in some way the bitterness which I felt at that time on finding Myself abandoned by my Apostles,…   ~  Jesus’ words to St. Margaret Mary

 

I will make thee share

Garden of Olives

Without thy being able to understand it

Agony harder to endure than death itself

Mitigate the bitterness

Finding myself abandoned by My Apostles

 

          There is only one hurt worse than all others for me and that is the hurt caused by the family I love beyond all else. And of the many hurts to be endured in a family, it is the hurt of being cast aside in favour of professional work, which cuts deepest. It is not the childish and narcissistic petulance about wanting to always be first in your spouse’s heart. Rather, it is the pain of knowing that whenever it comes to a choice between passion for work and staying close to your spouse’s heart, work has always won.

It is a hurt that falls within the shadow of the Abandonment in Gethsemane.

          Despite knowing what Jesus has to soon face, the Apostles – those closest to His Heart – chose the less troubling option of indifference. They chose the appeasement of slumber.

They choose themselves over Jesus.

          In a marriage, in family life, when we choose ourselves over even the littlest wills of heaven, we once again become the apostles in Gethsemane – because we choose what we want, we choose what stimulates and excites and what drives us. While marriage and family life is every happy and joyful tale we hear, it is also filled with heartaches, struggles and stretches of mundanity. Yet, these are the crosses God weaves into our lives to enable us to walk in His Son’s footsteps – for that is the only road to heaven.

It is the only path to Life.

          By willfully and defiantly choosing external lures and satisfactions, we choose the side of the apostles in Gethsemane. In choosing worldly consolations, we choose another path. We delude by comforting ourselves that this too is just another road that leads to Life.

          But it isn’t and doesn’t. Because that path bears not the footprints of Jesus.

          Despite the resurgence of old cheer within me, a note of sadness has stolen into the glorias of the winds and the sun. No matter how happy I am, there will be many more returns to the Garden of Olives.

          For Jesus has made it clear in His last words for the day. He needs my suffering to

Mitigate the bitterness I felt on finding myself abandoned by My Apostles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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