ST PAUL OF THE CROSS

Sorrow Before Joy

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          Today, for the first time in a pretty long while, I found the time to sit in the corner of our little garden in the afternoon and let the Mother of God take care of me. This was the first Saturday of shiny, new August, a day when Catholics like me venerate Mother Mary in a special way through the 1st Saturday devotions. This is also the first Saturday we were home to enjoy all the beauty of a lovely and quietly cheery weekend after so many weeks of sacrifice, of travelling to the city, spending hours and hours there till night. Our weekend busyness had wound to an end last Sunday with our daughter’s Confirmation ceremony, a happy and satisfying day that nonetheless, ended unexpectedly with me and another daughter falling ill by evening, followed by all the rest in the family over the course of the week.

          It made for an exceedingly tough week.

You may think you suffer much but there is someone whose name I cannot reveal to you who suffers far more.   ~  St Paul of the Cross

          Have you no mercy for me, St Paul? I asked, more than a tad annoyed with the saint who’s always there for me with words I least want to hear. But the quote did its trick. We had all come down with a bad clot of flu; yet, miserable as it was, it was nothing compared to what the mystery person alluded to by St Paul and others had to endure with far worse illnesses.

          But I also knew my God would not want me to aspire to be strong by ignoring our own illness and struggles nor making light of them. He had a better way and He showed me.

Help me to suffer this and to bring glory to You, O Lord.

          Over and over, I prayed this entreaty. Slowly, the strength to cook and clean came. The hours and days passed, and one by one, the family began the slow trek to recovery.

          On Friday, another saint, one whom I love with all my heart, came to sit by my window. As always, he stayed only long enough to leave me a gentle invite, wraithing into unseen-ess before I could hold on to him. I looked down into what he had left for me, saint who had saved my life.

Novena to St John of the Cross

Novena to love our crosses

          I jumped back and away like one scalded. No, no, no, Lord, I moaned. I’ve had it with these crosses. I’ve had it with being put through fire. No more crosses, Lord, please.

          Still, when a dear~heart friend invites you to his precious abode of light, despite the reluctance that roosts strong within you, you go. As I did. Running my heart along words of the novena,

…intercede for me and obtain from God for me

a love of suffering,

together with strength and grace

to bear with firmness of mind

all the trials and adversities

which are the sure means

to the happy attainment of all that awaits me in heaven…

the words were like thorns, drawing pain because I had not healed yet from the suddenness of this recent test, all of us being ill at the same time. The fear, the worry. Will we make it? Why were we so ill after all the good home care? Will the children make it if they are away from us?

          When afternoon came today, I felt an unusual call in my heart from the garden. There, in its sunny peace, as the breezes wreathed their hymns in ribbons around me, I knew the Mother of God was bidding me to pause and rest in Her maternal heart, to let Her care for me in the way no one else on earth could.

          As the winds gently danced around me, Our Lady turned my gaze over this old garden I’ve come to love so much, its beds of bachelor’s buttons, zinnias and chrysanthemums which the children have coaxed the earth to love and yield. The flowers I’ve grown myself – the gardenias, jasmines and old fashioned roses, the starflowers, periwinkles and celosia, each one with their own story of teetering at the cliff edge of life, then, somehow having the tide turn in their favour.

          I suddenly saw something countless gardeners must have long known, that our gardens often reflect our own paths through life, from strife and drought and fear to joy and peace and glory. And that our life journeys are often cyclical rather than falling along linear paths.

          You need to encounter pain over and over in order to meet with joy over and over as well, said Mother to me. Sorrow before Joy.

          And with that, I saw once more Her old words to me, that dark, breezy dawn 14 years ago when I didn’t believe joy would ever be possible again.

          Yes, sorrow must come before joy. Each time. Over and over.

That You May Hear Him

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Leave your soul free to take her flight to the Sovereign Good as God shall guide her.   ~  St. Paul of the Cross

          Sometime last week, there was a day when I told Jesus I’d like to hear Him speak directly to me. Shortly after came the verse,

Thus says the LORD:
I will allure her;
I will lead her into the wilderness
and speak to her heart.~  Hosea 2:16

Right after, came the news of my colleague’s promotion, followed by the huge rainbow signifying hope the next day, and on the third day, came the Miracle. Later, pondering the verse from Hosea, I wondered if the “wilderness” mentioned there pertained to those 3 days.

          Still something else from Hosea 2:16 remained with me, like the soft, fleeting evening fragrance of roses seeing the last of the waning sunshine,

I will speak to her heart…

          Today, the quote of the day for me was from a saint I’m not particularly fond of: St Paul of the Cross. In the past, whenever he has spoken to me, he has told me things I didn’t like hearing. He bursts my bubble on days when I feel light and happy. In some ways, he’s like the string on my kite, constantly tugging me down to earth when I’d rather soar high up in the gold~tossed skies.

          But today, he had something different for me.

Leave your soul free to take her flight to the Sovereign Good as God shall guide her. 

          On a day when I’ve been so happy at home, cooking, gardening, studying, writing and just enjoying my husband and children, St. Paul of the Cross comes by to tell me not to clutter up my soul but to leave it free to soar. With his words, come others, familiar little feathers floating in on the quiet sunset breezes,

Keep away from toxic people

Do not waver

Take back your rest

Each one a tender nugget tucked into my heart by those who love me, on this earth as well as beyond earthly shores.

          This is the way, they say.

          To stay free.

          That you may hear Him.

Divine Impressions

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I do not tell you to pray in my way, but in that of God. Leave your soul at liberty to receive the divine impressions according to God’s pleasure. We should pray according to the dictates of the Holy Spirit.   ~   St. Paul of the Cross

 

          A grey veil has settled over the shy sun, promising rain for the later hours. Above me, the windchimes sullenly stir in the elfin breezes. Close by, too close, someone is mowing his lawn with a very noisy machine, shattering the morning peace into a hundred pieces.

         This is not a day when my heart can see a prayer.

          St. Paul of the Cross must have known, which is why he came early to tell me,

Leave your soul at liberty to receive the divine impressions according to God’s pleasure. We should pray according to the dictates of the Holy Spirit.

          I am not happy with his words, but there’s nothing to be done. I am not the author of this day. And so I trundle off to my usual grottos.

          It is at the Daily Readings that with a start I realise it’s the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Reading the Stabat Mater Dolorosa, my mind pauses at,

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

          My heart is shaking its head vigorously. I don’t wish to be pierced today. I don’t feel like it. Today, I am immature and selfish. I am petulant, wanting the day to be more giving. But there’s an uncertain irritability to today. A weather that cannot decide if it wants to rain or be humid. The jarring of life roughly parts the air. It seems as if today everyone around is banging metal of some kind. Even the birds call out to one another in a rudeness that vexes the morn.

          It is not a day when prayer slips into your heart, not a day when prayers can be felt and lived. It is a day when I too want to take a pot and bang it around in solidarity with the nettled symphony that seems to be the hymn of the day.

         Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

          Something not mine suddenly takes over my heart, and silkenly thrusts it into the prayer,

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

          That very second, the sun pierces the clouds, the breezes cool and lift their song. The human ruckus around me dies, even my feathered friends gentle their calls.  Peace silvers into the bends and hollows of the waiting earth.

Holy Mother, pierce me through,
In my heart each wound renew
Of my Savior crucified.

          And then I understand. The Divine has impressed upon my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Refuge

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If, on going to the garden to pluck some fruits, you were surprised by a heavy rain, what would you do? You would seek shelter under the shed, would you not? So when sorrow, bitterness, tribulation, rain down upon you, you must seek a refuge in the safe asylum of the will of God, and you shall not be troubled.   ~   St. Paul of the Cross

 

          There have not been many times when I have sought shelter in the Will of the Most High. Even fewer times when I have willingly gone to it, my own will fused to God’s. Almost always, every resting of my will is preceded by struggle. I have learned enough lessons from this point of acquiescence once I have reached it; I have learned and re-learned timeless truths of peace and serenity and strength when God’s will is mine.

          And yet, I continue to rebel. In every storm, I continue to remain out in the open, ignoring the shelter proffered, pleading my case before God.

          Why? Because up to now, I have only seen the Will of God as a call to obedience. I have not learned to accept it as a refuge from storms.

          There are some prayers in my prayer~cart, and I have gone before my Lord for them for a long time now. As there is a time to pray, there will soon come a time to rest those hopes, when He presses His hand against my heart and renders slumber unto my seeking.

          When that time comes to pass, I must, in faith and humility, seek the safe refuge of the will of God, where I shall not be troubled.

 

 

 

 

Lent 35 ~ Obey

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As the wax which we place near the fire assumes any form we wish to give it, so the loving soul ought to obey as soon as her Beloved has spoken.   ~   St. Paul of the Cross

 

          This entire week, the word ‘obey’ has been before me. I spoke to my children about it, taught them its meaning, admonished where necessary. I met a friend at church. She was struggling with her marriage, planning to carve out a ‘new life’ for herself through social work that would give her the separation she needed from her husband. As I listened to her, I felt her pain. But I wondered too, What if, in trying to reclaim her life, she is moving away from the Will of God?

Obey.

          I had a brief encounter with a troubled boy who had no need of God in his life. With my sister-in-law who chose to live life on erring terms.

          I was more than troubled by the various disobedience. I was angry. I certainly had a lot to say about it.

          Yet, today, as the rose awakened the slumbering sable veils, St. Paul of the Cross came to tell me, the loving soul ought to obey as soon as her Beloved has spoken. I had been so preoccupied with the disobedience of other people that I forgot to examine my own conscience and check my own disobedience. I have a great decision  before me – amare nesciri to love to be unknown – and I have yet to make a firm commitment to it. It is my obedience to the Will of God that I need to focus on – first and foremost. When I see people around me rebelling, if the Spirit presses me to an action, then to it I must go.

          But that does not exempt me from placing my own obedience beneath His gaze, so that I too may not be found wanting.

          I turn the eyes of my spirit towards amare nesciri. Those are the words that will seal my hermitage. Even if I am not discernibly moved, I know that the moment I say the words, there will be no turning back.

          I feel no resistance within me and yet, I stop at the gates, unable to go on.

          And then, going past myself, I say the words that don’t want to come forth.

Thy Will be done.

 

 

 

 

Lent 33 ~ Build An Oratory

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Build an oratory within yourself, and there have Jesus on the altar of your heart. Speak to Him often while you are doing your work. Speak to Him of His holy love, of His holy sufferings and of the sorrows of most holy Mary.   ~   St Paul of the Cross, writing a reply on Jan 9, 1760 to a busy married woman who felt that she couldn’t seem to find enough time to pray.

 

          So this is where the journey of close to two decades, likely more, has led to.

Begging God for death

Pre-dawn vision of Jesus

Wipe My Blood

St. Philip Neri

Rosary

Grief

Padre Pio

Abuse

The Invisible Scar

St. John of the Cross

Seek Counsel

Blow the Breath of My Mother into the realms

St. Francis of Assisi

Quieten Down, Listen Up

St. Germaine Cousin

Holy Eucharist

A Coming Flood

Prepare

Mercy

Confession

Rosary of Atonement

The Miraculous Image

In Sinu Jesu

Adoration

Into Your Hands I commend my spirit

          This odd inner excitement from last week. Just like in the old, old days of childhood. An excitement that is vaguely familiar. I press and probe, What excitement is this? What joy is this?

          The little pod un~buds itself.

It is the excitement of waking up in a new home.

          Not the going to a new home. But having arrived, the excitement of waking up in it.

What new home is this?

An oratory within myself.

 

 

No Die

         Everybody is against us. I rejoice in this, for God will be more favorable to us. . . If we be faithful, God will not fail us.     ~     St. Paul of the Cross

 

          We are walking on fire, my family and I. It has been a bloody month, woundings that draw blood. One after another, the hits are stronger than before, relentless. If we have one happy day where the breezes twirl in joy~dance about us, then come more days when a dark wind stirs up stones against us.

          Not everybody is against us, but our camp is dwindling.

          I rejoice in this? No, I don’t. Not a bit. No part of me understands that prayer line. Who rejoices when your innocent, hardworking children are hit and torn apart by teachers for no real reason? Who rejoices when the boss who has bullied for more than twenty years, drives into us yet another dagger to tear us away from God and family? Who rejoices when our work is rent to nothing?

          I cannot rejoice. Not even for God. Because I don’t know how.

          But I do know how to bind up my loved ones’ wounds with the bandages God has provided. As I pray them not to depart the Cross, I will them to believe that even if the world sneers and discards the work of their hands, honest toil never falls unheeded to the ground, to be trampled by those who do not know better.

          No. Work from the heart, work done for Jesus is never forgotten. Wherever pure love and sacrifice is cast aside in derision, angels tread softly among the broken and the torn, picking up every little bruised head and crushed stalk, bloom after bloom. They are saved for the gardens of heavens, where they will live on.

          Ten years ago, grief winds brought the words, “…. no die.” They come before me yet again as my family pick themselves up from the ground and turn their faces to the sun once more.

          To remind me that nothing for God ever dies.