Suffering

Lent 27 ~ The Tiniest Dart

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          I’ve been home on sick leave for the past two days. And a colleague decided to have some fun at my expense. Even if I were hale and hearty, her selfishness would have rankled; battling the flu, the tiniest dart was magnified.

          And so began the back and forth that is my lot every time someone hurts me: the plotting of my response, followed by running to God. Then, the revisiting of that wound, another round of plotting, repentance, back to God. It’s the same wearying cycle every time that you’d think I would have tired of it at this age.

          Not even the flu could keep me away from this negative cycle.

          The only difference was perhaps that I ran very quickly to God every time I was tempted to a snarky rebuttal. I prayed and prayed for the grace to suffer this mere splinter of a Cross. What was the use of coming this far in the journey only to be felled by a yellow breath?

          Yet the struggle wore on. I went to bed with it on my heart, even with all the prayers. When I awakened, feverish and aching in the purple-wreathed dawn, my hurt was before me. I was chagrined. Why did I not seem to be improving? Why wasn’t I becoming a stronger person when others hurt me? Why was I so sensitive to the callousness of those around me? It seemed that the more I learned of God, the weaker and more feeble I was becoming.

          Why are You allowing this? I asked God.

Your sufferings will be made of weakness and weariness and dependence on others.   ~   Anonymous, In Sinu Jesu

          Even in my feverish state, the words pierced through. Not any other type of suffering, but the one that hurt me most – made of weakness, weariness and dependence on others. Oversensitivity to a curt remark, a stony look, a snide giggle. No need for an actual sword to bring me to my knees. All it took was the tiniest dart and I would fall.

          Why?

Your sufferings will be made of weakness and weariness and dependence on others.

          Because it is willed. Because sometimes, the greatest of my Crosses will be concealed within in the tiniest dart.

 

 

 

 

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Lent 7 ~ Wound Me

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Allow Me to speak to you in such a way as to wound you with the piercing of Divine Love. When you come before Me and wait upon Me in silence, you are, in effect, allowing Me, when I choose and in the way I choose, to wound you with an interior word and to set you on fire with a communication of divine love. ~ Anonymous, In Sinu Jesu.

          What wounding is this that awaits me in this adoration journey? Will it be worse than what I have endured so far? Already I feel my enthusiasm for adoration waning slightly.

          Because I fear suffering more than anything. I have none of the welcoming of suffering that the saints have.

          How the saints welcome suffering is beyond me! Anything is bearable for the love of God.

          When I place myself beside these old greats, I see where it is that I am different from them: I cannot suffer like them because I do not love to the extent that the saints  can. The saints can suffer anything because they love God completely. Every sliver of self-love has been burned away, leaving hearts aflame only with the love for God.

          To seal this understanding, my eyes fall upon these next lines.

          My words are like arrows of fire shot into the heart and wounding it so as to inflame it and heal it with divine love~ In Sinu Jesu

          Dare I open myself to this? Already my heart is cowering in fear.

          Thy Will be done.

 

 

Water Will Win

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          In late December last year, we had a houseful of Christmas guests, one of whom was my old mother-in-law. We were having a crisis that most in the family, in the bliss of Christmas, was unaware of, and my mother-in-law was at the centre of that crisis. My husband and I had been struggling to save his mum who, in her old age, seems bent on choosing any rose-strewn path – the wider, the better. Her choices in life have brought us a lot of deep suffering, and very often, I have struggled to love her, to pray for her. That Christmas week, the moment she arrived at our place and alighted from the car and quickly made her way past us into our home, I had to bite down the bitter disappointment that she couldn’t be more of a beacon for us. That even in this old age, she was choosing paths that did not lead to heaven. That our struggles for her, especially what my husband was enduring and suffering for her, didn’t seem to be helping.

          Despite my acute disappointment in her that day, I decided I would keep my tongue well out of the way at the back of my teeth – for the sake of my husband. He had surely noticed his mother’s mood and it would be wounding enough without my adding another caustic edge to his heartache. So, for the first few busy minutes of photos and hugs and squeals, I let Mum be. But when lunch was served, something moved in me and I went to make sure she was taken care of.

          That was the tone for the rest of the day and even into the next. I kept an eye on her but generally kept out of her way. There was no anger in me, but I didn’t trust myself to not fall into red pits because I was very tired and Mum had a penchant for getting a rise out of me.

          One afternoon, lunch over, everyone relaxing in quiet corners, I went to have a short nap to recharge for dinner preparations. Oddly, so tired though I was, my prayer for inner quiet was answered in those cloudy afternoon hours where the yellow~blue winds sang restless notes among the trees. Into that quiet I descended and began to pray for a special peace in all hearts gathered under our roof.

          I fell asleep.

          I had a dream.

          I dreamt of a room in my home being flooded to the roof. It was just this one room. Unlike my old dream from years ago where I saw a terrible, filthy torrent rush into our town, this water was as clear as crystal, and it was only in my home. I worried about what damage this water would do to our furniture.

          Then, I opened the door to this room, this same water drained into where I was. I managed to catch a glimpse of the room where the water had come from, – and I saw very clearly that the water had not damaged any of the furniture.  

          Then, this water knocked me over.

          It then flowed out through another set of doors that opened out over a peaceful garden.

          Getting up from the floor, I went to those doors, and there in the garden, I saw Mum with my husband. I saw her as I have not for so very long: at deep peace. She was gardening with my husband by her side and it was a picture of a mother and a faithful son who loved each other heart and soul.

          When I awakened and asked God what it meant, I felt these words written on my heart:

Momentarily overwhelmed.

          I knew then that this year would be very hard. One room in the house being flooded could perhaps mean that some weeks would be harder than others, and that I would be knocked off balance, that I would fall, but like the water in my dream did not damage the furniture in the room, that the suffering would not hurt as much as I feared.

          But the suffering was needed to save my Mum.

          Then, I remembered the water, and how clear it was. When I asked God why the water was clear, speaking through my godmother, He told me it was hidden graces. Graces that don’t seem like graces at all. Graces that come in the hardest packages. I understood anew then that, that is what suffering is – a hidden grace. I would be knocked over, momentarily overwhelmed, how many times I know not, but each one would be a hidden grace because the pain I endure would save someone else.

          The grace of reparation.

          Nearing the end of her brief stay with us, one night, I took photos of the family, and there was one of Mum watching the kids in the family crowd around a board game. When she had returned to her own home, I had a look at the pics and at this one of my mother-in-law. She was looking away, focused on the teens, and she wore the beginnings of smile. I then saw something in the photo that I hadn’t seen earlier – the first sparkles of joy.

          Joy that wasn’t there when she first came.

          In the weeks that followed, in the daily chats with her, we realized joy had indeed returned to my mother-in-law. It gave her strength to walk paths different to what she had always chosen. It flooded her with love for some people she had taken for granted. It made all the Christmas struggles and pain worth every hurting morsel.

          God’s Light had come into Mum’s old heart once more.

          Grace of reparation.

          Early this week, a colleague’s antics unpleasantly ruffled my day. I tried to stay above the muck that follows a wounding but it wasn’t easy. As the hours rolled on, despite my efforts, it seemed like I was losing this battle to love and forgive.

          Then, I prayed to be given the strength to bear this minor hurt for my sins.

          And that too failed.

          The day came to an end. I was puzzled and discomfited as to why all the ‘right’ prayers seemed to fail.

          When the new day broke, Someone gently took my mind back to Christmas of last year. To my mother-in-law’s initial aloofness and the reason for it. From there, my mind was led back to my Water Dream. And the dream took hold of my mind. Even as the hurt from the previous day remained, it felt like the memory of the dream was the more powerful.

         I then received an email from a dear friend. Its stark words revealed a deep suffering that had deepened even further recently. My heart ached for him.

          Suddenly, the Water Dream formed out of the mists before me again.

          I had a sudden inspiration: offer my hurt over my colleague for this. Suffer it for this friend close to my heart, thousands of miles and many countries away.

          The moment my will fused to this, I felt strength and clarity return. The strife~winds that had rattled my inner windows departed. I went to my day with a new purpose.

          My colleague added a few more nicks to her repertoire against me, yet, no blood did they draw.

          I knew then that the Water of Reparation had won. I had been overwhelmed but momentarily.

          As was promised.

 

 

 

 

 

The King’s Poverty

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          Since the tumble of hard days in weeks past, a gent~ling came to my days, a respite I was much thankful for. Things that needed to get done – did, and the tightness that bound so many hours before, loosened its grip.

          But not for long, yet again. Another storm hit out of nowhere and I lost my footing once more.

          At work, in a workstation reorganization conducted by a junior co-worker not overly endowed with much commonsense, I lost the space I had had for many years. Granted, it was not the most comfortable of crannies to begin with, but it had given me some measure of privacy and I had made the most out of it, over the years, creating a workspace that worked for me.

          But within a single day, despite all precautions taken, I got pushed out into the open. If before this, I was on the sidewalk, now I was right in the middle of office traffic. Gone was my little crook of privacy, gone was the little bit of sky I had. People brushed right against my desk and happily trotted back and forth right behind me. The light behind me gifted me with its shadow as well as its glare, not to mention the heat from the open doors people can never remember to shut.

          In my younger days, I might have been able to take this in stride. But the day this happened, it was just one thing too much, and I keeled right over.

          My kids stared at me dumbfounded as I stormed and raged and then, cried into my soup at dinner that night. I couldn’t bear the look in their eyes but I couldn’t rise above my anger and frustration either.

          Later, in an ill-timed phone conversation with a friend from work who was also upset over the changes, I let my anger get ahead of me again. I spoke ill of that co-worker and my words were harsh.

          All through the journey to church for Mass the next day, I sure had God by His ear. The year was already proving to be so much harder than I felt I could bear, and here, was yet another avalanche I was ill-prepared for. I felt God was unfair and I let Him know it. Why? Why? Why? I asked Him.

          By the time I got to the church, I had a prayer~cart filled to the brim with hurt and recriminations and bewilderment. This time, there was no one else’s need in my heart; it was filled with me. I went before the Divine Mercy image and tipped my prayer~cart over.

          Then, almost as a grudging afterthought, I felt I needed to make a stab at humility. But I felt no remorse over my anger. So, I made a clean breast of it to Jesus. I want to repent but I have no remorse, Lord, I said. I’m sorry, I added.

          Sitting back in my seat, I was about to go over my prayer to see if I had left anything out.

          Suddenly, I saw my prayers lifted away, and something new take its place. My heart was suddenly claimed by a strong desire to be punished. I stared dumbfounded at my heart. Nothing else mattered in that instant except that I receive the lash for calumny against my co-worker.

          Closing my eyes shut, I tossed aside every concern. I found myself praying that God give me what I deserved. All I wanted was that my soul be right.

          About to deepen that prayer some more, again, I sensed yet another change – even that prayer was lifted away from my reach! However hard I tried, I could no longer find that prayer, – or even any of the others – I had brought before the Divine Mercy.

          I knew then that something was at work. I decided to let God take charge. I sat back and opened St. Faustina’s Diary of My Soul, as I always do before Mass, to get my spirit lines in order before the Lord.

          Speak to me, Lord, even if don’t deserve to hear Your voice, I prayed. I need to understand why You allowed this to happen. St. Anthony of the Desert, one of the Desert Fathers, had made my acquaintance a few days before, and I sought his aid as well in those brief minutes before Mass began.

          Then, like so many times before, it happened. My eyes were taken to an entry:

          Today, penetrate into the spirit of My poverty and arrange everything in such a way that the most destitute will have no reason to envy you. I find pleasure, not in large buildings and magnificent structures, but in a pure and humble heart.  ~ Entry 532, Divine Mercy In My Soul, St. Faustina Kowalska.

 

          Spirit of My poverty. My own spirit quietened before those words.

          I next saw St. Faustina’s reflection on Jesus’ words to her:

          I began to reflect on the spirit of poverty. I clearly saw that Jesus, although He is Lord of all things, possessed nothing. From a borrowed manger He went through life doing good to all, but Himself having no place to lay His head. And on the Cross, I see the summit of his poverty, for He does not even have a garment on Himself. ~ Entry 533, Divine Mercy In My Soul, St. Faustina Kowalska.

          Borrowed manger. Not even a garment on the Cross. And here I was, turning the world upside down over a workstation moved 3 feet in the wrong direction.

          But I was not filled with remorse as I anticipated, as I had hoped.

          Instead, my entire being was now flooded with a surge of strength at the words, Penetrate into the spirit of My Poverty. Once more, it was no longer Jesus’ words to St. Faustina; they were Jesus’ words to me. I turned back to my hurt and applied His words to the situation. I grimaced at the uncovering of the wound again. Not surprisingly, the pain still remained. I was not healed of it. But I had a calm certainty that God wanted the pain to remain in place as a misted grace to suffer for Jesus.

          No bargaining did I enter into. No backing away either. I gave my heart over to His poverty of Spirit, every crease and fold of it.

          At work the next day, the pain and anger lay in wait, their traps set in readiness. My triumphant co-worker did not make my adjustment any easier. All through the day, I had to fight myself and bite back words that begged release. I clung to my promise to penetrate into the Poverty of Jesus and I clung with all my might.

          Because all the King had was a borrowed manger and no garment even on the Cross.

 

 

 

 

His Wounds Be Mine

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          Almost a year ago, a family member upset me so deeply with some news that I struggled mightily with prayer afterwards. Prayer seemed so very difficult.

          It was then, that by some inspiration, my heart found a prayer to Mother Mary, a prayer born of my helplessness ~

I bind my heart to Yours

          Since that day, that prayer has become like an old friend. I’ve gone ever so often to it whenever I am overwhelmed by anger or despair. I’ve ‘given’ it away to those in need as well, because in those six words is a Hand held out to us as we are tossed madly about in the heart of the sea, breakers and billows passing over us.

          This year, just recently, Susan Skinner wrote a blog post, Trinity of Hearts and it brought back memories of I bind my heart to Thee. She wrote of a vision of a trinity of Three hearts that she had been given in prayer – Jesus’, Mary’s and ours – and of God’s words to her.

          When I read that post, the words swirled before me. I understood the words and yet, did not understand their meaning. But that image of the three hearts stayed with me. A short time later, my spirit in the desert, I recalled Susan’s vision. And I figured perhaps that was what I needed to pray: that my heart be placed between the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, to form a trinity, to glorify God. I felt that I could do nothing till I did that.

          I’d be lying if I said I understood what I was about to do; I understood nothing.

          So, I said the prayer one time. Listlessly. I press my heart to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Then, maybe a few days later, the prayer ‘came before me’ again, and I said it and it felt different. My spirit no longer felt dead, unresponsive. Buoyed by hope of coming alive again, I not only pressed my heart to form that Trinity but that of others too – family, co-workers, superiors at work.

          Almost immediately, I was rewarded with a piercing, a thorn through my heart, by someone whose heart I had pressed into Jesus’ and Mary’s.

          The pain was not severe but enough to dim the joy~light in my heart.

          I recovered soon enough. And today, during my morning prayers, I once more pressed hearts into Jesus’ and Mary’s.

          Once more, immediately, a new piercing.

          That was when I made the connection. I was being wounded every time I placed hearts into the blessed Chalice. With each wounding, I was having to fight myself and my inclinations to cut others just as they had done to me. Each time, I saw my soul as God might see it. Not a pretty sight.

          I wish I could say that what I saw humbled me. That the illumination  drove me back to God with a renewed vigour born of repentance.

          It didn’t. I wasn’t afraid of the prayer but I did shrink from it. No one wants to be hurt. We want to go out into the world and conquer it for Christ. We want to emerge triumphant. Not hurt and wounded, cast aside and in need of binding. That doesn’t fit the portrait of a Christian warrior in a Lepanto battle.

          But it does a broken reed. And Jesus was that reed.

          So, who was I to reject the call of the Broken Reed?

          God knew the very minute my spirit was bending to His Divine Will. He brought me another prayer, to ask if I would trust in Him ~

Holy Mother, grant this of yours,
that the wounds of the Crucified be well-formed
in my heart.

Grant that the punishment of Your wounded Son,
so worthily suffered for me,
may be shared with me.

Let me sincerely weep with You,
bemoan the Crucified,
for as long as I live.
To stand beside the cross with You,
and for me to join You
in mourning, this I desire.

When my body dies,
grant that to my soul is given
the glory of paradise.

          I didn’t want this wounding. I was sick of this suffering. There never seemed to be an end in sight. I was fed up of being hurt, of seeing my family being stoned. Fed up of being misunderstood and maligned. Fed up of fighting myself. Fed up of living in joylessness of what tomorrow held.

          I wanted the glory of paradise and I wanted it now. To savour it alive on this earth – not in the life to come.

          But who was I to reject the call of the Reed?

          Once more, God knew the second I accepted the Wounds of Christ in my heart. He took me back to Susan’s post, Trinity of Hearts. And the mists that were there before were no more.

          The broken hearts of the faithful will be repaired with the thorns of suffering.

          I understood what I hadn’t before. That I will see Heaven only when I am pierced by the very same thorns that pierced my Lord.

          Wounds of the Crucified

          Be well-formed in my heart.

 

 

 

Broken To Save

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          “And make sure you forgive.” Those were my friend, Susan Skinner’s firm words to me in her comments to my previous post, Unbeliever. I had written about a hurtful experience with a relative on the day of my child’s First Holy Communion. Our child had received Jesus for the first time. During Mass, we saw something we hadn’t expected to experience and we were deeply affected by what had happened. While this man surely did not know of our experience, for sure he saw how preoccupied we were with our little one on such a meaningful day, but instead of rejoicing with us and heaven, used it to his advantage and backed us into a corner.

          When I saw Susan’s words later, And make sure you forgive, my instant self-assured reaction was, Sure I can, nothing to it.

          But the very next second, I wasn’t so sure. I no longer heard Susan’s voice; a Supreme Being was speaking through my friend. Still trying to believe that I didn’t have a problem forgiving this man, I imagined seeing him again at church and set up the scene in my mind.

          I found myself running into the church to hide from him. And after Mass, I saw myself running into the car to escape bumping into him.

          I knew then that I had a problem forgiving this relative.

          So, I plunged headlong into prayer. I tried to fashion the words for it. I came up short. Later, in Susan’s post, Dreams and Preparation, I saw this prayer:

Lord, send your Holy Spirit to convict …. repent of their sins,…..confessing them to their priest.

          Is that for me? I gave it a go.

          Truth be told, I could say the prayer only once before I fell from the weight of it. Even the prayer for the grace to forgive seemed lighter than this. This other prayer was heavy. I’ve never experienced this. It was not due to reluctance on my part. It was not because I wanted to say another prayer. It oddly felt like a heavy door.

          And that it was not my place to push it open.

          Yet, I didn’t sense it was the wrong prayer.

          So, I did the next best thing. I did what I could do: I loaded this relative onto my prayer cart. Then, I loaded in my sinfulness and every difficulty I had in dealing with this situation, especially the struggle to forgive. I asked for His Mercy (I loaded that too). All weekend, I filled up the prayer cart because I didn’t have the words. I couldn’t come up with a simple prayer sentence; I couldn’t even read one with my heart even if I saw it.

          But I was not troubled. I knew it was in Good Hands.

          Arriving at Mass the next Sunday, I forced myself to look out for this person – as a way of fighting my real desire to run and hide from him. But I didn’t see him. I must say I entered church with more than a little relief.

          There, I dropped to my knees. Fixing my gaze on the Miraculous Image, I told my Lord,

Lord, I set down my prayer cart before Thee.

          Then, I sat back and waited for Mass to begin.

          Our parish priest had never been even a minute late for Mass but this time he was. Minutes ticked by and the congregation became slightly restless, with many turning to the back to see if Fr had entered. My thoughts still on my prayer cart contents, I kept my gaze forwards but I heard the distinct bang of the confessional doors. I knew then what had delayed the priest.

          Soon, the Mass began.

          Right after Mass, the relative who had hurt us sought out my husband. Uh oh, I thought.

          “My mother had a fall last Sunday after Mass,” he announced and went on to describe his 90 year old mother’s condition. She was unhurt but shaken.

          I wish I could say that my concern immediately shifted to the poor woman. It didn’t. Too full of myself, I instead held my breath, waiting for the axe to fall. But nothing of that sort happened. We soon parted. There was no apology but neither did he make any attempt to twist us back to where he had us the previous Sunday.

          Genuine thankfulness filled me over this conclusion; I had merely tried to forgive him as best as I could. God had done the rest. That was enough for me. It didn’t matter that our relationship would forever be marked by the wound of caution. I didn’t feel like asking for more, because my thoughts were now on something else the wind had rested on my ears.

          And what I heard troubled me.

          Deep in my pots later that night, my husband sauntered into the kitchen. We chatted about the day again. After a short pause, he asked me if I had noticed that our priest that day had been late in starting the Mass. When I nodded absently, I sensed him hesitate. Then, he asked me if I knew why.

          Someone had gone to him for Confession, I replied.

          Do you know who? my husband pressed, watching me carefully.

          I shook my head, puzzled over the line of questioning. My husband is the last person on earth to keep tabs on others, much less take attendance at the Confessional doors, so I didn’t know where he was going with this.

          It was him, said hubby.

          I almost leapt at my husband, pot, scrub pad and all, so great was my shock and excitement and incredulity. So many go for Confession, yet I could not name a single person despite years of being a parishioner here because it is simply not something I keep a look out for, much less brand into my memory. But that day, both my husband and I had been alerted in different ways to a stirring behind the door – the greatness of someone’s hidden humility to seek Jesus’ healing love.

          It matters not to me what had passed between our relative and the priest, if our matter had even been mentioned. For some reason, our unpleasant experience has diminished in its importance. The mere fact that that he had run to Jesus, considering all that had happened in the space of that week, both stunned and touched me deeply.

          And it placed the eyes of my heart squarely on the whispers the wind had brought me about this poor man’s hidden struggle. It told me why my husband and I had to suffer for that wee while.

        My relative’s problem(s) was the bigger rock, hitherto hidden. Our trouble with him was the light that fell on it and unmasked it. This time we were not called to pray this person to seek the Sacrament of Reconciliation. That was why that prayer was so heavy. All that was asked of us was that we forgive him.

          I’ve heard many times that forgiveness frees both sides. However, till this time, all I knew personally was the healing and freedom I received when I forgave someone. This was the first time I saw the power of forgiveness at work on the other side away from me.

          For the first time, I learned with my heart that when I forgive, even wordlessly, in secret, or as part of an ongoing struggle, my forgiving becomes a key that unlocks the jail cell of the prisoner who has hurt me. Forgiving leads to healing – of forgiver and forgiven. And healing leads to conversion.

          I cannot see the wind of road ahead for this person. That sight is not afforded to me. But what I do see is that my husband and I had to suffer shock and hurt to save a soul, possibly that of a secret gambler.

          We were called to suffer briefly, to be bread broken, that through our forgiveness, a lost sheep might return to its rightful fold.

 

 

 

I Love Thee

 

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          Almost two weeks ago, someone contacted me and asked me if I had heard of this particular St Joseph novena prayer ~ 

NINE-DAYS NOVENA TO ST. JOSEPH

(Note: This prayer was found in the 50th year of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Sometime during the 16th century, it was sent by the Pope to Emperor Charles when he was going into battle. It is said that whoever shall read this prayer or take it with them, shall never die a sudden death or be drowned, nor shall poison take effect on them; neither shall they fall into the hands of the enemy, or shall be burned in any fire or shall be overpowered in battle. Say this prayer for nine days for anything you may desire. Then let go and let God. Trust that whatever is the outcome of your novena is truly what is best for you in accordance with the will of God.)

O Saint Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Saint Joseph, assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings through Jesus Christ, Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O Saint Joseph, I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. Amen

O Saint Joseph, hear my prayers and obtain my petitions. O Saint Joseph, pray for me. (Mention your intention)

          Then, this person informed me of a ‘spiritual’ nudge that I would have need of this novena too.

          That certainly got my attention because in the days before this happened, I had noticed that St Joseph was coming up pretty often. And my husband and I were both facing serious work-related issues as well. So, I took it as a sign and began the novena.

          The day the novena ended for me, I received a whipping at work. I had my life efforts dismissed for the second time in two years. My abilities were belittled and in shock, I watched another august institution I had respected deeply crumble into the sewer of moral erosion, pride and blindness.

          Although I withstood it better than the previous hit last year, the bewilderment and the pain was severe and it cut deeper, because this time, my humiliation was public. I was desperate not to cry, not to compound my shame, but I sensed the unrelenting wet hovered close.

          An angel answered my prayers and pressed my tears into a vault in my heart, to not fall before eyes, and a dear friend’s prayers got me through the day. I stumbled home in a condition one would expect as a result of the smashing and grinding into the dirt of every potter’s vessel worked and lived for.

          And yet, I sensed something was different this time. Throughout the lashing, my strength in tatters, I begged for grace to hold onto the Fatima Way, because I was struggling to hold on to my cross.

          Slowly, faintly, I felt my spirit being held up by unseen hands. I felt unseen hearts willing me to not break. I wept some, but again, someone caught them.

Take my tears, I whispered to the angel I had summoned, Press them into Jesus’ Wounds. Tell Him I carry my cross for the Love of Him.

          Turning my heart to heaven, I called upon the saints of my heart ~ St Joseph, Padre Pio, St Francis of Assisi and St Jude. I prayed for help because I feared the wave that would drown me was now hidden from sight yet determinedly advancing.

          And then, I prayed for my prayer.

          The prayer to anchor my heart to God’s when the blackness of anger and hatred born of a wounding inevitably arrived. I prayed and I begged with every breath. But only silence resounded.

          As the barest of evening winds began to be touched by incoming sable hours, my eyes were led twice to hymns and verses of Praise. I recalled Mark Mallett’s deeply enlightening explanation of praise ~ …the most powerful praise comes when we acknowledge God’s goodness in the midst of the dry desert, or the dark night…, and I knew no matter what shadow my heart lay in, the lepers’ response could not be mine; I could not return in thanklessness every gift He had sent me.

          So, I somehow found the will to form praise from my heart. I formed it from the bitterseeds of the scourging I had received. I forced myself to push past the pain to acknowledge my own sinfulness that to some extent I deserved what I had received, because pride in my abilities and work results had birthed tiny seeds of scorn towards others. By nurturing this within me, I knew well enough where I was headed for, yet no attempt had I made to pull this sin of pride out by its roots.

          I don’t believe I watered this poison; but I certainly didn’t deprive it of its home in me either.

          I picked up my sin and wove my praise from repentance.

I have sinned, Lord, Let me suffer this for you.

          Hours passed. Sinking my heart into the night’s Rosary with a yearning only a wounding can bring on, I wearily touched heaven’s door yet again, Lord, give me my prayer.

          In a breath, gently, I sensed something bud and bloom in the emptiness.

You Who live and reign forever,

I love Thee,

I love Thee,

I love Thee.

          I jumped eagerly for the words that streamed serenely into my spirit. But they gently eluded my will to tendril their peaceful vines around my brokenness. Over and over, all through the still night eyes, with no exertion, like breath I breathed them,

You Who live and reign forever,

I love Thee,

I love Thee,

I love Thee.

          I marched the events of the day before me. I replayed my humiliation. I kept my sin before me. Through each one, I breathed,

You who live and reign forever,

I love Thee

I love Thee,

I love Thee.

          When the silvers of dawn found me, the pain had gone. No trace but the memory of it.

          Not to cloud, nor to shadow, but to light the weave of path ahead.

 

 

 

 

Home I Have Come

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          My Christmas surprises came a little late this year – they came this week. Little things longed for, but on which I didn’t dare linger in yearning too long, lit up my tree the first week of 2017. Little gifts, left to surprise, in misted pockets along my path.

          So, it has been a happy week. Tiring but happy. I flew to duties, I flew to tasks, with an energy I hadn’t felt in a long while. And it felt good to see things work out. It felt even better to see how I handled life when the road dipped unexpectedly around the bends.

          I should have been up in the sky of a hundred blues, twirling next to the shy gold sun.

          But I wasn’t.

          Something was missing. I missed my Lord’s voice.

          I missed Him in the press of spirit I sometimes feel when searching for Him. I missed Him in the unseen Hand on my will, holding me back from something. I missed Him in the songs sung by unseen voices somewhere deep within me.

          This week, it certainly felt like He had released me to skip along my own path in wildflower meadows hiding a thousand surprises of light and joys. And skip and dance and spin I did, for it was great to feel light and unburdened for once.

          Yet, I came to the quiet sunset of the week, feeling a slight emptiness, despite the successes and happiness of the busy days past, no sorrow or suffering casting their shadows. I didn’t feel abandoned. But I did feel as if my Lord had skipped town for a bit.

          And the lights dimmed for me.

          That was when I realized that as much as I longed to be carefree and in a perpetual jolly frolic, I only felt anchored to my God in suffering – whether it was through my own suffering or through the pains of others. In the days past, Heaven had blessed me with the freedom to wander unrestrained amongst dancing grasses and singing blooms, and even as I sang happy ditties, my spirit ached from an odd loss. The missing of something that had always been there. That should have been there, but it was not. It was much more than an attachment to something.

          I was feeling the bereftness that binds a life lived away from the sun of suffering.

         Today, I came late to the morning hours birthed from a cloud-festooned grey~blue sky. Hence, I missed my usual rest by God’s door, and that poked more than a bit at my heart. I didn’t like missing my morning Holy Hour of sorts. It wasn’t much, by any standards, and to not keep even that was to sink to a low I was not comfortable with. But there was no chance to slip away.

          Deep in chores I had offered up in lieu of my still~time with Him, I sent God my yearning:

I want to pray. Not like this, on the go, but to really immerse myself in prayer.

          The wish had barely left my heart when I heard unseen voices, singing a familiar song in a somber timbre. I leaned in to listen. It was the Litany of Saints. Sung by a choir hidden from sight. I recognized the tune, but while the voices were clear, the words were oddly muffled. I immediately wished I knew what the response was to each saint mentioned in the litany, because, while I didn’t know the Litany off by heart, but I knew enough saints to be able to concoct my own litany. I just needed to know what the response was. I could then pray as I worked.

          On cue, the voices sang, St…Pray for us.

Pray for us. That was it.

          About to begin the prayer, I felt an imperceptible tug on my spirit, like Someone was holding me back a wee bit. So, I stepped back from the choir, and tried to discern the message – if any. I thought perhaps it was to understand what to pray for, or to focus on a specific saint.

          Instead, I felt I was led to focus on the hidden voices singing the litany. The mystery choir.

          Who are they, I wondered. Angels? It didn’t seem so. Monks or priests singing it on recordings I have surely heard many times before? Quite possibly, yet, it didn’t feel that way.

          I leaned in deeper. 

          And made out a quality of sorrow in their voices. Unmistakable notes of pleading woven through the grave cadences. Something familiar about them.

          And once I had reached that, I felt my attention led to the next lamp:

Pray for us.

Angels wouldn’t ask us to pray for them.

          And then I knew. Those were the voices of my friends, the Holy Souls.

          When I had expressed the wish to pray deep, it was to sink deep into my friends’ and their children’s prayer needs, those I had been informed of. I had their faces before me, and I wanted to be there for them.

          But it was not to them that God turned me to; He instead led me to the most loyal of my friends, the ones I love, yet, often forget. The ones in the deepest pain – the Poor Souls.

          I had asked to be able to pray, to touch the pains of my friends and loved ones, for Jesus. And so, He answered me by letting the pleading prayer of the Holy Souls fall on my ears, so it may be my prayer too. To their suffering I was led, their song I joined.

          And there I found Jesus. Home I have come.

 

 

 

 

Cross the Jordan

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          Years ago, plumbing the depths of desolation, I heard these words in an insistent whisper,

Cross the Jordan

And you will find rest.

          I almost wept in frustration. I couldn’t even put one foot in front of me in hope, what more swim across a biblical river.

          But unseen souls wouldn’t give up on me. On and on, over and over, through weeps and struggles, stumbles and falls, the holy wraiths urged me  forwards,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest.

          Grave after grave, farewell after farewell, one loss after another. And I’d struggle to my feet for the sake of my husband and children, for the sake of those at work who depended upon me. I walked blind, unable to sense or feel anything but the tearing sorrow of dashed hopes and dreams.

          I fell more than walked.

          I knocked at doors as I stumbled, begging mercy, respite from the wrench of pain. Many doors closed. Many never even opened. Get over it, move on, they said from their seats of comfort and triumph behind the lock. But some doors were thrown open. The most wounded of all reached out to me, fed me, nourished me and with love, set me on my way, for the journey could not end then. And long after I had crested the hill, they remained in watch at their doors, willing me on, despite their own bleeding.

          Great has been the distance covered since I began this weave through the most bitter of valleys. Yet, not one step could I have managed without the love of other wounded hearts that chose not to hide in hollows of pity. What I was fed with, they gave from their pain, they gave despite their bleeding, many wounds unhealed. They didn’t wait to reach their rest to put out their hand to me. My angel~saviours, both of this world and the next, seen and unseen, known and stranger alike, never once left my side, never ceased their whisper, willing me the life-giving hope I didn’t have.

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest.

          With that chorus in my ears, I have made it this far. At the end of this week, a Light awaits in the dark. Waiting to touch  and bathe me in welcome. But I do not want to fall into Messiah Luminescence by myself. I want this welcome to bathe one and all, every seeking soul.

          And so, to every pilgrim soul lost in the grey and in the dark, I shine you this light that was lit for me from the love of countless others,

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest.

          Do not stop now, do not give up. Do not let bitterness win. Hard as it is, the road we stumble along is not as lonely and as empty as it seems. Many hearts travel the same routes unseen, brokenness a common coat shared in the freeze of loss. Even when all hope is gone, even when all has been taken away, especially when there is absolutely nothing left in our jar of oil, Jesus fills it with His own grace.

Yet, it is a grace not always felt. It is a hope not always sensed. It is a light not always seen.

          But it is a life~grace born of the most bitter of Crosses. It is a grace born of One who chose to Love despite the dark, One who chose life through death so that He may pour His grace into all of us, wounded seekers of life eternal. Our Messiah’s grace poured into us at our most empty, stands at ready to light the strength we need to not stop now, to not give up, but to cross the roughest Jordans of our life, to reach the rest Jesus has ready for us.

          Come now, beloved brethren, Christmas is almost here.

Don’t stop now,

Don’t give up.

Cross the Jordan and you will find rest.

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To those who bound my wounds and fed me,

Always, always in my heart,

Sue Shanahan, https://commonplacegrace.com/

Carlos Caso-Rosendi, https://casorosendi.wordpress.com/

Susan Skinner, https://veilofveronica.wordpress.com/

Nancy Shuman, http://www.thebreadboxletters.com/

Veronica Jarski, https://theinvisiblescar.wordpress.com/

God’s Child

Merry Christmas

Unfurling the Mercy of the Eucharist

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St Germaine Cousin, Patroness of Abused Children

 

          Today brought me learning about a young saint, St Germaine Cousin (1579 – 1601), who lived at the heart of terrible physical, mental and emotional abuse by the very people who should have loved, sheltered and cherished her, but who instead showed her what an earthly hell was.

          After her birth mother died prematurely, her father remarried. Soon, the sight of the young, pitiable girl with a withered hand and scrofula – a tuberculosis infection of the lymph nodes, which, in her case, resulted in unsightly abscesses in her neck, drove her stepmother into a frenzy of hatred. Fearing the risk of contagion to her step-siblings, Germaine was isolated and banished to a narrow space in the stables, shared with the animals she had to tend to during the day. I cannot help but wonder if the deformed hand, and the fact that scrofula was then known as the King’s Evil, might have worsened the abuse. Did her stepmother, who made a habit out of severely beating, scalding the child with hot water, and administering other abuses, delude herself into thinking she was ridding the child of demons through her mistreatment?

          Did her stepmother see demons where there were none? Did young Germaine’s purity of spirit agitate the darkness within the stepmother’s soul, worsening the whippings, food deprivations and humiliations? Driving the woman to a madness of violence, that perhaps, even she could not understand, much less contain?

          Germaine’s father, by some accounts, was said to be a weak-willed man.

          I think that’s too mild a word for someone who lived near such horrific abuse, but never suffered it himself, yet did nothing to halt it. 

          I cannot place him in a kinder light. I think he loved and cared much for his own self-preservation – to the point of excluding love for anyone else. Blood could pour out of his daughter, but nothing could be allowed to threaten the comfort of his position in that family. His entire heart must have been filled with himself; nothing left over for anyone else, not even his very own daughter. It must have been – to have deafened and blinded himself to his little girl’s tears and sobs and sufferings; not to have been moved by the even the sight of his own flesh-and-blood, living amongst animals, like an animal, dressed in rags, feet blistered and bloodied because she was deprived of shoes, rising before dawn to slave in servitude for him, her step-siblings and stepmother, and then shepherding in meadows bordered by wolf-infested forests.

          What heart of stone was this, un-softened by even a whisper of love for his own child?

          It is the heart of an abuse-enabler.

          That which belongs to one who looks the other way when abuse is being perpetuated. Who, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands off Jesus, distancing himself from his duty. Who holds up the evening papers and huddles behind it to separate himself from the injustice when the child is being beaten and humiliated, convinced the child brought it upon herself.

          Did this man, to whom a child of God was given, over time, begin to nurse a secret dislike of his own child, by justifying to himself that Germaine must have been doing something to stir the nest of tempests in his tenuous household? And by that conjecture, hold her accountable for all that befell her?

          When the line was drawn, I wonder if he ever joined in the abuse – just to show on whose side he stood. Did he add to the slaps and kicks, on his wife’s demand, perhaps? Or join in the family chorus of vitriol against the defenseless child- just to ensure that he remained one of the others?

          Did this man, Laurent Cousin, find suffering in the second marriage of his choosing? And failing to find the courage to carry his cross, blame this daughter of his for necessitating this marriage of woes?

          And mercilessly hurl her to the wolves in his own household?

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          The little Germaine grew up and wore out the rutted paths of violence at the hands of her abusers – her entire family. But with each lash endured in silence and meekness, the angels buried her deeper into the Wounds of Christ. While she lived Calvary at the hands of her family, the young shepherdess’ soul was drawn into a deeper union with her Heavenly Shepherd, and some were privileged enough to witness this through the miracles of the parting waters as she went determinedly to mass, and the changing of bread in her apron to winter blooms never seen.

          But the far greater miracle borne of this pain, was the holy magnificence of a spirit that never yielded to the saddest consequences of abuse – the hardening of heart and the inward centering of the victim’s gaze. The more Germaine was abused, the more she loved others – through her teaching of what little catechism she knew to children, through her sharing of scraps, through her Rosaries. Her own suffering didn’t take hostage her sense of charity. It didn’t mottle her loving kindness. Nothing veered her from that steadfast adherence to her Shepherd’s call in her spirit. Germaine was given a paltry daily ration of black bread by her stepmother, but even of this paucity, she saved to share with others she deemed more deprived. The fate she was enduring was never foremost in her mind; mercy was.

          By the sharing of her rations with others, she gave them Jesus. 

          By humbly submitting to the breaking of her body, Germaine sent the Eucharist where mercy was most needed.

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          All through my Friday Rosary of the Sorrowful Mysteries, I met the pensive gaze of the holy shepherdess as I wove my prayers for abusers and the abused through the Holy Passion of Christ.

          And yet, the weave didn’t remain in place. I had the faintest sense it was  not the prayer I was called to that day. 

          In the hours that followed,  I probed my discerning. Slowly I felt the abuse that St Germaine suffered recede from my spirit. I struggled to hold on to it through prayerful probing, because that is the common thread she and I share. But it slipped through my fingers.

          I had the vaguest feeling, it hadn’t ‘slipped away’ as much as it was taken.

          In its place lay a little bud the shepherdess placed on my soul. 

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          It is in My Passion that you must seek light and strength. ~ #654, St Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul.

In My Passion…..seek Light…

          I rested my mind in the Passion of my Saviour.

          And the bud began to unfurl its petals of red. I began to see that the breaking of Germaine’s body healed and nourished other souls, to go forth themselves, to multiply mercy through the same giving – the breaking of their own bodies for others.

          Going back to my own life, and petal by petal, my spirit saw each year lived. Every tear, every storm, every uprooting – converged on a single point of Light: the Holy Eucharist.

          I have slowly begun the journey to comprehend the purpose of the gnarls and twists and ruts in my life. Every nail endured through the loving of others is the unfurling of the mercy of the Eucharist in the pain of need, to be multiplied in a succession of other lives, one soul after another.

          .