Friday, August 31, 2007

St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Multi-Tasked

Am part way through Seraph Among Angels, the biography of St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi. She had five years of trials with much suffering of body and more so of soul, and then her work in earnest began.

She was mistress of novices, and since she could read souls, she was a force to contend with in her assertiveness and unrelenting challenge to the young women. She could be harsh yet also very loving, depending upon the situation.

Now I am at a section in which Jesus, in one of her many ecstasies, is revealing to her that her job will extend beyond the perfection of her own soul and the work with novices, to reforms He would like within the Carmel in Florence in which Mary Magdalene spent her adult life.

Mary Magdalene does not want to take on this task, for she was content with her rather domestic life in the convent, with her interior work and daily duties with the novices. Jesus displays displeasure with her, as she sees him thus in her ecstasies. She, of course, decides to do His will. He gives her many changes He'd like the sisters to make in their daily lives, their spiritual lives, and the manner in which they place themselves among other religious, for He wants their carmel to be an exemplary example.

This gives us much to consider in our own lives, for we may suffer physically or mentally and think that is far and well enough. But the Lord often desires multi-tasking--other duties to be performed for Him in His earthly domain among creatures in addition to suffering. And, He gives the means and graces to accomplish these tasks if we agree and cooperate.

Not only are we to work on interior perfection but also exterior works according to His desires. He asks certain things of certain souls, more of some and less of others. To Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, when she complained of how much He asked of her, He said that some souls He makes into bronze money but with her He desires to make gold so as to gain more from the coin.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Mental Illness

I have a friend who suffers with mental illness. She went along for awhile, since I first met her but after a major breakdown requiring seven shock treatments, with being able to be a spiritual friend. But in the past several months she has declined and become delusional and paranoid all the more, more than I've been around anyone with this illness.

My own form of suffering, chronic pain intermingled with spiritual pain, brings periods of situational depression, and other times of highs and joy when the pain eases. Thus, I seem to be very erratic. In fact, at times I feel rather insane from the pain. When I feel better, I want to take part in life more, again. But soon I am in much pain, and I look fine on the outside, so it is all the harder for people to deal with what is going on; it is confusing to them, surely.

Perhaps in the past couple of months all the work I've done gardening has wearied the body some, but also the discussion with my friend via e-mail has been more "active" in the planting and daily activities. Also, we meet once a month to discuss a Catholic book. But this last time we met at her house, which is unlike other times, and she got deeply into a discussion of one of her delusions. I tried to help her see that what she thinks is going on is really not, but she became very upset when she thought I did not believe her.

The friendship has slid since then. In my own panic to avoid so much solitude and loneliness that I experience, or am feeling more than before, I have applied for a job. It is a job that I would love, but I am uncertain I could physically manage it consistently. I think that all I endeavor, and the Lord is so good to me in letting me achieve in the garden, although I'm worn out right now, is too much for my friend. Or something has happened in our correspondence, for hers are rote and remote. She is shutting down more and more.

This is sorrowful. I do not know what to do other than to pray, which is active in its own right, of course. Part of the parting also frightens me for it seems God is isolating me out all the more, and that may be the answer to prayer for settling into the vocation as a hermit as well as a victim soul. I must not panic and avoid His will. Yet, there is a sadness in the ordeal my friend is going through, although she may not recognize the status. Or, she may be choosing to back away in the friendship. I keep praying her husband can do something, get her medication increased, or whatever would help, but he is helpless, too, until she is ready to get help again.

In a way, there is not an ease in friendship with someone with chronic pain, or with someone with mental illness. They both have their challenges for active, healthy, busy people to be able to comprehend and be close to those with these sufferings. This situation exacerbates the suffering all the more, in the sense of not being understood and being more isolated.

I suppose Jesus felt all these to a high degree. A friend from Avila, Spain who is in Las Crusadas de Santa Maria, e-mailed the reminder of JPII's "Salvifici Dolores". She paraphrased that as one draws closer to one's limit of suffering, one suffers all the more alone. Jesus did this. We all know how He suffered and died. He probably felt it when he prayed alone, too, during his public ministry when people would not understand Him.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Victim Soul Friendships

The past weeks have been rather trying, physically and spiritually. I called upon some friends to help in the worst of it, and they simply do not have time to spare.

At noon Mass I reflected upon this, as I had called a friend to whom I'd e-mailed several times with no response, thinking perhaps he was in the hospital. But he is simply busy. Very busy. I rather forget what that world is like. So I prayed and reflected about him and other friendships that have dropped by the wayside over the years since being permanently disabled as well as facing up to a rather mystic bent.

Victim souls really cannot have many if any deep earthly friendships. Perhaps the only ones are definitely who God chooses, perhaps a family member or two who love the victim soul and have an extra measure of patience and compassion to endure the stressors the victim soul encounters, over and over. It can be exasperating for a healthy person. And can they imagine what it is like for the one who suffers all the time?

So I explained in yet another e-mail, this time brief, that we cannot be friends but we can be acquaintances, or friends such as a person who is alive in the world can be "friends" with a soul in purgatory, and vice versa. According to mystics and private revelations of saints, souls in purgatory can pray for those on earth, but they are very busy suffering in a kind of isolation and yearning for God, for Light and for purification to be completed.

In this state, then, victim souls should not have great expectations for closeness or understanding by others on earth. To whom shall we go?

We must turn to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, to God the Father, to Mary, to all the saints and angels. Yes, I know this requires much blind faith, and some good books.

I am beginning today a book, The Meditations of a Hermit on the thoughts written by Bl. Charles de Foucald. While he was not a victim soul in a physical suffering way (until he was martyred), he was in essence a victim soul in the aspect of tremendous solitude in the Sahara, living among Muslims and over time learning their language. He did have a servant helper part of the time. Thankfully, he was physically able to do some manual labor, and as a priest to celebrate Mass. But he did have times of illness, and his fasting took a toll at other times, too. Anyway, it will be good to make a deeper friendship with Bl. Charles.

At Mass today, I prayed extra begging his help during these times which are quite trying to me, as I think he would be able to help me, to be the kind of friend that the living folks simply cannot be, and not through their fault. They simply do not have the time, the comprehension, the patience, or the connectedness with those on the other side in Victimsouland.

Suffering of People in Transitional Phases

I have noticed that people who are into the near-retirement years, who perhaps cannot work or have lost jobs a bit earlier than they'd hoped, still want to be of use and have some contacts in the world, to be, in essence, validated. Or, it is a matter of needing some distraction from too much solitude, or what seems to be too much solitude.

My cousin, 59, is beginning her work today as a pre-school assistant in a lovely private school. She has worked there a decade or more, three mornings a week. The other days she has cared for her granddaughter who is now in school. On those two days, my cousin feels the aloneness with out her granddaughter and called me to say she understands a little how I exist, day in and day out in solitude.

My cousin has her relative health, though, and so does her husband. He lost his job unjustly, early, and has had trouble finding another job at age nearly 58. Of course, he has not gone the route of part-time work or work beneath his experiential level. He will need to lower the expectations, no doubt.

I recall an aunt who, very new age, said she planned to live to be 120 by sheer desire and determination, as she had wisdom to impart to younger people. Evidently God did not want her imparting her new age wisdom, for she died the youngest of her siblings at age 80, and this after a few years of dementia from too much drinking and possibly all those new age thoughts.

People in transitional phases suffer much, for it is difficult to accept and adapt.

I go through this periodically, such as now. With 23 years of chronic pain from that car accident, and some emotional pain from situations and circumstances, and from spiritual pain in that it is not easy being a religious solitary, as that seems to be where God has placed me in addition to the vocation of victim soul, I lack peace. Lacking peace and acceptance of one's circumstances can be very painful. I'm not sure how one does accept and adapt except through much prayer and by living out each day, one foot in front of the other, even if the footfalls are quite trudging.

In these times, I often go rather beserk and try to fly in the face of reality, maybe like the aunt who was determined to live to be 120. I have applied for a job in the diocese, and out of duty, perhaps, I have an interview. I don't really want to work with the person there, as I am very much different in outlook and spiritual dimension, but I keep thinking I need a little something to do, to keep myself occupied, to make myself get up and moving about more, and that perhaps the pain won't seem so severe or make me so ill. Also, I long to move through the pain enough so that it doesn't keep me imbalanced, as I feel quite imbalanced from time to time, even now. Pain can make a person feel insane, actually. I laughed as I told my cousin that I become horribly direct and truthful when the pain level rises. For example, her mother is incredibly vain and always has been; in such a state of high pain level, if not careful, I could simply say, "You are VAIN" when she makes ridiculous comments at age 84, that she wants to be sensitive to what she wears at a wedding for she doesn't want to overshadow the bride!

So, in some people's cases, the transition phase of getting older plops us back into our vices, and from there we exist in a muddle of self-deluded clarity and purpose.

I don't want to suffer in that state. But I awoke this morning in tears, once more, feeling ill from the pain, and wondering how to motivate out of it, begging Jesus to help me have some kind of purpose and to adapt to solitary life, to pray, to have some kind of peace. When I feel better, as I do tend to improve to lower pain levels or else higher means to cope, I have energy again and all seems brighter. But applying for a job at this phase is perhaps silly, under the circumstances of my body, of what I think are my dual vocations (victim soul and hermit). I wonder how others have managed with peace and joy. I think of Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich and how she would lie in bed and pray, and have peace, and have visions, and when not in visionary state would sew clothes for the poor children about her village.

She, too, needed purpose, and she found it in that form of "activity." I wonder if these saints had down times? If they had a limbo state in which they were inbetween worlds and not quite sure where they fit in, if anywhere?

Most others do not understand what it is like to suffer chronically. My adult children would like me to have a life, to do something, to be occupied. This morning I put away some of the marvelous out-of-print and rare books on the spiritual life, but I have not the energy to read, somehow, not now except maybe some pages here and there. I noticed a book that I struggled to recall if I'd read it, and indeed I had by some distant cognizance.

No, it is not looking good to work full time at the office of spiritual development, whether I would fit in or not! I'd better just take out the bag of trash, read some Psalms, and take a hot soak bath until time to go to Mass. Pray for all those who are able to work and have the delight of distraction and be grateful I have a roof over my head.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

St. Rose of Lima's Reminder

Have been so exhausted and despairing in the physical pain as well as spiritual torment, trying to find my "place".

This morning the only thing I knew to do was to throw myself once more into the Sacraments, so went to Confession second day in a row followed by Mass. While waiting in confession line (so good to have a line!), I began reading St. Rose of Lima's excerpt in the Divine Office, "Readings".

She reminds us, from a message of God, that we should love trials and heap more upon ourselves if possible, as from trials come graces, and graces are necessary and good for our spiritual lives.

In confession, the priest from India of the Congregation of St. Vincent de Paul brought up being consecrated, as St. Rose of Lima was consecrated ot God and in the Third Order of St. Dominic. Yes, I have been just recently agonizing that I need to be consecrated as an eremitic in the diocese. But that is not forthcoming anytime soon, any formal consecration, it seems. And that adds to the anguish of not having a "place." Yet, this past week in having some communication from women who are consecrated hermits, publicly, I realized that I do not at all desire such public notice, and that this lack of interest in that aspect is deep within and surely from God's desires, also. But now I know that I am consecrated, for the priest told me, unbidden from any information I gave, that all I must do is surrender myself completely to God from within my heart and soul, and I will be consecrated.

I did this. Then during Mass I recalled a time right before I was confirmed a Catholic, that my heart was given intense pain and other aspects, and the Lord let me know He "consecrated--have wounded your heart."

Now the task is to embrace the suffering, over and over and over. To embrace the isolation and aloneness that comes with suffering, but knowing that we are not alone. We are with each other who suffer, and with Jesus on the cross, and all the saints who embraced tribulations knowing that to do so helped them grow in grace.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Situational Depression

Some people do not want to admit they are depressed because this can mean therapy or medications. And sometimes these means are necessary and beneficial. But often we suffer from what is "situational" depression which can be handled as it is: situational. Once the situation shifts or eases, the depression does not have to remain! In fact, we are called to strive for not allowing situations to get us down.

"Why downcast O my soul? Hope in God, now and forever!"

Chronic pain welcomes depression. One seems to beget the other. Those who suffer from chronic pain must develop Psalms to sing.... And, it helps to have an outlet when the going gets rough.

I find that the Sacraments help me endure pain as well as the depression that wants to snuggle in with it. Confession is very good for the verbal outlet and for delving into the self-pity that can align itself through depression. Sadness is not what God desires, and we must pray for joy even though the joy may not, often will not, be noticeable by us or others. The kind of joy that can come with pain is a kind of interior joy of peace, of understanding that there is a reason for the pain and the depression, and that with God it can be managed.

Sometimes I go into despairs, and there are physiological aspects that enter in, such as being worn out, not pacing myself, or not moving about enough to get limbered. With my pain, there is a break-even point, and at that point, resting and lying down must give way to activity, even if it is walking around the house. Gardening is very good for the body and soul as a form of gentle exercise and inner peace. My spiritual father last winter ordered me to "Grow orchids!" So I got some orchids, and they helped me learn much about endurance, slowness, silence, and patience. Once the blooms are spent, the green leaves are just there perhaps for months without more blooms. Orchids are perhaps in relationship in their bloom time to how God has to wait for us to bloom, with most of our days spent in green, in "ordinary time."

Today I became down and have had the tendency for a few weeks. I need something a little more to keep occupied, to be a little more distracted from thinking about myself, but something with people. It cannot be too much, for then I tire when over-peopled, and it must be in keeping with the vocations of suffering and hermit life. I have been praying for something, and it became more urgent today when I realized that I must develop a life apart from my adult children.

They are all going to visit their father and his wife in a warm and exciting city, and my ex-husband and his wife have the physical and financial means to provide a good time. I cannot. All I can offer is my Catholicism, my love, my presence in a more quiet way. They do not come to visit often, and one I haven't seen in a year and probably won't for more years. And, they also have developed independent lives with spouses and girlfriend and in two cases, new babies. They have their own friends, and they are all active, out in the world.

Someone with chronic pain cannot be out in the world, and if one who suffers has offered all to God, God would typically, it seems, accept the soul as a suffering servant. Sometimes, along with being a victim soul, the vocation of hermit could be introduced as well.

Anyway, I cannot be self-pitying, although the situation stings. It is depressing, actually, for I have reared the children and paid the way for the most part, on a disability pension, and the ex-husband and his wife have flourished financially and with health. I should be able to forget and move on, but it is tough when the husband left after I was injured in a car accident. So it goes. And my life is better, yes, and I do forgive, but I do remember, too. But that doesn't make me depressed anymore. What can get me down is the transitions, the accepting and adapting to life as the phases come and go.

So I am accepting that I cannot be the kind of "parent" that will attract adult children and their spouses, who are not Catholic and considering that Catholicism has been my salvation. But now I must delve more deeply into the Faith, and allow my adult children to have their lives free from feeling guilt about me. I must accept if God grants me just some little bit of distraction with others that would involve His Church, if He wills that, and hope to continue on with the vocation of suffering and the accompanying vocation of eremitical life.

The depression may come again with the pain, but at least this situation is being dealt with by doses of reality and prayer, and realizing that to hope for what cannot be is futile--and depressing.