Wednesday, July 30, 2008

"Why Is My Pain Continuous?"

"Why is my pain continuous, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook, whose waters do not abide!"

"Thus the Lord answered me: 'If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand; If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall be my mouthpiece. Then it shall be they who turn to you, and you shall not turn to them; and I will make you toward this people a solid wall of brass. Though they fight against you, they shall not prevail, for I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the Lord.'"

So here we have it, from Jeremiah 15: 18-20. It spoke to me this morning at Mass. Nearly could not get to Mass, so heavy the spirit hovering from the early hours, and yesterday. The Chinese Yew (pictured from the Mary Gardens, backdropped by yellow yarrow) is like the Lord's backbone giving strength to Jeremiah's.

Pondered these words of Jeremiah and the Lord, and realized must go to confession--again. All the sins must be repented, for the Lord desires to restore me, to have me stand in His presence, to speak what He wills. And He will bring others, not me to them. And yes, the pain is continuous, and the woundedness without cure. These thoughts found expression to the priest.

And he understood! Yes, he did! He understood the heaviness that comes from night work, as well as the sensations at times, in the day. I wanted to not have these, as the seeming collapses were recalled, back to youth. Why? It seems I should be able to be consistent, to suffer more joyfully, to not be at times so spent, and then suddenly so rejuvenated.

He explained, after I mentioned some of the sensations and souls, that I did not choose, but the Lord brought these aspects. Yes, and I added that I have agreed. I willingly agreed. So he said the seeming ups and downs are part of the suffering, that the Lord allows the sensation of the pain and the sorrows, the sufferings, of others, of souls living and dead, known and unknown, friend and foe--to be felt, to be prayed for, to have their sufferings alleviated.

So when I pray for the Bishop, or the Vicar General, or some soul brought in from the past to the present, unbidden souls but there appearing--or they are brought and then I pray, either way--the body and spirit are affected accordingly, yet in a hidden manner. At that moment, the others are uplifted, or encouraged, or pain lessened; and mine increases.

I guess I knew that at some level, but now it is affirmed again in the conscious, and so am relieved of concern of the seeming ups and downs, the times of being totally, physically or spiritually "spent". The Lord is utilizing the body and soul, the mind and the heart. So be it.

And the angels and saints come in to assist, and they are called upon at times, but other times they are sent. Like Hildegarde yesterday, and Bl. Ossana of Mantua, and others unknown. My mother and father, my dear angel Beth. One must be willing to suffer and willing to receive, also, the assistance in that suffering. The suffering often comes in kind with the prayer--even a glance-prayer at the image of a soul brought to the inner sight.

Then, one must not be discouraged or distracted by the sensations or weight that comes, for it is not going to cause a dent. The Lord has made the one as a brass wall.

But I must repent, always, and He will restore me and stand me in His presence. And, in His own way and time, I will be His mouthpiece, for however He desires and wills, or not. Sometimes it is silence He desires, perhaps mostly silence.

And He brings the people, they shall turn to me and not me not turn to them. He brings the souls without my seeking them out. And these souls are more likely ones incorporeal. These can come more often, without such encumbrance and effort. They turn to me for assistance in their needs, and it is then that I must pray and suffer and love, and love to suffer and pray for them in whatever is shown or not shown to me. Just the thought, the glimpse, even of those from the past, those known but forgotten, those unknown as well--all may come as the Lord wills. When, how, why, which ones, for how long--all that is the Lord's prerogative.

And the evil ones can come, the devils; but though they fight against, they do not prevail. If there are sore spots upon awakening, or sufferings during the day, it is these and the people who fight against me. If suddenly I am refreshed, it is the Lord delivering and rescuing me.

The pain is continuous, and it seems the wound is never cured, refusing to be healed. It is the wounds of Christ, for I am in His wounds. His wounds are powerfully gentle, strong, and filled with more love than any love gathered from all the holy souls of infinite fathom.

It is the love, then, that is continuous, and in my imperfect being, the suffering seems to rise and fall in accordance to the love proffered souls, and not discounting the human body's temporal fluctuations. But the soul stands steady, for the Lord has made it a solid wall of brass.

[Just finished 7 wheelbarrows of penitential mulch, plus spread seven others. The Chinese Yew can also be my spine leaning up against the Word-made-flesh spine. Thanks be to God for a renewed level of energy, enough to proceed with the tasks at Agnus Dei today.]

[To the dear one who has been accepted as an extern in a cloistered convent, but whose priest friend has advised not to go but to remain privately as a victim soul, is this priest friend your spiritual director or confessor? If so, then obedience should preclude any thoughts, wishes, or regrets of not going to the cloister. If he is only giving his opinion, then ask him to ascertain if it is his opinion and not a point of obedience. Then, if not, you may as well go and find out if it is the Lord's will, for the Lord will block the passage if it is not His will. But for a priest to say it is not for you and not advised, that you would not be content there, and that your life as victim soul should be lived out where you are--that is something to be heeded if it is a point of official direction. If you truly are a victim soul, then would you be able to fulfill the duties as an extern to the degree that others would then be dependent upon your work? I am praying for you to find out the answers, as this has been weighing upon you for some time. Ask the question of the priest, and then go or remain according to his answer. The vacillation of wondering and wishing and regret is one of those sideways crosses that we create in our own situations, don't you think? I have done this many times over, and it hinders the Lord's free movement in our souls--yet is always a good experience to learn the truth of vacillations. God bless your discernment and decision!]

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Sufferings of the Present Are as Nothing...

From Romans 8:18-21 the Morning Office greets us:

The sufferings of the present are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us. Indeed, the whole created world eagerly awaits the revelations of the sons of God. Creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord, but by Him who once subjected it; yet not without hope, because the world itself will be freed itself from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.

The hibiscus "Endless Summer" [photographed in the front Mary Gardens of Agnus Dei] reminds that while summer seems to go on and on, even the beauty and warmth of summer is subject to a kind of futility, as is suffering--except for the hope of Christ's suffering which sets all free of bodily bondage. Soon, really, as temporal time marches forward, moment by moment. Even though the growth of a plant is indiscernible if one watches, the growth over a day or two or three or weeks--it makes such a difference!

I needed to be reminded of the truth St. Paul reflects in his words. The body droops a bit, mid-summer. Pain increases, the attitude wilts, energy lags. During Mass I was interiorly reminded to take the vitamins and fish oil capsules, the iron pill and glucosamine chondroitin for the joints. The Lord is kind and merciful in the details, what we are blessed with in the aids to help in small ways, that make a difference over time.

Healthy diet (and fasting from that which is unhealthy and unnecessary!), water, exercise in manual labor, prayer, whatever inexpensive supplements to ease some of the pain, spiritual reading, frequenting the Sacraments (daily Mass and weekly confession!), smiles, adequate rest, fresh air (open up the windows, lift the shades!), much listening and awareness to God--over time, the soul grows. The bodily and mental and emotional sufferings of the present become nothing compared to the soul's growth. God's glory will be revealed in us.

I was beginning to have some sense of the futility of the manual labor, the gardens and upkeep of a small house. The responsibility and expense outlaid gnawed at the subconscious until it broke through to the conscious, like the voles out there boring down through mulch to gnaw the roots. Then there seemed little energy for much, and for whatever reason, I purchased a slew of old Catholic books on the topics of focus: victim souls, mysticism, obscure saints, hermits and hermit life, the interior life. All very good books, some scarce, well-written, expensive. The guilt appears like the small, strangely-colored molds that appear in morning, foam-like on the fresh mulch.

Well, there could be worse vices than excellent Catholic books. Will I get them read in the day or month or years remaining? Don't know. Can they be resold to recoup the expense? Don't know. Do they help my body and soul. Yes. Will I some day need money for a nursing home or a knee replacement (or shoulder surgery?). Perhaps; and perhaps the money will not be available. Instead, I will have trees and books.

I could go blind and not be able to read them, or work in the gardens. And work in the gardens will cease at some point, with age and infirmity. So the futility of gardens and books, of spending money, is seen easily; the endless summer of beauty and warmth can become an endless summer of drought and parching heat. It can become futile and fretful, but it doesn't have to.

No, there is hope. And the feelings that spread like the foamy mold atop the mulch have come from somewhere, some actual beginning, from under the surface and a combination of physical, chemical reactions. Turning to God the Father, to the Son of Man, to the Holy Spirit, hope reacts against the futile thoughts and feelings. Christ's suffering, His complete surrender, saves us from futility. We are freed, and His glory will be revealed in us.

The suffering is of short duration, actually, although at times it seems endless, and we do what we can to assuage enough to function. If our souls can come to adore, to love, hope, and then to love and help others to adore, to love, to hope--then we must do whatever with what God provides, to adore, love, and hope.

Sometimes the soul moves into a position of repose. As St. Peter of Alcantara (early spiritual director of St. Teresa of Avila) states, "The seaman rests when he arrives in a harbour."* In some instances, perhaps mid-summer of what seems an endless summer (or winter), the soul wishes to heighten the purity of the surrender. The body may not realize that, except for the suffering signaling a dulldrum, a seeming droop.

It is not that the soul ceases individual activity, but the type of activity is changed. (Do the interests veer from what Jerome Hawes, hermit, called the way of prudence, to the way of Divine folly?) One does not seem to press forward but remains where it is. That is the best place at that point. Then the soul has freed space, from having surrendered, to listen to the Beloved.

*Muller, Michael. St. Francis de Sales.1936. New York: Sheed & Ward, pp. 157-58.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Upon Asking a Question of St. Luke

Perhaps sharing the answer of someone's asking, years ago, for ways that I could be helped or healed from pain--might help others who suffer.

He says:

"Simply love is greater than anything he could do. And why don't I believe him? Why don't I simply love and remember to love?

It's the pain that reminds me to love and to do that which I am supposed to do. If I didn't have a very strong reminder (that I am too young in my faith), I would be off.

And I would be called back into the world too easily. And that I am not ready to not have a good, firm reminder."

I say:

"If that pain were healed I would be free to use all of my energy to love."

He says:

"You are but a child. That was a very sweet but childish thought."

He explains further:

"But pain can be relieved when I attain unconditional love for myself and for others, when I attain the status of those before. John. Of the Christ.

"Attaining unconditional love is not an upward movement. It's more of a horizontal movement. And that is a very simple development that doesn't necessarily take time. It's not the time It's the depth of the learning, the depth of the faith and the love. That it is the great belief that all things are possible, and of learning that and of staying with it.

He tells me that:

"People in our lives--it is not just me--anyone could strive for this that I happen to desire very much. And that this pain is a strengthening device. And that, yes, [one can be] a rare and beautiful bird in this lifetime. And that part of [that] rare beauty is the innocence, of the naivete of a child, of wanting and believing and not realizing that [one] is rare and beautiful. And of not becoming what we call 'a conceited person' but innocently strive forth. That is what anyone could have.

"But my spirit is open to this growth, and I am willing to endure whatever pain. And remember that pain at other levels and dimensions is sheer joy. Wherefore I must not fall back into the pain and how the world perceives pain. But it is so easy for a person living in these times to view from the world.

"And this world is so much like an evil sponge with tentacles that reaches out and grabs the people and sucks them back into the mouth of the evil. We don't see the evil. We remain at this very banal level.

"And that is what I do when I don't remember the joy of the pain. When I fight against the pain, it is from the demands--the demands of other people--who want me to not have pain, but do not understand that I can learn and grow and strive toward that which my heart desires from the very beautiful point of the joyful pain that I bear."

This Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time I must reflect on this wisdom given two decades past. I am still but a child, not far in my faith. It is the love that will increase the faith. And during the night, the over-done body's pain needed reminding that suffering is sheer joy. Today is for rest and prayer and love.

What about the street man who after Mass asked me if I knew anyone who had a couple of dollars he could borrow? I said I did not know of anyone. I had been advised to not give out cash to those who asked, for it is likely they would spend it on alcohol or drugs. So I suggested he ask at the rectory, as they sometimes have fast-food coupons. He asked, and the priest said he did not have any. Then another parishioner, an older man, called him over to his car and gave him a folded bill. The one begging was gone in a flash.

So I must ask again if I should have given the man a couple of dollars? And to pray again what is love, what is simply love? Perhaps I must get some fast-food coupons to have handy. Or, to pray more for the homeless, the reasons they are homeless, and any addictions they may suffer. And to keep donating to the St. Vincent de Paul food pantry.

And to pray with much love for those who are depressed, who want to end their lives. I must pray for the suffering in the world (but not as the world views)--suffering of others who may not comprehend the holy love in suffering that I am yet after two decades and a lifetime, learning to comprehend.

Love eases the pain by helping pain evolve and grow, into yet more love. John the Baptist loved and suffered. Christ suffers; He loves as God, for God is love and He is God. It is said that the Holy Spirit is the enactor of love and binds with love the Three Persons of the Trinity as One.

Keep striving for unconditional love.

Love to suffer; suffer to love.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Being Stripped by God

Debated on this for victim soul or hermit blog. Really fits to both. A Victim Soul of the Sacred Heart of Jesus must be stripped of all that encumbers it to the vocational task. A hermit must be stripped of all that encumbers it to the vocational task.

The reason I left suddenly from the south of France, when on private retreat and had a gift given of a place to stay on the Mediterranean in a most beautiful cove, was a woman in tremendous suffering. That is a story unto itself. But part of it is that she told me things.

There are relationships that found me comfortable, but they were encumbering. I needed to send them on their way. It was a kind of parasitic thing.

I knew it was true. One of them I just let go, did not initiate calls. 'Twas for the best as there was nothing more to say, and what had been said was not getting through. Seems as if there were others, less major ones, that soaked back into the ground of earth. Then I realized I was to allow the Lord to bring those whom He chose and not to approach on my own initiative.

Now, within the last week, four major and five total relational sectors have been lopped off. One has dropped in a way that was unpleasant and brought to a head from my own sin. Another was an offshoot of that one. Two others were from my no longer simply being an affirming host; I no longer upheld congenially, faulty comments in conversation. At least, according to our faith, they were not on target. The final relational dropping was from one who initiated the drop sensing we had taken each other as far as we could. Well, I think it had gone as far perhaps a year ago, but it was one of those comfortable host deals, where the guests hang around not realizing the host is rather weary of it all. Finally the host says something or acts a certain way that the guests realize they aren't as welcome, as it stands, to remain. Sort of pointless.

But when the guests leave, there is yet a void for the host. A relief in a way, but a shock at the emptying out and just how still and silent is the place, with no guests chatting. There are no polite meals to prepare and serve--and by polite, I mean in serving what others want to eat (or hear...).

Then the host is alone with God to face itself. It is all right. Especially if one is a victim soul or a hermit, or both. The emotional ties, now broken, are what is painful only in the way in which some have been broken and in the way others have been stripped or removed themselves. The fact is, the host was somehow ready to send these comfortable guests on their way, but didn't necessarily have the courage or the tact to do it graciously, or to do it at all.

That is when the Lord steps in and does the stripping. He allows the host to bungle with some and has mercy after the confession of the sin of the way in which the bungle was enacted. But in others, He finishes off the work that would also, no doubt, be bungled by the host.

What is next? I don't know, but I must proceed in faith and not try to fill the empty place with other comfortable guests who desire to be affirmed, when victim souls and hermits are really not in the business of affirmation. We are in the business of suffering and praying, of being alone with God, and of delivering messages only if God brings someone who asks for the message. And even then, we must know that the Lord asks us to give that person the message for which he asks. And give it once, perhaps twice if the Lord asks us to repeat it. Only if.

The suffering for the victim soul and/or hermit, when being stripped by God, is in the humility that comes when one knows its ineptitude and cowardice, as well as its sinfulness on many fronts. It is a good suffering, and that, too, can be offered to the Lord for the very guests who have been sent on their way or who chose to leave, finding the accommodations no longer inviting or comfortable.

The suffering then, for the victim soul and/or the hermit, is to get up after the initial shock (like the breath being knocked out), and to keep going in yet more blind faith, realizing that we are the guests of God, and in His house there are expectations and truth, and truth in dealing with our own souls is not going to mean that we will be affirmed in whatever we choose to think or do. We will be affirmed only in truth, and that is in God's truth.

These Asiastic lilies bloomed Christ-blood red. Along came the wind one day, and the petals were stripped shortly after the photo captured them--already mature in bloom and ripe for stripping.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Suffering of Sin

Sin causes such suffering, especially in the soul who is trying to not sin. It comes as a surprise, some sin, and that often is the sin most necessary to get rid of.

Some sin is fairly obvious.

Here is this lovely trunk of a small, Paperbark Maple. A year ago the bark was not peeling like this. Who would suspect that it would begin to exfoliate, unless someone knew that this is the case with Paperbark Maples?

Well, it is true with souls. A Victim Soul of the Sacred Heart of Jesus might look pretty regular at the onset, but once planted into the soil of Jesus' Sacred Heart, and once it begins to root into the vocation as a victim soul, offering its whole life and soul and any sufferings now or to come, to Jesus for His use, the soul begins to exfoliate its sins.

This is necessary. And, it is beautiful, is it not? Just as in the Paperbark Maple, as the tree is noted for this unusual effect of the bark's peeling, so the sins of a victim soul begin to peel. It is a good thing, and of God, and holy to exfoliate sins. It happens for the earthly life of the soul, and on into purgatory. Like the tree, the soul does not die with its sins peeling off; instead, it thrives during its exfoliation process.

What might seem alarming in all this to the soul (or the person tending the Paperbark Maple), is all part of the unique process of growth. And growth is beautiful in its unique attributes.

In some seasons, the growth appears to slow, but within, there is still growth going on. Sometimes sins exfoliate so visibly; other times they are working their way off subtly. A Victim Soul of the Sacred Heart must pray always to have its sins be peeled away, and also to view the process as a unique beauty, of natural, spiritual growth, in the glory of God's providence. Our souls grow this way, and can be utilized for the enhancement and good of others. Such is the desire of a victim soul, as well as God's will for those called to suffer.

Even the sensate suffering of our sins exfoliating, can be offered to Jesus for reparative use.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Suffering of Sideways Crosses

The balloon flower photographed and viewed sideways disturbs the sensibilities.

So also, the sideways crosses we bear and suffer, contorted by our own manipulations.

Have written about sideways crosses in the Catholic hermit blog, but they are true sufferings. Victim souls are very much affected by sideways crosses. Those of others can seem insufferable. Should a Victim Soul of the Sacred Heart of Jesus offer oneelf for someone's sideways cross?

Seems as if one ought make that offering. Sideways crosses are those unholy ones, created out of vices and dysfunctions, borne often without the person realizing the burden--without realizing how ridiculously unnecessary, and also how damaging.

They are like tiny voles in the Mary Gardens, quietly and swiftly boring down into the mulch to gnaw the roots of trees, bulbs, perennials, grass. The gardener must act swiftly and rid them out, or the lovely gardens will be lost, the trees and other plant life will suffer, languish, die.

So, too, the soul that suffers sideways crosses that are not detected and rid out.

Should one suffer one's own sideways crosses? No. They must be detected and rid out. No delaying. See them for what they are, for the victim souls' own sideways crosses prohibit freely accepting the holy crosses Jesus offers and desires the victim souls to bear for love of Him and love of others.

But suffering others' sideways crosses is made in the offering, and the prayer includes desiring those others to be able to detect and rid out their own sideways crosses. Souls are not free to follow Jesus until those sideways crosses are out of their interior landscape.

Sideways crosses can be so subtle. Here's one detected in a person: a fascination with whatever parish priest's life. Then the desire to discuss the details of conversations and whatever information the priest lets slip, such as during a visit or dinner invitation. Such a sideways cross creeps into other conversations, seeking out (like the vole boring holes hoping to discover succulent roots) information on other priests' lives who others might know about.

Women are prone to this sideways cross, but men have been noted to discuss Father so-and-so.
This sideways cross is gossip, of course, but it has insidious undertones of infatuation, and the tidbits gleaned of the priests' lives can become quite the spiritual distraction and can feed emotional deprivations.

What motivates such a sideways cross? Loneliness? Curiosity? Boredom with oneself or one's other relationships? Intrigue with the otherwise hidden life of another--desire to unravel a mystery? Well, this latter is a subset of curiosity. Women tend to suffer this vice more than men, but anyone can construct sideways crosses from idle curiosity.

Perhaps this sideways cross is best rid out by the direct approach. If it is within oneself (and doesn't have to be a parish priest as object of curiosity--the movie star industry is filled with curious voyeurs who purchase tabloids), the poison must be placed in the vole-hole, or traps set. One must see the sideways cross as it is, root out the underlying needs, and instead feed on the spiritual, bolster the virtues, and pray for holy crosses to replace the dysfunctional ones.

If the sideways cross (of improper fascination, curiosity, obsession either spoken or mulled in the mind) is detected in another, do not succumb to the same or fall to discussion (which equates to listening to gossip or contributing to gossip). But this sideways cross, particularly when a priest is the object, is more pathetic due to whatever is motivating the interest.

Prayer to the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, mother of priests and of all souls, will provide answers as to directly revealing the sideways cross to the one dragging it about, or to practice all the more changing the topic or removing oneself from the person who has constructed that type of cross within his- or herself.

But the Victim Soul of the Sacred heart should not abandon praying for that person, or from offering penances or to suffer on behalf of that person's suffering. Underneath this sideways cross is some other suffering of emotional need or desire, surely. Or it can boil down to a hunger that has grown into a vice problem, innocently masked as just simple interest or small talk.

Sideways crosses might not stand out blatantly as a tree that is photographed sideways. But as in the photo of a sideways balloon flower, the wrong of it jars the rightness and niggles the spiritually striving, sensitive conscience into desiring to set it aright.