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“You touched my coffee!” the customer screamed at the young barista, who burst into tears as she helplessly tried to offer a new cup to the angry woman. We sensed she was not a local and the loyal patrons rallied to defend the young girl. “If you are so worried about contamination, you should not even go out!” shouted one patron. “Stay home!” another butted in.
As a pastoral worker, I offered her a word of comfort. While she made my cuppa between sobs, I reminded her that the current environment made everyone tense, so she shouldn’t take it personally and let the incident ruin her day. Just a few minutes later, I had to take my own advice. When I accidentally overstepped the 1.5 meters mark at the grocery store, an elderly gentleman admonished me with disgust: “Stay in your spot!” adding a poke in the arm for extra emphasis. Then, when I took my little granddaughter out for a much-needed exercise, she was berated by a passerby, shouting “1.5 meters!” as he huffed away. Whew!!!
Many of us have similar incidents to recount as the COVID-19 pandemic takes its toll. We are all so full of fear and anxiety that we seem to have lost the love, joy and graciousness of life. Hardly anyone smiles now as we walk past them. Heads are bowed, as eyes flit about, alarmingly vigilant but spaced out. The body language signals, “Stay away from me”. This is easily understandable as we face a dangerous, invisible enemy and we do not know who will fall by its sword before the pandemic ends. Thousands of lives and livelihoods are being lost or impaired. Although we all know that social distancing and self-isolation are necessary shields, we all suffer its effects – some catastrophically.
Everyone has been affected, especially the dedicated front-line health workers, who heroically continue their care despite the risks. Sadness over the loss of loved ones, for any cause, becomes overwhelming when mourners are unable to receive the comfort of friends and family. My heart breaks for them as I pray for the souls of the dead and for comfort for their families. Government and health authorities are doing everything they can to enforce what they believe to be the best measures to control and prevent it. Many of them compare it to warfare. And indeed, there are casualties. Every nation is at its knees.
But what has been its impact on me personally? When the lockdown and the shutdown were imposed, I looked at the projects I was supposed to be working on. At that moment, they seemed irrelevant. I decided to put them away in the garage, knowing that I would not be able to work on them now. My perspective has quickly shifted as I live moment by moment, prioritizing health and safety. I needed to visit the doctor for a medical issue. I implored the Lord to spare me from needing hospital care, as I dreaded the atmosphere there at present.
I am forced to be more reflective and examine which parts of my life need to change. Every day I pray on my knees to ask the Lord for help. At every hour, I pray my favorite psalm 91 for the Lord’s protection for everyone, and the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”
I usually get excited about future projects, but with COVID-19, the future is a blur. The unknown has become my daily reality. Because I am accustomed to a busy life, I needed to find activities to help me cope. I cook for the family more. Since my daughter and son-in-law work from home, I have taken on substantial duties in the kitchen. Family life has become our foundation. The first few weeks of staying home 24/7 were trying, but things improved as family solidarity was given greater importance and we appreciated each other more. Each of us contributed more to home duties.
The daily laundry has become a consolation; its gentle whirring a sound of normality. Having ample time to clean cupboards and sort the house has given me a purpose. Sleeping-in became an escape at first, but then I also realized how exhausted my body had been over the years and I welcomed the rest and the slowing down. My shower in the morning has moved to an afternoon ritual as I rush to the shops for our essentials in the morning, while stock is still available. Simplicity has become a norm – no make-up, no perfume, just my unmade self.
Little miracles happen. When I was desperate for toilet paper, hand wipes and disinfectant sprays and none was found at the shelves, some were left in an abandoned trolley!
Reports from some parts of the world reveal that nature is taking a recuperative rest as pollution reduces and sky, oceans, forests revive. The closure of our churches during Lent and Easter was particularly difficult, and I wonder what message the Lord is revealing to us. Where is God in all of this? many people ask. Spiritual messages are plentiful. Most of them are encouraging, affirming that God is not the source of this, as He knows no evil, but He is travelling with us on this painful journey, just as He did when He suffered here on earth with us and His Resurrection gives us hope that we will endure this trial.
Our prayer group that has been meeting weekly for the last 22 years was not discouraged by the lockdown. Led by the Holy Spirit, we conduct our prayer meeting and spiritual fellowship by phone conference every Friday and, gather prophetic messages and exhortations to see us through these difficult times.
By embracing the use of technology, we can remain connected to our priests who continue to celebrate Mass for us. The blessing from this is that many people who were not previously present at Mass have joined us in tuning in to church gatherings and teachings, paving the way to a deeper, inner recollection and understanding of the faith. Never again will I take the gift of the Eucharist for granted. It is the most profound fast I have ever experienced.
Recently, I got a call from a friend who is battling serious illness every day – at any moment she could die from heart and kidney problems. When she came out of hospital after another bout of complications, she told me that her outlook is one day at a time. I reflected that we are all in the same boat now.
COVID-19 is teaching us an important lesson – to value each moment and be full of gratitude to God, from the instant we wake and all through the day. Words and deeds of love need to be spoken and performed right now, right here – not tomorrow.
And have we ever said a genuine thank you to someone who served us today?
“New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world. Stir up in us desire to serve you, to live peacefully with our neighbors and all your creation, and to devote each day to your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ.” Amen. (A Liturgy for Morning Prayer, Upper Room Worship book)'
The coronavirus is indeed causing havoc in the world today; but is there a virus deadlier than this?
As I write this, almost the whole world is in the grips of the virus that has paralysed mankind. Who would have thought that in this age of advanced technology, with daily scientific discoveries, we could be taken by surprise? Or that, while mankind has ventured to nearby planets, our plans for our lives and our future together on earth could be so dampened that we will be forced to live an inferior lifestyle, very different to what we are used to?
2020 has barely begun, but Australia (where I live) has already suffered several disastrous events, culminating in the current crisis. The year began with catastrophic bushfires which burned massive tracts of land, killed numerous people and animals and destroyed many, many homes and properties. Smoke darkened our skies, intruded into our homes and even interfered with sporting fixtures. Just as we were starting to recover from that, extensive storms and heavy rain struck, pelting some places with huge hailstones and causing flash floods. Just when we thought we can now move on; the Coronavirus has invaded our lives. Now, we are all enduring the stifling restrictions which are crippling our economies, our communities, our education and our access to the sacraments. Mankind is afraid and though many still show a brave face, we are all aware that some of us may not see tomorrow.
Currently much of the world is in a war-like situation. Some people are fighting for toilet rolls, stockpiling food for months and cutting off all physical contact. All public places except essential services are closed and New York – the centre of international business – is now under the supervision of the National guard. This is an extraordinarily difficult time for leaders of all nations as they venture into uncharted territories. A few of them have even contracted the virus themselves.
The virus, and all the restrictions it has caused, can only damage us physically and psychologically. Scripture teaches us that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, so we must protect and care for it, but Jesus reminded us not to fear what can only kill the body. Our souls are invaluable in God’s sight and it lives forever. Jesus came into a world focused on the physical life and material things to show us that the spiritual life is more important than anything else. The flesh must pass away, but the soul will live on eternally.
The real virus that has paralysed mankind today is SIN. No other virus has ever caused greater damage than the virus of SIN that has crippled and degenerated us so much that many are already living dead, empty lives, fulfilling no other purpose than to entertain themselves. Sin has distanced us from God, darkened our minds, hardened our hearts, dulled our ears, blinded our eyes and sickened our souls. This is far more terrible than being unable to move around freely doing what we like. We could face an eternity separated from all that is good, unless we change our ways.
Jesus took up the burden of sins of all mankind and died for all of us, so we could live with Him forever. So, we need not fear death if we accept His salvation and follow Him daily. We will all die one day and because of our hope in Jesus, we can rejoice as death approaches.
So if you are a Christian, this is the time to showcase our faith, to be fearless, trusting in the life that Jesus has already offered and prepared for us. This is the time as the church teaches, to receive spiritual communion. The heart of a Christian would be full of joy in this time since nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. And any sickness especially leading to death is a time of great rejoicing for such a person. As St Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” Philippians 1:21. We must now, without fail, pray for mercy and forgiveness on behalf of our brothers and sisters who do not know Him and haven’t accepted HIM as their Lord and Saviour and are unaware of the joy of that relationship. We must also do whatever is possible to help those around us as inspired by the Holy Spirit.
For those who only follow a tradition by going to church every Sunday and do not really share a relationship with God, this is your time to look deep within your heart where Christ awaits you. This is where HE always desired to meet you. Instead of filling the free time with empty things during this shutdown, seize the opportunity to spend time in silence, read the Bible and allow HIS word to take flesh in your life. There is no better time than this to forgive and to ask forgiveness from those whom we have offended.
For those who are still following other man-made religions/ways of life (receiving some sort of temporal satisfaction), Jesus declares that HE is the truth, the way and the life. This means that if you are really searching for the truth, all roads will lead you to Jesus Christ alone. Are you searching for the truth or are you settling for breadcrumbs falling off the table?
For those who are depending only on their good works or those who are following nothing at all, this is your time to reflect on your inner life and give your souls and hearts to Jesus and be saved. “Taste and see that the Lord is good” Psalm 34:8.
Let’s prepare ourselves for our last day that will come at an hour we do not expect. It may be when Jesus will return in glory to gather all those who love and follow Him. Or it may be at any moment before that.
Chris Hadfield, the first Canadian to walk in space states that astronauts do not go into space with their fingers crossed and that the more you know, the less you fear. In other words, the less you know, the more you fear. I encourage you to know Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for to know him is to know the truth (John 8:32) and to have eternal life (John 17:3). Let us recognise that the real virus that afflicts us is Sin. Let us allow Jesus to take over our lives, deliver us from sin and lead us to eternal life.'
Anchor of Hope
When we endure challenging times, God often introduces exceptional people into our lives bearing hope and peace. When I was mourning the loss of my eyesight, Chev. Benny Punnathara entered my life, bringing the light of Christ into my darkest hour. God used this godly man to reveal how much my heavenly Father loves and treasures me. Through him, I learned about the great work God is accomplishing through Shalom ministry. Ever since, this ministry has been a huge part of my spiritual journey.
Through Shalom ministry’s spiritual revival retreats, God has poured out His grace, welcoming me into a more intimate relationship with my Savior. At every Shalom event, I have become more convinced of the value of each soul. It was eye opening for me to recognize the importance of praying for the conversion of every soul—not just my own soul and the souls of my loved ones, but the salvation of every single person in this world.
Obtaining the salvation of a single soul is greater than any material blessing. That is why our Savior was willing to give up His life for my salvation. As I discovered the saints and their fascinating stories, I was inspired by the way they offered their sufferings for the salvation of souls. How many souls could I gain for my Lord if I cheerfully offered every little suffering in union with Jesus’ passion and death on the cross? In Saint Maria Faustina’s Dairy, Jesus tells her: “There is but one price at which souls are bought, and that is suffering united to My suffering on the cross.”
As a blind person I face many obstacles in both my personal and professional life, but when I encounter a challenging or difficult situation, rather than being frustrated or upset over that incident, I ask God for the grace to offer it up for the salvation of souls. I am not always successful in this. There are so many times I have failed to submit my sufferings for the salvation of souls, especially after the loss of my niece. Then, I remember that Jesus wept for the loss of His friend Lazarus and groaned in agony on the cross. So, I offer up my emotional state and ask Him to unite my pain to His. God knows our weak and fragile nature. He is with us in our adversity. He can take our imperfect offering and make it perfect.
Since Shalom plays a major role in spreading the good news to millions of people throughout the world, I also offer my afflictions for its success in reaching those who need it so much. I pray that those who still have the gift of sight may use it wisely to enjoy the inspiring programs, articles and retreats Shalom produces, so that they can receive the love of their savior.
Don’t Waste Your Opportunities!
Nothing in our lives happens without Our heavenly Father’s knowledge or permission. If God has allowed a hardship to occur in our lives, it can ultimately bring good if we share it with Him. We may not understand how this can be when we are in the moment, or until we reach eternity, but if we place our trust in Him, He will achieve what we cannot.
In this fallen world, we are going to encounter many difficult and painful situations. When unexpected and unpleasant things happen in our lives, we can choose how to respond. We can waste our suffering by complaining, or even blaming God, or we can offer it up in union with Christ’s suffering on the cross for the salvation of souls.
In her diary, Saint Faustina wrote: “I saw the Lord Jesus nailed upon the cross amidst great torments. A soft moan issued from His heart. After some time, He said, ‘I thirst. I thirst for the salvation of souls. Help Me, my daughter, to save souls. Join your sufferings to My passion and offer them to the heavenly Father for sinners.’” Uniting ourselves to Christ in this way is one of the best ways we can help to ease our Lord’s sorrow. Let us make best use of these precious opportunities to help more souls gain a relationship with our Lord who loves us so much.'
Have You Been Formed in Christ?
By virtue of our baptism we are called to be missionary disciples. The risen Christ commissioned His followers to carry out His mission: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). To do that, we need to be empowered, formed in Christ. What does that mean?
A good place to start is John 15: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does He prunes so that it bears more fruit” (John 15:1-2). To be transformed, we need to be pruned by prayer and suffering. While prayer is necessary to participate in the divine life, it is suffering that can break down boundaries separating us from God. At certain points in life—such as during profound loss, rejection or failure—we lose control. Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in a place of pain.
At these moments, the Lord is with you in your pain. He has suffered it all and He loves and sustains you in being, every moment of your existence. Collapsing into His arms, uniting yourself with Him, you can do the impossible. If you have been betrayed, rejected or harmed, you will be able to forgive through His grace.
Forgiveness is such a key component for transformation. When we do not forgive, we stay stuck in the painful experience. Our relationships with God, others and ourselves are stifled. When you allow Christ to take over, forgiveness happens and the pain is released. It almost happens in spite of you. It happens when you say “Yes” to God’s will, just as our Blessed Mother did at the Annunciation: “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done according to Your Word” (Luke 1:38).
Have You Fallen in Love With Jesus?
Ironically, for some Catholics, this invitation seems strange. Many Catholics have a hard time even saying the name Jesus, let alone saying “I love Jesus” because it seems so Protestant or evangelical. You are made in the image and likeness of God. He is love, so you are made to love and be loved by God. As a beloved child of God, how can you be afraid of God, whom Jesus invites us to call Abba or Daddy? That is why Jesus says further along in John 15, “I no longer call you slaves, I call you friends.” This is the friendship model of genuine religion.
As Saint Catherine of Genoa said, “My deepest me is God.” A thousand years prior to Saint Catherine, Saint Athanasius, who did so much to fight against Arianism and contribute to the Nicene Creed, said “The Son of God became Man so that man could become God.” To participate in this reality is transformation. That is why Christian ministry re-grafts the true self into the experience of the Triune God. That is why suffering is not the worst thing that can happen to you, because it seems it is the most effective way to die to the false self.
The cross leads to resurrection. That is the Paschal Mystery, which we are called to live every day. What happens to Christ Jesus is meant to happen to us, because we are members of His mystical body, the Church. Saint Ignatius of Antioch put the necessity of suffering in this way:
As the Body of Christ, the Church, we are meant to go through the same process of transformation that is brought about by suffering. The important thing is to find God in the midst of your afflictions. Once you can find God in all things, you become indestructible because God is working in and through you.'
Carried in my heart until we meet again in heaven …
Counting my Siblings For as long as I can remember, when I met people who would ask, “How many siblings do you have?” my answer was always “one.” But I recently had an epiphany: That
answer isn’t true.
I don’t have just one sibling; I have two. So why wasn’t my eldest sibling in the count?
I never met Paul Francis. He lived—and died—before I ever came to be. Why should my sister be acknowledged because she has lived 40 years (and counting), but my brother not because he lived only 6 weeks?
That I never had the chance to play Hide & Seek with him doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be acknowledged.
That I never rode my bike to piano lessons with him doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be remembered.
That he never got to experience family trips to Scotland and Nova Scotia, road trip adventures, and lots of singing and silliness, doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be counted.
I don’t know why Paul Francis died, but I do know how he died (miscarriage), and more importantly, I know that he lived (albeit briefly). So why do the early miscarried get swept aside? “It’s common to miscarry, especially your first child,” people will say. So what? Why should the fact that the loss is common to make us act as though the individual never existed?
“It hurts to bring it up,” others might suggest. That reminds me of a Facebook post by a friend of mine whose child died several days after birth. She shared this quote by Elizabeth Edwards: “If you know someone who has lost a child, and you’re afraid to mention them because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died—you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget they died. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived, and… that is a great gift.”
A beautiful remembrance
Paul Francis lived, and he deserves to have that acknowledged. If the mere mention of a miscarried child’s short life brings indescribable pain and one run from referencing him or her as a result, burying the reminders not only doesn’t serve those little lives, but it doesn’t serve the grieving heart, whose incapacity to acknowledge is evidence of a need for healing. And we don’t find healing by stuffing—we find healing by releasing, wrestling, grappling, and honoring.
Those who have lost a child to stillbirth or to miscarriage late in pregnancy often—and rightly— memorialize their children with hand and footprints, even photos. But such tangible memories can’t be made with children like Paul Francis, who die as young as 6 weeks post-fertilization; so what can be done?
One website about miscarriage shared this quote from a grieving heart: “The mention of my child’s name may bring tears to my eyes, but it never fails to bring music to my ears. If you are really my friend, let me hear the beautiful music of his name. It soothes my broken heart and sings to my soul.”
My sibling can have a name. My parents never knew if Paul Francis was a boy or girl, but if they’d had a son, that would have been his name. Incidentally, Paul means “small; humble” and Francis means “free.”
My sibling can be continually referenced in my life. Now, when asked how many siblings I have, my response is matter-of-fact: “two.” And I leave it at that. If asked, “Brothers or sisters?” and “Are you the oldest?” I casually reply, “My brother is the oldest, and he’s in Heaven; then there’s my sister, then me.” Sometimes there are no further questions. Other times, there are, and I treat the conversation about the life, and loss, of Paul Francis before birth, as I would if any other sibling of mine lived and died after birth.
My sibling can touch lives. As someone who spends her life advocating for the rights of pre-born humans, I realized my lack of reference to Paul Francis was a betrayal of my beliefs—for if the pre-born are as valuable as the born, if I would reference a sibling who only lived until the age of 2, 10, or even 20 years, why not acknowledge this sibling? Do I really believe Paul Francis was just as human, just as precious, just as unrepeatable as a late-term fetus, infant, toddler, or teen? Would I hide the death of an older sibling? Then why hide the death of a younger sibling?
By referencing my deceased sibling, some people inevitably ask what happened, and when you explain miscarriage, that individual is challenged to look at miscarriage in a different light—to look at it as a great loss, as losing a born child is a great loss. As a result, my deceased pre-born sibling becomes the impetus for a discussion about how we view the pre-born, and an opportunity to normalize treating the pre-born like the born.
By not dismissing his death as “oh, well, it was just a miscarriage” but treating it seriously, my example invites others to share their stories of loss, revealing even their own miscarriages. At which point I can ask questions to further healing such as, “Have you named your children? Have you thought about planting a plant in memory of your children to have an object of life to remember them by?” When we do this, we often validate the feelings many women and men have silently felt, but never viewed as legitimate.
In response to this new approach of my sibling count, a friend responded, “If I were to do that, when people ask how many siblings I have, I’d have to say 17 because my mom had 7 miscarriages.”
Well, what an opportunity! You can be guaranteed my friend will get some kind of reaction to an answer of “17,” and it surely will open doors to talk about how we view the pre-born and how we work through the heartbreak of losing children. It will also acknowledge each and every one of her siblings as valuable enough to warrant attention. Had Paul Francis not died, he’d be celebrating his 41st birthday right about now. And as I think about it, I’m a lifetime overdue on writing him a poem (something I like to do for loved ones) to honor his life:
I do not know what it is like, To live with an older brother. But one thing that I do know, Is that you made our mom a mother.
You were first to grow in her womb, And in that way, we’re connected. We both spent time beneath her heart, And with love, we were infected.
Would you have written poems like Dad? Or, like mom, sing me to sleep? Maybe like our sister you’d have been a peacemaker, Or an avid reader of all things deep?
I tell others about you now; I didn’t do that before. I pledge to remember your existence. Telling of you opens a door.
Why, Paul Francis, was your life so short? Do you have the answer now? For us we stay in mystery, Trusting God, to whom we bow.
Dubious about how to raise your child? Here’s a simple, yet workable way!
As a first-time mom, I was very apprehensive about my child. I looked for advice on the internet, books, and from anywhere I could get guidance. Some things worked, but some did not. Yet, nothing eased my mind. Most of what I found on the internet was too pragmatic and experience-based (not relevant for my baby). I tried many ideas offered but they never seemed to work they only wasted my time and gave me false hope. I knew in my heart there had to be a better way. Child-rearing is not a new thing and I wondered if it had been so perplexing in the past. Times were different, but there were also challenges then. People coped and the human race flourished, from generation to generation.
I took this up in my prayer, offering it up during the Holy Mass, adoration and family prayer. The more I offered and prayed about the situations, the more I realized that I needed to seek and ask for parenting wisdom to nurture the baby, God has entrusted to my care. I am to raise him in God’s way, not the world’s way! I asked Him to show me how to raise my child. What must I do when he behaves like this? How will I teach him His ways? Then, God inspired me to read scriptures to my child. It was then I remembered that from the moment I received Jesus into my life, I had felt the power of the word of God! It had an incredible impact on me. I had often tapped into this supreme source of love from the creator.
So while my son was playing and running around, I began reading the Bible out loud, chapter by chapter, animating the scripture verses with intonation. At first, I found it odd, but in between his play, he stopped to listen and on one occasion he even attempted to snatch the Bible from my hand. I continued to read to him— Catholic magazine articles, Christian stories—and our house came alive with Christian commentary all the time. What was the result?
Reading the Bible to my child meant I was reading it for myself too! I got really excited about our new adventure, reading and learning about God together. The days I did this exercise, I found my son was better behaved than during those days when I used the internet for guidance. There were days when there were challenges, but that did not last long. His tantrums were short-lived. There was such joy and peace that as a family we were able to tackle things together. I felt as though an invisible person was helping us through it all, even without our asking for help. We felt comforted and knew that the Spirit was uniting us all in His love and wisdom. We were able to share some parenting wisdom to first-time parents who were struggling with the early years of childrearing.
Today we continue to tell the story of Jesus to our toddler and to our newborn baby. I needed guidance and I implored the Lord God for help and wisdom. He heard me and bestowed his great gifts on me. The best we can do is to put our complete confidence and trust in Him. God continues to teach us through His word.'
In times of great distress and loss would you still hold on to God?
I would like to share a small piece of my life in testimony to Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Like many couples, my husband and I had married planning to raise a family and modestly prayed for the grace to nurture them in holiness so that they could become great saints. However, during the early years of our marriage, we delayed pregnancy, because we believed our love for each other needed to mature before we could enter parenthood. Although we barely acknowledged God’s plans for us, when we felt it was “the right time”, we expected Him to readily supply the gift of a child.
Our happiness knew no bounds when we discovered that I was pregnant! The joyful days we shared with our beloved child sustained us when that short life on earth ended in miscarriage. Despite our devastating grief, my husband and I grew stronger in faith and hope.
About ten months later, our journey into parenthood took another turn when we were blessed with our second pregnancy. We were elated that God had favored us by allowing our love to bear fruit again! Our parents were overjoyed at the long-awaited answer to their prayer on the auspicious Feast of Divine Mercy. I remember how my husband and I thanked the Lord before the Blessed Sacrament for endowing us with His abundant graces, in spite of our unworthiness.
Turn of Life
We booked our appointment with the OBGYN the following week and looked forward to seeing our precious child at the first ultrasound. The mixed emotions of anxiety and excitement, like butterflies wobbling inside me as we waited, are still fresh in my memory. As the doctor prepared for the ultrasound, I constantly prayed with my eyes closed. Much to our consternation, the doctor could not confirm the presence of our child , giving us two possibilities – we had either walked in too early, or it could be an Ectopic Pregnancy, which can be life-threatening.
Although we had never heard about ectopic pregnancy, we turned to the Lord with faith, hoping that he could turn the situation around. For what is impossible for man is possible with God! I had been feeling a slight stomach ache due to gastric trouble, I thought since the pain wasn’t excruciating. It was evening before we got home after completing all the blood tests. Suddenly, I started feeling suffocated and the pain in my stomach became excruciating. I did not know what was happening to me, but my husband wasted no time summoning emergency care. They rushed me to the nearest hospital where he was informed that immediate surgery was required.
Shocked beyond Grief
My husband was shocked into silence. He began to question God, “What wrong have we done to be tested like this?” A storm of random thoughts started popping through his head, but at the same time he felt blank and desolate. Once the surgery started, one of our friends joined him and they began interceding for me, calling out to Mama Mary for help in the Holy Rosary. They continued to pray the Rosary until the doctor emerged with the good news that the operation was successful. Although she had only seen such a complicated case twice in her twenty years of medical practice, I had miraculously survived. My left fallopian tube had ruptured, resulting in the loss of half my blood volume and the consequent struggle for the doctors to maintain my heartbeat.
Afterwards, I had to be kept intubated in the ICU for almost a day without being allowed even a single drop of water. In spite of my torment, I took the chance to share my suffering with Jesus Christ on the cross when He cried out, “I Thirst”. I offered up my sacrifice for the reparation of sins, particularly that of abortion, and other evils spreading throughout the world.
Although this cross is very heavy for me and my husband, God has never, ever forsake us. Throughout this ordeal He has consoled us through His Holy Spirit, sending us holy people to give us solace in our distress. Truly, it was God speaking to us through them. My husband and I wrestled with God for almost a week, until we realized how grateful we should be for my deliverance
from imminent death, rather than crying over what we had lost. We committed our little one to the Lord and I started to speedily heal, by God’s grace, physically, mentally and spiritually.
I am certain that the Lord offers immeasurable grace where there is intense suffering. Jesus knows our anguish and looks at us with compassion and tenderness from His cross. We know that He is doing something tremendous in our lives through this pain and hardship if we just rest at His feet and glorify Him through our wounds. We completely trust Our Lord that He will bless our marriage with fruitfulness in His time if we patiently surrender ourselves totally to Him without reserve. Nothing is impossible with our Almighty God. To the Lord Jesus be all Glory and Honor, now and forever, Amen.'
One of the hardest things to do is to keep silent in the face of false accusations, but know that God speaks in your silence.
It was one of those usual days in a busy mom’s life: doing the laundry, cleaning, washing the dishes, cooking, feeding the kids, putting up with the tantrums, changing diapers … the list goes endless. I was giving a cozy, warm bath to my four-year-old daughter, Anna (Ann Maria), while my six-month-old was fast asleep. Being affected with severe cerebral palsy, Anna cannot sit by herself and has to be supported. I was giving her a nice bubbly scrub, accompanied by the usual rhymes I often entertain her with; and all of a sudden the grip I had around her chest loosened, and she slid away right through my fingers, with her head hitting the edge of the tub.
It happened in a split second and my heart wrenched at the thought of the pain on her forehead and the subsequent scream that would wake the baby. As I quickly lifted her back up, to my utter surprise, my little girl neither screamed nor showed even the slightest expression of dismay at her mom’s inattentiveness. I couldn’t control the tears rolling down my cheeks as I watched my little girl with a reddish mark on her forehead, sitting calmly as if nothing had happened.
A Deep Imprint in Heart
I was immediately reminded of Jesus with the crown of thorns on his head; being hurled with insults, beaten, and spat on. Despite all of this he never expressed the slightest hint of dismay. However, unlike Jesus who sat silently through all of this suffering, I have on many occasions lost the opportunity to be silent in my trials. Throughout the rebukes of our bosses, taunting by colleagues or lack of consideration from our loved ones, we often feel lost.
When one is unjustly blamed for the errors of others, questioned for competency, or worthiness of doing the job, demeaned for all the little and big things done around the clock, it is little wonder some fall into the shadows or strike back in retaliation. But is this the right way to approach?
A Life to Follow
The life of Saint Zita of Lucca clearly imitates the way Jesus himself dealt with such situations. She is popularly known as the patron saint of domestic workers and housemaids. Zita lived in the thirteenth century near Lucca, in Tuscany, Italy. Brought up in a poor but devout Catholic family, Zita at the age of twelve went to serve the Fatinelli family of Lucca. Being humble and sweet-
natured she was initially very well thought of by her employers. Very soon her co-workers grew jealous of her. Though she carried out her household duties well, the other servants blamed her for anything that went wrong in the house. These false accusations were believed by her employers and life for Zita became very difficult.
She continued to be patient in doing her daily tasks, and humbly accepted the punishments that came her way. In the end, her silence triumphed. The Fatinelli family recognized her goodness and raised her to the position of chief house-keeper and children’s nurse. Zita never abused her position of authority to repay those co-workers who had given her hardship but instead was ever more generous and kind in helping them out.
Is this possible? Saints might find it easy to be silent but how about the rest of us? Does this make sense? Yes! However, unless we see Christ in those around us we really can’t love properly. Just as my little Anna, brought to mind the image of a ‘silent Jesus’ at his passion, so can you discover his reflection among your friends, colleagues or even strangers.
At times you may be on the other side, finding fault and accusing your co-worker. Not to mention those casual gossips over coffee. Unfortunately, we fail to realize that it really is Jesus whom we are accusing… He stands before us just like he stood before Pilate, waiting for the judgment. So we need to tie a knot on our tongues not only to prevent harsh words but also rash judgments.
Did you know that Saint Zita had a strange habit of bringing Heaven on Earth when she uncovered the Hidden Jesus in her neighbor? She was never troubled by those who unjustly accused her because for Zita he or she was Jesus in disguise—the same Jesus who had forgiven all her failings.
By our own will it is impossible to hold back those words of justification or accusation, but with God’s grace everything is possible. Let us humbly pray, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.”(Psalms 141:3)'
As a young girl of the age of 7, I loved to jump rope. My rope wasn’t a fancy one, but it was solid and that was all I had. Jumping made me feel light and free, for in that moment I would imagine gravity could let go of me and I might be able to fly. I could jump forward and backward, very fast or very slow, and twist the rope to make hoops to jump through. When there were deep 7 year old thoughts to think, I would just jump rope. Singing and talking to myself and God as I jumped, helped me to figure out my place in this world and helped me to sort through varying problems, worries or predicaments in my life.
Sometimes I was impatient with the pace of life growing up in rural Kentucky and jumping rope helped to reel away the time. That piece of rope with wooden handles helped navigate me through my childhood. One day, I needed that jump rope and I couldn’t find it. I searched all the usual places it could be, but it was gone. I asked my family members if they’d seen my jump rope and no one knew or seemed concerned of its whereabouts. I searched for days and felt hopelessly hopeless. How was I to deal with or figure out the important details of my life without my jump rope?
A very small and simple idea entered my mind. I stopped what I was doing, went to my bedroom and told God all about my situation. I told him how much I loved that jump rope and how much it meant to me. I cried when I told Him how I thought life would be like without it. I didn’t know what to do, for I was certain there would be no replacement one in my near future.
Then I asked Him if He would help me by finding it for me. I figured He knew everything and He would know where everything was anyway. However, I didn’t stop there. I prayed that when He found it, to please put it in a very specific place so I’d know where it was. Although, no time limit requests were asked of Him, I assumed it would only take Him a day to find it. My request was for Him to put it in my on my tricycle in the garage next to the Mom’s washing machine. My thought was that I would play with my tricycle the next day and I would see it, but if my Mom saw it first, when doing the laundry, the next morning, she would tell me. It was all very practical in my little mind. I thanked Him and went on to play something else.
The next day when it was playtime, I went into the garage looking for my jump rope, expecting God to have already found it for me. I went to my tricycle, but there was no jump rope. My heart sank for a moment, but turning my head a bit, I saw it laying in the little red wagon that was next to my bike. I had looked in that wagon over and over again for days, so I knew it was not there to begin with. I was so happy to be reunited with my jump rope, but a bit disappointed that God had not followed my instructions as to where to place it, when did He find it. I shrugged it off. Afterall, He was a boy, and boys don’t always listen very well, so that was close enough. Not fully absorbing what I’d just experienced, with childlike innocence I skipped off to happily jump rope again.
Expectations of a Child
A day later I mentioned to my Mom that I had found my jump rope. She told me she was glad of it, but she already knew. The morning before, she had gone into the garage to do laundry and saw it on my tricycle. She was afraid it would fall off, so she laid it into the wagon for me. She thought I was the one who had found it and placed it on the trike. Little bells and whistles began to
go off in my head. I was beginning to realize something extraordinary had happened the day before. I asked her to repeat EXACTLY where she had found it. For some reason, even as a little girl, I knew to test everything. Throughout the day I asked the rest of my family if perhaps they were the ones who had found my jump rope and placed it on my tricycle. None of them knew the importance and significance of their negative answers. With each no, my heart soared a little more. The story my mom retold was the prayer I had prayed. He had listened! God had not only listened, but He heard and helped me. I had a friend in heaven who heard and answered me! My life was never the same since then. God broke through the heavens to help me; a child with childlike innocence, childlike expectations and the faith of a mustard seed.
Many years have passed since I have jumped rope. I smile and cry each time I recall this story. I smile because as I have reflected on the significance of this event I know it was pivotal in learning to place my trust in God. Trust was the foundation of my relationship with Him. My relationship with Jesus made my faith grow. My relationship with God fills me with joy and childlike innocence again. I cry because when I humbly think about who God is and how He made time (then and throughout my life) to answer my little insignificant prayers, I am overwhelmed by His love for me. They too are tears of joy.
Be rest assured
Today, take a deep breath, and remember His words, “Be still and know that I AM God” (Psalm 46:10). Approach God as His child. Tell God the things you wish to jump forward into, the things that frighten you and make you jump backward. Tell Him about the things that make you feel rushed and the things that slow you down and try your patience. Tell Him about all the twists and turns of life that make you jump through hoops. He is right there with you, listening to every detail you share with Him. Offer Him your mustard seed faith. St Paul tells us in Philippians 4:6-7, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. Rejoice because you have a friend in heaven who will hear and answer you too. How blessed we are to be children of God; to have as our Father, the great I Am!
God bless you all!
No matter the weighing age or magnitude of responsibilities, a mother’s love always has a way to undo every knot in life.
A Desolate Hour
I never understood Mary. She was far-away, a flat Christmas card-figure, having nothing to do with my world, or the miseries that I faced. And ditto for that group with the weird military-sounding name: “Legion of Mary.” To me, all things Mary were passé—including the rosary. “Why repeat those boring prayers? Only old ladies hung on to these things.” These thoughts kept streaming into my mind that night while at the hospital.
Stuffed with tubes, our mom, Peggy Jo, lay unconscious on a ventilator. As we were not permitted to be in her cubicle, we overflowed the ICU waiting room: milling and whispering, like the sheep without a shepherd. What precisely was her condition? Which doctor was in charge? Clueless, we were in a mess. The one we all loved was slipping away.
Finally, we got an update. The emergency surgery done on the previous day, had corrected the bowel obstruction, but it left mom at enormous risk for infection. Would her chemo-debilitated body, with its depleted white blood cell count, find the capacity to fight back? The next few hours would tell. Collectively, we ate without tasting, babbled without sense, stared off into space, and silently cried out wordless prayers. We floundered for a reason to hope.
Around midnight a curious visitor appeared. It turned out to be a nun. I had not realized that there were any nuns left in this hospital, and who knows—why she materialized right then. Kindly, she offered to pray with us.
As many of my family were not much into the Catholic thing, I was surprised when a sizeable number of us trailed behind her to the chapel. She began reciting a rosary—of all things. Too weak to protest, we collapsed into those quiet, familiar rhythms: “Hail, Mary, full of grace …” Words seemed to soften into wings, soothing and lifting us. A hope began to flicker.
Mom hung on that night. By the next day she was making small and steady improvements. In the end, we were given the gift we sought: her remarkable come-back, and the joys of having her with us on this earth for another sixteen months.
Since that night, several “re-sets” have put my life on a better track. This may have a lot to do with mom, so, I want to say some more about her. Peggy Jo was a quiet soul. With Larry our Dad, she raised the eleven of us, but her remarkable works at home often passed unnoticed. She was a faithful life-long Catholic and a member of Saint John’s Legion of Mary, and who knows how her countless rosaries and other prayers have impacted each of us over the years? I definitely needed more than my share. Growing up I clashed repeatedly with mom. I was mean to her and kept her at a distance. But she never gave up on me.
As she was not very expressive, the “inside story” of mom’s faith remains untold. But I have an inkling that somehow, sometime—Peggy Jo connected with Mary. I mean really connected—“Mom-to-mom.” Why not?
Here was another quiet one who gave all she had faithful and devoted. Mary, who tended to skinned knees and scrubbed the soles of dirty little feet. Mary, who cared fiercely for her Son, and endured with Him to His bitter, bleeding passion on the Cross, in her, Peggy Jo, met a mom who understood without a word. They connected heart-to-heart.
And death will never extinguish their bond. Recently, as I was asking Mary to undo the knots in my life through my newfound devotion to “Mary, Undoer of Knots” (A novena to Mary, imploring her to undo those knots in lives which imprison us in sin, anxiety, and hopelessness), Peggy Jo popped into my head. Bingo!
Why had I never before caught such an obvious connection? Peggy Jo herself was a world-class “undoer of knots!” I should have known: I who bungled one sewing project after another. Wailing and whining, I would dump my latest mess into her lap. And with serenity, she would finagle her “seam-ripper,” untangling my project, and while she was at it, I kept at my crabby attitude.
This brings me back to that hospital chapel scene. There we were, a huddle of misery, crying out to heaven. And did heaven’s heart come forward to meet us? Did not Mary herself join in prayer for her beloved Peggy Jo, and comfort us in that bleak hour? Yes! And, multi-tasking mom that she is, I believe Mary was up to one additional task.
Remember how back then, I did not “get” Mary at all—did not even care to really understand her? Well, she cared. And she never gave up on me. With subtlety and grace, she went into action behind the scenes. I suspect that on that night long-ago, Mary was indeed hard at it. Yes, undoing knots—tackling in the depths of my clueless soul: one stubborn obstacle or another. Softening my hardness, drawing me close, which only a mother could do.
And now from eternity they are double-teaming it, Our Lady Undoer of Knots, and Peggy Jo. Two moms, on a mission! Untangling any snarls of impossibility thrown their way: dismantling those botches, mending hearts, and restoring, the puckered fabrics of life. Together they are creating for us, from a mess that is mammoth or trivial, opportunities for new beginnings.
Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, Pray for us!
Still wondering about God’s plan in your life? Do something about it!
God has a plan for each of us. That is why He created us. He wants us to be holy and with Him in heaven. That is our first and primary vocation: to be holy and work at it each day so we will, with His abundant grace, reach heaven as saints.
However, he also has a “secondary plan” for each of us. That is the way we live out our holiness here on Earth. The way we cooperate with His grace and sanctify the world, others and ourselves. This is our specific vocation: God’s plan for our life with our name on it.
You might already know your vocation. If you are living married life faithfully then do your best for your spouse and your children. If you are a consecrated religious witness to the beauty of your vocation and joyful total self-giving. If you are a priest do the best you can to live out your life as a sacrifice of praise. If you are a committed single person live out this state in life in joyful service, using your gifts for others and the Church.
However, if you are still wondering about God’s plan for your life do something about it! Do not do anything. Do not sit at the bus stop and watch the buses pass by and complain that you never get anywhere! Discerning your vocation in this life requires action on your part. The Holy Spirit is already acting in your life, but perhaps you are not listening or you need to turn up the volume—that is not hard to do.
God wants your happiness. He has created you beautifully, to be with Him forever. The way we live out our vocation in this life will help us on our pilgrimage to the next. Seek His will for your life here and now, to share in that happiness now.
Spend some time with Him each day in prayer and particularly in regular eucharistic adoration. This is a way to discern God’s plan for your life. Spend time with the One doing the calling. Seek Him in all things. Seek Christ first, not answers. When we find Him, we will find the answer to our searching.
Prayerfully ponder the Word of God each day from the scriptures. God speaks through each word in the Bible. Practice the “Lectio Divina” on some of the “calling” passages from the Gospels. Can you hear the Lord whispering something in the depths of your heart? Can you see yourself in the shoes of Matthew the tax collector or Peter the fisherman?
Then do some research. Know a bit more about your options. God’s plan for our happiness is not found on YouTube, Facebook or Instagram. Seek advice from a wise person. Seek out a spiritual guide who can help you on the path of discernment. However, be careful with whom you speak—choose wisely, not widely. A spiritual guide or a spiritual director needs to be someone who can help you prayerfully discern God’s plan for your happiness and fulfillment in this life.
After prayer, discernment, information, and guidance, the time will come for a decision. Be bold! Launch out into the deep! The Lord who calls you is faithful and will not abandon you. Say yes to Jesus who is calling you and give Him everything.
Sure, feelings of uncertainty or unworthiness may come. Give these over to Jesus. Remember that He will never be outdone in generosity. He will continue to supply everything needed. All He needs is your “Yes.”
You might know a young person (or young at heart) who is trying to work out God’s plan for his or her life. Pray for him or her intentionally and regularly do some penance for him or her. Spiritually accompany him or her on this journey; pass on this article.
Perhaps as you read this you feel the stirrings of something deep in your own heart. It may be a quiet whisper or the hint of a suggestion about a vocation to priesthood or consecrated life. Be attentive to this. “Listen with the ears of your heart,” as Saint Benedict urges.
In a little while, do something about this. A parked car will never get to its destination. We need to do something. Put the Holy Spirit in the driver’s seat and see where He takes you. Get ready for the journey, then hang on.
Whatever you do, do not do nothing.