O “my Three,” my All my Beatitude…

I have posted this before, but it is my favorite prayer to the Most Blessed Trinity, written by a Carmelite nun, Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, whose name means “house of God.” How providential! She was enraptured by the truth that the Divine Trinity dwelled within her soul. Her desire was that her life be a “praise of glory.”

“A praise of Glory is a soul of silence that remains like a lyre under the mysterious touch of the Holy Spirit so that He may draw from it divine harmonies; it knows that suffering is a string that produces still more beautiful sounds; so it loves to see this string on its instrument that it may more delightfully move the heart of God…” Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.

Today’s Feast is especially dear to my heart, as I am observing the 12th anniversary of my Definitive Promise as a secular discalced Carmelite. Thanks be to our Triune God!

Please join me in praising Him with Blessed Elizabeth in her exquisite prayer:

elizabeth

Prayer to the Most Holy Trinity
By
Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, OCD

O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me to become utterly forgetful of myself so that I may establish myself in you, as changeless and calm as though my soul were already in eternity. Let nothing disturb my peace nor draw me forth f from you, O my unchanging God, but at every moment may I penetrate more deeply into the depths of your mystery. Give peace to my soul; make it your heaven, your cherished dwelling-place and the place of your repose. Let me never leave you there alone, but keep me there, wholly attentive, wholly alert in my faith, wholly adoring and fully given up to your creative action.

O my beloved Christ, crucified for love, I long to be the bride of your heart. I long to cover you with glory, to love you even unto death! Yet I sense my powerlessness and beg you to clothe me with yourself. Identify my soul with all the movements of your soul, submerge me, overwhelm me, substitute yourself for me, so that my life may become a reflection of your life. Come into me as Adorer, as Redeemer and as Saviour.

O Eternal Word, utterance of my God, I want to spend my life listening to you, to become totally teachable so that I might learn all from you. Through all darkness, all emptiness, all powerlessness, I want to keep my eyes fixed on you and to remain under your great light. O my Beloved Star, so fascinate me that I may never be able to leave your radiance.

O Consuming Fire, Spirit of Love, overshadow me so that the Word may be, as it were incarnate again in my soul. May I be for him a new humanity in which he can renew all his mystery.

And you, O Father, bend down towards your poor little creature. Cover her with your shadow, see in her only your beloved son in who you are well pleased

O my `Three’, my All, my Beatitude, infinite Solitude, Immensity in which I lose myself, I surrender myself to you as your prey. Immerse yourself in me so that I may be immersed in you until I go to contemplate in your light the abyss of your splendour!

I’m looking for someone I used to be….


If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
  John 8:36

On my recent retreat, I thought deeply about the one thing which still holds me back from completely, unabashedly abandoning myself to my Lord.  And I know it well….FEAR.

It’s not that I am unwilling to carry the crosses which come my way.  But, the thought of kneeling before God, and deliberately speaking a total and complete surrender to Him stirs a visceral reaction within me, and I quake at the unseen dread I imagine will soon fall upon me. 

Whenever I do offer myself to Him, it is always with a slight disclaimer… oh, but please not that or I hope You won’t ask me for this.  Sadly, it is not a generous and courageous gift of myself to Him…. such as He has made to me.

I trust God… that His Grace will be sufficient for any adversity, but it is the anticipation which terrifies me.  And that is enough to restrain me, even  though I know quite well that my caution in no way affords me any additional control….and do I really imagine that I know a better path than the one my Lord has chosen for me?

Once upon a time, I stepped out into the unknown, and offered myself unreservedly to God.

It was the first New Year’s Eve after my adult conversion. I was then 26 years old, and totally consumed with this God of Love Who had truly come “bounding over the hills” into my life. I had also immersed myself in the writings of St. Therese, whose passionate and daring protestations of her love for God delighted my young heart, so close then in years to her own.

Putting pen to paper, I sat on the floor by our Christmas tree and filled several pages with effusive thanksgiving to God for all that He had done for me during the past year… His coming into the darkness of my life and filling it with the Light of His Love, the torrents of Grace He had showered upon me, as though beside Himself to make up for all the lost years…calling me to daily Mass and an irresistible attraction to His Eucharistic Presence…. the holy, paternal Irish priest who had taken me under his wing, and in whom I saw a reflection of my heavenly Father. There was so much to thank Him for!  My pen weaved into words the thoughts spilling out of my heart. And then, longing to make a return to Him, I ended my thanksgiving with an invitation:

“Even though I long to help save souls for You, I am too weak to ask You to send me suffering, but I simply want to say that if You desire me to suffer something for love of You, let it come, and I will know from whence it came.”

The following October, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was completely unexpected. My doctor was shocked. Young women simply don’t get uterine cancer of the type I had. And then there was the cure…a total hysterectomy, which would remove not only organs, but also my cherished dream of bearing children.

When the nurse phoned to ask that my husband and I come in to see the doctor, she didn’t say why.  But somehow, I knew.  My sister was sure that the procedure I’d had the previous day had revealed something related to why I hadn’t been able to conceive in the four years we had been trying. But I knew better.

I locked myself inside my red and white bathroom and cried aloud to God, “I can’t have cancer. I can’t deal with it. I just can’t.”

And then, for the very first time, I heard an interior voice, clear, riveting, incredibly powerful, yet reassuring. “Yes you can,” the voice said. “Yes you can.”  And I walked out of the bathroom and got into the car with my husband. The doctor was nervous, but I was strangely calm.  Because I knew.

And yes, I dealt with it…dealt with it in a way which surprised me. With a peace and calm and strength which can only come from the Lord.

But, you don’t forget something like that. You just don’t forget. And the devil knows well our weaknesses, and how to exploit them.

My earliest memories from childhood are of lying in a pool of blood on my pillow. I suffered severe nosebleeds for the first nine years of my life. Because of this, I was anemic, and my mother hovered over me much more so than over my sisters. I was her “sickly” child, or so she unintentionally made me feel.

Yes, the devil knows our woundedness, and that terrified little girl who woke up in pools of blood, long ago learned to fear what could happen to her body…how little control she had, and she has been trying to protect herself ever since.

But somewhere inside of me there is also that brave, 26 year old…the one who stared down fear and surrendered herself, not to sickness and suffering, but to the Will of the One she loved, whatever form it might take.

She’s the one I’m praying to find.

And when I do, I will borrow her strong heart, and take my wounded child by the hand and together we will go before the One Who came to cast out all fear….

We will kneel before Him and say,

“I am Yours. I give myself to You completely.  Do with me whatever You Will.”

And this time, I mean it forever…..

“Give me children or I shall die” – Genesis 30:1


“Rachel, seeing that she herself gave Jacob no children, became jealous of her sister. And she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!”  (Genesis 30:1)

It happened again.  I allowed myself to be distracted by children at Mass yesterday.

In the pew in front of me was a mom with identical twin boys who appeared to be about fourteen years old, and two additional sons in the six to nine age range.  All of the children behaved beautifully, and the older boys each helped a younger one follow along in the missalette

And I cried.  And when I received Jesus in Holy Communion I apologized to Him for being so transfixed by this family, and then I cried again, in His arms…..like countless other times.

Sometimes the cross of infertility falls with crushing weight upon me, even after all these years….decades.  I writhe beneath this cross, my face pressed into a puddle of my own tears.

Nothing else in my life has ever caused me such aching, screaming, exhausting pain….not even having endured the cancer which did not take my life, but which wrenched from me the precious gift of giving life.

For four long and painful years, we had tried to conceive without success.  Then came my totally unexpected diagnosis.  Everyone else worried about my survival, while I mourned the fair-haired babies who would never be.  The children I had dreamed about all those years, when my husband would press his ear to my tummy and playfully ask, “Anybody in there yet?”

Those who read my blog regularly, know that I have an adopted son. And I want to state emphatically that this grief in no way diminishes the love I have for my son.  When my four-week old infant boy was placed into my arms, I experienced a love I had never known before.  I was “in love,” and my precious baby occupied not only my waking moments, but my dreams as well….

I no longer avoided baby showers, or wept when I had to buy a baby gift.  Those once dreaded reminders were now a source of joy for me.

I was so happy raising my son that I pushed the pain of never having conceived and given birth deep down into a hidden place in my heart.  And, for the most part, it stayed there….until he grew up.

It is impossible to explain the pain of terminal infertility, which describes the condition wherein a child has never and will never be conceived.

During the years when my friends were having babies, I felt like an outcast.  It wasn’t their fault.  I simply could not participate in those pregnancy, labor, delivery, nursing, rite of passage conversations which women have bonded over since the beginning of time.  I was an outsider, and always would be. (And was told as much by at least one well-meaning “friend.”)

When my sister got pregnant, she sobbed when she told me, both times.  And I wept for her, that her joy had to be tinged with sorrow because of my infertility. And I wept for myself as well, because we had always shared everything, but  I couldn’t share the miracle she was experiencing inside of her.  I helped her shop for maternity clothes, and gave her baby showers and was there when her boys were born, but I couldn’t really understand…..

God’s very first commandment to Adam and Eve was, “Be fruitful and multiply….”  I feel as though that command was seared into my soul when my husband and I received the Sacrament of Marriage.

And it remains, unfulfilled, and yearning, burning, demanding to be satiated.

The night before my hysterectomy, alone in my hospital room, I caressed my abdomen and said goodbye to my dreams of watching that belly swell with new life, and of seeing the joy and wonder on my husband’s face as we cradled a child we had created together…..the fruit of our love, and a part of us who would live on when we were gone.

I hurriedly scribbled in my journal, “tomorrow, that beautiful part of me created to give life will be gone forever… ”  and then the sleeping pill stole my consciousness.  I was 27 years old.

And yes, I am often distracted by families I see at Mass, those with older children as well as those with little ones.  And, I blink back tears when my husband expresses concern about the young couple a few pews up, who lost a baby, and who are now expecting again.  It’s not that I don’t care about them or that I don’t pray for a happy outcome this time.  But his tender interest in a pregnant woman innocently revives that awful feeling of failure which comes with infertility.

As I type, I am wondering if anyone will even read this far.  I guess I am really writing this for myself.  It is how I deal with the pain…. try to take it out of me and put it into words.

I have hardly even mentioned God in all of this, but He has held me in every moment of this sorrow, and has caught all of my tears in His Heart.  Without Him, I would have gone mad with the pain.

He has given me the grace to accept without understanding, and to trust when it all seems unbearable.

And when I told Him I was sorry I had trouble carrying this cross, and that I wish He didn’t have to see my tears, He told me that He fell beneath His Own Cross, and that He too cried during His Passion.  And He reminded me that we are never more dear to His Heart than when, covered in blood and tears, we fix out eyes on Him, and allow Him to pick us up when we stumble, and to carry us when we need relief.

Then He said it was okay to admire the children in Church, and that He admires them too and that they bring Him great joy.

Finally, He said:

Wait and see!  One day, you will be so surprised, and you will never cease to thank Me for this heavy cross I have chosen for you…….but how pleased My Sacred Heart would be if you would thank Me NOW…..and simply have faith in My Infinite Goodness.

Yes, thank Me, and when the pain is too great, rest awhile on My Heart, burning with Love, that Heart which would never permit you to suffer one moment more than is necessary for My Glory and your eternal happiness.  Wait and see, My child.

Wait  and see! 

Infertility resources:

http://www.catholicinfertilityjourney.com/
http://hannahstearsinfertilitysupport.blogspot.com/
http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/catholic-fertility/

My hands in Hers……..

image

I have never shared this before, but Mary once granted me a very unexpected favor.  And although it happened about 15 years ago, it has only been during the past month that I have come to completely understand the message.

In my parish church, the statue of Our Lady of Grace stands in the back of what we affectionately call “Mary’s chapel.”  The chapel is to the left of the altar, and is one of the first seating areas to fill up before Mass.

On the day my son was baptized, I tenderly carried him, now graced by God’s Presence, to the feet of the One Gabriel once called Full of Grace.  Kneeling before the larger than life marble statue, I presented my infant son to Mary, asking her to take him as her own, to accept my consecration of him to herself.  My heart was bursting with joy, and I was so happy to give my son this gift of special protection by the Holy Mother of God.

My little boy’s early years were filled with visits to the Blessed Sacrament, learning to say the rosary, and stories of the Saints.  The only thing he wanted for his First Holy Communion was a “real bible” — which my sister, his godmother, joyfully gave him.  He would sit up in bed and read from it almost every night in those days, declaring the Sermon on the Mount to be his favorite chapter.

Yes, he was precocious; he was beautiful; he was talented, but he was also strong-willed and rebellious.

The beloved bible ended up in a drawer.  And one night when he didn’t come home from a highschool dance, a blue glass rosary cut into the palms of my hands.

He eventually came back to the house, but he never really came home again.

On the evening of his Confirmation, I was at the foot of Mary’s statue once more.  “Mother, I re-consecrate my son to you.  I don’t know what has gone wrong, but he needs your help.  Maybe I didn’t say the words right the first time.  Please hear me now, and accept him as your own.”

During the difficult years that followed, I would often attend the 6pm Mass.  It was very crowded,which enabled me to secure a standing spot, wedged between the candle stand and Mary’s statue.  Often I would place my hand on her foot or the hem of her garment.

I was grateful to be a short distance from those filling the pews.  Desperate, I  needed to be alone with God.

One night, a lady came and knelt before Mary shortly before Mass ended.  We were facing each other, and although she did not notice me, I was captivated by her eyes fixed on Mary’s face, and her lips moving silently in prayer.  She was obviously praying intensely about something.  I didn’t mean to intrude; it all happened so fast……

Then, as if watching a movie, I saw what I can only describe as a “copy” of Mary’s statue stepping out of the original statue.  This copy appeared more transparent than the original, but resembled it in every other way.  “Mary” came within reach of the prayerful woman and took her hands and held them in her own most pure hands.  The woman seemed not to notice anything.  Mary looked directly into the woman’s face, and appeared to be listening most attentively to her prayer, as though she were the only person in the world.

Within seconds, without my knowing how, the image was gone, and the woman got up from the kneeler.  I thought of stopping her and telling her what I had seen.  But I didn’t, and I have often regretted this.

As for me, I was struck by the obvious love and tenderness Our Lady showed to this woman pleading for her intercession.  I wondered how many times Mary had held my hands or embraced me — like the night I clung for dear life to my blue glass rosary.

Yet, throughout many painful years, I have often wondered why it seemed Mary had not rescued my son from so many poor choices.  I had given him to her when his soul was spotless and newly sealed with the Sacrament of Baptism.  Surely she could have surrounded him with angels, or kept him beneath her own mantle.  Had she not understood?

And I had trusted her completely.  So total was my trust when I presented my baby boy to her that all that happened in those later years was ever so much more painful, because it was so very unexpected.

My son is now a man, and he no longer wishes to rebel.  He is working hard to repair his life.  But sometimes, repercussions from the past still catch up with him.  This month has brought to light a few things I had not known before.

And this is the rest of the gift.  Mary has visited my heart in secret.  And she has reminded me of what I saw 15 years ago, and she has said,  “As you saw me take my daughter’s hands in prayer, do you not know that I also took your son into my own arms when you offered him to me?”

Why hadn’t I ever thought of it that way — my little son pressed to her Immaculate Heart, his tiny cheek kissed by those purest lips that kiss the Son of God?

She has made me understand that the crosses had to come.  But that I should not pray like one who has banished all dreams and asks but little for her son.  Rather, she has led me to pray that he will one day do great things for God.  And so I do pray this way now — so full of hope, and expectation, knowing that she has always been with him, and with me.

And I remember, when She didn’t understand, and when the way before Her was obscured and unknown, She found joy in Gabriel’s words, “….for nothing is impossible to God.”

And Mary shares these words with me and takes my hands……..

Tuesday Adoration – perfectly timed

Just the other night I was thinking about how life has been pretty much humming along for the past year or so.  A bump or two in the road here and there, but otherwise, pretty peaceful — especially in contrast to the past dozen or so years.

Those were loaded with some heavy-duty crosses, like my husband losing his job -right after we’d built a brand new house, and having to work 5 hours away from home for three years (commuting back and forth on weekends.) 

This happened in the midst of my sister and me moving our parents out of their home of fifty years in New Orleans, to a house in our town so that we could look after them.  We did so for five years, until they both died in 2008, only 13 days apart.

I won’t go into the many other humdinger crosses that fell upon me during those years.  I know everyone has similar stories to tell.

However, as I mentioned above, it has been uncharacteristically serene around here for way longer than usual.

Now, be careful what you think about.  You see, God was listening.  God also knew that I had recently written a post entitled:  Suffering, get it while you can.

He wasn’t about to let me get away with that one.  So this morning I had some news that is really quite devastating.  It is a situation out of my control, and yet I feel the blows keenly. 

I can only watch and pray.  And that is why I was so very grateful that God sent this cross today, when I knew I would have two precious hours in His Presence, followed by Holy Mass and Communion.

Today at least, I have had a wonderful sense of peace, and even joy, in spite of the circumstances.  I don’t know if those gifts will endure or not.  But I feel strong.

A few years ago, I saw a movie about warriors back in ancient times.  It was some obscure movie my husband found.  These men had no fear.  They plunged right into battle without hesitation.

I wondered how they did it, how they managed not to be afraid.  Then it occurred to me that they had gone into battle so many times and survived, that they didn’t think about dying.  They expected each battle to end like the last.  They would be victorious.

The battle-ready warriors taught me something about suffering.  When you have suffered many things, and still came though it all with joy and peace in the end, then you don’t fear the next time as much.  You know Who your Strength is; Who your Rock is; Who comforts you; Who knows your limits; you know the One Whose Love carries you through to the other side –to the green pastures and the still waters.

You learn that you don’t have to be strong, because He is Everything.  And you won’t die, because the only death is to lose HIM.

Suffering — get it while you can

An acquaintance of mine died last week. 

I said a prayer for her when I heard the news, and then I whispered, “Pat, rest in peace. You have finished your work, completed your journey.”

I think about that journey a lot. My friend didn’t make it to the three score and ten mentioned in the Bible. We just never know.

There is something uniquely precious about living in our imperfect world. It is only an instant in even the longest of lives. What are a 100 years compared to eternity?  Yet, we have only this breath, this heartbeat of time in which to determine our eternal destination, and to labor for God’s Glory.

I, who do not relish suffering, still value it and this amazing moment in my existence when it actually costs me to offer something precious to God.

It is quite thrilling to be among the Church Militant, marching through the battlefield of life, buffeted by the blows of pain, loneliness, rejection, grief and a thousand other sufferings which we encounter on our journey.

I think how tenderly Jesus watches over us as we bear our wounds for love of Him.  His eyes never leave us and His Heart almost breaks with compassion.  Yet, when we are brave, and offer up as best we can these trials, surely He is so pleased, so very proud of us.  

We cannot see, but Jesus Himself binds up our wounds with the balm of His Love, measures to perfection all that we are asked to bear, and supports us Himself that we may not be crushed beneath our crosses.

Heaven is our true home, but I find myself pondering how bittersweet it will be to leave this place of exile:  Never again to be able to make an act of faith when all seems lost, to tell God we love Him through tears and sorrow, to endure the battle of temptation and be victorious with His Grace, to do violence to our own will so that we may choose for God, to walk amidst a hurting and confused world and try to be a ray of His Light, to visit a lonely Jesus in His Sacrament of Love and console His Hidden Presence. 

These many treasures are ours for only a moment, and yet I waste an abundance of riches, and neglect the joy I could give to God by seizing every opportunity to cooperate with His Grace.

One day it will all end, and suffering will be no more.  I’m sure much of my Purgatory will be spent in weeping tears for all the times I walked away from the graces God extended to me – times I insisted on my own way, or complained about something trivial or was annoyed with someone else.

Lord, help me to begin again today to be ingenious in finding the jewels you have hidden in every moment of my life.  Those I choose are mine for all eternity.

But much more important: You have chosen to be glorified by the sacrifices lovingly made and offered by your children.

Oh Jesus, help me not to waste the moment this life on earth is, the only moment I will ever have to choose You above all the other distractions and temptations of my world.

In one of Therese’s favorite books, The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life, by Father Charles Arminjon, in the chapter on Heaven we read: 

And the grateful God cries out, “Now it is My turn!”

He is so eager to reward us. Indeed the lives of the great mystics indicate that He can hardly restrain His Love, as He pours out upon His holy ones a foretaste of Heavenly bliss.

On our last day, if we had never been able to suffer anything in life, would we really be able to endure Infinite Love pouring into us from His pierced Heart, and the embrace of His crucified hands?

Choices

My Jesus, You embraced me when I was but twenty-five, a long, tender embrace which drew me to You forever. I stayed in Your arms for a while. Oh, how delightful it was there — a foretaste of Heaven.

Then, taking my hand, You led me to the battlefield.  And blood flowed.

There have been many wounds, and much sorrow and pain. At times I thought I was mortally wounded, but You never left my side. Your Love has sustained me.

You gave me mighty weapons to wage my battles — faith in Your Merciful Love, trust in Your Infinite Goodness, a thirst for You in Your Most Blessed Sacrament.

You gave me other gifts that were “wrapped.”  At first, they seemed like unwelcome presents, but beneath the wrapping, I found treasures.

So often, You gave me what I did not want, but later realized, was exactly what I needed.

You have not permitted me to become attached to even what seemed good to me.

You gave me lovely gifts, but withheld others in order to plant a few seeds of humility in my poor soul.

I am amazed at Your untiring Love and Patience toward me.  Sometimes I think I am dreaming….

I love to call You the Faithful One, and You are indeed that, as well as my Adored One.

It delights me that You will never forget a single word or act of love from me, and yet, you do forget all of my sins, once my soul has been washed in Your Most Precious Blood.

My Jesus, You have denied me so many things I desired in this life, but looking back, I realize that your Love has given me an abundance of all that is best.

Thank You for choosing for me, that I might be able to say:

I choose You forever, my Most Precious God!

Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

                                                                                                 

                                                   

Jesus, my All,

lay me upon Your Heart,

for I am so very weary.

May I rest awhile in You,

in Your Heart so Pure,

in the Shelter of Your Love?

Lay me down my Jesus,

draw me close to You,

where I will find again

all that life seems to have

used up in me.

Everything that seems lost

is not really lost at all.

Both my joys and sufferings

Are but instruments for good 

in Your Sacred Hands.

Ah, how kind You are,

I know it well.

You are the Love I yearn for.

My poor little life

is precious to You,

and that so charms me,

O King of kings!

I am free and loved,

because there is nothing

I could possibly give to You,

or do for You.

You want only my heart,

my gaze fixed on You.

How Pure is Your Love!

The world tugs and pulls me,

but You gather me up

How sweet and peaceful is Your Love.

I long for You, my unseen,

Beautiful One.

Lay me down upon Your breast,

my sweet Jesus.

Let me pass what remains

of life

in the safe and loving warmth

of Your embrace.

If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23

When I suffer,

it is Jesus going in search  

of His lambs.

Jesus living His life in me again,

desiring such oneness with me that

 He makes my suffering His Own;

and my pain, now nailed to the Cross

with Jesus,  can gather in the lambs.

And the more love it is borne with,

the greater its power – for

GOD IS LOVE!