Drifting Prayers that Rise and Fall like Snow

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Sitting in my oratory, I finished the Salve Regina prayer. I then looked from the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe out the window at a gray winter’s morning. I felt heavy that morning, down, and I didn’t know why. Kissing the blue millefiori rosary in my hand, I returned it to the porcelain dish, and the beads chimed against its sides. I picked up the Liturgy of the Hours from the table and rested the book unopened on my lap next to the long-haired silver cat purring in her sleep.

Thoughts drifted, memories came and went, prayers and praise rose and fell. Somehow, conflicted in the solitude, I felt grateful and sad.

Again I looked out the window. The morning’s light had increased and I saw it was snowing. A delightful memory filled my heart…

I was seven again, lying on my back on the Flexible Flyer sled and wearing a one piece red-quilted snowsuit. It was early morning, very early. Snow had fallen through the night and when I woke the flakes were still coming down. In my excitement I’d hastily bundled-up, pajamas underneath, and in the pre-dawn light left the house without breakfast. No one would be at the hill and I could play freely.

Two blocks away was Martin Road Park and a sizeable hill for sledding. Up and down I went a dozen times or more, until I lay panting and happily spent beyond its skirt. Rolling over on the sled I faced the clouds and giggled as snowflakes landed on eyelashes, and cried with a love so deep there were no words. The only thing I could hear that morning was my heartbeat and breathing. Snow is quiet and it quieted a world that was, for me, hard and loud. At the age of seven I had experienced, for the first time, the sensation of peace.

Since that moment, snow has carried for me that memory of peacefulness. It quiets the world. It slows people down.

My focus returned to the oratory and fell upon my grandmother’s gold-tone crucifix. The snow outside continued and I wondered if manna had fallen the same way in the desert—if it lightly built up on stems and leaves and covered the ground. I wondered, too, at the conflicted People of God who praised and soon griped at that perfect gift grown tiresome.

And I see in myself how often I gripe about something that is ultimately for my good—forgiveness for example. Forgiveness, much like gathering up manna can be a chore, and tiresome in its repetition. But ultimately it brings what we need, and I know how grateful I am that forgiveness exists.

I stood and walked to the window and watched the snow coming down and make white all that seemed dead and dark. I felt again the peace the seven-year-old me knew, of gently falling grace.

(11/15)

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Guided Past Hell

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November offers a unique spirituality in the prayers for the deceased. In the northern hemisphere we experience the dormancy of nature, a seasonal dying back to new life in spring. The cycle in nature of death and new life is reflected in our Catholic tradition. November is the month to remember the dead and their in-between time in purgatory, waiting new life in heaven.

In an article at Aleteia I wrote about dying, and my comfort with the strange grace of purgatory. Another thought that comes to mind is the accompaniment of our soul by the angels and saints as it leaves the body.

I’ve often been curious why this would be necessary. If the soul is meant for heaven wouldn’t it be drawn to God, like a sliver of metal to a magnet?

In the soul’s journey from the body—and earth—does it, in its most vulnerable state, need to be protected through enemy territory? Does it need to be protected from evil principalities that may try to snatch it at its weakest, when fear and uncertainty are at their peak?

The Catechism (CCC 1864) teaches that sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. Is this the sin we face with our last breath of whether or not to accept Mercy? I wonder if the angels and saints come to us as an affirmation of heaven when the forces of evil, at our final moment, attempt to cloud our certainty of forgiveness and thereby gain our hell.

On the Roman Catholic calendar, the Feast of the Archangels is on September 29 and that of our Guardian Angels a few days later on October 2. Celebrating the person of angels may take place a few weeks ahead, but I come to appreciate their existence even more as I pray in November for souls in transition; in the process of departing their body.

I’ve nothing concrete to base this answer, and pray my words do not conflict with the teachings of the Magisterium. I believe Our Lord in his deep love for the soul, offers it protection along the final road lined with thieves. As always, we must choose to trust His gift.

Image William-Adolphe Bouguereau [Public domain USA], via Wikimedia Commons. 

Silent Saints

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During this time of year a profuse setting of seed is taking place. Every weed, wild grass, and all trees that can are working at being prolific.

There is a stage of germination in autumn, encouraged by earth still warm from summer, during which a seed’s casing can crack and send down roots, but the apical meristem (the top stem producing leaves) is stunted by the colder nights.

With autumn roots firmly established, when spring returns, fruitfulness will be abundant as a new season of growth draws the plant out of darkness.

Seed production—the end state of fruitfulness—differs among genera. The mass of seeds produced depends on a specific plant’s design. Some plants are short-lived and send out copious seeds in their brief one-season life. Other plants live longer and may bear as many if not more seeds over years. Either way, seeds are dispersed, set root, and eventually bear fruit that in turn continues the cycle to sow more seeds.

There is also an ecology of sorts in the Church. I look at her as producing copious seeds; those saints who set roots of faith, and soon produce fruits—the seeds of evangelization. This cycle of faith is ecologically sound, like the prairie grasses whose roots are critical to keeping the land together for future generations of growth.

These are often reluctant saints, unnoticed for the most part, who fill that minor space in our days. Like a student that studied under Pope St. John Paul II, whose name we will never know, whose deeds went unnoticed except by a recipient—and possibly even then in secret. Or an elderly woman who revealed purposefulness in aging—in drawing closer to her final home she encouraged the hearts and souls of those at her bedside to also be saints in their blessings to her.

They, like us, do no great things, but plod along doing what Our Lord would prefer we do: live his Word of charity—seeking to become more holy, despite perhaps shuddering at the overtness of the words ‘to evangelize’.

These are the silent saints, who lived a quiet humble life. They are as numerous as the prairie grasses and every bit as essential to stability.

Image by North at pixabay.com.

Of Lavender and Maple Leaves

The Lavender plant and its flower represent love and devotion. Lavender flowers are also associated with purity, silence, and caution. The leaves from a Maple tree symbolize “to be reserved.”

Many of our saints were filled with those qualities. What a lovely reminder of their lives, spoken in the language of flowers, as we approach the celebrations of All Saints and All Souls.

Image by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.

To Slow the Decline

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I wrote about how both God and Satan work incrementally.

Not so long ago I came upon this quote in the book, Song of the Sparrow by Murray Bodo, OFM:

We drift away from God so easily; not fast but easily. And before we know it, we are far downstream from God trying desperately to break our acceleration and reverse our direction.

As a Benedictine, we are called to be pray-ers in the world. And I do pray — for people by name, for groups and their causes, for our near-sighted government, and for our world where the infection of evil is spreading, seemingly at an exponential rate.

I don’t know that I can pray hard enough, fast long enough, offer up suffering deep enough to even slow the momentum of decline. I am but a beggar.

I can only hope that the Lord hears us, and helps us. I’m assured He hears us, even when we fail to listen.

Image from morguefile.com.