Friday, March 24, 2017

Catholic Hermit: Because of God


The illness that has taken now nearly three weeks' bite out of Lent, continues with progress, albeit quite slow.  Yesterday I pushed the body to carefully mark and drill six holes in cabinets in order to install four knobs.  The pull which was to affix through holes five and six could not be completed as the screws are too long.

So I had to abort that project until well enough to get to civilization for shorter screws.  And it is for the best that I could not continue (although could keep drilling holes), as my body was worn out with that small effort.  Back to the mattress!

I received another letter from the spiritual father.  It contained this time copies of articles regarding the trends of US bishops and a commentary of the current pope's leadership and focus.  This nothing consecrated Catholic hermit prayerfully and dutifully read through the articles, scanning the obvious and repetitive aspects.  

In a return correspondence to the spiritual father, I wrote not much of that but more so in reference to a previous letter from him.  However, I was reminded in this Lenten illness of at least part of my known mission in life and a significant portion of why the Lord called me to Catholicism for a few years prior to conversion nearly 22 years ago now.

I wrote some of what this Lent is teaching me and the awe and power of God in omnipotence and providence for our very existences of body, mind, heart, and soul.  And, I reminded the spiritual father of a major locution early on in my Catholic existence.  

One morning in the earliest days and months, I was awakened by a firm and commanding voice declaring:  Lo and Behold!  By the power of this locution, your sufferings and the sufferings of Holy Mother Church SHALL BE MADE ONE!

I recalled in my letter that I'd asked the parish priest at the time who was acting as my spiritual director, "What does 'Holy Mother Church' mean?"  It was a new term to me, a 44-year Protestant despite several years of extensive spiritual reading including Catholic titles.  The priest said he did not know....

Later I would learn this was not true; he did know.  But it was my spiritual father who I'd visit even then, who told me that it is another term used to depict the Catholic Church as a Mother in reference to the Virgin Mary being considered queen and mother over Christ's Church.  

As to the powerful point that my suffering and the suffering of the Church would be made one--that has been another issue altogether, and in time the Lord asked me in various ways if I would agree to the suffering involved.  I did agree, and from my heart and also from sufferings, did I agree.  

It is an odd thing to explain other than at times I was so upset and disillusioned by some aspects I was discovering of some corruption and sin plaguing some people who we'd not like to think would fall to such, including Church leaders and parish priests.  And surprising, even to me, was my innate reaction to offer more and more suffering, as that seemed to be the most anguished and sorrowful offering that had the most power in my otherwise vulnerable life.

Suffering somehow contains much power for it reduces us to our base selves and nothingness.  In great suffering we are most aware of God's existence as our all and the source and power of our beingness--in body and soul.  God is all in the temporal and the spiritual, in the tangible and mystical of all creation and existence, agelessly, timelessly, and without boundaries of any sort imaginable.

In this Lent of suffering, there have been additional unexpected trials of further financial bad news--and mostly nothing I can do anything about but submit.  I have no control over the ways of the medical world and insurers, or of whether or not my disability pensioners are being truthful that they have somehow over paid and thus will now deduct another 5% of what already is a very low income.  
And then there was the notice that property taxes are levied an increase of over 9 times, for they said there was a loophole and they had erred in the past two years so were tacking on those years as well as this.

And I recalled last Lent in which I had an unexpectedly high federal tax bill--never anything like it.  I then panicked; but this year I have not.  I continue to realize this is how Lent is, and that the Lord is allowing me a chance to not react and to recall how horrible was Lent last year but the resurrection of the death of my will in the Octave of Easter brought profound results.

Yesterday, while thinking there was health progress, this morning brought worsening a bit.  I had already determined, though, to call Craig at the lumberyard for a pep talk and to ask him to put me on his and his wife's prayer list at their church. I also asked his help to determine the least costly but most lovely solution to finishing off a step up from natural hickory flooring to another level of natural hickory flooring.  

He thought my voice sounded dreadful, my lungs not well. I responded that at least now I can speak without lengthy coughing attacks, and that I need to always set out a touchstone of what is forward intent.  And, I shared I'd been tricking myself by no longer setting specific goals but rather calling them hopes.  But as Scripture tells us:  Hope that is seen is no hope at all!

So, I am not going to hold out that kind of hope of seeing myself being able to finish this place yet this summer.  God has me hamstrung, so to speak, for now, and I have no idea how much longer although I suspect Easter Resurrection is His answer and plan.  I will accept that I must try to endure another fall and winter, despite my finances being dangerously low.  But it seems the Lord is asking of me far more faith, perseverance, hard work, patience, and to learn more of hope being sister to faith, and definitely not something that I can see in thought image or express in word.

I rather think that the Lord was speaking directly to this situation when I read the words God spoke to Hosea as proclaimed in this day's Mass.

"I have humbled him, but I will prosper him.
'I am like a verdant cypress tree'--
Because of me you bear fruit!"

True it is, Lord God.  While Craig had said he hopes the Lord will bring something good for me from all this, I reminded Craig that God sees differently than we see. I might gain much (when lungs and sinuses improved enough to continue manual labor) by keeping going until the dwindling funds are totally gone and then to take what comes.  For, if I panic and bail out prior, I will never know.  I would be like a pilot who sees the fuel is low but engine still running--who decides to eject and let the plane crash when perhaps he could yet make it to the runway.

However, if my body does give out and no improvement possible, then in another sense, the plane will be on irreversible crash course and the pilot must abort.  Even so, one never knows until that moment arrives, as it could be other planes might scramble to assist the plane in need.

I am reminded of this quote I heard recently.  "A coward dies a thousand deaths, but the brave dies but once."

I like this very much, for it points to the value in living fully with whatever risks, ventures, inspirations, passions, creative ideas put to practice rather than be fearful and kill each opportunity before it can be born to live or die.

It is truly only because of God that we live and only because of Him do we bear fruit.  While that fruit can take various forms, tangible and intangible, it is fruit all the same and not at all what we may think or envision fruit to be.  

A verdant cypress tree is God's metaphor for Himself in this instance.  I have grown a couple cypress cultivars; they are fast-growing trees.  The Hebrew root of the word meaning "hardness".  They are evergreen and scented as well as have resin that makes the wood resistant to moisture and disease.  Cyprus as trees (there are bush forms) grow tall and strong, are slender and flexible to the winds.  As a symbol, they represent God's strength, providence, and immortality of which we can enter in as God's beloved.

Requisite in us for the Lord's providence, always, is His humbling us.  Suffering in all its forms humbles efficiently as long as we know with faith and love that the suffering-inducing humbling is God's gift.  

Because of God we bear fruit.  Always and only because of God do our souls prosper--and that is a type of prospering not necessarily nor usually to do with temporal, tangible gains.

I wonder that loving God with all our strength, minds, hearts and souls and loving others as He loves us is the fruit that prospers most.  To love like that would be a God-given grace...only because of God do we be or are of any good.

God bless His Real Presence in us!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Catholic Hermit's Scripture Prayer This Day in Lent


I read today's first Mass reading from Deuteronomy and made it my own plea to the Lord God.  I'm into the third week of sinus and lung illness, thinking I've made progress one day to have more coughing the next, with the head still jammed and much weakness in being up to get something to eat and drink.  I know the antibiotic continues to work another five days but am too ill to go into civilization for another doctor visit.

So I ponder what it is the Lord wants of me in this illness of which there is progress even if slow and slight.  And, it is true that the overused elbow and recurring thumb injuring are certainly being rested and are much improved!  So that is a good outcome despite the body's sickness otherwise.

Last night was an amazingly detailed, lucid dream--so real--of being with a friend of years past, driving around an area we each lived with our spouses at the time, yet no longer in that phase in the dream.  There was conversation, and I awoke knowing that if nothing other, I am to pray for this person.  I sent an email as I'd not been in contact for several months.

And today I am reminded once more of how the Lord is in total control of our every moment of each day and night, and what He allows becomes our life and law, of sorts, and there is no changing matters of sickness and trials, of breath and bodily functionality other than to do what little we can and mostly to wait in patience and wonder at His Authority.

We are our most vulnerable when our bodies are hit by illness of one sort or another.  I think of a friend of the past with mental illness, and how her life depended so much on her husband's watchfulness and making sure she got to the doctor, to her shock treatments required weekly, to the taking of her medications, and trying to provides some outings for her including Mass--whatever could help her remain in the mainstream of life when not at all able mentally to cope.

I continue to question if I am doing as the Lord desires, in my current existence--the manual labor prior to this illness.  I have turned to distractions to take me far away in time and place--not bad distractions but perhaps not what He prefers?  I do not know; yet it has caused me to wonder if I will be well enough to finish the work here and to be able to sell, and then if I must turn to more full-time writing rather than attempt another adventure in dwelling and land.  

Or, perhaps the question is more the type of writing, for I am recognizing in some videos I've watched, that great messages and good can come from slightly fictionalized accounts of true life experiences, relating the trials people endure and the triumph of good over evil.

Above all, I consider Lent and finally hearing from my cousin yesterday, as I'd become quite concerned that something had happened untoward.  I'd not heard responses from her in a week and had no other means to contact; so I had to pray and wait, let the need to know slip away with the faith that whatever, God was handling the situation.  Sure enough, she'd been in hospital and through her own Lenten, bodily suffering ordeal.

Everywhere I turn in temporal distraction of news, emails from persons, or the YouTube movies so artfully filmed and dramatized, I see the challenges of Lent unfolding in people's lives--whether or not they realize the spiritual nature of God's manifestation and providence in charge of all details of our temporal and eternal lives and souls.

So I turn again to the prayer recorded in Deuteronomy 3.  I ponder in my heart--surrounded by inflamed lungs--these words of the Israelites who were stripped down to their basic vulnerabilities.  In the silence of solitude, I consider their prayer, carved from the depths of their souls in time of utter need and dependency.  

It is a beautiful prayer, and the words remind that we belong to God's providence for all aspects of our existence--temporal and spiritual, in this world of tangibles and in the mystical realms, as well.

When we have not much other to offer and realize that we truly are nothing to God's all, we can let our lives and souls be the sacrifice--giving up our notions of control even if subconsciously so.

"But with contrite heart and humble spirit
let us be received;
As though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks,
or thousands of fat lambs,
So let our sacrifice be in your presence today
as we follow you unreservedly;
for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.
And now we follow you with our whole heart,
we fear you and we pray to you.
Do not let us be put to shame,
but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.
Deliver us by your wonders,
and bring glory to your name, O Lord."

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Catholic Hermit Prays for Healing Water


Still quite ill but yesterday and today am seeing hints of improvement.  Friday was wishing I could be in a hospital receiving care and nebulizer treatments for the lungs.  Yesterday morning hope was weak; but the Lord knows I need much patience, and thus another Lenten lesson for this phase.   The coughing is a bit less although am unable to be up from the mattress other than to get hot ginger water or heat up soup to eat, returning to mattress to do so.

The couple who brings Holy Communion each Sunday morning is away for the month.  There is no one else to call upon here, but increasingly this has been a good aspect of my hermit life evolvement to rely increasingly upon the Lord in tangible ways.

Yet, this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit is truly a disappointment to God in my weak living out of a more fervent spiritual life.  Somehow the need for distraction is keen--perhaps in offset to the financial stress and daily hardships and of all the mountains of work and renovation mess ever tangibly visible.

So the past day I watched more YouTube movies and a documentary.  I chose British films, and those which are ponderous, beautifully meaningful and of people sorting out relationships and coming to the essence of love despite imperfections and the effects of sin upon all humans.  The day prior I coughed nearly non-stop, wearing out the back, the lungs, and concerned I'd crack some ribs.  

Then despair thumped on me a bit, taunting that I'd not likely finish the renovations or be able to sell yet this summer.  But I recognized the one thumping, the devil, and I turned to Scriptures and a couple more pages of St. Bernard's first sermon on the Song of Songs.

The Scriptures I began reading (besides the daily Mass readings) are the Book of Proverbs.  St. Bernard recommends a reading or re-reading of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes before continuing on much with his sermon reflections on Song of Songs.  However, I am dabbling with both, for yes, I lack patience and become eager to taste more of what Bernard has to teach about love of God in Himself and love of others as God loves.

As I read the first few chapters of Proverbs, it came clear to me that while I desire to live a holy life, I now lack the discipline I used to have, or at least had more spiritual discipline, it seems, as I do now.  Perhaps I am very tired, or else I appreciate the diversions and distractions of temporal visuals and accounts of people's lives, as most of the films are versions of real life experiences and of lives lived historically and most often triumphantly in the end, despite great obstacles.

Then I come back to this place, this time, this experience, and I realize I have not done anything terrible lately, although the Holy Spirit and my angel Beth remind me of times past that pop into the conscious, in which I chose to do things out of weakness or in desiring to fit in with another, to be accepted, I suppose, in a weak way.

 Well, a friend has suggested in an email that had I not tried to work so much when the daughter was here weekend last, I'd not have needed the antibiotics.  Rather, I have concluded it was my pride and desire to be as many others who are able to throw off sinus and lung infections with home remedies and over-the-counter medications--most able to continue off to work daily.  

The friend is like that--keeps going to work, resists going to a doctor, even thinks antibiotics are harmful in some ways to the body.  However, we do tend to know our bodies, and I have not been one to throw off sinus and lung issues without antibiotics.  In fact, the times I've put off getting a prescription, the longer and worse I have been ill.  I should have gone to the doctor sooner than later, this time; but I don't think it will go on for a month as it did two years ago when two courses of antibiotics were finally required.

So pride can get in the way even when ill, and cause us to be our own undoing.  My lungs have nodules in them as it is--not malignant at this point but can become so, I've read. However, for now, the benign nodules are most likely from residual lung infection, and I consider the month-long illness two years ago to be the culprit--as well as the living conditions in a construction zone.

My spiritual father wrote another letter.  I so cherish them.  He also observed the mournful tone of many priests and of those in other programs on EWTN.  He suggests, though, that the mournfulness has to do with the serious aspects of human lives that are revealed to the priests, and surely it would take much faith and loving union with God to rise beyond the horrible elements that people confess, day after day, and that priests take into their ears, minds, hearts and even their souls.

Yet, I maintain that I had become mournful, myself; and I still wonder if an element of mournfulness is learned or taken upon oneself, as a type of way of being that is promulgated by example over time.  Or perhaps there is a certain attitude, affect, and external posture that seems to many how it should be when speaking of God or celebrating Mass, or that seems more reverent and holy?  Maybe being in front of a camera heightens this effect, or being in front of a group?  

I don't know, other than my spiritual father and I agree that there is enough of mournfulness and love of God and being a Christian and Catholic ought be not grave but celebratory and brightly lit with promise and hope and faith and much, much love.  

I recall Elizabeth of the Trinity's clarion call, resounding St. Paul's "praise of glory!"  I consider my own motto, given me by Mary and the Holy Spirit a couple decades ago:  Just adore Him!  This was not stated to me in mournful tones, dragging out the words as a dirgeful and adagio just... adore...Him.  No, it was spoken to me triumphantly, with a tonal upsweep, spirited delight, and staccato simplicity:  just! adore! Him!

Today's Gospel reading has several spoken lines of Jesus that intrigue me.  This one I also desire very much for myself, as I've been drinking hot ginger water and Vitamin C enhanced water, and I'm still needing the temporal body flushed clean of illness.  So I will just adore His Living Words, beginning with these recorded in John 4 that Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman at the site of Jacob's well, and that He speaks to each of us every day that we read or think of them:

"Everyone who drinks this [temporal] water will be thirsty again;
but whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst;
the water I shall give will become in him
a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Yes, I do so much want the water Jesus shall give me; I thirst for it and promise to drink as best a human can drink the ethereal, the numinous, the mystical, the spiritual and yet be so utterly and imperfectly human.  In faith, though, the living water of Jesus will truly, somehow, become a spring of water that floats us into life for all eternity.

There will be no coughing in heaven, no nodules in lungs, no sinus infections, no need for antibiotics when home remedies do not suffice.  But the water Jesus gives us to drink in essence of His love and providence, of the spiritual realm and spiritual purpose, will provide for us all that we require.

God bless His Real Presence in us, and praise Jesus for the water He offers to give us!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Catholic Hermit: Lenten Illness


This nothing consecrated Catholic hermit has been quite ill the past ten days.  Much of it is a blur other than I tried to keep going, thinking I could work through it with over-the-counter sinus meds.  The daughter came and did a trooper's job of helping get much accomplished in the room with vaulted ceiling.  I made it through although by the Second Sunday of Lent, the "crud" was getting worse.  By the grace of God was able to get her to airport that evening and on her way to her family.

Monday it was time to make a last-ditch effort to drive back into civilization and see a doctor.  That done, and antibiotic in hand, the coughing and impacted head takes much effort and energy, day and night.  My lungs seem to be the weak point of body at this phase of life and for past few years.  Reminds me of my late mother who suffered horribly from Pulmonary fibrosis, origin unknown as she was not a smoker nor a coal miner....

So thoughts of my mother's final illness and death have returned.  I consider it good that the Holy Spirit is reminding me, and I see my lack of supreme compassion and mercy in some aspects, over twelve years ago.  It was not easy, her suffering; and she did not want to die.  There was anger, and at times it was far to tricky for me to isolate out the emotions that angry comments and criticism can evoke.  However, we always have opportunities to offer apologies and love anew, on our parts.

This morning the Holy Spirit brought to mind a person I'd already set aside from a dream last night.  It is the image of my late godmother and confirmation sponsor, a Catholic religious sister whom I was quite close with during the initial years of my conversion and Catholic infancy.  But the relationship soured when my godmother became irked that I would not go along with what came forth of her involvement with a protest movement of feminists, rather angry women who banded together with purpose of forcing changes they wanted in the Church functioning.

It was not a pleasant discovery, and I in good faith and conscience could not condone nor join forces.  This resulted in my godmother imposing some sanctions on me regarding visiting the convent, going to Mass there, using the library, and other detailed changes in what previously had been a marvelous experience.  Before long, it seemed best to part ways; and I mentioned we could remain friends in prayer rather than contend with the hostilities and vindictive behavior that was most disappointing.

So she was in a dream last night.  Had not thought of my godmother for several years.  And today I have realized that I lacked mercy and compassion, although we can always see ways to improve in hindsight.  At the time, I kept my distance as the only means I then knew to alleviate the conflict.  Yet I did not cease praying for her, and I am sure she prayed for me.  I apologized today for my lacking various virtues, including patience.  I did send her a note when she was terminally ill, and she responded but yet with some stoic pride.  Perhaps my note prodded such a response; I suppose I hoped for some signal of change of mind regarding anger that the sisters' mission in protest was not successful and likely would never be.

Yet I can better understand how she and the others felt, for they had perhaps been sold on expectations at the time of the Second Vatican Council that never materialized.  Once more, I see how easy to be derailed when we seek after and place our energy and emphasis on aspects of the temporal world, and especially upon the temporal Catholic world--the aspects of Church that some term "secular" or "administrative", or the "system".

I am going to be talking with my godmother today, in my heart of hearts, and I will offer her my love and appreciation.  I hope she forgives me; and I hope that I understand more fully her stances and why she took that path in her later years, perhaps caught up in frustrations with a movement that is not how I am or ever have been inclined, in my life.  It all reminds me to seek to love God in Himself and to love others as God loves.  And He surely loves my godmother and understands and accepts far better than I did in my initial shock and upset at the secret life, of sorts, that I did not know about for three or four years of closeness with my godmother.

Well, St. Patrick's Day is tomorrow.  What a courageous lover of God is St. Patrick!  Perhaps I can watch online the movie that I think is being offered for viewing on EWTN.  My body is not able to do much manual labor, although I pray to move some trim wood out of the way of the scaffolding and move the scaffolding at least into position for painting the stairwell ceiling.  Perhaps tomorrow or the next day...the Lord will bring enough lung and sinus healing to climb a ladder atop scaffolding.

We just never quite know in Lent what will unfold day by day.  And the aspects that seem most potent for me personally, are these personages who I've muddled in relationship.  The Lord is mercifully and lovingly giving me another chance to make matters right with them even if we are separated by the thin veil, temporal to ethereal.  There is certainly a whole lot to love about my godmother, and I will focus on those loving aspects and set aside the earthly brambles.

God bless His Real Presence in us!  Let us love God in Himself and others as God loves!  Grant us the joy of God's salvation!


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Catholic Hermit Rolls with God's Lent


As if to benchmark my thoughts on God's planning and unfolding Lent for us (as He does always, regardless), I've had some challenges placed before me in this first full week of Lent.

Monday I did drywall sanding, up high on ladder placed atop scaffolding in the stairwell.  I wore a dust mask for the actual sanding part, but I did not when wiping down the walls of the residue dust.  Then I shook out the cloth I was using, and I did not think much about the corduroy overalls or also the work shirt.

So by evening I was coughing.  In the night I awoke with sinus problems and sore throat.  By morning I was taking some over-the-counter sinus medication and knew I was down for the day.  Concerns arose considering the difficulty getting to a doctor, as usually some antibiotics are necessary.  I'd not be so concerned other than a daughter is flying here to help do some work projects over the weekend.  What if I'd be too ill to even pick her up at airport?  Too ill to work?

Of course, what popped into mind in response:  It's LENT!

So the challenge is to let it all unfold, and to decide to go with God's flow.  While I got a doctor appointment but was told they tend not to prescribe antibiotics anymore for sinus infections (FDA crackdown, more regulations!), yesterday another challenge arose.

When I picked up the cell phone to answer a call from the daughter, the top half just flipped back and flopped off!  It is an old phone.  Yet, I was not dismayed because, oddly enough, Saturday night last I'd had a lucid dream--yes, oddly enough--that my cell phone had fallen into pieces.  It was such a strange dream to have, and rather extreme as in the dream the phone broke apart in small pieces.  (I suspect had it been simply broken in half, like the reality, I'd not have remembered the dream upon waking.  It seems the Holy Spirit often exaggerates in dreams for that very purpose: to take note in the conscious realm.)

Anyway, I smiled at my broken phone, realizing all the input numbers would not be retrievable, and said:  It's LENT!  With gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the forewarning dream, I realized how much God helps us out in Lent as He knows what might tend to be a bit much of a final straw.  

So I knew that I'd have to travel into civilization to figure out what to do about a new phone.  And with that distraction, I had to force my sinus-sick head and body up and out, and I determined that I'd tough out the sinus problems rather than to deal with doctors and antibiotics, at least for now.  

Patience in suffering and being silently amused by challenges rather than up-ended, seems a good way to respond--and to rejoice in the reality that God truly does set out for us what we need to learn during Lent.

There was much to pray about on the long drive into civilization.  An elderly friend was finding out the results of eye surgery.  Would her vision be spared?  The surgery and rather lengthy recovery period was to be her Lenten experience, at least thus far.  

A cousin called, and she was peeved at a woman who was causing troubles for a women's group--over the programs and a luncheon, for pity's sake.  The woman had become extreme in her view of righteousness, and she refused to give a program about a famous female photographer because the photographer was not a Christian and she specialized in photos of babies--nude but private areas obscured by flowers and such.  And the meal menu included Chicken Marsala, so the woman objected to possible wine in the sauce.

I explained to my cousin that this is Lent, and this is her Lenten challenge, thus far.  Pray for our enemies and understand that some people make themselves our enemies without intending to or realizing it.  And learn how self-righteousness can be taken to a negative extreme.  The woman will walk away sad, as it were, and the group will find another to share about the life of the photographer and to enjoy the Chicken Marsala.  Jesus came to call sinners, not the self-righteous.  It is well for all of us sinners to remember this truth.

God worked out the cell phone issue for this nothing consecrated Catholic hermit.  The daughter and her husband offered to have me put on their family plan.  The daughter had given me her old cell phone a few months ago in an attempt to help with navigating when driving in civilization.  While I could not afford to have such a nice phone service, I could stop at a place with WIFI and at least look up directions.

But now, I will have phone service with the phone given me, at a reduced cost to what I was paying on my very old and basic phone.  God provides!  He provides in Lent all that He plans out for us to learn and have opportunities to respond even if our responses are not always the best.  God will continue to provide Lenten challenges and events so that we get much practice, or to see His point.

Today the body is worn out from the added push yesterday.  The head feels like heads do when sick.  I did a bit of research, and read that drywallers often get infections from drywall dust.  In fact, construction workers deal with all kinds of dust in renovations.  Perhaps that is the reason for the nodules in the lining of this hermit's lungs--discovered by a scan last summer, another of God's providential revealings.

So I must not only wear a mask when sanding drywall mud, but wear it throughout the process of clean up and until dust settles, and wear it when using the shop vac, as well.  In fact, I ought to wear a mask when using the table saw, as saw dust is plentiful and showering the air all about.

So it is with our spiritual lives, that we should protect our innermost parts, our inner senses and our very souls--from contaminants, dust, debris, and whatever irritants of the outer world of thoughts, words, deeds, and tangibles not good for us.

Who knows what today will bring from God's Lenten plans for any of us?  Yet we set forth, and I will make some hot tea, eat the last of a fruit cockaigne baked three days ago, filled with healthy ingredients to help power this body in the work of living life here, now.  Then I will try to paint a first coat of ceiling paint on the stairwell and hall ceilings.  And use a mask when sweeping the remaining drywall dust, and pray for whatever and whoever the Holy Spirit brings into my heart of prayers.

Maybe this Lent, thus far, is teaching me to roll with God's unfoldings just a little bit better than I have in past Lents.  I think the dream of the cell phone falling apart in small pieces is a very dear and sweet gift from God, reminding me that He cares very much about the little things in our daily lives, and that He is gentle with us, wanting us to not be anxious about temporal matters.

God bless His Real Presence in us!  He truly Is--in us and present!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

A Positive Take: Ideas for Lenten Fasting


I found these suggestions on the Eternal Word Television Network website, under Lenten Devotions.  While my mind tends to observe and question, and then reflect, I do note that it is best to not be critical of others.

Yet, in my observations, the good Lord tends to put it right back to having me ask myself in what ways I do likewise, or have, or He instills in me a desire to avoid some aspects that I observe, or to apply in my own body, mind, heart and spirit the good that I observe.

One aspect that made me rather sad was observing many persons who I'd not viewed in over a decade, had gained a lot of weight.  This made me wonder if the persons' lives were somehow out of balance, or if there was too much inactivity and contemplative time as opposed to active works, including manual labor.

So I am rejoicing that the Lord has me in a place requiring much physical labor which is excellent exercise; and, also, my complaining has given way to gratitude.  My physical pain is best distracted by forcing the body up and into some work, prayer while working, or when I did not have work to do, to pray while walking or gardening (which I do not consider to be work!).  I now try to consider that the manual labor in renovation is not work, either--just another form of prayerful activity, of creative and artistic worth, and will produce lovely fruit for whoever lives here next.

But I cannot continue at this time with viewing or engaging in mournfulness or that which evokes somber voice or sorrowful posture.  When I read that the word lent in ages past was the word for spring, and another aspect relates to the lengthening of days in springtime, I consider this to be indicative of the joy of the His salvation--of His securing the freedom for us from the ravages of our sins.  Yes, we must recognize our sinful natures and repent, but then relish and rejoice in the joy of His salvation.

I note that these Lenten ideas posted on the EWTN website, for fasting and abstinence, are quite positive.  They remind me of the repeat of the Psalm this morning:  Lord, show us the joy of Your salvation.

HOW TO FAST

Fast from judging others;
Feast on Christ dwelling in them.

Fast from apparent darkness;
Feast on the reality of light.

Fast from pessimism;
Feast on optimism.

Fast from thoughts of illness;
Feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute;
Feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from anger;
Feast on patience.

Fast from worry;
Feast on Divine Providence.

Fast from unrelenting pressure;
Feast on unceasing prayer.

Fast from negatives;
Feast on positives.

Fast from complaining;
Feast on appreciation.

Fast from hostility;
Feast on non-resistance.

Fast from bitterness;
Feast on forgiveness.

Fast from anxiety;
Feast on hope.

Fast from yourself;
Feast on a silent heart.

Catholic Hermit: God Unfolds Lent


Already, yesterday and again today, in the Order of the Present Moment: God unfolds Lent.  It is God Who chooses, Who controls, Who plans and unfolds Lent.  God does so individually, uniquely, and collectively.

The other day, after a letter from my spiritual father as well as an ensuing dream in which he was counseling me, I decided to find EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) on my laptop (this hermit's little window to the temporal world).  I watched a bit, and a sense of sadness at times, and even mournfulness, caused my mind and heart to ponder aspects of the past and present.

Was the mournfulness a result of what I was viewing, or was it an aspect of passage of earthly time, or could it have to do with a shift in programming and current status, perhaps the result of decline in enthusiasm, etc.?

I also considered my role and to what praying God calls me in the present moment.  Recently I've prayed much for our country, our world, as well as individual struggles as noticed on news reports and in short video clips and headlines.  The secular media provides plenty of prayer reminders, specifically and in general topics.  It seems a good thing to pray for such intentions.

Yet, I questioned again, within myself, the source of the sense of mournfulness that surfaced when I viewed more of the EWTN programming.  And by yesterday, I had an answer.

The mournfulness, for the most part, was my own.  It had to do with past memories--bittersweet, at that.  The bitter revolved around a time period in my Catholic life progression in which an apostolate--a ministry--that the Virgin Mary had directed me in a dream to organize and lead--had me suffer one of the most painful (I thought) ousting from that which I so loved guiding and helping along to much success for those in need of a touch of love.  It was a soup kitchen that evolved into much more.  Yet the devil got involved, and I had to go in order for the fury to subside.

The sweet aspects included, in my needing to lay low under the guidance of my spiritual father at the time, discovering EWTN programming.  At the time, I needed to rent and subscribe to DISH television, and I had a television by which I could learn and grow through the various EWTN programs, in addition to spiritual reading on my own. 

The bitterness of loss of what had been an exciting and successful focus of my love and efforts was thus filled with the many positives of the Catholic Church as seen through the various guests and information, the saint movies, the Scripture studies, the spiritual guidance, the music and prayers offered from a television network begun by a Catholic nun and staffed by many with donations coming in from all over the world.

So returning after many years of not having a television set nor cable, and not realizing EWTN would now be live-streamed on internet, I sensed a shift in momentum that equated, at first, as mournfulness.  And yes, the mournfulness for the most part was mine and not due to changes in the network programming or presentation.

Yesterday, I happened to peak again and found broadcasting some lenten reflections by some priests of the Missionaries of the Poor.  Then later I noticed a fairly recent movie of the saints Francis and Clare.  I also discovered a priest who'd had a program years ago, continuing his program, yet current--recognized him despite aging.  And if he could see me through the screen, he'd not probably recognize me due to my aging beyond the usual.  Ah, the way temporal hardships and pain can age us!

I still find the tone heard in the recitation of prayers to be rather somber, if not mournful.  And again, the mournfulness is how they affect me subjectively.  And I am now certain this is due to my own suffering and struggles currently, in the present moment.  I have more than enough so seek relief from the somber, the mournful, even though I realize life can be quite serious, grievous, sorrowful.

Others viewing may not find it so at all!  And in the passage of time and the phases of our spiritual progression in life, we ought not be in the same mode with the same needs and desires that we had a dozen years or more ago.  The Lord unfolds our lives; we merely flow along with the Holy Spirit as best we can, if we desire to flow and not restrict Him.

And all this leads me to consider that I've come to not place specific goals for myself for Lent.  I used to, in my innocent, well-intentioned yet naive arrogance.  I came to discover that my goals are much like temporal goals.  I offer as fact the goals of this past week that I'd have the stairwell drywall mudded in two or three days.  It's been five days, and I'm still at it although yesterday had to run errands in civilization for more supplies--costly ones, at that, requiring yet more faith in God's providence.

Already, since Ash Wednesday just four days ago, the Lord has unfolded His chosen Lent for me in typical Order of the Present Moment fashion.  He's shown me a thing or two or many about mournfulness, penthos, contrition, repentance, and the joy of His salvation.  He's given me new areas of physical pain that moderate what I can "do" or "not do" each day.  The Lord reminded me to let go of past enthusiasms and also the bitter memories in order to see the sweetness of this present moment, in which the sun unexpectedly is shining now when instead overcast and sleet was to be.

God plans and provides my Lenten sacrifices and Lenten lessons.  He points to what I should view and read, and also what I need to be listening to within my mind and heart--and in the night time when distractions are mostly wiped away, He provides visitors in my dreams.  

Last night, there was quite a visit and sharing with a dear friend of the past, some 11 or 10 years ago passed onto the other side.  Oh, Virginia, loving friend of my heart and soul!  I'm yet pondering with loving awe but also asking the potential prayer needs of this woman or her family, the latter yet on this earth as far as I know  I'm also asking the Lord to reveal any aspects of myself with my departed friend, in this fifth day of the current Lent, in which I must make amends.  He's shown me my dereliction already; and immediately I prayed an apology to Virginia so close beyond the thin veil.

I read a few more pages of St. Bernard's Sermons on the Song of Songs, yesterday; and I realized that my lack of spiritual reading is due to the tremendous physical strain in the manual labor these days.  Thus, the current prayer intentions revolve around the bits and pieces of laptop secular news clips--and now also the needs and topics brought forth by the Catholic Church's televised network whether or not some programs are current with my spiritual present moment.  They are necessary and good for someone's spiritual present moment, and for these I pray and rejoice.

I have no idea right now what the Lord will unfold in this first Sunday of Lent.  I hope to listen to a Lenten reflection on EWTN later on, perhaps during a rest break in which I will ice my right elbow and right hand.  (The right, upper bodily appendage is so painful from carpentry overuse!  I do remind myself that Jesus and His dad were on earth, carpenters and workers with stone and some kind of mortar, which then reminds me of the drywall mudding to be done in Te Deum Hermitage!)

What I do know, is that even if I tell the Lord what I intend to read or pray or sacrifice or do in a positive, additional effort of love of Him in Himself, and love of others as He loves--none of my plans and goals can begin to compare to what He has planned for me in this present Lent.  So I will "do" something that has not been easy for me to do, and that is to let go of my own notions, to stop jumping in to lead.  I will submit and follow, which requires being attentive to God in the present moments of His Lent--for Lent is Jesus Christ's Lent, and I am but a guest on His program.

God's Lent is not mournful, at least not for me this day in His Lent which becomes our Lent, together.  Reverent, somber, serious, repentant, humble--yes, I suppose so.  But I am noticing His Living Word is filled with much joy in His salvation and reminders to not think or talk so much but to act, even if interior movement, in positive and lovingly helpful manner for my and others' souls.

God bless His Real Presence in us as God unfolds His Lent through us, and us who remain in His Love!