I still am working up the emotional energy to continue writing about the death experience. I wrote in a couple blogs of the lead up, but I yet will write about what occurred in recovery room and after, including the actual dying process which for me did not include extensive time in heaven. But it is yet worth writing and sharing, for each person who has these experiences can add a bit of information to the process that so many fear.
This past week I had a couple of nights and a day in civilization. I was called upon to watch my grandson, age 7, for a day. It was very good to be among some accepting people, and share love and our Christian values. Plus, I so enjoyed a shower and delightful living conditions. This body needed a break from heat, hard manual labor, and minimal type food. Upon return, I am ever reminded of how the bulk of humanity lives in such conditions as this hermitage--or live in far worse!
I have been praying much for those suffering with Ebola virus, including the two Americans being treated with experimental drugs. I think so of the people in West Africa who do not have the drugs and who suffer in harsh conditions. Thanks be to God for missionary medical workers who are with them, trying their best, to save lives and provide any comfort possible. It is a horrible virus with painful symptoms and a terrible suffering leading most of the victims to death.
Yet, when I consider the death itself, I am blessed to know how joyous it is for those who die. But I pray for cures and for people to live. We are born into this life to fulfill our missions, and mercy and compassion are part of humanity's hope and faith and love.
My grandson had plans for us the other day. He started off making "Gaga" breakfast in bed, bringing a bowl of cereal, container of yogurt, and some water on a metal pizza pan. We then walked a ways to pick some berries; his mother wanted some for a recipe she planned with dinner. As the grandson and I walked, we talked of many things.
Somehow, the Lord put into my mind the reminder that every step we take, every thought we make, is either a step or thought toward heaven, or a step or thought toward hell. I shared that with the lad. He is perceptive and quick. The next morning I could remind him of it when he woke up "on the wrong side of the bed", so to speak. He pulled out of a bad mood immediately with the reminder of our choices using our free will given by God.
I have pondered the truth of the choices and each step and thought, as I have slipped too many times to count, with not good thoughts--not thoughts that were taking my mind and soul toward heaven. I had upsetting and negative thoughts, feeling beaten back and discouraged, criticized, and pre-empted in several circumstances. Not good! I have turned a corner, once more, with the reminder of how I can choose steps and thoughts toward heaven in each present moment.
A few mornings ago I decided to meet some people who gather at a coffee place. They are Methodists, and I decided to cast the nets in the water to see how the encounter might unfold. I was brought up Methodist, and I know the goodness and Christian values thereof. There were just three of us, and it was a delightful hour of chatting--nothing intense, nothing spiritual per se, but helpful and encouraging. I am casting nets to see if His Real Presence is going to put a fish or more in them.
I have pondered St. Paul's mission and his involvement not with the Jews but with the Gentiles. Perhaps my encounters have become too focused on Catholics alone and have ignored what God may wish of me to be more universal in outreach, or to have my light shine in other directions, too. I will see how this goes, but for now one hour a week of gentle conversation with kindly people seems a good net.
As for where God has called me, 19 years ago, into the Catholic Church, that has not altered. But my being accepted in parishes has come to empty nets time and again, of sorts. I did review the tremendous vision and locution involving Jesus Himself, over two years ago. He specifically showed me Catholic parishioners, mostly women in the foreground, and they were nastily criticizing, judging wrongly, and rather envious and mocking in tone. Jesus said specifically that I would be criticized and judged within the Church but I was to pay no attention to them.
I have not done so! I withdrew to protect myself and also to protect them from continuing the abusive behavior, parish by parish. It is not easy when one is shunned and not really welcome in deed, even if a priest now and then might say I was welcome. When one extends peace and love and joy, and it is not returned, Jesus in Scriptures says to take back our peace offered and go on to the next place. I am praying and discerning this Scripture along with His direct message to me of not paying attention to those Catholics who He said would criticize and misjudge me.
And, He also said I would feel very alone.
However, the hour spent in lovely conversation with other Christians, was positive. I'm not sure how it would be if they knew I am a Catholic. Isn't it rather a sad situation that Christians of varying re-formations as well as the many varying parishes in the Catholic Church, the varying rites--can have bias? There is entirely too much division and fussing, or so it seems.
I have to admit it was quite refreshing to be with people who are not caught up in competition with one another for prestige, position or any power. Unlike the fearful ones I have encountered, or those who judge me, or even insinuate (such as another hermit does without using my name directly) as to mental illness and other unhealthy morbidity, and of causing scandal to the Church. This other hermit is rather tricky in ascribing such ills. This is no doubt just part of what Jesus told me to pay no attention to, but the other, even if not at all accurate, is a contrast to steps toward heaven.
The Methodists with whom I shared a cup of coffee in charitable conversation, were devoid of such silly and nasty aspersions. I suppose partly this is due to their not having hermit vocations, canon laws, or various spiritual experiences in their "system" in how they function as Christians and as an ecclesial group. Of course, there are many other differences, and I am not suggesting any better or worse; but it is an observation. I certainly appreciated the breather from scrutiny, regardless!
In the meantime, a young woman called--she has called before and is by now a spiritual friend. She expressed how lonely she feels despite being a mother and wife. Her husband is gone quite a bit. But she feels a different kind of loneliness and longing, and she had called a priest hoping to be able to talk with him and get some counsel on some issues as well as spiritual situations. He was too busy.
I suggested we read a book together, across the miles. I do this with an older woman. We read a few pages or chapter or two--nothing rushed or too taxing as their schedules are always more full by far than my hermit daily life! So the young woman and I have chosen Rev. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange's "Mary the Mother of Our Savior". Garrigou-Lagrange is a great Dominican theologian, Thomist in background and theory, and was a favorite professor of the late John Paul II--as well as of many who find his writings outstanding.
Yes, I explained to the young woman that from my experience thus far, there are few priests today who have the training from seminary or time with experience in their priesthood, to be able to do much wise counseling or who have the time to do so, when a parishioner calls. They have perhaps one semester training in counseling from seminary, and about one semester in the spiritual or mystical life, such as doing an overview of Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross in that semester. Otherwise, they have many courses in administration skills for parishes, and a broad spectrum of other such needs including finances and managing lay staff.
So, I said she will be better served to turn to the time periods in which priests were trained more in the spiritual life and to those who we know long after their deaths were exceptional in their ability to guide souls to union with God. It is not to blame the current priests or seminaries, but it is the reality of our times. Thanks be to God these other persons left their writings and wisdom in the ways of the spiritual life, Scripture, mystical life, prayer, virtues and even how to combat the devil in spiritual warfare.
We will see how it all unfolds, our reading. In the meantime, I have some manual labor and much watering in this drought area, and much praying and pondering to do today. And perhaps, later, if not too hot in here when the body needs rest due to the physical pain, I will attempt writing the recovery room and death experiences of 27 years ago.