For years, I’ve awakened at 3 and 4 and 5 in the morning, no matter when I go to sleep. I often struggle to get back to sleep.

In recent months I find that this is a most precious time in my day. It’s a time of quiet and an almost holy darkness. For even when I get up and dress and sit here in the half-light to meditate and write (I only turn up the lights enough to cast a dim glow), the daytime details and distractions of my life are obscured.

I can perceive the chair I’m sitting in, the floor nearby, but the light of my laptop screen is so bright as to throw the rest of the room into utter darkness – I can’t even see my feet there at the ends of my legs as they rest on the hassock before me.

During these times, His light seems able to focus on the one part of me that needs illumining this day at this time.


Something I read just now of Merton’s is helping me to understand better what’s going with me right now. I have long wondered and prayed for guidance to be alert to His will for my life; to be aware of what He is calling me to be and to do.

I’ve known for sometime that my role of mother, wife and friend are my holy callings. But when times get rough and rocky for me or for any of those close to me, I can become so involved in the fear and pain of the moment that I often forget that this is His mission for me, I forget to use each of these periods to grow closer and to help others grow closer to Him.

Not just to remind them of His love for them, and His presence with them in the midst of their anguish, but to love them myself, allowing His love for them to flow through me.

And not just to preach to them of His love from outside the pain of their burden, but to enter into their burdens and help Him to help them carry their load.

And not even that … not just turning to Him for help for them or for me, but in the midst of the turmoil and fear … now, my turmoil and fear and compassion (literally translated to be with (com) or part of another’s pain and suffering (passion)) … to realize and give thanks that He has chosen me for this small task.

To realize that He has allowed me to help shoulder this discrete portion of His burden and thereby, to share in His Passion, to carry a portion of His pain, to lighten some small portion of the burden of His suffering.

All of a sudden this time of consternation, which can verge so closely on despair, seems blessed. It becomes a more holy undertaking where He’s “helping me to make of the lumber of my life not a tavern but a temple, out of the work of my every day not a reproach but a song.” (This whole anonymously written poem, I Love You, is here.)

And just now, as I write this, I’m recalling that I prayed last week to be given a better and deeper understanding of what it is to ‘worship at the foot of the Cross,’ to share in His Passion…how thick I am to just now understand that this sharing in His pain is the true meaning of compassion.

Praise God for His goodness and faithfulness in this and all things.


The sun is up outside my window now; the new day is here. This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

My Enemy, My Love

This article from John Martens writing in America Magazine is an answer to a recent prayer. In his discussion of loving our enemies, he concludes:

It is this desire (for perfect love), grounded in the longing to be holy as God is holy, that allows us to rise above our feelings for vengeance, feelings which the world understands, accepts and might even urge on us, to love our enemy. In the love of enemy we convert not only our own hearts, but the possibility exists that when we forego destroying enemies with weapons of vengeance, then love, the weapon of the spirit, will transform them.

via My Enemy, My Love | America Magazine.

So, I prayed recently that the Lord would guide me to my next meditation.

I’ve been wondering lately … reconsidering really…my long-held views about any number of subjects, but most recently capital punishment. Right or wrong? I used to be more certain of my answer. Today, not so much.

It was in the middle of the night. I’d awakened briefly and was in that dreamy half-sleeping, half-waking state.

In the beginning when I was more awake and said ‘hi’ to God, as I always do when I first awake. Then I continued to say a couple of prayers, thinking about each phrase as I progressed through them, considering how each phrase related to me over the last few days or weeks.

That was the beginning. Then I sort of drifted off into a space that was dreamier. I was still conscious enough to be aware of and remember the thoughts and images I was having.

This was the message I got back. I don’t know if that’s the right word, but this is the next stream of thoughts that I had.

I was contemplating love and evil, juxtaposing them, acknowledging that God is pure love. Jesus is pure love. I acknowledged that we are called to love Jesus and try to be more like him. In order to be fully with God, we are called to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves.

I moved on to consider evil. What is it? Hatred, vileness, greed.

Where do they come from? What’s their basis? Is it fear? Hmmm, maybe. Hatred and vileness, villainy can often be traced back to fear. Is the devil fearful?

You know, I think He probably is. I think He knows the end of the story, too. I think He knows that God wins. But the devil’s nature is what it is.

When I have called upon God’s protection, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the devil’s presence…his essence in my thoughts, or his seeming presence with me…goes away. It just dissolves into an impotent vapor and slinks off.

On the basis of his occasional reappearance, I know the devil has not been fully conquered in me, but God’s power is always available, on call, to help me overcome evil’s temptations.

So, if we can do what God has asked us to do — to love Him, to aspire to be like Him, to project pure love — then should we not also be able to dispel fear and hatred in others? To project such compassion and charity that the power of evil is dissolved, vaporized in the face of our love?

Back to capital punishment. Why do we put people to death? To keep them from ever harming others in society? Justice? Well, yes.

Okay, forget capital punishment for now. It’s too complicated an issue for me at this point.

But isn’t love the goal? Doesn’t Our Father want each of us to begin – now, right where we are, to learn to love so purely, to love so strongly, that evil has no foothold in our lives. That the devil and all his forces can gain no traction?

If love conquers fear and hatred, which we know it does in the end, then when we approach any situation in our lives – any confrontation, argument, disagreement, physical attack even – if we take on the mantel of pure love, devoid of fear — if we don’t allow fear to seep in, I wonder if the hatred and vileness of those others whom we confront would dissolve before us, just as if they were standing before Our Father?

If so, good to go. If not, well I guess we might meet Our Lord all the sooner.

So, are we still good to go? Are we prepared to die, as we offer love as our self-defense?

I guess it requires detachment from life itself, doesn’t it? The Jesuits say we must have a spirit of detachment, even from life itself, in order to fully be one with God.

Well, that’s the meditation. I know for certain, I don’t have a clear answer to all this yet for myself.

I still feel more comfortable carrying and knowing how to use self-defense aids. I will continue to encourage our children to stay alert to threats. And I feel a certain relief, when a cold, calculating, murdering sociopathic sex offender or child trafficker is put out of his or her misery.

Can we not advocate for our enemy’s incapacity, his incarceration, possibly his elimination, while still loving him, mourning his death or injury. To act with justice, but without vengeance or hate, without a desire for retribution?

In the end, love is the goal. How do we love You better, Lord?

7 Steps For Sharing Our Decisions With God

Becky Eldredge over at the dotMagis blog for Ignatian Spirituality wrote a few months back of her experience in deciding between two possible places for her and her husband to move to and make their new home.

For the past year, my husband and I have been discerning our future steps after my husband’s graduate degree was complete. The choice was between relocating to one of two cities. The process of discernment was arduous due to a rather crazy day-to-day rhythm of life, which impacted my ability to find stillness in prayer, and because we felt we were choosing between two goods.

At one point this spring, about eight months into this discernment process, I shared with a friend that I was struggling to find peace about this decision. I told her, “We have learned all we can about both cities. We have prayed about this for months, and I no longer feel pulled strongly to either city. It’s driving me crazy! Why won’t God give me the answer?”

She gently smiled and chuckled and said to me, “Struggling a bit with the grace of detachment?” via The Grace of Detachment.

It reminded me of a time when my family was planning a move, returning to an area of the country my husband grew up in. He had been called for an interview and the organization wanted to fly him and our family half-way across the country to meet people and learn about the community. Our airplane tickets were in the process of being booked!

As potentially exciting as it all sounded and as much as we were both looking forward to hitting the reset button on our lives, I was concerned about several issues, including (top-of-the-list) leaving my mother behind who was at the time in her mid-80’s.

I prayed to God that He give us direction.

“Lord,” I prayed, “this train seems to be moving on a fast track. If this direction is not one that works for You for whatever reason, please give me/us some sign. Let me understand Your plan. In the end help me, Lord, to be certain. Sweep away all other possibilities with the clarity of Your purpose and Your plan for us.”

I remember clearly that I prayed that prayer on a Monday.

That Friday, I was busy working when I received a call from a woman whose home my husband and I had tried to buy a year and half earlier in a nearby community about an hour away. At the time we had done all our research and concluded that the community, its schools, the house…everything…were exactly what we were looking for. Yet, in the flat housing market of that time, nothing was moving and in the end, the deal fell through.

Fast forward and the same woman is calling me out of the blue without the benefit of a realtor to let me know that she was again trying to sell the same home…only now she was asking substantially less than her original price!

Her call caught me at a time when I was completely focused on a project that I was working on. I told her of our plans to move out of state, but said I’d discuss it with my husband and let her know if we had any second thoughts. I thanked her for letting me know, wished her luck and hung up.

I then promptly forgot about her call as I moved to finish my project, get dressed to run errands, pick kids up from school, meet husband, take one of the kids to a sleep-over 40 miles away, have date-night at a nice restaurant…you get the idea.

It wasn’t until we were allowing ourselves a highly unusual shared dessert following dinner that I remembered the phone call. I told my husband about the woman’s offer, describing the details dismissively, with the assumption that he and I had already made up our minds to follow a different course.

After hearing my story he said, “Well, wait a minute. What are we giving up by moving away?”

With just that one short question we were both stopped dead in our tracks. It was as if some mighty hand had just pulled hard on the hand brake of our lives. All of the memories of our earlier desire came flooding back — the community, the schools, the house, the property. And I belatedly remembered my prayer from earlier in the week.

The Lord had heard me and this was His answer. All of our senses from a year before about the perfection of the place were not wrong after all…their timing was just a bit off…or so it seemed.

Over the next couple of hours, we did a full 180. By the end of the weekend we signed a purchase and sale agreement. A month and a half later we moved in to our new home.

I relearned several lessons from this experience.

The first is to Listen to Our Inner Voice — that nagging sense of concern, in my case. It felt like we were already barreling down the road and that the decision was already out of my control.

In a different situation inner stirrings might instead be like a magnet drawing us to a particular outcome. In either case sorting what our inner voice is saying (oft times I have to get my inner voice to quit screaming at me in fear or excitement, just so I can actually hear what it’s saying), allows us to articulate a more focused, detailed prayer to place at God’s feet.

Next, Pray for Direction and Insight with a detached attitude always of wanting only those outcomes that He wants for me, that are part of His plan for me, that are His will. After assembling all the facts of my situation, I prayed that God would allow me to understand them through His eyes and His plan (as it turned out His knowledge and memory of our earlier desire was better than our own) .

After we lift a prayer to God, even as we let it go, trusting in His goodness, we still need to remember to Pay Attention For His Answer. To be conscious over the next several days or weeks of all the possible ways through which He might seek to communicate with us.

In this case I almost missed the message. I need to be more fully present with Him in each conversation or encounter, as I moved through my day (Editor Angel – this is one you seem to need to relearn every few hours!…well, yes, shhh!)

The third lesson is one I’ve experienced multiple times in my life. That is, when I move forward in a decision, even one about which, after much discernment, I feel convicted, I try to Move Forward in Baby Steps.

Without exception in my life, if there are too many obstacles placed in my way toward some objective, it has invariably been a bad idea. And, if I finally achieve my objective after fighting bullheadedly through all the obstacles, it has always been with uncomfortable, sometimes, dire consequences.

If I move slowly and thoughtfully, I am in a better position to Discern Obstacles, to determine if they are just part of a necessary to-do list, or something more important. If necessary, I can more objectively redirect my efforts.

We need to Maintain a Sense of Detachment. As my husband and I moved forward over that first weekend to meet with our seller, take a new look at the house and community, review our earlier assessments against an updated backdrop of alternative opportunities, negotiate and sign papers — as prepared as we were to be surprised and excited — we were also just a little stunned and awed with God’s hand at work in our lives. We were detached and prepared to back away, if insurmountable obstacles began to appear.

We eventually baby-stepped our way through all the throes of what moving entails. As we did we were instead continually amazed at the way obstacles just fell away. Just as we sighted each new challenge on the horizon, it would fade and disappear as we drew nearer. This was when I was finally certain we were on the right path.

All this was nearly 18 years ago. Not once over that time have I questioned our decision. I am instead awestruck and grateful each time I Savor The Joy of Sharing Our Decisions with God. And savoring God’s hand at work, especially when we allow Him to share those big, life-altering decisions, is possibly the sweetest step. It’s one which I like to imagine Him sharing with me, as we sit before a warm fire on a cold winter day, recollecting our good times together.

So, here’s the recap:

  1. Listen to Our Inner Voice
  2. Pray for Direction and Insight
  3. Pay Attention For His Answer
  4. Move Forward in Baby Steps
  5. Discern Obstacles
  6. Maintain a Sense of Detachment
  7. Savor The Joy of Sharing Our Decisions with God.

I have included a couple of links above to the Ignatian Spirituality website at Loyola Press. There are many more resources at the site for understanding how to walk with our Lord.

I would recommend, as well, Fr. James Martin SJ’s humorous, insightful, and highly accessible book, “The Jesuit’s Guide (Almost) Everything.” In it he discusses discernment, and a spirit of detachment, how to pray, how to find God in prayer…it really is a ‘guide to almost everything.’

Have a blessed day.

Five Steps for Walking in the Way

As I was reflecting on the fourteenth and last meditation before the Blessed Sacrament, I was wondering what would come next in this journey of ‘walking with my brother.’

So many are already writing so many good blogs on faith and on finding and following God’s way for us. I stopped to question what contribution I was making, whether to continue, what direction to take now that my meditation series is finished (for now anyway).

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading Chris Lowney’s excellent and insightful book, Why Pope Francis Leads The Way He Does. In it he discusses good leadership qualities and relates them to Pope Francis’ Jesuit training in Ignatian spirituality.

Mr. Lowney describes a student from the Jesuit Schools of Italy and Albania where the Pope was speaking in June 2013. The young student asked the Pope to say a few words to help him in his spiritual growth. In the student’s words,

I am Francesco Bassani, of the Istituto Leone XIII. I am a boy who, Papa, as I wrote in my letter to you, seeks to believe. I am searching… searching, yes, to be faithful. However I have difficulties. Sometimes doubts come to me. And I believe that this is absolutely normal for my age…I wanted to ask you for a few words to help me in my growth and to support all the other young people like me.

Pope Francis responsed:

Walking is an art; if we are always in a hurry we tire and cannot reach our destination, the destination of our journey. Yet if we stop and do not move, we also fail to reach our destination. Walking is precisely the art of looking to the horizon, thinking about where I want to go, and also coping with the weariness that comes from walking. Moreover, the way is often hard-going, it is not easy. “I want to stay faithful to this journey, but it is not easy; listen: there is darkness, there are days of darkness, days of failure, and some days of falling… someone falls, falls”. Yet always keep this in your thoughts: do not be afraid of failure, do not be afraid of falling. In the art of walking it is not falling that matters, but not “staying fallen”. Get up quickly, immediately, and continue to go on. And this is beautiful: it is working every day, it is walking humanly. But also: it is terrible to walk alone, terrible and tedious. Walking in community, with friends, with those who love us: this helps us, it helps us to arrive precisely at the destination where we must arrive. I don’t know if I have answered your question. Have you understood? You won’t be afraid of the journey?

Well, I ‘walk VERY humanly’ indeed.

This response from Il Papa seemed to be a message aimed directly at my wavering heart.


…do not be afraid of failure, do not be afraid of falling. In the art of walking it is not falling that matters, but not “staying fallen.” Get up quickly, immediately, and continue to go on.
Pope Francis June 2013


It inspired the following five steps for ‘walking in the way.

Walking in the Way

  1. When we’re walking – remember that God is walking there beside us. Talk to Him. Enjoy His presence. Get to know Him along the Way. Thank Him for letting you feel His presence there with you.
  2. When we tire – rest, remember our purpose, recalibrate our destination, refuel our body, reflect on God’s goodness.
  3. When we’re refreshed, get up and move on along the way.
  4. ‘If we fall, get up,’ as Pope Francis says, ‘the failure is not in falling, the failure is in “staying fallen.”’
  5. Walk with others, with friends, those who can keep you from straying too far from the path, who can dust you off when you’ve fallen, those for whom you can return these favors.

Thank You, Father.

Meditation 9 – What we ask in faith, God provides

Do you dread something painful? Is there in your soul a vague fear, which seems unreasonable, and yet torments you? Trust fully in My providence. I am here, I see everything; I will not leave you.

I’m such a weenie! I’m still concerned about that dinner party. It’s tomorrow night and it has me losing sleep worrying about silly stuff. Have I put out new hand towels in the guest bath? Did I remember to get new candles? I need mercy from my own silly self! There must be something more worthy in my world to be concerned about than having dinner with an atheist family member?

[Well, and it’s much less him and his belief or non-belief. I’m probably more concerned about my behavior. My words and actions. Is it possible that relaxing some might produce better results? Or that I should be more concerned about his soul than my words? But they might be connected, right? (Editor Angel – Lord, can I come home now?)]

Also, my personal thanks to W. Ockham over at Teilhard de Chardin for this post on our discussions with atheists.]

Still, our gracious Lord, asks that we bring Him even our little worries, so that our faith will be bolstered each time we see His hand at work in our lives. I’m looking forward to a having a wonderful miracle to report soon!

Here are a few more of today’s musings…in no particular order:

I try to say a little prayer each morning for our grown children that they will have a safe commute to and from their work. My daughter reported that she was almost run over as she was crossing in a fully lit crosswalk earlier this week. The driver was looking directly at her as he sped through. Later in the same dark walk to her off-site parking, she was concerned about a man who was lurking around the parking lot. I try to think of these occurrences not so much as evil and harm lurking about, but as God’s loving protection surrounding us everywhere.

I worry that our grandson’s parents have not yet had him baptized. I pray the Lord watch over him, understand his innocence, and regardless of his formal baptism, call him to be His own. I worry, too, that I might have some active role to play in this. If I do, it has not yet been made clear to me. So I pray for guidance.

I worry that I don’t understand why so many of the saints sought out suffering and pain in an attempt to feel closer to Jesus, to share in His suffering. I understand a bit better others who do not pray for relief from suffering, but rather ask for strength sufficient to endure the suffering given them.

I worry about how to respond to street people who ask for money. Police and retail owners caution against giving them money, saying these intended acts of kindness only encourage more aggressive and, in some cases, more threatening behavior. How does one discern the difference between a truly needy person and a healthy person preying cynically on the good intentions of the rest of us?

We have a friend who carries a pocket full of coins and small bills in order to give a little something to others each week. If we don’t carry around a bit of cash, won’t we too often end up missing an opportunity to help someone in need when God touches our hearts?

We can always lift our fears and worry up to God. And relief is directly related to our level of faith in Him, in His greatness, in His judgment of what’s good for us and those we love.

This lesson was most potently demonstrated for me over time as our children were learning to drive and taking the car out by themselves for the first time. As they were leaving for their first date. As they ventured out on their own lives, insisting, right or wrong, to make their own decisions. No longer could I be with them 24/7; no longer was I in full control.

But, with some situation presenting itself on a near-daily basis there for a while, I got lots of opportunities to practice, and as my prayers were answered, small and large, and as I learned to pay attention, to be conscious of His answers to my prayers, my faith grew. Through it all He’s taught me that my relief can be nearly immediate. I ask; God provides.

The question is not how great God is. The key is the strength of my faith in Him.

Meditation 8 – Forgive, forget, move on, be blessed

Have you nothing to annoy you? My child, tell Me your annoyances, with every detail. Who has pained you? Who has wounded your self-love? Who has treated you contemptuously? Tell Me all, and then say that you forgive and forget; and I will give you My blessing.

We’ve just rounded the half-way mark in our 14 meditations before the Blessed Sacrament. I’m curious to hear your reactions, your feedback. Do they give you comfort? Make you think? Make you uncomfortable?  I treasure hearing from each of you and learning what these meditations prompted for you.

In today’s eighth meditation we’re asked to search our hearts for annoyances. Hurts and pains that others might have caused us. Opportunities to forgive and forget and be blessed.

I’ve written recently about a situation in our family that we are still working to heal. And, I wrote a poem, Take My Anger, a while back in which I work through some “righteous rage” as I called it then.

But, I have so much to be grateful for and so little that pains me currently — thank You, Lord — that it feels awkward to speak of the few issues that might have once existed, ungrateful somehow for all the good fortune in my life. Even the most egregious offense toward me, which I describe here, was a blessing in so many ways.

I was raised by a mother whose first question almost always, when I told her of some offense that I felt I’d endured during my day, was, “Well, did you do anything, say something that might have caused that person to do that?” She (infuriatingly, at the time) always figured there were two sides to a story.

Similarly, one of my mother-in-law’s favorite sayings was, “There is never a coin so thin that there aren’t two sides.” She was quoting her mother.

Her son’s standby question for our children when they brought grievances home was, “Well, you have choices about how you’re going to feel, how you choose to react to this situation.”

Still, when we’re in the middle of a painful situation, most of us at some point want to defend our positions with righteous indignation. Some people get satisfaction from retaliation — responding to harm with harm — or by dreaming up verbal retorts filled with hurtful, sarcastic words.

But the sooner we’re able to give all our pain and anger and ‘righteous rage’ to God, to describe it as though it were a real live organism, to pull it out of ourselves, relinquish it and lay it at His feet, the sooner He can relieve us of its burden — whatever those reciprocating feelings are that build up in us —  hate maybe, or helplessness or guilt or shame. He’ll take them all, if we’ll allow Him to, and He’ll help us begin to heal.

Driving with God

“I’m glad you’re with me today, Father.”

I’m always with you, my dear. I’m glad you’re aware of me today.

“This imagining thing that Fr. Martin suggests…well, I guess it was St. Ignatius who earlier suggested it for understanding more about Christ…isn’t something I know much about, Father. It feels so presumptuous to imagine You here with me. Can we just be quiet here together for a while?”

I know. There’s not any need to talk. We can just drive together.

A few minutes later.

“I have a question, Father.”

Only one?

“Ha! I don’t know when or if to go public with the blog I’m working on for You, WWMB. I don’t want to put it out there, if it is not what you want from me. Or if You believe I’m/we’re not ready. Or, if I somehow might do something wrong or say something that might lead another person to go astray. What should I do, Father. And when.”

Do you believe that I led you to the writing that you’ve been doing?


Do you believe that I use things and people to my own purpose? And is my purpose good?

“Yes…and, of course!”

What is your fear? Are you concerned about what I might do with your work, who I might bring to your web blog, or are you concerned about whether something you do might be wrong or weakly reasoned or uninspired? How much of what you’re feeling is ego?

“Okay…I think I get where You’re going. You’re in control. But …(Angel: Really? What on earth are you doing, arguing, questioning God? Shhh, I’m new at this. He understands!) …what if I start the blog and then my work schedule gets in the way? What if I don’t maintain the blog, and, as is true for so many others, it just falls by the wayside and withers?”

What if?

“So, you’re suggesting that if I continue to follow Your lead, either outcome is …well, if not worthy, then at least redeemable…something? Or that You can still work with stuff, even incomplete stuff, if You choose…That what I learn about myself and about my relationship with You may be as important as what I lead others to learn about You and that in the end, it’s all up to You anyway?….hmph!”

A little later:

“I love you so very much, Father.”

I love you, too.

A bit later yet:

“WOW! How do You DO that? The sun shining through the mist, the snow-capped mountains, the fog lying along the ground in the valley. And the colors today are iridescent! What a day You have made for our drive! Thank you, Father!”

It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

And again later:

“Father, do You feel sadness or remorse for the world. Are You concerned about the state our world is in? How does that work for You? It seems like You, as awesome God, would be, should be kind of above it all…unaffected by all the sin and greed and deceit and hatred that exists in our world. And yet, You love us and care for us. How does that work?”

I don’t so much feel those things, as I understand them. I was there. I lived among you. I felt the things you’re feeling… your human emotions – love, anger, joy, sadness, remorse. I know how your pain feels. I try to help you use the pain you’re experiencing to strengthen you in your quest to find me. I rejoice with you when you take even the smallest step toward me.

“Don’t You ever tire of all my whiney doubts and questions? How am I possibly worthy of Your presence here in the car with me, talking to me and painting beautiful scenes for us to see as we drive along?”

I’m always here ready to talk and to listen, painting beautiful vistas. I’m always present with you. It’s nice to have you here present with me. We should do this more often.