It Never Ends

About two years ago, I had a dream: I was standing outside in a garden by a beautiful pool covered with water lilies. A young, beautiful woman was there, holding an infant in her arms. Somehow, I knew her name – Anna Maria. She told me that she needed help taking care of her baby boy and asked if I would help her. I said, “Yes, I will.” She was relieved and glad, and then I began to wade into the pool, among the water lilies…

About six months after that, I was praying during Mass, after receiving Holy Communion, before a statue of Our Blessed Mother. I asked her, “Blessed Mother, what should I do? What should I do with my life?” Immediately, I felt her say to me distinctly, interiorly, “My son, my Church needs you.” And I thought of the dream…

Today, I was praying the Rosary after Mass, and, towards the end, I looked up to a bas relief image of the s Holy Family, focusing my gaze specifically on the Blessed Mother. I was concentrating on the acute, almost desperate need of conversions of souls the world over. Other than that, my mind was a blank. And then, completely unsolicited – I was not asking or seeking anything in particular – interiorly, I felt her say to me, “Help me.” I looked down; I thought that this couldn’t be happening again – I’m not that special. I kept praying – but, then, unable to help the impulse, I looked up at the image of Our Lady, and it heard it again: “Help me.”

I almost cannot believe it, but she is certainly trying to tell me – repeatedly, beyond any inconstancy of my own – that she wants me to help the sick Church.

Dear Lady, help me to help. What do want me to do? Keep writing? Start speaking publicly about my re-conversion and rejection of sin and transformation? I’m speaking to a confirmation class at church soon. Should I start addressing the masses on YouTube? Should I not give up but only persevere on my idea for a weekly public Rosary for world peace and conversions? Madonna, if you need me, help me. Help me to know your desire specifically, so that I can comply. Whatever my physical challenges, I’ll do what you ask, because I know you can make it possible. Please come through – and I’m yours. I’ll give you everything.

Madonna, pray for me.

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First Saturday (pt. 2) was

That night (really early Sunday morning), I had had to wake for some personal needs. As I was climbing back into bed, I recalled a request to a friend at the prayer group that evening to pray for me to have help in my current situation (the unknown in how I will pay for rent, food and utilities this month and next – and where I should look for help). I knew of his close relationship with St. Padre Pio, a relationship I have tried to cultivate myself for some time but not knowing how; I had hoped that my friend’s reliance on our saint’s powerful aid could break through my overthinking and worry and obtain the assistance I need… The request appeared again in the forefront of my mind in my state between sleeping and waking, and I realized that, earlier, before bed, I had received an unexplainable clarity that I needed to trust in Jesus and plan to remain in Las Vegas for the time being. Realizing in that moment that this clarity and peace were a partial answer to my prayers, I called St. Padre Pio to mind.

“Thank you, St. Padre Pio,” I prayed, knowing that he would hear me.

Immediately, there was a distinctly present image of him in my mind’s eye. And then I knew I could ask him the question that had been pressing so heavily on me the last few months.

“St. Padre Pio, am I going to keep suffering like this? For the red of my life?”

Yes. The answer came un-barred, unambiguously, without hesitation or reserve into my mind.

“I will always suffer – like you did?”

Yes.

And, unexpectedly, it did not upset me. I received the truth , and – with all my emotional barriers and entitlements suspended in my halfway state – I could accept it. I mourned for myself tenderly for a moment, but that was all. I knew it was my calling. I knew it was my cross, and that I had to offer it up as my work in this life.

But there was something else. There was some other impression that I was getting from him, an understanding that I was receiving simply from holding him in my mind. He was transmitting it merely by my looking at him – he was “speaking…” I somehow understood that I would not be suffering in this same way, in the same form that I have been all this time. It would be more like the way he did (although I do NOT presume to be someone even approaching a shadow of his holiness to carry even a splinter of the massive cross he so heroically carried for almost unparalleled glory to Jesus… No.). What I mean is that it would be more like being subject to constant pains and sorts of “crucifixions” and piercings and wounds, but while living more functionally now – eating and going to the bathroom and moving and working more normally again. (Again – no – don’t presume to expect to be receiving the stigmata or actually reliving the Passion and Crucifixion, as many glorious and virtuous saints have done – I’m nothing, nobody, just an unimportant sinner – but I got the understanding that it will be with that kind of regularity, definition, and (meanwhile) physical function.

And then I thought to ask others… I thought of Bl. Marthe Robin, and her face came into mind. I asked her, “Blessed Marthe Robin, will I be like you?”

No, was the clear impression I received from her.

I thought of Bl. Alexandrina da Costa and saw her – and I asked her, “Blessed Alexandrina da Costa, will I be like you?”

No, she told me.

And so that was it. I would not question any more on this. My life will yet be not like anything I can expect.

If I am crazy, if I am schizophrenic, I will yet see. Until then, all that I will go on will be my faith.

Praise God. Mary, be with me. Thank you, St. Pio.

EPILOGUE:

I was laying in bed again, and I wanted to think about St. Padre Pio some more, to talk to him some more. I think my disordered emotions were leading me to be attached to him, to not want to let go of the experience (which is wrong – we are always cautioned not to focus on or become attached to extraordinary experiences with the divine, but rather to completely let them go and refocus on living a holy life on Earth and all the ordinary duties of work and prayer and perseverance that it entails). I was saying, “Thank you, St. Padre Pio,” over and over again, while thinking of his face and wanting to hold his presence in my mind…

And then the image became “reanimated” with his presence:

DONT CLING TO ME! he admonished me sharply. Hold on to Jesus… And I knew that it was the truth.

But, then, as the image of him was fading in my mind, it seemed that I saw a sort of “sheet” of brown glow falling behind him, over me – as maybe the way brown fabric falls… I am not . going to state any interpretation of that here… And then I drifted off to sleep.

Goodnight.

First Saturday (pt. 1)

Yesterday was once of the most difficult days of torment in recent months. And, in the aftermath, case two of the most profound experiences in mylife.

It started nearly immediately. At breakfast – after shower, after rising, an hour after my alarm – I bit into a piece of apple, tried to chew, and found the bolts was stuck in the folds of my esophagus. My undiagnosed neuromuscular condition involves muscles not firing normally – not contracting autonomically when they should and not relaxing from contraction, either. Muscles sometimes get trapped by and wrapped around other muscles; this particular problem is usually triggered by another voluntary movement in a related muscle group. It seems that my praying before my meal, with all the tending of the muscles in my scalp and face, was not to the liking of other parts of my musculature in my head and neck, for, when I took that fateful bite, something crucial seized. That piece of apple would not go down. I’d only experienced something like this once or twice before. The more I tried to swallow, the more tense the area got. The more I tried to unravel the knot, the worse things became. Effort was my enemy (a lesson I have had burned into me many times before). I found myself now thrashing and flailing, pounding my fist, volumes of saliva and mucus accumulating in my throat, which I had to expectorate, the fear of choking gripping me in every moment. I was shouting, crying, cursing – yes – cursing Satan for some role he had in trying to lead me into rage and despair through my suffering. Finally, by God’s grace, a got a hold of myself and, by sheer will, allowed myself to release and calm down and center, knowing my muscles needed to relax. In the following minutes, I could feel a few muscles in my head ease, I could gently unwind some of the knots, and, in a huge swoop, the bolus of chewed apple went down swiftly.

Thirty minute had passed. I needed now to be fasting for at least one hour before Mass. I was worn out, I was hungry – but, after all the rigors I’d put my stomach through, even if I’d had the time, I wouldn’t have wanted to eat. I’m hungry soon after I wake up, and, with my quick metabolism and borderline hypoglycemia, it’s not a good idea to skip meals. (Plus, the action of eating primes all the muscles of my gastrointestinal track and the skeletal muscles that support them to allow bowel movements later.). But, here I was. I had to trust in Jesus now to carry me and to offer this up to console Him. I went to Mass.

The difficulties did not end. It was a dynamic morning. The other rigors that I tend to always go through during each Mass to work out the knots in the skeletal muscles of my whole body – jerking, falling forward, softly but quickly falling down to the floor – were in full force. I’ve tried to hold back in the past, out of respect to the Mass, but the restraint always blows up in my face later. This time of day is when my muscles are ripe for forward motion, and, if I want to be functioning at least twenty-five percent normally, I simply must give myself over to it.

A very compassionate woman – a woman with whom I’d only had a few and very limited interactions with before (including the time she heard me sobbing and gave me her own St. Anthony medal) – midway through Mass approached me quietly from the side and whispered, “Michael, do you want to lean on me?”

I was touched so tenderly. I replied to her, “Oh, that is so sweet – but it would not be very good for you… The pillar [to my left, which I patted] is just fine.” I smiled to reassure her.

“Okay. But just let me know.”

After Mass, she came by again – this time asking if she could give me a ride somewhere – but, she said, she was also aware of my prayer time after Mass… I thanked her so much. I said that I would be going home later – but, yes, that I needed to pray a while first. We agreed that she would go to the grocery store and return in forty-five minutes (and I was sincerely hoping that I would be done by then).

I had finished the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and was two decades into the Rosary, when an angel tapped me, and I turned around to see her patiently, peacefully waiting in the vestibule. It was nearly the meeting time, and I didn’t want to be self-indulgent this time and to keep her waiting. So, I went.

As I entered my little house, I was aware that I always need to complete my routine of finishing my Rosary, ordering my Uber, and riding home in concentration on my body in order for things to go reasonably well later. There’s something about the specific actions and timing that my body has gotten used to, a sort of clock with which my muscle memory ticks. But I had had to abandon yet another piece of my schedule today. I was hoping that I’d be forgiven and carry on as normal. Once inside, immediately I restarted and finished my Rosary. I then began what always must follow when I get home – the work of having a bowel movement – an automatic and normal bodily function for most people, which for me is a labor of absurd feats.

I first needed to eat a little bit more, a snack that I always have prepared and waiting for me. And then, at a certain point, I begin to feel telltale movement with a little pain. And then begins an epic of consciously pulsing and relaxing muscles throughout my body – my head, my neck, my back, my buttocks, my legs – taking focus, concentration, visualization, breathing, prayers, pleading – possibly lasting the better part of an hour, possibly taking two… And nothing was happening. By a certain point in time when I start to see relief coming in the distance, there was nothing, nothingness, a terrifying muteness and blankness of my muscles, a void. I could hear the wind…

I started to panic. So I at a little bit more. And then a little more. And still I felt nothing. And I ate some more. And I was starting to loathe myself and hate my state, and anger and fear and rage and despair were gradually closing their claws – his claws – all around me, because I’d let them/him. And soon I was in his cage. Screaming, crying again like this morning. And I knew what was happening. I was trying so hard and only facing increasingly the gripping fear that, for the first time in over a year, I would not achieve this level of control over my body, that I would be forced to surrender, and be forced to accept the fate of walking on through the day in disgusting fullness, thinking of sewage within me.

Once again, though, by God’s incredible grace, I seized my soul back for just one moment. I chose to be quiet. I was still sobbing horribly, but I started to reach out to the Blessed Mother in desperate need for consolation and help. I was drowning and was reaching for my life raft. Then, as I was thinking about her, something happened. In my mind’s eye, I saw her figure, slightly fuzzy, but distinct. And then she said to me, with definitive identity for me, “My son.” She said it again – “My son.” And she was repeating it in an unmistakable statement that I was her son – it was there in her voice, clear to be heard. And as I focused on her and this repeated address to me, she said something else that didn’t understand . She said, “My son, I have prepared a place for you.”

Unexpectedly, it stunned me almost cold. I felt a little comfort, but also something that was like fear in me. I thought, “Our Blessed Mother is claiming me once and for all as hers and that she has a place for me, and we can be sure that her desire will be fixed, defined by total sacrifice, and completely consumed by the spiritual life and, therefore, completely dissolving of personal freedom of movement but for one freedom – the freedom to choose… And we all know what those whom Our Lady graces with her particular attention do chose out of a love for her that is such a desire for perfect love and the pathway to redemption that all but annihilates any other possible desire. This means that the Queen if Heaven’s desire must necessarily this is my chosen life, and how could I choose any other? But the Satanic part of me, the fallen part that is under his spell, against which I must rail, said that must fear this, that the will of God (here through His Mother) must mean the end of my freedom, the end of my peace and happiness. What lies. Peace and happiness and true freedom are found only in God, and it is through our Blessed Mother that we get there… So of course, in my soul, was growing a “Yes” to the Blessed Mother, whom I beheld in my mind’s eye. As the assent to her grew, so did the willing self-giving-ness of my soul within me swell. I didn’t have to say a thing – silently I was allowing the desire to be in union with God and cooperate with His plan through my Mother to completely take me over and, thus, as I knew instinctively, against all rebellious desires, surrender. And, then, yes, I did finally say, “Yes.” And in my mind’s eye,everything was growing blue in light, ever more blue in the glow of the background and a sheet of glow in the foreground simultaneously. The more I said, “Yes, the bluer things became. And I thought, “I’m being wrapped in her mantle… My place is in the folds of her mantle?”

“But – wait – I’m sick.,” the Fear-bound Imagination said again. “My body is a mess, and it only degenerates with time’s passing. Is my place then to be like Bl. Marthe Robin – ultimately fully bedridden and incapacitated and helpless – in her arms? Blessed, a channel of grace, and a perpetual nothingness in the throes of pain and immobile suffering?” Yes, I still allowed fear in me. But I cast it all aside into the Fire, the eternal one, and said, in the face of all fear, that I accept. I wanted more than anything else to go to Heaven, to let others be helped through me, to bask in her exquisite and tender motherly love and, to live in the fount of her grace – and let the Father’s grace flow unobstructed from her, through me – all the days of my life. I’m a nothing, small. I’m a mouse. Unnoticeable, unimportant. But if she talks to me, I feel like a saint – and I want to go marching in.

Ultimately, I was able to re-Center with my physical needs and, by God’s grace, come to relief finally and praise His name in humility and gratitude. I still was sobbing, struggling through it, but I made it.

I was a wet rag afterwards. I needed to waste no time to get ready, as I was to be picked up in two hours to join a Divine Mercy prayer group. I was washing dishes when internal difficulties and pain struck again. There was more to come, evidently. Trying to work through it, I did my best, and I was not succeeding. Devolving again into tears and screaming and pounding, I almost at one point did the wrong thing- I almost picked up the phone to call my ride to tell her not to come for me. I thought, “You’re tired, you’re not doing well, you feel horrible. You don’t need to go. It’s really not necessary. You don’t have anything to prove – why try to be a hero and a slave to formal commitment. Just stay home and take it easy, go about your normal chores at a normal pace, and go to Confession later, like you always do on Saturdays. See? You’re still a virtuous person. Just cancel and take it easy. That’s the same thing to do. Just cancel. You’ll feel better.” And then I heard another voice, as clear as a trumpet behind me blast, “NO! YOU MUST GO!” And I understood. That was not my voice. He was trying to keep me from a beneficial activity, even in if meant some initial sacrifice and discomfort. He was trying to convince me with the lies that I had done and would do enough, and that I was entitled of self-indulgence and inertia. Lies. Thank you, Guardian Angel. I pushed through the pain and continued getting ready. I was barely together by the time my ride arrived. I was still a limp rag, but the decision that I needed to move forward and attend gave me peace.

I could have made no better decision for myself that day than to push through pain and sorrow and join others in prayer. Their fellowship, their warmth, their smiles, was so soothing to my soul and buoyed it up. Communing with the Our Lord Jesus united with others lifted me to Him. And more tears came, tears of acceptance of whatever suffering He desired for me to advance salvation from Hell for others, tears of consolation and peace from His love. It put me back together. Though maybe a little weak for the rigors of the day, like one recovering from a terrible flu – but I found I could walk again.

I went to Confession afterwards, I went to the laundromat to do my laundry, I went home. I had dinner- it was normal – and I went to bed, thanking God and with hope for a peaceful night. Praise God. Thank you, Mary – thank you, Incredible and Miraculous Mother.

Rethinking

I have been reflecting that perhaps the Lord does not call me to be a priest – that His work for me may be to serve His Church as just what I’ve been – a No One running weaving through the crowds of pressed bodies and their pressed souls, witnessing to them, telling His Truth through my apparatus and how He has operated on me, running like a mouse down narrow pathways and in and out of holes in walls and through war zones and detritus and damaged beings and green pastures alike, ferreting out the secrets of the Deep State and broadcasting them, all the while letting the white wings of Communion shine from behind and gently through me to be their beacon light to safety and salvation… I am Michael. And I am No One. And I am to talk to you. Here… And for how long, Lord? And where?

Does He desire me to marry and raise a children and defend the family through/with my life in this war on His Church? Does He wish me to defend the family through my own life – the family the final battleground of Satan’s war on the Church? Is there even any woman on Earth who – better health of mine assumed – would want to take on all this, all this me…?

Or, in His wisdom and vast and incomprehensible, do I remain simple and sole and singular, poor and chaste and giving love to and deeply disturbing and angering everyone by turns… going to Mass and testifying in Ubers and evangelizing on Facebook and tending my wounds?

Some strong clarification and signposts and encouragements would be truly appreciated, My Lord.

First Friday

On the First Friday at my parish, after the morning Mass, is the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. I can visit Him hidden in the tabernacle at any time. And, at another nearby church, there is a 24-hour adoration chapel where He is exposed always for us to visit Him in His full presence. But the exposition commands and lowers and elevates and charges my soul.

I look forward to this all month, Our Lord held up for us, truly present in this small white host, resplendent in the monstrance, all gaze directed towards Him – Him, Our Savior; Him, who absorbs all our sins; Him, who gives us the strength to trudge forward each day through our exile in this valley of tears, under our crosses, sowing in tears on the narrowing way, in shadow and by faith; Him, Who is All, the Beginning and the End; Our Judge; Our Lord, here.

As the priest elevated the monstrance, elevated Our Lord, something happened. I saw in my mind’s eye – just as a glimmer, both in a flash and constant behind the monstrance – Our Lord very small and robed in white, His arms outstretched. I had not seen Him here in a year. Simultaneously, I saw what were like two wings of white light, elliptical, extending from behind it – sometimes alternating with the image of Our Lord, sometimes superimposed over Him. Or perhaps it was merely the defect of my fallen and unreliable senses that caused me to see it this way; it may have been both Our Lord and the soft white wings of light always all at once. It inspired me deeply in prayer.

Previous to all this, during the Mass, during the consecration, when the host was elevated, I saw in my mind’s eye the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, massive, behind and to my right of the priest – radiating such giving love and nourishment and strength and light and truth and salvation with such a desire for us to receive, like a mother’s wish for her children to be fed at her breast, that was so great, it was almost a gravitational command to all humanity- almost, for our will to choose to receive, and, for the sorrowful lack of takers around the world, equally great was the pain of this massive Heart that throbbed and swelled and radiated with Love – with so few to put their lips to it… The pangs it felt…

And I saw the same again during the elevation of the chalice.

What a remarkable morning this was.

What accounted for it I can only guess. I have been struggling with a decision of whether I should move – leave Las Vegas- or not – and, if I stayed, how I would continue to pay for all my expenses, my disability income being so small and survival all was causing my doubting heart fear. The last thought I had on the matter last night was, while looking at a picture of the Sacred Heart, that I would stay – because perhaps, for reasons beyond my reason, He desired me to. And I felt inspired and went with the feeling… And then came this morning…

And then this afternoon came again my doubts and fears and lookings at rents in other cities – and more frustrations and coming up empty of any right solution. I prayed this morning, as I returned to my place after receiving Our Lord in my mouth at Communion, “Strengthen me, oh Lord. Whatever doubts I have, whatever temptations I wrestle with and fall to in my weakness, receive me back and allow that my heart and soul will have left you never – however I doubt and flail and am disloyal to you in time, simultaneously let me remain in You in eternity.” Perhaps this is why I had the discernment to recognize and intuit falseness and dangers and sadness in each scenario.

But, Lord, how will I survive? How can I keep taking charity from those people who have given me hundreds of dollars that they can’t even afford – but which has been the only way I’ve stayed afloat all this time, by Your grace? I can’t keep taking from them and being a drain and a burden! Lead me, Lord. What do I do?

Viva in Las Vegas

I have lived in Las Vegas for nearly all of 2018. Here are the gifts I have gained through God’s grace:

A deepening and acceleration of my spiritual life unlike anything I could have foreseen.

The kindness of strangers where and when I least expected it.

Fellowship – love, friendship, help, support, and spiritual fraternity- at church(es) like I never had before.

And the catalyst for all the gifts I received through my time in Las Vegas, the first gift of them all:

Increased privations, pain, and suffering. It would have been impossible to advance and know joy without them.

Thank You, God, for bringing me through this fire that further turns me gold, for weeding my plot so fruit can grow unchoked, for violently tilling it to break up the blocks and give air to the roots, for withholding the Sun and rain by turns so that I could reflect on how much I depend on You for them and rejoice in Your Love when they finally come.

It’s countercultural and difficult to understand in our society – even seemingly perverse to a cultural that has become so lamentably self-indulgent, placing value and transcendence and salvation in material things, and and belligerent in its irreligion. And I still have a resistance to suffering that is human nature. But it is a gift that we all must identify, accept, pray through, and give ourselves to in order to receive the rewards. The alternative would be stagnation, disintegration, anger, bitterness, falsehoods, fruitless attempts at solutions… To face difficulties where one is completely stripped of all other recourse and Earthly tools to help oneself is to know this. Short of that, we can all choose to come to understand and participate in this mystery, this journey of powerful and endless conversion.

I’m aware I’m only getting going. He’s hardly done with me…

A Blessed and clear and fruitful 2019 to all.