Saturday, April 26, 2014

Beauty for Ashes - Pt 2



I was in sorry shape.

I was caught in the grips of the Seven Deadly Sins.

I was sick of the way I was living my life but sin had such a strong hold on me that I didn't see a way out.

And I despaired. Oh, did I despair. The despair was so great that it overwhelmed me. My life lay in ashes all around me. If you read the link in my last post maybe you know what I mean. It was one of those shocking moments that lays bare the truth of your life (who and what you are, at least at that point). It was an ugly "snapshot of my life". 

One evening while my husband was at work I sat on the edge of my bed and cried out to the Lord, "Jesus, I am fed up with my life!"

Instantly, I was in the presence of a great light. There was no bedroom, no bed anymore. I think my soul was plucked from my body but I have no real way of knowing. All I know is that I was in the Presence of great Love and Mercy and that it was the Heart of Christ. This was not conveyed to me with words but through an instantaneous knowledge. Rays pierced my soul and I received an immense healing. I could not SEE His Heart only the rays that pierced my soul from every side. The soul doesn't see as it sees here on earth - I could see completely around me all at once. Above, below, and around. There were rays of two distinct colors - a deep, rich red and a paler color, an extremely pale pink. I say pink but pink isn't really the right word to call it. There isn't really a color here on earth that describes it. Neither color was a color I had ever seen before. I don't think they exist here. It was as if the pale color was slightly tinged with blood giving it the pinkish cast. There was no blue at all like you see in some  Divine Mercy pictures.

I didn't know about St. Faustina, her Diary, or the Divine Mercy picture at the time. I remember how stunned I was the first time I saw it.  Her Diary shocked me even more because I immediately understood what Jesus was trying to say to the world through St. Faustina. I understood the messages in a way that's hard to convey sometimes but it is something I am going to attempt to do on my blog, God willing. I have no doubt that the mercy I received came through the intercession of St. Faustina and the prayers of those here on earth who prayed for me and I have no doubt that Jesus is calling all sinners to
trust in his mercy. 

I'm not  exactly sure where to start when speaking of Jesus' Mercy so I want to say that this particular Divine Mercy Sunday is a very special one and we should all open our hearts to Jesus' mercy like never before. 

There are no coincidences with God.





Beauty for Ashes - Pt 1

Harrowing of Hell



Warning: this is a long post. I am breaking it up into sections to make it easier to read. AND to make it easier for me to write. This is my testimony. I call it (to myself ) The Harrowing of Hell because Jesus harrowed the hell that was in my soul. The hell that I had created through my sin and disobedience.

Hell is a place but it is also a state of being, a spiritual state, and this is a state I lived in for over a decade. Closer to 15 years, really.

To put it bluntly, I lived in a state of mortal sin. And living this way had darkened my mind to such a degree that only God could have pulled me out of it. We don't SEE this gradual descent into hell when we lack God's light and grace. It is only in retrospect that it becomes obvious; when grace has lifted up the heart and mind. Then we begin to see it clearly.

Today, looking back, I can see where it all began. I left a door open and satan used that door to begin his siege upon my soul. At the time, I thought it was just a "small thing". I was a teenager and didn't think it was a " big deal".

Boy, was I wrong. Very, very wrong.

I started skipping Mass. As simple as that. First it was occasionally....but within a few years it was every week. I stopped going to Confession too.

Everything spiraled downward from there. I see now why the Catholic Church stresses the importance of going to Mass on Sundays. If only I had payed attention to the "under the pain of mortal sin" part.

Because mortal sin is the most painful thing in the whole world. Trust me on this.

It wounds you in a way that may not be immediately apparent but powerfully impacts every moment of your life afterwards. It's truly a mortal wound to the soul.

I didn't know that then, but I do now.

That first mortal sin led to another and another. An early sign of this is a darkening of the mind, as evil infiltrates the person's thought life to a greater and greater degree. The person stops fighting against the evil and begins agreeing to it to one degree or another. Then they start justifying it.

This is what I found myself doing.

The temptations started off small but grew over time.

Worldliness set in.

Soon I was breaking a couple of the Ten Commandments regularly. This is the way sin works - it has a snowball effect and gathers both speed and size as it rolls down the hill, especially when the person isn't doing anything to actively stop this descent. Oh, I would maybe pray an Our Father or a Hail Mary before going to bed at night but that was the extent of my spiritual life at the time.

When I look back I can see how much the Seven Deadly Sins came into play during this period of my life. They marched in one by one and, unfortunately, I did nothing to stop this takeover.

Then came the nightmares. These started in my early twenties after I started listening to heavy metal music. I had certainly had nightmares in the past ...but nothing like these. These particular nightmares came regularly and were hellish to say the least. In these dreams I would be up to my knees in muck surrounded by reptilian creatures and these creatures emanated pure evil. I would wake up with my heart pounding, unable to go back to sleep.

It occurred to me that the music I was listening to was pretty bad, the names of the bands were a good clue that this might be the case, but I didn't really hold much stock in the idea that music could be spiritually harmful. Besides, I was doing other things at the time that were far worse. I was sinning against purity regularly so being concerned about the music I was listening to seemed too small a thing to worry about.

What a mistake. I knew nothing about guarding the mind and senses and unwittingly opened a door that would be hard to shut. People don't usually connect music with the occult but certain types of music have a similar effect on the soul.

The nightmares got worse. Pretty soon instead of simply being surrounded by demons, they were attacking me. The nightmares and the sense of evil were so great I began having panic attacks during the night.

Would it surprise you if I told you I started praying more around this time?

Didn't think so. Fear driven, but prayer nonetheless. My mom had given me a set of rosary beads that I kept on my bedpost (but rarely used) and I began praying a decade or two of the rosary here and there. I also began saying Hail Mary's whenever I had nightmares and the sense of evil would lift almost immediately.

One night as I was about to doze off a terrible presence filled my room. I could not see it but I knew it was there. I wasn't asleep yet and I could see the clock on my nightstand clearly - it was 2:04. I was lying on my back with my head turned toward the side. This "presence" attacked me and was trying to get into my body. A suffocating feeling along with a feeling of pressure came over me and I felt paralyzed. I have read about and experienced "sleep paralysis" in the past and this was not it. (I have my thoughts about "sleep paralysis" though.) I was not asleep yet. I immediately began yelling (in my head), "Mother Mary, help me!" Within seconds, the evil presence was lifted away from me and was gone. I thanked Mother Mary and heard two words in my head, "St. Michael", so I thanked him too. I didn't know much about St. Michael back then but that was soon to change. Interestingly, I was staying at my parents' house at the time, having recently given up the apartment I shared with one of my good friends, and my mom had a big St. Michael statue which sat on a ledge over the front door.

I was dating Randy at this point and trying to clean up my act a bit (note the words " a bit") as far as sin went. He was too, but neither of us were really going to church though I had sneaked into the back pew a few times and listened to Mass. (Out of fear, once again.)

Randy and I got married a few years after we began dating. But guess what? We were married by a JP.
Randy came from a Pentecostal/Baptist background and I still wasn't attending church much. Deep inside, I didn't really feel married. Makes sense, right? I felt guilty, not married.

Looking back though, I could see that God was beginning to move in my life. I was praying more often and started reading spiritual books, some Catholic, some non-Catholic. Someone had given me a book about angels that I gobbled right up and I started asking my guardian angel for help. St. Michael too. I had a fascination with St. Michael ever since the nightmare I mentioned earlier.

The nightmares had improved for a while but shortly after I married they came back with a vengeance. They were so horrible that I was exhausted during the day and afraid to go to sleep at night. Randy was working in the evenings at the time and I would usually read until he came home. I was going to the library a lot and bringing home big stacks of spiritual books each week - some were good Christian books and some were a bit "off " but it didn't take me too long before I began to discern the difference between the two. One kind made the nightmares worse while the others made me feel peaceful inside.

One night, a few months after we were married, Randy and I went to a nearby club to listen to a friend's band. And that was the night I did something really stupid...

Yeah, that's a link if you want to read about the really stupid, embarrassing (a fitting word, you'll see, what I did fits right smack into the middle of that word after the em) thing I did.

I'll stop here for now. This post is already WAAAAY too long.











Divine Mercy Novena - Day 9



Ninth Day - Saturday

"Today bring to Me the Souls who have become Lukewarm, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. These souls wound My Heart most painfully. My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing  in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: 'Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.' For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy."

Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen


The Divine Mercy Chaplet

Friday, April 25, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 8



Day 8
"Today bring to Me the Souls who are in the prison of Purgatory, and immerse them in the abyss of My mercy. Let the torrents of My Blood cool down their scorching flames. All these souls are greatly loved by Me. They are making retribution to My justice. It is in your power to bring them relief. Draw all the indulgences from the treasury of My Church and offer them on their behalf. Oh, if you only knew the torments they suffer, you would continually offer for them the alms of the spirit and pay off their debt to My justice."

Most Merciful Jesus, You Yourself have said that You desire mercy; so I bring into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls in Purgatory, souls who are very dear to You, and yet, who must make retribution to Your justice. May the streams of Blood and Water which gushed forth from Your Heart put out the flames of Purgatory, that there, too, the power of Your mercy may be celebrated.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls suffering in Purgatory, who are enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. I beg You, by the sorrowful Passion of Jesus Your Son, and by all the bitterness with which His most sacred Soul was flooded: Manifest Your mercy to the souls who are under Your just scrutiny. Look upon them in no other way but only through the Wounds of Jesus, Your dearly beloved Son; for we firmly believe that there is no limit to Your goodness and compassion. Amen.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 7



Seventh Day
"Today bring to Me the Souls who especially venerate and glorify My Mercy,
and immerse them in My mercy. These souls sorrowed most over my Passion and entered most deeply into My spirit. They are living images of My Compassionate Heart. These souls will shine with a special brightness in the next life. Not one of them will go into the fire of hell. I shall particularly defend each one of them at the hour of death."

Most Merciful Jesus, whose Heart is Love Itself, receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who particularly extol and venerate the greatness of Your mercy. These souls are mighty with the very power of God Himself. In the midst of all afflictions and adversities they go forward, confident of Your mercy; and united to You, O Jesus, they carry all mankind on their shoulders. These souls will not be judged severely, but Your mercy will embrace them as they depart from this life.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls who glorify and venerate Your greatest attribute, that of Your fathomless mercy, and who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls are a living Gospel; their hands are full of deeds of mercy, and their hearts, overflowing with joy, sing a canticle of mercy to You, O Most High! I beg You O God:

Show them Your mercy according to the hope and trust they have placed in You. Let there be accomplished in them the promise of Jesus, who said to them that during their life, but especially at the hour of death, the souls who will venerate this fathomless mercy of His, He, Himself, will defend as His glory. Amen.


The Divine Mercy Chaplet

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 6



Sixth Day
Today bring to Me the Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of  Little Children, and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.

Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, "Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart." Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father's favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.


The Divine Mercy Chaplet

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 5



Fifth Day
"Today bring to Me the Souls of those who have separated themselves from My Church,
and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. During My bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion." 

Most Merciful Jesus, Goodness Itself, You do not refuse light to those who seek it of You. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Church. Draw them by Your light into the unity of the Church, and do not let them escape from the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart; but bring it about that they, too, come to glorify the generosity of Your mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who have separated themselves from Your Son's Church, who have squandered Your blessings and misused Your graces by obstinately persisting in their errors. Do not look upon their errors, but upon the love of Your own Son and upon His bitter Passion, which He underwent for their sake, since they, too, are enclosed in His Most Compassionate Heart. Bring it about that they also may glorify Your great mercy for endless ages. Amen.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 4



Fourth Day
"Today bring to Me those who do not believe in God and those who do not know Me, I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart. Immerse them in the ocean of My mercy."

Most compassionate Jesus, You are the Light of the whole world. Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart the souls of those who do not believe in God and of those who as yet do not know You. Let the rays of Your grace enlighten them that they, too, together with us, may extol Your wonderful mercy; and do not let them escape from the abode which is Your Most Compassionate Heart.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the souls of those who do not believe in You, and of those who as yet do not know You, but who are enclosed in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Draw them to the light of the Gospel. These souls do not know what great happiness it is to love You. Grant that they, too, may extol the generosity of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.



The Divine Mercy Chaplet

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 3



Third Day
"Today bring to Me all Devout and Faithful Souls, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. These souls brought me consolation on the Way of the Cross. They were a drop of consolation in the midst of an ocean of bitterness."

Most Merciful Jesus, from the treasury of Your mercy, You impart Your graces in great abundance to each and all. Receive us into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart and never let us escape from It. We beg this grace of You by that most wondrous love for the heavenly Father with which Your Heart burns so fiercely.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon faithful souls, as upon the inheritance of Your Son. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, grant them Your blessing and surround them with Your constant protection. Thus may they never fail in love or lose the treasure of the holy faith, but rather, with all the hosts of Angels and Saints, may they glorify Your boundless mercy for endless ages. Amen.

The Divine Mercy Chaplet

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 2

Second Day:
"Today bring to Me the Souls of Priests and Religious, and immerse them in My unfathomable mercy. It was they who gave me strength to endure My bitter Passion. Through them as through channels My mercy flows out upon mankind."

Most Merciful Jesus, from whom comes all that is good, increase Your grace in men and women consecrated to Your service, that they may perform worthy works of mercy; and that all who see them may glorify the Father of Mercy who is in heaven.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon the company of chosen ones in Your vineyard -- upon the souls of priests and religious; and endow them with the strength of Your blessing. For the love of the Heart of Your Son in which they are enfolded, impart to them Your power and light, that they may be able to guide others in the way of salvation and with one voice sing praise to Your boundless mercy for ages without end. Amen.


The Divine Mercy Chaplet

Friday, April 18, 2014

Divine Mercy Novena - Day 1






The Divine Mercy Novena begins today. I pray this Novena each year and will carry the entire Novena on my blog. It's a favorite of mine. I pray the daily intentions followed by The Divine Mercy Chaplet. (You can read about Divine Mercy Sunday and the plenary indulgence granted here.)

First Day (Good Friday)
"Today bring to Me all mankind, especially all sinners, and immerse them in the ocean of My mercy. In this way you will console Me in the bitter grief into which the loss of souls plunges Me."

Most Merciful Jesus, whose very nature it is to have compassion on us and to forgive us, do not look upon our sins but upon our trust which we place in Your infinite goodness. Receive us all into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart, and never let us escape from It. We beg this of You by Your love which unites You to the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon all mankind and especially upon poor sinners, all enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. For the sake of His sorrowful Passion show us Your mercy, that we may praise the omnipotence of Your mercy for ever and ever. Amen.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

"Do not Feed the Bears"



Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons



When trying to cope with bad thoughts an important thing to remember is this:

DO NOT FEED THE BEARS!

This is critical.

The last thing you want to do is feed those snarling, ugly "bear" thoughts prowling through your head. No, we want to starve them not feed them. I guarantee that if they are fed they will consume far more than you think. Feed them and they'll hang around wanting more. Starve them and they'll go quietly. Well, maybe after a few growls for effect. But if you don't feed them they are all bark, no bite. They eventually go.

When I was young I fed the bears generously each day and pretty soon they grew fat and healthy and consumed almost everything, including most of my joy. Worse than that, they multiply when well fed. I mean let's face it, it's pretty hard to feel joyous when joyless thoughts are prowling through your head constantly.

And peace?

Forget about it. I had none. Or very little, at least.

And I lived this way for years. How I managed I'll never know.

But I DID learn eventually.

In my last post I brought up looking for the underlying issue that may be exacerbating the toxic thoughts, in this one I am addressing the thinking itself. If you feed or give weight to the thoughts they get worse. You don't want to AGREE with the thoughts in any way, shape or form. They are not worthy of your worry and certainly not worth losing your peace over. Thoughts are not sinful unless the will gets involved. Random "thought bombs", as aggravating as they might be, are not sinful. That is, they are not sinful unless you choose to make them so. (Note for the scrupulous - noticing the thoughts are there does not mean you are agreeing with them.) It's interesting to note that many great saints had to deal with blasphemous thoughts, sometimes barrages of them, and yet stayed peaceful, such was their humility.

 An example would be: if you are bombarded with angry thoughts, don't give your consent to them. Don't let the thoughts have any power over you. In reality, they don't - you are in charge and you decide whether or not to give these thoughts weight.

Have you ever noticed that when you dwell on angry thoughts your anger increases?

This is what I mean.

Do not feed the bears.

I can't get over how many people believe they have committed the unpardonable sin, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, because satan dropped a random "thought bomb" or two about the Holy Spirit into their heads. It's one of the most common questions I find in the keywords of this blog. This is NOT blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. (Truth is - I fell for this one when I was young too. Many do, which is probably why satan loves this particular thought bomb. Even Billy Graham fell for it as a young man.)

The difference between a few bad "thought bombs" (or a barrage of them) and the pattern of thinking I mentioned in my previous post is that praising God will usually get rid of the first fairly easily but the second tends to come back because the underlying problem hasn't been taken care of.

Ignoring "thought bombs" is good and often recommended.

You can also offer it up in reparation for sin.  I like this one.

I mean, you gotta hand it to the Catholic Church - nothing is ever wasted, is it?  (Grin)




Helpful tips for those under siege:
~ Praise helps
~ If you offer it up, once during a barrage is sufficient. (You don't want to give it too much attention.           Focus on the good, not the bad.)
~ You can also ignore it.
~ Go do something that requires your full attention. Often this is enough to do the trick.
~ Don't worry about it - you don't want to give it extra weight. There are other things more worthy
    of our attention.







Friday, April 11, 2014

Toxic Thoughts - Part 1




Toxic thoughts used to be the bane of my existence. Looking back, I can see just how much they affected my life. I wasn't really fully aware of them at the time. I thought my thinking was normal. The toxic thoughts were more like a background noise, subtle at times but almost always there if I payed attention. My thinking definitely leaned toward the negative side. Like a tape being played over and over again. These thoughts were like bloodthirsty leeches, slowly draining my energy, my peace, my joy. When I DID become aware of how problematic my thinking processes were I tried to do something to overcome them.

But kept failing.

Why?

Because I placed my focus on overcoming the bad thoughts without understanding that there were underlying issues feeding them. It was like trying to bail out a leaky boat with a straw. How can it work if you don't fix the leak first?

Fix the leak. Then you can bail out the water.

In my case, repressed/suppressed anger was one of the culprits fueling the toxic thoughts. I've spoken about this in numerous posts so I won't go into detail here except to say that you have a much better chance of conquering negative thinking if you deal with the underlying issue first. You can be mild-mannered on the surface and still have a lot of anger simmering deep inside. The surface mildness may just be saying that you have good control. Mine was rigid.

Even now, I have to be diligent in the area of my thought life because negative thoughts still like to creep in on occasion and if I am not careful they wreak havoc in a very short time. Anyone who has struggled with this knows how difficult it can be to overcome poisonous thinking processes. There aren't any "quick fixes", at least there weren't for me. I guess God could certainly cure a person of this in an instant but usually He doesn't work this way. It usually takes time, grace, and effort before we see lasting changes in this area.

In other words, He supplies the grace, you supply the effort. You work in tandem like a tag team.

So, the first way to deal with unwanted thoughts is to ask God to help you with the underlying issues lurking beneath the surface that may be helping to fuel the thoughts. Once these are addressed you can
start  actively working on getting rid of the thoughts themselves.

Some people may not even be aware that they struggle with toxic thoughts but it's not difficult to find out if you do. For a few days, pay attention to where your thoughts go. Don't dwell on them, just see if you can notice subtle poisonous thought patterns aimed at yourself or others. Thoughts such as:

"God doesn't really want to help me."

"I'm not good enough."

"I'll never be able to do this!"

"I can't lose weight! I'll always be fat and ugly."

These are just examples. Look for any patterns of cutting yourself or others down. Check for accusatory thoughts aimed at yourself or others. Note any patterns of despair:

"He/she (or I) will never change!"

"This is hopeless!"

"I hate my life!"

Remember, you are not looking for occasional bad thoughts that pop up, you are looking for recurrent patterns or themes. Thoughts that consistently come to mind when you aren't caught up in an activity that holds your attention. The good thing is that the thoughts themselves will give you an idea of the underlying issue.

For instance, some consistent patterns of thinking can point towards a particular Deadly Sin that may need to be worked on, so as frustrating as it may be to deal with such thoughts they can actually help you pinpoint certain areas of your life that may need work. To give you an example, if the thoughts tend toward:

God doesn't want to help me/ I am all alone and God doesn't care/ I'll probably go to hell, God doesn't love me/ God is always silent (thoughts that doubt the goodness of God) - it may be a good idea to look at sloth first.

If the thoughts tend toward:

I never do anything right/ I'm such a loser/ I can't keep up/ I hate myself (etc..) you can look for suppressed/repressed anger issues (and these thoughts may suggest that you have difficulty forgiving yourself so praying for humility may help as well).

If you DO find "negative brain tapes", don't worry.

God already knows about them and wants to open up this area to His grace.

In brief, step one is to come to terms with the underlying issue (or issues) such as anger, envy, unforgiveness, despair, (etc...) by admitting you have trouble in this area and asking for God to help you with it. Once you face the problem, you can tackle the thoughts themselves which I talk about in my next post.




Next post: Do not Feed the Bears