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Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Perfectly Imperfect Moments

Every now and then, for the past 34 days, I’ve been trying to figure out what to write about next on this blog. I hemmed and hawed and sat on my mental fence…..and waited. I waited for that elusive and unpredictable friend that is Inspiration to come and sweep me away to flights of creative expression. It hasn’t happened. Yet. And since it hasn’t happened (yet), I feel compelled to make myself write.

Yup, that’s right: I am plunging into the icy cold waters of writing without waiting for warmer, more inviting temperatures in which to wallow. I will not wait for that bright flash of inspiration because it may come when I happen to blink or am otherwise occupied with other things. Life goes on, whether I am googly-eyed and rapturous about this and that or I am mentally kicking myself in the head for managing to snag a spot in traffic behind the slowest driver on the road. Life does not stop to consider my lack of wonderment or awe. It moves along at the pace of ordinary time; neither slower nor faster.

I realized this morning that in waiting for what I would deem a “perfect moment”, I was missing out on the “now moments” that where always taking place. The truth is that my life (and I suspect most people’s lives) consists in way more imperfect “now moments” than THE “perfect moment”. We have twenty-four hours in a day, 60 minutes in each hour. There is only so much a person can do within this time frame of life. I stand to lose a great deal of opportunities for conversation and friendship and love if I do nothing while I wait for the ideal moment – if there is even one.

When I left for Spain to go to Torreciudad more than a month ago, I did not know what to expect. Were there going to be fireworks going off in my soul, transporting me to another spiritual dimension? Was I going to feel time stop as if the world was suspended in motion? Were copious tears going to flow from my eyes, rendering me a sobbing mess of saltiness and pathos? Well, I was moved to tears during the first benediction at the shrine, but thankfully I was not this way for long. But how can one help but be moved, after all, at the genuine beauty of this place of prayer and faith that is Torreciudad?

And the world did not stop revolving. Each day that passed seemed to stretch at first, but quickly filled up with many, many moments I am so grateful for now: quick, stolen moments to greet our Lord at the tabernacle; small, fervent kisses on a cross as I told my Father in heaven that I was putting my life in His hands; precious time spent in conversation with my God. What a luxury! I reveled in the richness of these extraordinarily ordinary moments with God, Our Lady of Torreciudad and those who were with me.

What does Torreciudad have to do with the “perfect moment”? The chance to go came at – humanly speaking – the wrong time. I was still a nursing mom with eight children and our family budget did not include any money set aside for “extraordinary travel to places of interest”. Should I have waited, then, for a better time to go? Perhaps another chance would come my way when I had more money, extra money, more time, extra time……I really don’t know. In my heart, my instantaneous and heartfelt response to the invitation was, “Yes, please!!!” So I went, and I am richer for it in so many ways I cannot even begin to tell you.

At Torreciudad, I realized that as beautiful the whole place is, my own place was with my family back home. I often thought of and brought to my prayers my very generous husband and each of our eight children. I recalled with a slight pang the two souls that would have been born into our family had they not gone straight to heaven after just several weeks in my womb. I remembered with fondness and affection each friend (or at least as many friends as my poor memory could recall….) and his or her particular intention or need. In this beautiful home of Our Lady of Torreciudad, I was strongly drawn home to where God had placed me. I could see that my ordinary life, filled with ordinary and less-than-perfect moments was part of the greater and whole picture of Life. My life means something; what I do matters.

Which brings me back to the past 34 days I’ve spent trying to find the perfect moment to post an “awesome” entry on this blog. It’s never going to happen – the “perfect moment” I mean for that “awesome blog”. There is this time I spend writing, which I must consider important enough so as not to brush off as unnecessary. I do not know exactly who will read what I write, but if it helps even that one person who may or may not have meant to land on my blog – then it will have been worth it. If I write with the conviction that I am communicating with other souls, then my ordinary post becomes something extraordinary in its purpose.

And that is definitely something worth spending time my time on.

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is. (C.S. Lewis)

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On Wednesday, June 4th, I set off on a spiritual journey to a home that I’d never been:  the shrine of Our Lady of Torreciudad in Spain. Santuario de Torreciudad

It was clear from the get-go that this was no ordinary trip.  It certainly was not a vacation or a holiday jaunt to some quaint European village.  With my husband’s full support and encouragement, I gave each of my children tight, tight hugs and motherly kisses and reminded them to be good especially to each other and their dad.  I had cooked enough food for two armies and knew that — at the very least — they would not go hungry while I was away.  It was hardest to part, albeit temporarily, from my then nine-month old baby.  I knew he would be fine.  My husband assured me he would be fine and certainly he was a man of great experience with babies.  (You’d have to be after eight, you know.) So I found myself walking away, pulling on two suitcases beside me and willing myself not to break into tears at the airport.  (I so do not like good-byes at airports……) My pilgrimage had begun.

The thing with pilgrimages is that the element of some sacrifice is necessary.  No, no….I’m not talking about anything gory.  A pilgrim is one who takes a journey to a sacred place for religious reasons, according to the Oxford American online dictionary.  We’re not talking eat-all-you-can buffets at all-inclusive resorts where the party doesn’t end when the sun rises.  A pilgrimage concerns the soul and things of the spiritual life.  But while we are alive and our body and soul are still united, it is very easy for things that attract and relate to the senses to overwhelm the spirit, making it take a backseat to all the wonderful things that give us loads of pleasure.  For those who go on a pilgrimage, we need to be aware of this and make an effort to really be attuned to what our soul needs and is asking for.  So when I talk about sacrifice I mean the little things that maybe don’t seem like such a big deal but do go a long way into raising the level of our spiritual awareness because we’ve made the effort to deny ourselves a little bit of comfort or pleasure.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well, my whole trip lasted from June 4th to the 14th, but my pilgrimage really started way before I even left my home for the airport.  I had cooked like a fiend the weekend before I left.  Our refrigerator was bursting with so much food.  I spent the better part of the night before I left packing, trying to make sure I did not look some tourist who’s just looking for some souvenir trinkets.  A friend had told me, as a bit of advice, that Europeans tend to dress elegantly — and I took it to heart, of course!  (Ladies, listen up:  Pilgrimage does not equal sloppy dressing.) I managed to send off some emails and toyed with idea of posting an entry on my blog — which didn’t happen in the end because by then I was so tired and just wanted to snuggle up to this little baby in my arms that I was not going to be with for the next ten days.  When I finally sat down to wait for my flight to board passengers, I was tired, wired (read: over-caffeinated) and just anxious to get the ball rolling so I could come back home already.  I had to remind myself of why I was on this trip to begin with.

It was not for sight-seeing or shopping, although these happened to be a small part of my experience.  It was not for wont of something to do because I had many things to do at home.  It was not for the thrill of something exciting, although I was certainly tickled pink to be going.  It was not a trip made on a whim with some extra money stashed away — neither existed.  It was not to get away from my family because I was tired of them — I was tired but loved being with them.  I could think of several reasons why I shouldn’t go given my circumstances.  But a pilgrimage is never convenient, never very neat, tidy and oh-so-pretty.  It doesn’t make sense to go on one if you do not believe in matters of a spiritual nature because it lacks appeal for those whose purpose is pleasure.

It did, however, make sense to someone like me who does believe that our souls need a lot of tender loving care.  I felt myself called by my Father to a journey that would help change my life forever:  as a wife and a mother, as a friend, as a neighbour.  I went to Spain — to Torreciudad — to claim without merit what was being freely given to me:  a stronger faith, a more fervent hope and the love of my Father in my heart and soul.

Nuestra Senora de TorreciudadAnd so my pilgrimage to Torreciudad has ended, but the bigger one that we are constantly on while on earth goes on.  Life continues for us here:  the family survived my absence with flying colours, thanks to my extremely capable and super husband and children.  It is as normal as normal ever gets in our family.  But there is a glimmer of something that wasn’t there before, or perhaps just needed some encouragement.  I find that I can take refuge, during slightly trying or even very trying times, in a little place inside of me where my mother, Our Lady of Torreciudad, has taken up residence.

Over the next few weeks, I will tell you stories of my experiences during my trip and hope that you too are encouraged to take care of your own spiritual needs, not just on special occasions but everyday.  Finally, know that I prayed for you, dear reader of my blog, whether you are known to me or not.  I prayed to my sweet Mother in heaven and to my Father that you would hopefully get something helpful — something good — from having read what I post on my blog.  And if there was nothing of use this time — well, I still prayed for you.  And prayer is the currency of hope.

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The Sound of Silence

At about two o’clock this afternoon, I will start off on a five-and-a-half-hour drive to Coteau du Lac in Quebec for my annual retreat. It is something I look forward to every year. And as I was explaining to my 12-year old son, it is something I not only want to do — it is something I truly feel I need to do.

Do you not ever feel as if you can barely hear yourself think? What with all the noise and sounds that make up our everyday life, it can be pretty difficult to find that moment of silence to reflect and ponder about life. What for, you might ask? Well, if we consider your life to be a journey of sorts, there are times when you and I must stop to rest, look around and think. Are we still on the right track? Have we fallen behind or gotten distracted? Did we take a wrong turn somewhere along the way? Are we moving too fast? Are we moving too slow? Have we been taking care of ourselves?

Call it a spiritual pit stop, if you will. We get off the highway of ordinary life that has a posted speed limit of a multi-tasker’s nightmare. We remove ourselves from the buzz and noise that we and others make in order to give ourselves a chance to hear the sound of silence. If you’re not used to it, it can actually be deafeningly loud. A sudden silence can shout out the absence of physical activity and perpetual motion. Many are not used to it. In fact, there are those who can bear “silence” only with some music quietly playing in the background. There is this need for others to fill this void that can be scary for those who are not used to it.

What does silence sound like? I suppose it is different for each person. For me, silence sounds like a breath of life slowly taken in and calmly blown out. It is the many familiar gestures of care and affection that go unnoticed. It is the rhythmic beating of a heart, unseen but felt. Silence sounds like the echoes of a life filled with laughter and tears, ups and downs and many things in between. It is the wordless prayers that form, almost unconsciously, on my lips.

A period of silence allows me to take a good look at my life and what I have done with what I have been given. It is not forced; rather, it is a choice I willingly make. The human being, regardless of religion, race or gender, is composed of body and soul. We spend an enormous amount of time and energy taking care of our physical bodies, to the point of indulgence at times. In the process, we often overlook that essential part of the person that, in fact, lives on even after our mortal bodies die.

In a sense, I could say my retreat is like a spiritual spa for my soul. I go in order to strengthen and refresh my spirit; to renew and refill my spiritual reserves. I am eager to go because I know how much I need this. I am a wife and a mother, firstly, and my family stands to benefit from what I gain at the retreat. The silence with which I surround myself will allow me to hear what my Father wants me to hear. The silence affords me the chance to talk to my Father in confidence and with great love, without rushing off to do this and that. This is my precious time with Him.

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