Lately, so many things have been reaching out to me and leading me to a new understanding. I have always loved adoration and have been feeling called to go to adoration again on a regular basis. I’ve been missing that time I used to spend weekly Lately, so many things have been reaching out to me and leading me to a new understanding. I have always loved adoration and have been feeling called to go to adoration again on a regular basis. I’ve been missing that time I used to spend weekly with our Lord before we moved. But, my schedule and my own hesitation has kept me from committing again to take that time with our Lord on a regular committed schedule. So, the Lord has been reaching out to me in so many other ways.
At our parish, Ray and I attended and helped to lead a program to help us find our spiritual gifts or charisms. We did the program and in many ways, it answered some internal questions, but it still left me a bit befuddled. What does it mean and what am I supposed to be doing with these charisms: hospitality, helps, faith, encouragement, intercessory prayer, and teaching. I recognize that they are gifts and I can see how some have played out in my life to date, but I was still quite a bit lost as to what God was asking me to do with them NOW. I then followed up the Called and Gifted program with their suggested interview with someone trained in the charisms, it was suggested to me that I needed to explore another charism that didn’t even rank very high for me – that of evangelism. So, now I was really confused.
To explain a bit more, I wasn’t comfortable AT ALL with the charismatic movement and avoided it as much as possible. I had no issues with learning about the different charisms that individuals are gifted with from the Holy Spirit, but as far as being ‘charismatic’, my understanding of being charismatic did not equal anything positive — especially for my own identity. So, looking at what I was learning, I was approaching it completely from the perspective of “how does God want me to move forward in my own faithful service of God within my daily life. Was I supposed to go back into active youth ministry and teaching? Was I supposed to be doing more for committees like funeral luncheons or adult education programming? How did God want me to serve my faith community in the coming months? I never saw it as being what I understood as ‘charismatic’.
Then, the following August, during a presentation at our parish, I had an experience that is hard to explain. During the presentation, a friend who had been in the hospital and battling fluid on her heart and lungs started coughing during the talk. I recognized the cough and immediately thought of my mom who used to cough like that. So, I dropped my head and started praying for her. As I did, I began to tremble and realized that I was trembling from an overwhelming sense of fear. I remember feeling as if I couldn’t take a breath and remember thinking that this must be what my friend was feeling. During this period, I was pretty engrossed in the prayer and feelings with my head down, but still knew that others helped my friend out of the seats in the Church to the back. I remember that I was still trembling with fear and was so sad that she wasn’t going to be able to stay and hear the presentation. And then, all of the fear was gone and I sat there stunned. Around me, it was if nothing had happened. The presentation continued as if it hadn’t stopped.
I was left wondering what had just happened? I knew I had the charism of intercessory prayer, but this was NOT what I had experienced before. I had just felt an urge to pray for someone and when the urge hit, I did. This experiencing and feeling within myself someone else’s feelings in such a surreal way was totally new. When I talked to my friend, she said that she was definitely afraid when she couldn’t stop coughing, but then, the intensity of her fear lifted and she knew she was going to be okay.
To this day, I cannot explain why I felt her emotions so clearly or why I felt as if I had entered a trance myself while this was happening. But, I reasoned that it all was good if it helped her to stay calm until the spell passed.
Then, in December, I attended a Cenacle at our parish. I had never attended anything quite like that and had no idea that it was a ‘charismatic’ prayer gathering. Everything started normally with exposition, adoration, and praise music. So, I really wasn’t sure what to think when they started calling people to come to the front and be prayed over. So, instead of watching and being skeptical, I put my head down to continue to pray in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar. Soft music was playing in the background and I just remember allowing myself to drift with the chanting of the music and focusing my thoughts on our Lord. Then, I had an experience I will never forget!
I left that room and was in a space that was so beautiful with deep hues of blue, violet, purple and bright shining stars glimmering like diamonds in the light. And it was SO peaceful and beautiful and then I saw someone come into that space and be greeted by Jesus and they came together and embraced and began spinning/dancing in circles similar to the Viennese waltz. Pure joy filled me and the entire space as I realized that what I was seeing, experiencing was someone being welcomed into heaven. I knew this place was indeed heaven and I was being given a great gift to be witnessing what I saw.
During this time, I was aware constantly of where I was physically and would occasionally come back in my spirit to the church and the service. I was aware that someone was standing over me and watching over me while I was in prayer and I assumed it was one of the students that the Sisters had brought from ISU to be ‘catchers’ of those falling into the arms of God when they prayed over them. But, I wasn’t concerned about earth, I just wanted to go back to that peace and beauty I found in prayer. So, I went back again. Sadly, I became aware that I couldn’t stay there and needed to come back. And so, very reluctantly, I allowed myself to become aware of my true surroundings again and fully ‘wake’ from the prayer trance I was in.
When I sat back up, I was stiff from sitting as I was for so long, but mostly I was confused. What did I really see? Why did God want me to see that? Who was it that was welcomed into heaven? What was I supposed to do with this now? What was God asking me to do with this? Who could I even talk to about this who wouldn’t think I was totally and completely off my rocker? And probably, the most confusing question — Why me???
This whole experience left me in a state of shock. I wanted answers! After the service, I talked with a couple of friends and told them what I had experienced. Neither of them had seen the person standing over me watching over me and actually said that no one was over my way standing during the service. Did I imagine it? They weren’t sure what to say, so they took me over to introduce me to one of the Sisters who led the Cenacle to talk to her, but she was busy. Instead, our pastor, Fr. Steve came walking over. So, Linda had me tell Fr. Steve what I had experienced. When I finished, I asked him what it all meant and what I was supposed to do with it. He said that I had experienced what is known as ecstasy in prayer and that I should just enjoy it.
His answer calmed me somewhat, but it still didn’t answer the underlying question I was feeling deep in my soul, why me??? First, the experience of taking on another’s fear and now this vision of someone being welcomed into heaven. Why Lord? What are you asking of me?
Then, as I was struggling with my own internal questions, Ray and I entered into the diaconate inquiry stage as Ray was discerning whether he was being called to the holy order of the diaconate. So, much of what I was asking took a back seat as I knew my current calling was to be by his side and support him. During the sessions of inquiry, we were asked to do an exercise to identify our strengths. This to me just seemed to be a different way to look for the charisms God has gifted us with and so I eagerly took the test. Maybe this would help me answer some of the lingering questions I had after taking the Called and Gifted Spiritual Gifts Inventory!
Once again, while the results rang true, they still left me befuddled. What am I to do with this information Lord? Once again, I see and know that what it is saying is truth, but it still isn’t telling me what You want from me and what You want me to do with now! (Need I say that I am constantly battling the sin of impatience?) In some ways, it was pulling me into a deeper quandary as I tried to understand how Ray and I with such total opposite strengths could possibly work together. Instead, I began questioning whether I was uncovering why there were issues within our marriage and wondering what we could do with this information to strengthen our marriage before it caused more harm than good.
Then, one day while driving down the road, this song by Plumb, “God Help Me” popped up on the radio and immediately captivated me. The song just seemed to put all of the turmoil I had been struggling with into words!
There is a wrestling in my heart and my mind
A disturbance and a tension I cannot seem to drive
And if I’m honest, there’s quite a bit of fear
To sit here in this silence and really hear You
What will You ask of me?
Will I listen to Your voice when You speak?
What will You ask of me Lord? What ARE You asking of me Lord?
Why am I experiencing these things?
Will I listen to what You are telling me? AM I listening to what You are telling me?
Are you already telling me the answers but I am just not willing or able to listen?
Do I really want to know?
That fear! Why is it so strong?
Why me?? I’m not someone special. I’m not anyone important, and who will even listen to me? I’m a nobody!
Sometimes things, they are black and white
Sometimes they are not and that leaves us torn inside
And in the middle, we are left to wonder
Who we are, what You want and where we’re going
Oh such a mystery
I don’t always understand
But I believe!
Life! Life is mystery: constantly changing and constantly challenging us. After going through the inquiry of the diaconate, we suddenly found ourselves once again questioning. What are you calling us to Lord? As the line in the song says perfectly – who are we? What do You want? Where are we going? Life is such a mystery and yet through it all, I believe! I believe that You are guiding us. We question and want to know the path you’ve set for us and yet we also know without a shadow of doubt that You are guiding us to where You need us to be. You’ve drawn us through these shadows and we know that we will come out on the other side stronger and better. You’ve shown us this time and time again throughout our lives. But, it is NEVER a ‘fun’ journey.
I don’t know the future, it’s one day at a time
But I know I’ll be okay with Your hand holding mine
So take all my resistance
Oh God I need Your grace
One step and then the other
Show me the way!
I’m learning, albeit pretty slowly, that it’s best to take this all one day, one moment, and one step at a time. I can’t seem to find my own way as I am learning that I am spiritually blind, but if I take Your hand Lord, I can pick my way through this new path You are showing me one step at a time.
Minute by minute, You guide me! Gradually, You are helping me to lower walls that I have built around my heart and to open myself to new experiences. You, Lord, are helping me to trust again completely and to surrender myself to You and Your messages.
Your words, Your messages, and Your images are coming to me so often now! I am no longer as afraid as I was, even when I don’t understand. I am learning to trust and speak to others about these images. And the more I trust and speak of them, the more You are giving me!
In today’s second reading from James, the following passage truly spoke to me:
Humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you
and is able to save your souls.
This is exactly what it feels like when an image comes to me! When I am praying, an image, a picture, or a word comes to me and it feels like it has been planted within me. And I feel a compulsion to let it grow and then share its life with others. It isn’t a comfortable feeling. In fact, for someone who considers herself a pretty conservative, traditional Catholic who really isn’t comfortable with the charismatic movement within the Church, this is definitely NOT in my comfort zone. And yet, as uncomfortable as I am, I recognize that this is NOT my choice, but God’s. I am not worthy of His trust, and yet I can’t seem to deny anymore that He seems to trust me more than I trust myself. I really don’t know what He has in store for all of this which is REALLY challenging my control issues, but do I have an option?
I don’t think so. So, I surrender, Lord. Do with me what You need, but first — Lord, all I ask is….
Help me to move, help me to see
Help me to do whatever You would ask of me
Help me to go, God help me to stay
I’m feeling so alone here
And I know that You’re faithful
But I can barely breathe
God help me!