The pilgrimage so far has been . . . (she stops to think of an appropriate word) . . . (and then decides to let her reader come up with their own word).
But there were several ways in which God kept me, and held me so very close whilst I was experiencing the abominable lows of my journey. They were little moments that would be completely insignificant to another, not journeying down the road that I have had to journey down. Moments where He not only held me close, but moments where He gave me the strength and courage to continue with my journey. Moments that prevented me from turning away, when to turn away would have been so very much the easier option. There were several things I did to help myself feel closer to God, and He appeared not to mind, and neither did He appear to disapprove, as He allowed me to do them, and gave me the ideas in the first instance. And now I don’t have to do them anymore. So thank you my Dearest Beloved Heavenly Father.
One very special day on parish pilgrimage, we had a very privileged guided tour of Westminster Cathedral (my parish priest is friends with the sub-administrator). We were taken down to the crypt where Cardinal Manning’s tomb was. The gates were unlocked and in the crypt we were given a wonderful talk, and allowed to be close to the Cardinal (once the Archbishop) whose foresight was responsible for the eventual building of the Cathedral, praised for his social justice works, and loved for his care of the poor. This cardinal is very special. Although he spent many years as a celibate Catholic clergyman, he was once married. Sadly his very young wife died. When he himself died, he was found with a locket around his neck, holding so dearly close to him, his young wifes photo.
When we were in the crypt (being a naturally tactile person) I subconsciously stroked my hand across his tomb, until that is I realised I had accidentally knocked some previously invisible sewing pins (which had been left on the tomb) onto the floor. I picked them all up and put them back on the tomb, all but one. (They are possibly still there today). I pinned the ‘all but one’ pin to the inside of my bag, with raging butterflies in my tummy. I prayed upon that pin whilst in the crypt with Cardinal Manning, that he would intercede on my behalf, as my annulment tribunal was imminent.
I then took my bag (with the pin attached) to my final annulment meeting at Brentwood. I had not been able to get to Mass at my little parish church for the whole of the previous week, as it were half term, and I had my 5 children to care for. Before the meeting I went into Mass and prayed so very deeply that Cardinal Manning would not forget my request. I had to read through all the witness’ statements and my own petition, adding any last comments, and then awaited in deepest hope for the right outcome. He didn’t let me down, him who fought for social justice got me my annulment. :O)
One day soon I will return the pin, which at present is still pinned to the inside of my bag. :O/
When Fr Gerrard was talking us around the same Westminster guided tour (where we were so very privileged), we got to go where other lay people seldom go, we got to climb up the ancient winding stony steps, through a doorway, up to the high altar. Because I went through the doorway first, I had to move across to the right, in order to make way for everyone else to pass through the doorway too. Whilst standing listening to Fr Gerrard’s talk, as he pointed out the architectural features of the Cathedral, I managed to move towards the altar stone. I swept my hand across the Jesus stone carving and then rested my hand upon it in prayer, feeling something of the almighty presence of Christ. I made sure I looked right up the nave of the Cathedral, it was so breathtakingly majestic. It was the most amazing feeling.
Me and Christ, hand in hand at Westminster’s high altar, is not something I shall forget in a hurry. . . I giggled to myself as I was even wearing my Mary blue coat! :O)
Lent this year tested me to the absolute brink of all discipline, strength, and faith. I had to connect in prayer so very deeply, as I gave up church for Lent. I sent myself into my desert, just Christ and I in deepest prayer together. This was so very difficult for me, for reasons that you shall see if you read on.
Every day, ever since I have been regularly responsible for taking up the the bread and the wine for consecration during Mass, I have secretly and reverently touched the tip of my (freshly showered) fingers on the tip of the edge of the large host. Not being able to receive Holy Communion, I did this knowing that when the priest evoked and called down the Holy Spirit upon the host, it would also come down upon my d.n.a, and as a result I would become a part of the sacrifice. One with Christ. That is how I coped, for all those months and years that I was held so painfully separate from my children in the Eucharist. And therefore every single Mass I have felt emotionally, physically and spiritually connected to Christ and my children in a far deeper way.
Therefore not being at Mass for the whole of Lent almost (metaphorically speaking) killed me, you would have thought. But in this further separation/sacrifice caused by myself (in defiance of not being able to be received in), (and not wanting to become wholly reliant upon a faith which could not fully accept me) and (in wanting to be in the desert with God alone as Christ was) I was taken to a completely new level of prayer. Christ walked with me for six miles every day for the 40 days of Lent. Totalling 240 miles offered up in Love and prayer as my Lenten offering.
All these are little blessings that may have passed other’s by, if they weren’t closely paying attention. God has held me so intimately close in so many ways, and I share them with you (in I think confession and thanks giving) just these few.
And now that I have finally been received into my beautiful Catholic Church, I can ultimately receive my Lord as you all do. He now intimately kisses me on the mouth every single day, before filling me from tip to toe with His Love and warmth. And I trust in the journey ahead, that He will never stop kissing, warming and Loving me.
Thanks be to a very playful, merciful, faithful, and All Loving God. And to priest’s who have friends in high places. :o)