At university on Saturday mornings before our lecture, we begin the day with morning prayer with the Sister’s of the Maria Asumpta Chapel, and then Mass. It is a beautiful and blessed way to start any day, and especially study days. I have experienced a few undisclosed spiritual moments in this chapel, and else where. I am always aware of my romantic nature, and I always try to make myself believe that those moments are just the way my brain sees the world, and that no-one else sees it (or feels it) in quite the way that I do. But I am almost sure that on occasions other people can see it too, and see it happening to me maybe. Whether they go on to think anything about it afterwards though, I am unsure.
On a couple of occasions the Sisters and I have had brief conversations, they are canny and discreet, and I have a certain affection for them and the way in which they make themselves randomly available for conversation. :O) A few weeks back I told one of the ageing Sister’s that I was going to be received in to the church, and would they please remember me in their prayers. And this seemingly robust and stern Sister, (whom I seem to have warmed) in uncharacteristic sudden robust joy, gave me a great big smiling hug and kissed my cheek.
When I was a little girl at school, I was very aware that all the strict teachers that nobody liked, appeared to be a little warmer with me. I don’t know why. It was a ‘gift’ that I never quite understood. The fashionable teachers that everyone liked never really appeared to notice me, but the hardened or cold ones softened in my presence. I was never a bright bunny student, but I had a bright personality and this ‘gift’ helped me at school (even if I do look back at the odd report and wince at my academic lack of ability).
When I went into the Assumpta chapel early one morning I saw the Sister who was over joyed at my reception, so I made my way to her and told her how special it all turned out to be. I showed her a copy of the homily, which actually I had taken in for a dear friend. The Sister then put me right on the spot, by turning to me and boldly asking “So whats next?” she wanted an answer too! I said to her that I was unsure, and chatted about a few saints who had inspired me, and that I was going to read up on secular Dominicans, 3rd order Franciscans, and lay Carmelites, simply because of my situation, and because the saints that I have been inspired by, have fallen under each of these headings. That really however does not narrow it down.
The beautiful spirituality of the Dominicans touched me deeply in one piece of writing, and St Catherine of Sienna whom I havent yet read anything about (other than a few facts) keeps niggling me. And then there’s the two St Teresa’s, and St John of the Cross who are Carmelites. I am just so drawn to their simple Love ethos, which has forever been the Truth in my heart, and is evident in the soul of my poetry. Love is All and, I knew this to be Truth before I had ever read any of their words which were so recognisable and familiar once I did. And then there is the Franciscans, because I Love, and see, and first discovered my one to ones through the solace of being with Nature and animals, both as a child, and as a young woman, and still now. There is so much Love, hope, strength and God so visible in nature. And of course all the Love for the poor.
Without a flicker, this Sister completely and convincingly said “Franciscans!”, she got out her directory, showed me the page number and said, “I know the man who runs this group and he is lovely, go and look them up”. I was baffled all week as to why she was adamant that the Franciscans of the 3rd order was (she thought) for me. So the following Saturday having played on my mind all week I asked her, “why?”, and she replied “I don’t know, there’s just something about you, when I think of you, I just think Franciscans”. The only Catholic Workers that I know of are 3rd order Franciscans, we once exchanged lovely letters about people of faith (of old) only receiving the Eucharist once a year.
I since read on the net about somebody that had become a 3rd order Franciscan and decided that all the meetings, the rules, the fees etc etc seemed to be creating an environment which St Francis would have shied away from. Then on reflection I think Mary Magdalene of course wouldn’t have belonged to any such group, only to follow and minister unto Jesus and His apostles. And so the braver part of me thinks that is where I should remain inspired. Just Him alone, ministering unto Him and His apostles, central in His church.
My spiritual director seems to have fulfilled and completed her mission on my journey, she discreetly and lovingly sent me blessings for my reception, but before and since has silenced herself with no more contact, so in my discernment I realise it is time to move on, and so I wait, for God to send me someone else.
Anyway I digress.
On Saturday whilst in prayer in the chapel, I experienced in a very powerful way, a funny spiritual experience. It has happened a few times now in a really All powerful way. One of the stained glass windows was absolutely blazing from what appeared to be the brightest sunlight, to the point that the figures came alive. An opaque colourless woman’s head was radiating white (like a childs vision of an electric white shining ghost). I kept staring at the face and then looking away as if to pretend that it wasn’t alive to me. Then I chose to ignore it all together by putting my head down in prayer, (I put it down to just the effects of the sunlight), and that is when I could feel the radiant burning sunshine pouring in on me alone, as if the only spot of sunshine in the whole of the chapel found its way to where I was sitting. This glorious radiant sunpool has found its way to me before in that chapel, when I have been sitting in different seats too, and I sometimes wonder if anyone else has noticed it on me too, especially the people presiding over the Mass, as they would be facing us.
Sometimes it also happens in my little church, and sometimes I feel the same warmth on my head, all bathed in sunlight, sometimes when I am on my knees praying. I often turn my face towards the light which feels so perfectly lovely. But mostly I am sure it is just the sunshine.
Because the experience was so powerful in the chapel on Saturday, I told the Sister who was sitting close by to me (after Mass) of the sun penetrating through this particular window, and asked her who the women in the stained glass were. The character who I thought was the virgin Mary turned out to be
St Rose of Lima † So I came home and looked her up . . . Emmmn.
And then I happened upon these,
Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower.
Hans Christian Anderson
Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them and try to follow them.
Louisa May Alcott
And then I know whatever happens, I am just supposed to keep on Loving my Beloved †