With God in East Harlem
These past few weeks took us a bit by surprise, but yet, should have been expected. Like most of the world, we too at Blessed Solanus Casey Convent took our turn with COVID which resulted in a house quarantine. Out came the Kleenex, cough drops, extra hand sanitizer, Tylenol, and most importantly, a good dose of ice cream every now and then. Extraordinary times like this can be extraordinarily bonding. Joys, laughter, tears and pain all mingle to bring us closer together. And even though it is hard to meditate with a headache or chant the Liturgy of the Hours with a cough, the Lord finds His ways to speak to the heart.
For me His voice broke through at the beginning of this unusual trial through a book I providentially received in the mail from my mother. Our community has a great love for Fr. Walter Ciszek, SJ, since Mother Lucille had him as her spiritual director in the early 80’s. Even though we never had the privilege to meet him personally, we have come to know him through Mother Lucille and through his books – “With God in Russia” and “He Leadeth Me.”
The book my mother sent is a compilation of Fr. Ciszek’s unpublished writings in a novena format. But it was the section of “common prayers” that led to a grace I deeply needed from the Lord. Entitled “A Method for Real Healing” it reads:
“Take the negative reaction, sin, disturbance of mind (or positive feeling), and offer it up to the Will of God for those always in dire need of acts of compassion. Make a simple act of surrender, and then go on to what comes next in your life, in the natural order of things. The moment that you feel any disturbance, any aggravation, any break with the Lord or a loss of peace, turn immediately to the Spirit of Christ, and intensify your prayer. Do not dwell on the negative, but allow the negative to be replaced by charity, compassion, and alms-giving.
Giving in the spiritual life means giving up to God what these people need for salvation. In this is real healing. The whole secret is never to lose the contact of doing God’s will. In a spirit of sacrifice and suffering, you find your true self in living for others. Erase yourself totally; let Him take over. Surrender to God, and He will do everything for you.”
The old adage “offer it up” suddenly has a new depth to me from the way Fr. Ciszek described it. I had heard Mother Lucille share these same words many times, but the grace to understand it came while I was sick with COVID.
Whatever I am feeling, whatever burden I am carrying, can be taken and placed in the Heart of Jesus for Him to do with as He wills. Then the “negative feeling” is no longer my problem to deal with alone but is now being shared with and given to the One who can actually fix it or figure it out. As I started to make these acts of faith and surrender, I imagined myself holding the negative feeling out to Jesus for Him to take, and in my prayer I could picture Our Lord receiving it with a tender smile. I began to understand that this is all He ever wanted from me – absolutely everything in my heart. A joy shared is doubled and a sorrow shared is halved, and when it is shared with Our Lord through faith, this is more than true. My hope is that this new grace – to place all I am feeling, experiencing and carrying into the Heart of Jesus and in turn trust and accept whatever it is as God’s will – can transform me and deepen my faith with each new joy or sorrow. This is the path of holiness. This is the path of surrender – believing that Jesus really does take care of everything.
Fr. Ciszek, I thank you, and please keep praying for us. Amen.
Sr. Catherine, CFR