Tag Archives: visions


Lessons from meditation

The Deacon at Mass last weekend preached on Mark 7:31-37, seeing and hearing, and Julian of Norwich (1342-1416) popped into my mind. Upon reflection, I realized his homily made me think of mindfulness and how often I don’t take in what someone is saying to me, how often I am really not listening attentively.

Julian came to mind because I see her as being a model for mindfulness.

One night, while asleep, she had fifteen visions or revelations, and she spent the rest of her life living in a cell attached to a church, reflecting on these visions and writing what God revealed to her (Revelations of Divine Love). She models for me how to pay attention, to pray, to reflect and to be open to hear and see.God-mindfulness-meditationBy spending time with the words and images of her visions or dreams, Julian was able to hear and see deeper meanings. She remained open to insights, and God did not disappoint.God-mindfulness-meditationI spend time every morning in prayer and meditation, which often produces intriguing thoughts and images that I wish I could spend more time exploring for any deeper meaning and insight, but that luxury of unlimited time only happens when I am on retreat.

It is one of the things I love about retreats—all the time in the world to stay with one phrase or word or image, taking the time to notice what I notice and then allowing images to surface. Julian’s life was like that—one long retreat.

I envy Julian her life of solitude in the church tower. All day, every day to ponder God’s love.

That kind of dedication to God produced Julian’s ability to see the whole world, all of creation in something as small as a hazelnut.God-mindfulness-meditation

I sometimes wonder what rich insights I could have if I dedicated more time to reflection. Would I be able to draw conclusions as Julian did? To trust God’s love for His creation and to know that all will be well? God-mindfulness-meditation

Reshaped by God

Now there was a man full of leprosy….and the leprosy left him immediately. (Luke 5:12-13)

The words full of leprosy caught my attention as I read this Scripture passage. I think of leprosy as being an external condition affecting the skin, but the words full of made me think of something deeper, some kind of cavity or open space which had been filled.

As I pondered this man’s healing, I wondered if leprosy had become a part of his identity and self-understanding. Had he become accustomed to being shunned? Did he find solace in his solitude? I wondered what filled the open space where the leprosy had been.

This man, full of leprosy, reminds me of when I was younger and full of shame. I thought of myself that way—full of shame. I blamed myself for the bad things that had happened to me and internalized them into a message that I was bad. Bad things happen to bad people, I told myself.

But, I hoped for something different; I hoped that I could be healed. Just as the leprosy left the man immediately, I hoped my shame would be removed in an instant.

My pastor encouraged me to pray for healing. I started attending daily Mass and praying fervently. Months passed with no apparent change. Then one day, at the end of Mass, the priest said, “Go now, cleansed in mind and body, to love and serve the Lord.”

“Cleansed?” Not me. I was dirty, broken, disgusting—in mind and body. Tears started pouring from my eyes and I crumpled to the kneeler, burying my face in my hands.

I wanted to be cleansed. “Please God,” I pleaded through sobs, “cleanse me.”

As I knelt in that pew, sobbing, I had a vision. I saw myself cleaved in two and all that was ugly and broken and shameful poured out of me. It was a veritable river of disgust spewing out. I watched until there was nothing left, until I was empty.

Was this what it meant to be healed? Had Jesus removed my shame the same way he had removed leprosy? I accepted this vision as a healing and floated out of the church on a spiritual high. God had heard my prayers and cleansed me.

Being healed presented a dilemma, though. The only me I had known was the shameful me. Without my shame, who was I?

St. Paul’s letters became my guide. The man who had persecuted the church became its biggest promoter. I wanted to be able to walk away from my past as St. Paul had, to be so strengthened by the Spirit that I could become a new person in Christ and never look back.

Forty-three years have passed since that day in church and I can look back and see how God has continued to heal me and reshape me. I am grateful.

Communion of Saints

“I believe in the communion of saints…” is one of my favorite lines in the Creed. It reminds me that I am part of something bigger, much bigger. It conjures up images of a more cosmic perspective, where I am connected to all those who have gone before me. It makes me think of a life-time continuum—from the spark that starts life, through this life and then onto new life—eternal life.

In the communion of saints, I feel more connected to some saints than others. Mary Magdalene tops the list of my favorite saints. She has inspired me and consoled me more times than I can remember. When I think of her, I think of how much she loved Jesus and how she was loyal to him to the end of his life and beyond. She reminds me of forgiveness and healing and love. I feel a deep bond of friendship with her.

On Good Friday, I posted a piece here about another Mary, the mother of Jesus—the other woman who loved Jesus and was loyal to him to the end of his life and beyond. I wrote about a vision I had of Mary two years ago.

Later that day, during the Good Friday Liturgy, I had another encounter with Mary, the mother of Jesus. It happened after an elderly man tripped and fell in the aisle near where I was sitting. Several people rushed to the man and someone called 911.

While we waited for the ambulance to arrive, the priest started to pray: first, the Our Father and then the Hail Mary. He continued to pray the Hail Mary, again and again, until the ambulance arrived.

Tears poured down my cheeks as I prayed, “Holy Mary, Mother of God….”  It reminded me of that day two years ago, praying the rosary with Jim, invoking Mary, the Mother of God.

I felt her presence.

“What do you want, Mary?” I asked in the silence of my heart.

For the rest of that day—and every day since—I have wondered what Mary wants.

When I reported all this to my spiritual director, she asked about my history with Mary. I told her that over the years, Mary has tried to get my attention—through scripture and prayer and art—but I have not been open. I already have my “best friend” saint in Mary Magdalene and did not see how the other Mary could fit into my life.

My spiritual director suggested that one thing Mary and I have in common is that we both store up things and ponder them (Luke 2:19).  She suggested I simply sit with Mary and be open to a new relationship.

I have been much more aware of Mary’s presence since Good Friday, as I ponder all these things and pray for openness.