40 Day Journey’s End: Day 4

It seems strange to be writing about my first 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, after leading the Friends of Julian of Norwich Lenten Bookgroup this year, but nevertheless, here I am doing just that. I have been organising with the trustees of The Friends of Julian of Norwich how we intend to continue the journey, since several people who attended the lenten course requested more. The format of Continuing the Journey will be more as I made the journey myself the first time, taking a week to pray with the material for each day of Lisa Dahill’s book, just like the 19th Annotation of The Spiritual Exercises. The Zoom meetings for Continuing the Journey will be on the third Wednesday of the month, starting in September, so watch out for more details here and especially on the Friends of Julian of Norwich website and newsletters.

Day 4 of the 40 Day Journey continues the contemplation the hazelnut:

The first is that God made it, the second is that He loves it, and the third is that God preserves it.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill
Ripening hazelnuts
Ripening hazelnuts by Evelyn Simak is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

And Julian asks:

But what is that to me?

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

For me, the phrases that stood out when I first prayed with this material were:

…God is the lover…there can be no created thing between my God and me…He has made me for this…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

The first phrase connected me immediately to the Song of Songs. This particular book from scripture was the focus for my prayer on retreat in the summer before I started my Spiritual Direction course. It had a profound impact on my life, and my active engagement with the book lasted for a least two years. I’m still not done with it yet, but suffice to say it was the trip switch for a great deal of upheaval in my life. The Song of Songs is a love poem which can be understood as the relationship between God and the Church, or the relationship between God and the individual soul. To pull this phrase from Julian’s writings here connected me to God’s desire for me and my desire and longing for God. It became more personal and more intimate:

God is my lover.

The “no created thing” became “nothing” and I wanted nothing to get in the way. I wanted to let go of every inordinate desire I had and I started to name them, to recognise the habits and behaviours that dissipated my spiritual energy. As I imagined God pulling me closer to Him, I could feel that His desire for me was irresistible and I asked Him to help me remove or overcome all those things that get in the way. To know deeply that He has made me to love Him and to be loved by Him – this outpouring and knowing was the grace of this prayer for me.

… have not God’s rest in their hearts and souls;…and in which there is no rest…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

With the inordinate desires that swam before my eyes like a conveyor belt in “The Generation Game”, it resonated with how Julian described the effect of the “wordly business”:

It was all about my tendency to overwork, and I have written about that before. It is very interesting to read about this now that I am living with ME/CFS! The drive to work, to have a career and to be successful in it, the drive to perfectionism – in this prayer on Day 4 of the journey I recognised how these things were getting in the way of my being close to God. And yet, at the same time, in response to one of the questions to ponder that Lisa Dahill asks I wrote:

Both wordly investment and allegience to God can be lived simultaneously – and the balance is prayer.

beautiful beauty blur close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The questions to ask ourselves regarding our work, and our relationships, to my mind are:

Am I doing the work that God wants me to do?

Am I loving well those I am in relationship with?

On pondering the meaning of “substantially united to God”, I noted:

To be substantially united to God is a grace given by Him. We might orientate our lives so that we connect with Him as much as possible but He is the one who gathers us up into Himself in that eternal moment.

It reminds me of something that struck me years ago when I read “The Cloud of Unknowing“:

For were the soul not strengthened by its good endeavours, it would be unable to stand the pain that the awareness of its own existence brings.

The Cloud of Unkowing

The grace of this prayer knocked me to the floor and it was only the first prayer with day 4.

My second day praying with the material started with the last four words of the passage given and then moved onto the psalm fragment (Psalm 46:9-10):

…He is true rest.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

Be still and know…that I am God.

Psalm 46:10
sportive woman with bicycle resting on countryside road in sunlight
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

St. Ignatius invites use to converse with God “as one friend speaks to another” and the conversation with God at this point in my prayer was intimate and loving.

I am your rest.

You are my rest.

I am the God that heals you.

I am the one to make the wars to cease within you, the one who burns the shields with fire.

You are my love, my treasure. In all of creation I love you more.

When I asked how that could be, His response was:

You are precious to me, you are my treasure.

St. Augustine has said:

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

St. Augustine

Julian’s revelations about the hazelnut made me feel just as St. Augstine describes. I was warm and surrounded by light, and the people I love most in the world were also surrounded by light. We were protected and safe. I visualised myself as Leviathon, God’s own creature, another image of myself from another retreat.

I imagined myself flowing easily from fire to water and back to fire again, without any conflict between the two, or restriction in the movement from one to the other. For me, these represent the active and contemplative sides of my personality – how appropriate to be writing this in the 16th week of cycle C in the Lectionary, where the gospel reading is about Martha and Mary! I first sought out a Spiritual Director because these aspects of myself were in conflict. In the earlier stages of my deepening journey, I believed that the purpose was to live with them in balance. This mandala was my realisation that integrity was not about getting the balance, but in being able to flow from one to the other without resistance. I guess it is the living simultaneously worldy investment and allegience to God.

Overwork and the drive to get things sorted “once and for all” is a place where I need to be open to the healing, restorative love of God. The sense of not being able to get it all done (in time) creates a sense of panic in me, and of not being good enough.

How poignant it is for me to read those words now. Even then, the other part was also there:

I experience God as my true rest when I consciously spend time in contemplative prayer -then my head slows down and the war within me ceases.

I share the desire with Julian for there to be nothing between my God and me. The deepest desire of my soul is to have the freedom to be who He would have me be. I find myself reading back through my prayer journal now and being inspired again by the graces I received then.

You can find a guided Lectio Divina prayer with the material for Day 4 of the Journey here or as a Podcast on my channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality.

40 Day Journey’s End: Day 3

The phrase that first caught my attention when I was praying with Day 3 of the journey was:

…it is everything that is made…lying in the palm of my hand.

I pictured the photo I had taken of a ceramic hand candle holder I have, with a hazelnut in it. I took this picture for a previous post, after the retreat day I did last year at the Julian centre.

Currently, I have a small stone with the word “serenity” written on it sitting in the palm of this hand. It reminded me of my own definition of serenity, of being conscious and aware of God’s presence no matter what I am doing. The phrase also brought to mind the image of myself, as my inner child Sunflower, while planting in the garden with God, holding the sunflower seeds and contemplating them in awe as it dawned on me that God made me. This memory is from an Imaginative contemplation I made during The Spiritual Exercises when I was praying with Psalm 139, and is a powerful consolation I have stored up, as Ignatius suggests.

When one enjoys consolation, let him consider how he will conduct himself during the time of ensuing desolation, and store up a supply of strength as defence against that day.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Louis J Puhl, S.J.

The sunflower seeds of course, also remind me of Meister Ekhart who I quote at the top of my blog and the sunflower, of me myself, growing into God. While these thoughts were going round in my head during this prayer, I imagined myself as being curled up in the foetal position and being buried underground, being in a sort of hibernation state, a waiting phase. While contemplating my own creation, because it is what I was contemplating, the meaning behind the images I was dwelling on, I noticed my feelings. I felt so tired and weary, demotivated and lethargic. Quite the opposite of what we envisage by a process of creation. I just wanted to rest and to take refuge in Him. There was definitely turmoil of spirits going on in this prayer:

Then it is characteristic of the evil spirit to harass with anxiety, to afflict with sadness, to raise obstacles backed by fallacious reasonings that disturb the soul. Thus he seeks to prevent the soul from advancing.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, Louis J Puhl, S.J.

Even as my desire was simply to fall into God and remain there, my head was busy berating me for my laziness. I was making lists of everything I had to do and trying to give myself a kick up the backside to just get on with it and at the same time, I was being drawn into self pity because I lacked the energy and the desire to just get on with it. Self pity is something I cannot bear: I do not tolerate it in myself for very long. I knew that prayer was the only time I felt serene and yet I experienced resistance to pray – go figure. It is an ongoing wrestling match within me, by no means something I experienced in the past, it still happens! Nevertheless, I had the sense on Day 3 of my journey that God was not too fussed about me getting on with it, that He was fine with me taking time to rest in Him, and to sleep if I needed to. I settled into the prayer and into serenity.

…everything has been through the love of God…through the love of God…

This phrase struck me in two ways. The first way – which may be how Julian meant it? – was that it was because of the love of God that everything came about. The second meaning was what I understood by it immediately, and it was what I spent the rest of my prayer contemplating. It was “to go through the love of God” in the way that we say we have been through something, usually something traumatic, that has caused a change in us. This was my understanding of the phrase and it led me to ask:

What does it mean to go through the love of God?

It may involve suffering – the cost of discipleship, a well worn phrase. As such, we might expect it to be painful to go through the love of God. When I pin point the places where I have changed as a result of my interactions with God it certainly felt that the painfulness of it was a necessary part of the process. It took me back to various times when I had prayed imaginatively with the Good Samaritan parable. Needless to say, I have always been the poor beaten up soul at the side of the road and He has always been the one to come and rescue me and to take me to a safe, comfortable place. In retrospect, even though I was unaware of it at the time, these points were threshhold moments in my life and things changed irresversibly from these moments on.

At the end of this first prayer with Day 3 of the Journey, I found myself resting in God, in spite of the difficulties and pressures of my life or maybe because of them. It was the best place to be and I was serene.

On the second day of prayer with Day 3 I was drawn by the psalm fragment and what caught my attention was the phrase:

…you are mindful…

Psalm 8:4

and the critical voice in my head said:

..and I am not!…

I was very distracted again at the beginning of this prayer, there was a lot of noise in my head. However, when I became aware of the distractions and my thoughts wandering, I brought my attention back to the phrase that had caught me and I was able to let go of the other voices and thoughts and to not hold onto them. I may have fallen asleep during this prayer – although I do not think that I did. I may have been so still that I lost all track of time. I love it when prayer is like that, the eternal moment. I remember feeling amazed, awed. And I asked Him:

Who am I that you are mindful of me?

I felt myself being pulled more deeply into Him, and His response was personal and intimate. St Augustine says:

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

St. Augustine.

He made me feel like I was the only person in the world. In Revelations of Divine Love, Julian says:

This human example was so powerfully shown, that a man’s heart could be ravished and he could be beside himself with joy at this great friendliness.

Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love

Julian also says:

Our Lord God also showed that it gives Him great pleasure when a simple soul comes to Him in a bare, plain and familiar way.

Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love

Imagine, a God who loves me like I am the only person in the world, and who takes pleasure in loving me.

And this is what Our Lord wants us to long for and to believe, to rejoice and take pleasure in, to receive comfort and support from…

Julian of Norwich: Revelations of Divine Love

I for one, marvel at it. I do not doubt it from my experience of prayer. Still, I marvel at it.

Diary of a Sunflower: 20 August, Year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Well, we made a breakthrough on that retreat, so here we are, still trying to work it out. Something has changed and he is working on himself. I need to look to myself too though. I’ve been quite grumpy recently. I need to put in the structure to keep myself grounded, wherever I am. I’ve cut my coffee down to one cup a day and I’m beginning to feel less groggy now. I’ve arrived to start my silent retreat and I’m just about to go to meet my director. 

Diary of a Sunflower: 5 August, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

5 August Year 4. 

Hmmmm! I feel very tired today. We had a row yesterday about an incident that happened when we were away on holiday before and it spiralled from there, as it usually does. I want to give up on it sometimes, I really do. I feel weary with it all. I want to escape today. I don’t want to be around anything Buddhist. 

Diary of a Sunflower: 3 August, year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Checking in last night was quite interesting. Everybody had the opportunity to say how it was going for them and where they were at bascially. I was very honest about why I had come on a Bhuddist retreat and the reactions of a few people were interesting. It’s good to declare who I am because I don’t feel so awkward today. Some people have asked me about what my religious practice is, and that’s OK.

I am getting to know Sedation better, yet it still seems that I don’t know him at all, like he is a complete stranger to me. Although he is open here and able to give himself more freely, there are already what seems to me, deluded thoughts about his dope smoking creeping in and I know that this is the difficult path to follow. I know that I should stay with him and that it won’t be easy and that he may slip back into his dope habit. I do know that my happiness shouldn’t depend on it though. This is where I need to work. I need to use my Al Anon program and I need to meditate regularly. It is the way of the cross, and it is difficult. The path is winding, rocky and dangerous, and there are more than likely a few cliff faces and scree. I know this will be difficult, but it is my reluctant path for now.

I trust J.C. He says He won’t leave me – all I have to do is maintain my contact with Him.

The way of the cross is hard.

I know.

Don’t leave me.

I won’t leave you.

I guess if anyone should know how hard the way of the cross is, it’s J.C. What right have I to be scared? Or even reluctant?

40 Day Journey’s End: Day 2

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 2

40 Day Journey’s End: Day 2 part 1. Reading of this post.

The image of Julian gazing at the crucifix described in the second day of the Journey evoked conflicting emotions within me. In describing the blood running down Jesus’ face, she used the term:

…a living stream.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill

It brought back memories of the River meditation I had done during the First Week of The Spiritual Exercises, when contemplating the sinfulness of the world. I had been in the process of planning my Positive Penance Retreat day when I was praying with Day 2, so perhaps it is not surprising that this meditation was in my mind, since I was using it on my retreat day.

40 Day Journey’s End: Day 2 part 2. Reading of this post.

During and since the Exercises, I have understood that my experience of this imaginative contemplation was a conversation with God about my work. It was as if He said:

We need to have a conversation about your work, but there are more pertinent things to deal with first.

As I notice the dates in my prayer journal now, my part one and part two of praying with Day 2 of the Journey straddle a meeting I had in my job which caused a shift in my perspective and from that moment, the writing on the wall was bright and clear, no longer invisible. Sure, it took a bit longer to make the actual decision, and then a bit longer for it to happen, but it did happen and I am living that decision now.

In the Quesions to Ponder section of the Journey, Lisa Dahil asks:

What images of Jesus’ crucifixion – scriptural, musical, or artistic – are most familiar to you? Do these images readily speak to you of love, as they do to Julian? Why or why not?

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill

I did not find that question so easy, and I am glad she introduced the possibility of it not speaking of love, because my experience of it was both. In thinking about the standard wooden crucifix with a metal Jesus on it, I have to acknowledge a sense of horror at the torture, oppression and martyrdom. Not just the horror of what was done to Jesus, but there is a sense of irredeemable guilt and sometimes a sense of looking at it and experiencing a feeling of emotional blackmail whenever I am not being as good as I “should” be:

Look at how I suffered for you, and you cannot even do this for me?

I recognise this voice as not being of God, of how it is used to exert power and control. It is fallacious reasoning that demands an account from us, which tells us we are not good enough and it cuts us off from the sense of God’s love that Julian is talking about. We spend time in the Principle and Foundation of The Exercises coming to recognise how we are loved by God, because without knowing God’s love for us deeply, facing the full reality of our sinfulness in the First Week might just be too much to cope with.

Another response I had to this image was of anger: anger at the injustice of what was done to Him. I also felt shame and confusion that sinfulness and hatred could have any small moment of triumph, and that people can be so fickle and can be turned so easily by lies. I find that frightening. Dahill states:

For Julian, Jesus’ death is not an appeasement of God’s wrath.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill

I do not think I have ever seen it as God’s wrath, more the wrath of humanity. I mentioned shame and confusion, noticing that this is the grace of the First Week of The Spiritual Exercises.

Here it will be to ask for shame and confusion because I see how many have been lost on account of a single mortal sin, and how many times I have deserved eternal damnation, because of the many grievous sins that I have committed.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Trans Louis J. Puhl

Julian’s response to this vision has none of the turmoil I experienced in contemplating Day 2 of the Journey. She recognises:

…it was He…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill

And:

…suddenly the Trinity filled my heart full of the greatest joy…for where Jesus appears the blessed Trinity is Understood…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill

Then there was the other side to my conflicting emotions on praying with the material for Day 2. I imagined myself stepping into Rublev’s icon of the Trinity. In the Divine Dance, Richard Rohr tells that in Rublev’s orignal artwork, there was a mirror, which invited us to join in, to take a place within God. Julian says:

…the Trinity is our endless joy and our bliss…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill
40 Day Journey’s End: Day 2 part 3. Reading of this post.

It is here that I connected with the Love she is talking about. A sense of falling at His feet, of being Veronica and wiping the blood from His face. I am struck by Mel Gibson’s film of The Passion, and how, amidst the violence and the gore, there are moments of tenderness, where Jesus is seen, and those who see Him are seen by Him. It seems to me that He draws strength from those who love Him, and whom He loves. When I was praying with His passion in the Third Week of the Exercises, it was a feature of my imaginative contemplations that the moments of connection with those who loved Him and walked with Him as He made this journey, were significant in strengthening Him so that He could fulfill His task. It was in this sense of raw openness that I understood something of the love that Julian was conveying in her description. His response to my conflicting emotions:

I am Love. Never fear, I am always here, even there.

There was a movement in me through praying Day 2 of the Journey. I noticed the changes that were taking place in my life. They seemed such small changes, but in reflecting futher back I was able to recognise how far and by how much those small things had resulted in quite big shifts.

I know this is Your doing. You have answered me. Thank you.

My response to Psalm 118:22

Sometimes in prayer, what we are talking about is not what we are talking about. While I was contemplating Julian’s image of the crucifix and experiencing conflicting emotions within me, I moved from fear to experiencing the Trinity as my bliss; an eternal moment of being lost in God, where everything disappeared and there was only God. Nothing else mattered. What I was left with afterwards was a clear sense of where and how God was with me constantly in my life, where growth was happening and my own gratitude for His presence and love.

Diary of a Sunflower: 2 August, Year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Interesting times! I’m settling down into the retreat and I’m meeting some impressive people. It’s both stimulating and quietening at the same time. The scenery of course helps. I love the mountains and the way the mist caresses the top of them in the morning. 

I saw Him there this morning, singing in the mountains and dancing in the sky. 

From one of my own poems.

The Meditation guide is a wise man. His name means the joy that springs up from deep inside. It suits him. I think, I feel, that he is someone I can talk to and ask questions of. He has a deep serenity and I think wisdom. He reminds me of Fr. James. The meditation practices I have learned are interesting and useful. I reckon I can use them as a basic, a staple or in-between the Jesuit way of prayer – maybe even as a light relief from it! Hmmm…that’s not quite what I mean. Sometimes, it’s hard to get into the imaginative prayer and you feel like you’re not going or getting anywhere. Resorting to the mindfulness of breathing or metabarvna might be the most constructive thing to do in those situations to keep me there and to keep me meditating. That’s what I mean. 

I have lots of questions. Maybe academic, because I am not soul searching here. I want to know my partner better and to understand where he is coming from. I think that this retreat is doing just that. We are getting to know each other better. 

Diary of a Sunflower: 29 July, Year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

Things have changed a bit – there has been a change of perspective on both sides. He has given up smoking dope, and I believe he is serious about it this time. He is starting to work on himself. I am also trying to shift my position in the way I relate to him by using my Al Anon program. We’ll see, but I am hopeful that we really so have a future together. We both have to change really. 

At the moment we are in Dhanakosa, a Buddhist retreat centre in Scotland. There is a curious marriage of traditional Scottish and this Eastern Buddhist style. The images are quite confusing to me. We did a meditation tonight and it wasn’t so different from stuff I’ve experienced before – just feeling your body and relaxing. Not the same as the Ignatian imaginative prayer. 

I saw Aslan in my meditation: C.S. Lewis’ lion representation of Christ. Appropriate, since I’d perceived this to be a little bit like Daniel in the lion’s den – need to be true to my faith. I must find a harmony with Bhudda which is respectful, but he is not my God.  

Alsan pressed His face against mine and I stroked his ears. He us brave, I am brave. I must have the heart of a lion (big) to keep it open. I rode on His back and He ran – fast. It took my breath away. 

40 Day Journey’s End: Day 1

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 1

40 day Journey;s End Day 1 (i)

What is interesting for me to notice as I read back over my prayer journal for the first “Day” of my journey with Julian is that I am still, even now, wrestling with the same old patterns of resistance. Sometimes they are not so strong in distracting me from my prayer, and sometimes they are. Watching films or box sets when I should be doing my Examen and going to bed. There is that word “should” : I always raise an eyebrow when I hear it in Spiritual Direction. My desire is to spend the time with Him, to live differently, more in tune with Him, and yet, there is an inertia to doing just that when it comes to it. You might know what I mean. I do not believe I am the first person to ask why I do these things that are self destructive when I want to do something different. And my head ties me up in knots. I see that I began my journey feeling a lot of resistance, not just in the arguments in my head as I fought the inertia, but I was restless and uncomfortable in my body.

Even when prayer is like this, and I drag myself to it; even if it is on the reclining seat of the sofa and not in the more alert position in my prayer spot, just by putting myself in that space, I am expressing my desire to encounter God and I am opening myself to the opportunity for connection with Him.

Julian says in day 1 of the 40 Day Journey:

He wishes to be sought.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill

I heard a story once of a reporter asking Cardinal Hume how long he prayed for every day. He replied:

Oh, for about a minute.

The reporter was apparantly quite shocked and queried his lack of commitment not being commensurate with his leadership position in the Church, to which he replied along the lines of:

Yes, but it does take me about twenty nine minutes of sitting still to get to that point.

I did meet Cardinal Hume when I first moved to Norwich and I shook his hand. This does seem like the kind of thing he could say, from my brief experience of listening to his talk and shaking his hand. This story always encourages me when I am restless and resistant to prayer. I know that if I can just put myself there, I am more likely to make that intimate connection with God, to experience that eternal moment, even if my head will not stop spinning for the whole time and I was distracted by all the things I have to get through that day. It is not something He holds against me.

…our Lover desires the soul to adhere to Him…it is so preciously loved by Him…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill
40 day Journey;s End Day 1 (ii)

So I acted against my restless body and my busy head, and I put myself in that space because I knew that I desired Him, and I knew that He desired me. Somewhere in that first part of The Journey, I noticed myself:

…clad and enclosed in the goodness of God.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, edited Lisa E . Dahill

I felt it as a warmth – emotional and physical – that lingered with me for the rest of that day. It brought to mind an imaginative contemplation I had experienced when I made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. I was a servant, a wine pourer, at the wedding feast at Cana, and after Jesus had turned the water into wine, YHWH and JC (the Holy Spirit as I call Him) appeared at the party. YHWH asked me to dance a rumba with Him. I became vapour, a fragrance, lost in the dance with Him.

I noticed that during this first prayer with Day 1 that I became aware of people that I interacted with in my daily life. One person in particular, where the relationship was difficult, I got a sense of the huge problems this person was dealing with in their life. I was moved to compassion for them and a desire to help, even if my ability to help was limited to regarding and interacting with them more kindly and to praying for them.

Image by karin smulders from Pixabay
40 day Journey;s End Day 1 (iii)

During my second prayer with Day 1, I was focused on the extract from Psalm 139. There were again distractions at the beginning of the prayer and an odd interaction with what appeared to be God, but my response to this character was to go limp and floppy like a rag doll. My spiritual director on The Spiritual Exercises had said to me in one of our conversations about what happens in prayer:

If something feels odd, it probably is odd.

I think I may have objected at the time, but I have never forgotten it, and it comes to mind whenever I realise that something is odd in my prayer. On my spiritual direction course, they talked about St. Bernard (I think it was St. Bernard) who once had a vision that “Jesus” appeared to him, dressed as a Roman Legionary. The point of discerning if this vision really was Jesus is that it did not seem like Him. In the Rules for Discernment for the Second Week, Ignatius says:

It is characteristic of the evil one to fight against such happiness and consolation by proposing fallacious reasonings, subtilties, andcontinual deceptions.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Trans Louis J. Puhl

It is a mark of the evil spirit to assume the appearance of an angel of light. He begins by suggesting thoughts that are suited to a devout soul, and ends by suggesting his own. For example, he will suggest holy and pious thoughts that are wholly in conformity with the sanctity of the soul. Afterwards, he will endeavor little by little to end by drawing the soul into his hidden snares and evil designs.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Trans Louis J. Puhl

The point here is that not everything that appears to be God, or of God, is God, or of God. There are times when we may be dealing with the imposter. Discernment is the process by which we learn to recognise what is of God and what is fallacious reasonings, subtilties, and deception.

40 day Journey;s End Day 1 (iv)

When I sensed the oddity in the prayer, I imagined myself back in the Room of Indifference from the my experience of the Exercises. This was the moment of grace during the Principle and Foundation when I experienced indifference. I described this experience before. Ignatius tells us to store up these moments of consolation in order to strengthen us when we are in desolation. So I imagined myself once more sitting in the chair at the centre of the room, my palms face up, and I said:

I will wait.

And He was there, no doubts or oddness.

I recalled some conversations I had had that day. My mum is ninety now and much to her frustration, has developed a stutter. A young man in my church is autistic and finds social interactions difficult. I remembered a the beginning of a retreat as a student, where we were asked to briefly introduce ourselves. There was a student there from Zimbabwe, who told a winding story about one day when he went out on a walk back home. I remember at one point wishing he would hurry up and get to the point when it immediately dawned on me, that was the point. It was not a summary list: this was someone who was present. By telling us a story, he was revealing who he was , he was introducing himself. As I recalled my conversations with the two people who struggled to talk that day, I recognised that there had been a similar movement within me, a movement from impatience to patience, as I saw the person in front of me. The fact that someone may struggle to express themselves does not invalidate what they have to say. It only requires for them to be seen, and for the other to be patient and listen.

When I prayed the second prayer with Day 1, I said to Him:

It was You. I praise You, I am wonderfully made.

And His reply:

You are wonderfully made. I made you.

To really see the other, to see them as God sees them is the Contemplation to Attain Love. It is to love as God loves. There are moments when it cuts through into our consciousness. This was the fruit of Day 1 of my 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich. It was to look at those others and recognise in my heart:

You are wonderfully made.

Diary of a Sunflower: 23 July, Year 4

The diary entries are extracts from my spiritual journey, going back about twenty years.

No, I tell you this because I was told to tell it – by what you might call ‘ a higher authority’ – and truth is, the thought of how to tell it has taxed me for so many years.

Miss Garnet’s Angel, Sally Vickers

My life is unmanageable. God, how did it get to be this way? It occurred to me that I’m a bit of a martyr and that I give way to emotional blackmail a bit. I need to stop doing that. I need to be clear on what is my responsibility and what is not. I will give this living together until Christmas I think – if I’m still having doubts – well, maybe I’ll be more certain one way or another. Also, I’m going on retreat so I need to be open for that. 

So much about myself is frustrating me. But it always seems to be the same old stuff as always. Was the six months after leaving my ex an illusion? Or was it a glimpse of how it could be? Was I lonely then? I am caught up in this moodiness and somehow, I must learn to detach from it again and not be so affected by it. I think I resent the fact that I have to though – I did not, and do not want to spend my life coping and handling the difficulties of living with a man. I’ve had enough of it to last a lifetime.