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.

40 Day Journey’s End: Examen

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

I finally finished my 40 day Journey with Julian of Norwich on Shrove Tuesday, just in time for the beginning of Lent. While the time since then has certainly been very full – I have left the classrooom and I am setting up as an online tutor – I have been pondering the Journey in the back of my mind. Here feels like the suitable point to make an Examen of my journey and the fruits that it has borne. I began the journey on Thursday 5th December 2019 and in that time, completely filled the prayer journal that I had started at the beginning of the third week of the Spiritual Exercises, and I finished the journal with the last entry of the Journey, the day before the beginning of Lent! A strange convergance: endings an beginnings. It had been my intention, in preparation for writing this post, that I read through my journey and summarise it all here, in a nice tidy blog post, a beautifully wrapped package; a wonderful display of the glory of God and the graces He so generously gives. And then I read my journal entries for Day 1 of my 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich. I realised immediately how impossible it would be to do that – there is too much. Each day warrants its own post. I will endeavour to do that as I continue posting on this blog. So, I closed my journal and decided to write an Examen here from my memories of this time on the Journey.

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

Gratitude

I am grateful for all of the graces that I have received in this journey: the intimacy with God and the deepening trust; the fulfilment of the conversation about my working life which began during The Exercises and the courage to take that path. I am grateful for the affirmations of my work received through the people I am directing, through my guided prayers with Radio Maria England and through the retreats I have led. I am grateful for the friendship of Bill Stebbe, which grew in the time of that retreat day where I bought the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich and made the decision to make this pilgrimage. I am also grateful that I was able to accompany Bill in his dying, and for the grace of humility which I received during that time. And as Julian herself lived in the time of plague, and the current pandemic was an event waiting to happen at the time I picked up the book and began this journey, I am grateful for the relative safety in which I have been able to live and work throughout, and continue to be able to do so, even as I am weary of it.

Grace

I ask God for the grace to see my journey as He sees my journey.

40 Day Journey’s End Examen 3: Reading of this post.

Account

The predominant image I have from the Journey, and also from The Spiritual Exercises, is of myself as a child: not the memories of me as an actual child, but of my inner free child, Sunflower. I described her in the post All Things in a Hazelnut, where I picked up the book. This child is always open and honest with God. She says things as she sees and feels them, without dressing them up to make them palatable or acceptable. Even when she is restless and fractious, refuses to be held and wriggles in His arms saying:

Put me down! put me down!

He does, with some amusement, and watches over her tenderly as she does her worst and comes running back to His open arms when she realises her trouble and her need. And God loves and adores her, and regards her as precious. This is where God has been for me in this journey, and how I have turned away to those inordinate attachments that are self destructive to me, and then turned back again when I recognised that I had messed up again. As always, my tender loving God has picked me up and held me close once more.

Pardon

The free child is also open and honest when she recognises her mistakes. She does not try to justify or explain. Moved by her sorrow, her desire is simply to repair the relationship that she sees she has hurt by her behaviour. Asking for forgiveness is her expression of that sorrow. He listens and forgives.

Resolve to Amend

From here, the world is different. Things have changed.

And they have – I have been writing about the changes taking place in my life throughout this last year. It is not to say that these inordinate desires have been vanquished – they most certainly have not. I am still wrestling with the same distractions and resistances that I was dealing with at the beginining to the Journey. Sometimes, I am that little girl planting sunflower seeds with Him in the garden, full of wonder and awe. Sometimes I am still that fractious child, wriggling in His arms, trying to break free to do those naughty things that are not good for me and cause me, and perhaps others around me, pain and harm. To me on a bad day, it may feel that I have not made much progress, but to Him, well, maybe that Sunflower stalk is just a little bit taller as it reaches for the sun.

Good Goats: Healing Our Image of God

by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn, Miranda Francisco (Illustrator)

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 40

All will be well, and all will be well, and all mannner of thing will be well…[For] I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well…And [in the bliss of heaven] it will truly be made known to us what He means in the sweet words when He says: All will be well, and you will see it yourself, that every kind of thing will be well. And then will the bliss of our motherhood in Christ be to begin anew in the joys of our Father, God, which new beginning will last, newly beginning without end…God wants us…always to be strong in faithful trust, in well-being and in woe, for He loves us and delights in us, and so He wishes us to love Him amd delight in Him and trust greatly in Him, and all will be well.

Reading: Revelation 21:5-6

Psalm 30: 11-12

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 39

From the time [these showings] were revealed, I desired many times to know in what was our Lord’s meaning. And fifteen years after and more, I was answered in spiritual understanding, and it was said: What, do you wish to know your Lord’s meaning in this thing? Know it well, love was His meaning. Who reveals it to you? Love. What did He reveal to you? Love. Why does He reveal it to you? For love. Remain in this, and you will know more of the same. But you will never know different, without end.

Reading: John 15: 9

Psalm 36:7-9

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 38

God revealed all this most blessedly, as though to say: See, I am God. See, I am in all things. See, I do all things. See, I never remove my hands from my works, nor ever shall without end. See, I guide all things to the end that I ordain for them for, before time began, with the same power and wisdom and love with which I made them: how should anything be amiss?…In this endless love we are led and protected by God, and we shall never be lost…And just as we were to be without end, so we were treasured and hidden in God, known and loved from without beginning. I saw…in everything that before God made us He loved us, which love was never abated and never will be. And in this love He has done all His works…and in this love our life is everlasting. In our creation we had beginning, but the love with which He created us was in Him from without beginnning. In this love we have our beginning, and all this shall we see in God without end.

Reading: Isaiah 45: 8

Psalm 48:14

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 37

Perhaps I am travelling slowly, but I am still on this journey!

All this familiar revelation of our courteous Lord is a lesson of love…For He wants us to know by the sweetness of His familiar love that all that we see or feel, within or without, which is in opposition to this is from the enemy and not from God…If we are moved to be more careless about our way of life or about the custody of our hearts, because we have knowledge of this plentiful love, then we have great need to beware of this impulse, should it come. It is false, and…has no resemblance to God’s will. [Yet] when we have fallen through weakness or blindness, then our courteous Lord, touching us, moves us and protects us…And with this our good Lord said most joyfully: See how I love you, as if He had said, my darling, behold and see your Lord, your God, who is your Creator and your endless joy; see your own brother.your saviour; my child, behold and see what delight and bliss I have in your salvation.

Reading: Isaiah 62:1b-3

Psalm 143: 10

Pray in colour.

Just before the first lockdown in March last year, I posted about my reflections on intercessory prayer. Just after that, and maybe even as a result of that post, I started to explore with Praying in Color. My Spiritual Director on the IGR I did at Penhurst had mentioned it, and I had tucked it away for future reference. I mentioned that when I painted a mandala with someone in mind, it was a way of praying for them and that quite often I gave them the finished mandala. It seemed a very natural attraction for me.

Here, I will summarise the process that Sybil MacBeth lays out in great detail in her book “Praying in Color”:

1. Draw a shape on the page:

– a triangle, trapezoid, squiggly line, or imperfect circle.  

2. Write a word in or near the shape:

– the person you are praying for, word or phrase from scripture, a name for God, a feeling word that came up in your prayer… 

3. Add detail to the drawing.

This might be dots, lines, circles, zigzags, or whatever your hand wants to do. 

4. Continue to enhance the drawing.

Think of each stroke and each moment as time that you spend with that person or word or phrase or God in prayer. 

5. Keep drawing until the image feels finished. 

6. Add colour to the picture.

Choose colours that will stay in your memory, that you particularly like, or that remind you of what you are praying about. 

I am not quite so dextrous with the digitial pen, but I am sure that you can see where it is going. When the drawing and praying for the first person, word, phrase, feeling or name for God are completed, You can move onto another space on the page:

7. Draw a new shape or design

-to create a place for the name of another person, word, phrase, feeling or name for God. 

8. Repeat the process of drawing as many times as you feel moved to. 

9. Linger with the page in front of you.

Let the names, images and colours imprint themselves on your brain. Spend another moment with each one on silence and close with an “Amen”. 

10. Carry the page with you.

Place it open on your prayer spot or on the fridge: someplace where your eyes will scan it during the day. 

Sometimes when I am busy or stressed, and my mind is all over the place, I have found this to be a helpful way of praying that slows me down.

In another of her books on this concept, Sybil Macbeth offers colouring templates that she has drawn – steps 1-5 effectively – and a wealth of other suggestions on how to use them. During the first lockdown in March last year, I used one of those to make intercessory prayers for the people I cared about and who were struggling. I took one person a day and spent the time in my morning prayer, thinking of them and the graces I wished to ask God to bestow on them. Then I kept the sheet around and placed it in my prayer space overnight. I also added prayers for my two children during Holy Week.

The images are stuck into an art book that I use as a spiritual workbook and I love the prayer patchwork they make. I have also considered the possibility of cutting the rectangles when I have finished the praying in colour with them and putting them in my prayer pot to hold, or take out at random another day.

During the retreat I made at home in the summer, I learned that to help me move from one state of being to another, I need to have some transtion type activities, and especially when going from a busy, active state to a contemplative state. Praying in colour helps me to do just that.

My friend the artist is taken with this idea and created some colouring templates of Julian of Norwich quotes for me to pray with during my retreat. Her intention is to leave room in the templates for enhancements as well as colouring. You can see I have added my own. At some point, she is talking about creating colouring books that can be bought and she is in the process of creating them. I am looking forward to that, but in the meantime, I still have some she gave me in the summer. Suffice to say that the last few months have been hectic and stressful for me, as the next few weeks also promise to be. I am feeling drawn to spend sometime praying in colour to slow me down enough to reconnect with my inner contemplative. Why not give it a try yourself?

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 36

After a long pause, I am resuming my Journey with Julian of Norwich this week. It may be taking me longer than I envisaged when I set out, but I am not giving up. I will persist to the end.

After all these reveleations, the visions faded and Julian was returned to pain and dryness. When a priest visited, she told him she had been raving, seeming to discredit her own visions. She immediately regretted this and felt that she had betrayed Jesus’ exquisite mercy revealed to her. When she fell asleep she was visited by the devil in a terrible apparition; resisisting the devil, she was returned to the consolation of her earlier visions.

Our Lord very humbly revealed words to me, without voice and without opening of lips, just as He had done before, and said very sweetly: Know it well, it was no hallucination which you saw today, but accept and believe it and hold firmly to it, and comfort yourself with it and trust in it, and you will not be overcome…And these words: You will not be overcome, were said very insistently and strongly, for certainty and strength against every tribulation which may come. He did not say, you will not be troubled, you will not be belaboured, you will not be disquieted; but He said: You will not be overcome.

Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Psalm 143:3,9

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 35

The wisest act for a creature to do is according to the will and the counsels of [its] greatest and supreme friend. This blessed friend is Jesus, and it is His will and counsel that we keep with Him and fasten ourselves closely to Him, in whatever state we may be. For whether we be foul or clean, we are always the same in His love; for well or for woe, He wants us never to flee from Him…And so by knowledge and grace we may see our sin, profitably, without despair…Also at the same time our courteous Lord revealed, most sweetly and most powerfully, the endlessness and the unchangeability of His love, and also His great goodness and His gracious protection of our spirit, so that the love between Him and our souls will never be parted into eternity. And so in fear I have matter for meekness, which saves me from presumption, and in the blessed revelation of love I have matter for true comfort and joy, which saves me from despair.

Reading: John 15:15

Psalm 27:4

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 34

It has been a while. I had to take a break from my journey to deal with other things going on, but here I am taking up the rest of the journey from here, and looking forward to it.

Out Lord wants us to see our wretchedness and meekly to acknowledge it; but He does not want us to remain there, or to be much occupied in self-accusation, nor does He want us to be too full of our own misery.But He wants us to quickly attend to Him, foe He stands all alone, and He waits for us continually, moaning and mourning until we come. And He hastens to bring us to Him, for we are His joy and His delight, and He is the remedy of our life…For love never allows Him to be without pity; and when we fall into sin, and neglect recollectionof Him and the protection of our own soul, then Christ bears all alone the burden of us. And so He remains, moaning and mourning. Then it is for us in reverence and kindness to turn quickly to our Lord, and not to leave Him alone.

Reading: Song of Songs 7:10

Psalm 85:8