22 May, Friday — Nothing happens outside the will of God…absolutely nothing!

May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious

Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

– Patron Saint Index

Acts 18:9-18
Jn 16:20-23

…you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy”

I was gazing out the window of an office one day. It had floor to ceiling glass windows and a view to die for. The day was bright and beautiful and daylight was exploding through the windows, making the whole office space resplendent, bright and gorgeous. Little did I realize a spectacle was unfolding before me. As I was admiring the view, I saw a large hawk chasing down a sparrow. A life-and-death aerial duel was ensuing. But what happened next was the enthralling bit. From out of nowhere, more than a dozen other sparrows suddenly joined the aerial battle. These not only provided distraction to the hawk, but I noticed a couple of them even took potshots at the hawk, doing a flanking action as it were. The concerted defense put up was sufficient to rescue the sparrow initially under attack. It was a memorable moment for me and a poignant one at that. The aerial combat was, for all intents and purposes, an act of nature. Even hawks need to eat. And picking on prey less able to defend itself was fair pickings, and well, the sensible thing to do, was it not?

So too, as we confront the realities of this world that have, overnight, become so drastically transformed. The pandemic too is an act of nature, albeit nature that has been altered and perverted by man. But this, too, is willed and permitted by God.

In the midst of this, allow me to cite a meditation by a Father Alphonse, which goes, “The Lord directs life and death; our take off and our landing; our arrival and our departure. He is the king, the Master of the Universe and of my life. He is king of the gigantic and the tiny; the insignificant and the significant; the coincidental and the planned. We are here because He wants us here now, today. We will be gone when our time has arrived – not a day longer or sooner. We have thrilling moments riding on tidal waves, we have the dead calm before a tsunami. But yet, these moments push us constantly towards preparing for the next moments of our lives. We would have studied less if we did not have exams. Tough times lead us to tough decisions we would otherwise may never have made, because we would sooner have preferred not to make those decisions.”

We are in the midst of such times. Tough decisions have been needed to be made. And whilst exams may have been suspended for some, we have all needed to learn how to deal with how drastically our lives have needed to change. The old normal has passed on, we await with bated breaths for the new normal, if ever that would come.

But if we are his disciples, His sheep, His flock, His children, then we too must continuously return to Him. When we confront all those tough situations, decisions, terrors, disappointments and discouragements, then we need to return to Him in His Spirit. We need to remember and to believe that nothing that has happened, is happening and will happen, is an accident, is an evil of triumph, an act of fate in our universal shipwreck. No… none of that. For nothing, absolutely nothing, happens outside of the Will of God. In the midst of our darkness, we are reminded, that joy, true joy — joy which cannot be taken away from us — can never be pursued. It can only be given by the creator of that joy.

In my parish, beneath a statue of St Anne with the little child Mary beside her, there is a flower bed with its own small concrete flower trough. When you look at the trough, it looks pretty dismal and forlorn. Overwhelmed with weeds, muddied, with a small ant hill at a corner, I have often thought to myself, “Why don’t they just clear this flower bed, it’s such an eyesore”. That is until one day, when I saw, pushing through all the weeds and mud and ants, a dozen of the most amazingly beautiful, pink, yellow and purple flowers I’ve ever seen. There is life yet… abundant life. Life made possible, sustained and allowed to flourish. But it too has its seasons of fallow and of bloom; but, in its appointed time and according to God’s appointed plan.

In the midst of all that is happening (or not happening), we will easily forget that God is still with us. He is still alive and kicking, He is still master of all creation and He is still very much calling the shots. He is with us and with us always. He will see us through. He will see the whole world through. He promised.

We will hold Him to that promise.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)

Prayer: Father, help us. Life is such a hard struggle right now. And all around us, despair and discouragement abound. We try not to be afraid or to lose faith in you, but we are. Help us, the light is slowly dying.

Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for giving us Your Spirit that leads us back to You, and which helps us never to forget that you are still in charge and that in You, all will be well. Help us cling on to you and Your Blessed Mother, above all else.

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