9 – Bird of Wing Ensnared

IT IS late evening.

 The dusk sky filled with multi-coloured clouds.

There is a stillness about the neighbourhood as night approaches.

Families settle for the evening this mid-work week.

The constant rumble of trucks in and out of the cereal factory, in and out of the hospital next to the church, the late day freight rumbling across the canal bridge, all have come and gone.

Divine Office complete, save for Night Prayer, Holy Mass celebrated this feast of the Patron of Parish Priests, St. Jean-Marie Vianney.

It seems a long, long way from the summer evenings of my growing up, when the streets were a place to prowl, to hustle.

At that time of my life the unfolding of night was often more welcomed than the opening of the day.

Every once in a while I will see some boy, or girl,[ these days more and more girls seem to wander the streets than ever before], wandering alone with that same sad-searching expression I know I had at that age.

 I will immediately pray they be spared what I both endured and forced upon myself.

By the mid-fifties as I entered adolescence the inner loneliness, the split within myself, the false self, the being bent towards myself, had pretty well taken hold, sunk deep roots within me.I really had no way of understanding what was happening.I was seeking, at times more unconsciously than not, some-thing, some-one.Obviously I was totally ignorant of the simple reality the some-one I was hungering for could never be replaced by any mere ‘one’ – for my heart, every heart, aches for the One who patiently awaits us!If I did experience any sense, or awareness, of what it – who – was missing, being sought, fear would envelop me – fear of rejection, abandonment, betrayal, and I would quickly deny the insight with the lie that I needed no-thing, no one.I began to look at peers with one of two attitudes: sometimes as sources of danger because they were smarter, tougher, could determine how others would react to me, or  as a source of attention, affirmation, and that most addictive substitute for true acceptance and love, immediate sexual gratification.What would begin with hungering eyes would end in night time aloneness darkness.The increasing darkness pervading my mind, heart, soul would lead to more frequent experiments with danger – such as train-jumping where you’d run beside a slow freight and jump onto a flatcar for a free ride;  petty break-ins, shoplifting -or with solitude, as I spent hours alone sitting on rocks at harbour’s edge, pursuits.Experiments led to addiction.Addiction led to guilt.Guilt became shame.Shame became estrangement from self, family, others, God.Affirmation became obsession.It’s sought after fulfillment turning into a source of anxiety.Danger seemed to mute the terror.This nonetheless became addictive.Satisfying less.Demanding more experimentation.Experiments led to addiction.Addiction led to guilt which led to………The cycle became my life. My life became so terribly dark and sad.Yet by some incomprehensible grace I did not, in those years, either lose nor reject faith, thus hope. I still trusted that when I went to confession, no matter how terrible the sin, I was forgiven and granted the reality of beginning in Him anew, again.Holy Mass, especially Holy Communion, was like this tremendous oasis of joy.There was no safe middle ground in my life in those days.It was all extremes, of studiousness and failing grades; of piety and tireless pursuit of sin; solitude and a desperate need to fit in; belief in the sacramental realities and the conviction there was no one to care for me but myself.Here the question could well be posed: what about my parents, my family, could no one see what was happening?      Suffice to say here that from time to time my parents tried to find out but I was extremely    adept at verbal defences and reassurances, keeping my life outside the home hidden from life within.The Navy had my father. Had him away from home so much that in fourteen years he had been there for only one of my birthdays and that when I was a toddler. My mother had my four younger sisters and two younger brothers, and her own ailing father to care for as well. Her health and her own needs were such that there was nothing extra to give. In those days there were not the types of social services or experts in the school system as there are nowadays. 

NIGHT has fallen.

I am tired.

 I am also a little surprised at how draining it is to write about all of this.

What was I thinking when I began this and it seemed to flow so easily!?

Still, I am writing under obedience.

 This is one of the books my Spiritual Father has said to write during the sabbatical.

 I know if You will that it ever be read then right in this moment You have a special grace for the one reading, so by Your grace, tomorrow, I shall continue.


EARLY THIS morning I awoke with this chapter on my mind and was moved to bring the whole matter to prayer.

Preparing for the day, while at prayer, I was struck by the beauty of the opening morning, the golden hues of the sky, the freshness of air coming through the open windows.

My heart was struck by the immense mystery of Divine Mercy and the gift of a new day.

Life is so incredibly precious, such a free gift, for we do not, cannot, either create ourselves or sustain our own lives by our own devices.

True, we can affect the way we live. We can terminate the material existence of another, even of the self.

By sin we can enter death refusing His Mercy and condemn ourselves to an eternity separated from the Beauty of His Face.

Just as He freely in love creates us so He freely in love never takes back the immortal life-gift once granted.

My heart then understood part of the struggle in writing this is because there is one who does not want to be exposed through this, one who does not want his vile attempts at the destruction of souls made known and therefore a mistake I have made in this work has been to forget in my prayer before writing to also pray for protection from that one, the evil one, the father of lies, the prince of darkness, the devil: satan.

Now as an adult believer I know the fact of the battle in heaven between the Angels of Light and the dark spirits [ Rev.12:7-9 ] and how time and again spiritual warfare is shown occurring now on earth [ Dn. 11:1,2 ], always with the assurance the Angels are with us [ Jude 9 ] and in Her last prayer of the day, the ancient Office of Compline/Night Prayer, the Church repeats the cautionary words of St. Peter about the one who prowls to devour [ 1Pet.5:8,9 ] –  we must remember it is part of every human life, this struggle between light and dark, as Jesus cautions more than once [ Mt. 10:28 &  Jn.8:44 ], this same Jesus who alone is Truth and so alone can expose and destroy the dark works, and overcome the dark one [ 1Jn.3:8 ].


The power of satan is, nonetheless, not infinite. He is only a creature, powerful from the fact that he is pure spirit, but still a creature. He cannot prevent the building up of God’s reign. Although satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and His kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries — of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature — to each man and to society, the action is permitted by Divine Providence which with strength and gentleness guides human and cosmic history. It is a great mystery that Providence should permit diabolical activity, but ‘ we know that in everything God works for good for those who love Him.’ [q]



It is late afternoon now.

The Pastor has gone on his day off, the staff have left for the day.

 The Assistant has gone with the Youth Group representatives for a youth conference where thousands of Catholic Youth are gathering from all over the continent.

I have spent time before You Present in the Blessed Sacrament and have come to understand that along with my own neurosis, which weakened my perception and acceptance of reality, along with the family problems, unknown to me at the time because, while on occasion I did sense or at least suspect so ( but being so young was in such matters without experience ), satan was at work within all that was happening to and within me.

Now when I return to those notes from years ago when I first began this work, the reflections make sense and I begin to see that ultimately You were present to me all along and never allowed me to be completely lost and for that I am grateful beyond adequate expression and I know and trust You grant that same love and mercy to those who read this, to any who will ask.

WHAT I AM trying to express is coming out of my heart very carefully.The focus must not be upon me, nor what I have done.It must be on CHRIST AND WHAT HE HAS LAVISHED, MERCY.THIS IS WHAT HE IS OFFERING YOU!I have come, finally, in my life to grow in trust of the fact that within Sacred Scripture is revealed the Beautiful Face of God, the Living Icon of the Father, JESUS!From His radiant eyes, gazing upon and into each human heart with love for us, pours forth the Fire of Love of the Father, the Holy Spirit, of Jesus Himself, and this love is ALL MERCIFUL.To gaze into the eyes of Christ, Divine Mercy, is to contemplate the Holy Trinity.Part of the grace of this struggle to write is the gift of coming to understand and be grateful for the reality of grace that, even as I entered more and more deeply into a split from myself and entered a life of darkness and grief, turning from the One True God — who does not devour us but feeds us with His Very Self — to idols which consumed me, God my Father, God my Redeemer, God my Sanctifier, God the Holy Trinity, did not abandon me.Not even when I felt that He had.The last years of childhood and the first years of adolescence were the first time in my life when I frequently, though not completely, turned my face from Him.Closed myself off to His Voice.Exchanged the freedom of a child of God for the bondage to my false self.Open ever more to darkness I came to dislike the light. Even simple  daylight.Night was my shelter, my reliable companion.I was constantly vulnerable to evil influence.Within my neurotic fears, in my soul, I had become like the Chosen People as described by the Lord Himself through the prophet Hosea, who speaking for the Lord bemoans how the more He calls us to Himself the further away we go, forgetting all His love and tenderness[Hs.11:1-4].As will become clear it would, even though it may appear at times that I was indeed turning by grace to Him, take over forty years for me to accept the truth that He IS our Healer.Only then could I rejoice with the Psalmist that this little bird had escaped the snare {Ps.  124: 7,8}