Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

The Glorious Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Life has been better lately:

I’ve finally dealt successfully with a particularly nagging sin in my life.

My wife suddenly started sleeping in our bed again (that’s in, not with by the way).

I have a good chance of getting a better-paying job in the near future that would finally free my kids from the reduced-price lunch program at school.

So, driving home from work last week, I was pleased to know that it was the day for the glorious mysteries of the rosary.

Out of all four of my “rosary reports,” this is the only one where I was actually in a good mood beforehand. Below are my thoughts while praying the glorious mysteries last week.

 

1. The Resurrection – Fruit of the Spirit: Faith

The resurrection. Who wouldn’t be joyful after being reminded that Christ overcame death and is now reigning in glory? That would fire someone up right away. Jesus didn’t just conquer His fears and the painful agony of the cross. He conquered death. Satan has already lost!

If you’re still feeling down, don’t worry. Just ask God for an increase in faith. I do this all the time. Some days I can barely get out of bed due to my depression. All I have is my mustard seed of faith that God will help me; all I need to do is ask.

 

2. The Ascension – Fruit of the Spirit: Hope

After all that time with His apostles, Christ ascended into heaven to be with the Father. Just like the apostles, we have that special hope to be with the Lord after finishing our earthly lives.

It’s easy to have hope and to be happy when times are good. Right now this describes me. However, as little as a year ago, that depressed me. Why? Because I had the mindset of “what goes up must come down.” My hope was crushed because of my own lack of faith. These days, I rejoice when times are good. I feel that my walk with God has matured to the point where I don’t worry about tomorrow, “for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

 

3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Fruit of the Spirit: Love of God

Just like Jesus said, the Holy Spirit came to rest on the apostles and Mary. They were waiting in anticipation, and Jesus stayed true to His word as always.

God is love, and he is always reliable. I had the hardest time accepting this truth because my dad was the complete opposite. So many people, as I did, picture God as they do their earthly father because, well, that’s all we know. But God doesn’t belittle us or wait for us to mess up so that He can punish us.

If you’re having a hard time accepting the fact that God is love — love in its purest form — then ask Him to help you. You’ll be amazed when He grants you the faith to accept and believe in His true nature.

 

4. The Assumption of Mary – Fruit of the Spirit: Grace of a Happy Death

The next two mysteries don’t go over very well with Protestants. No, the Bible doesn’t mention the Assumption or the Coronation of Mary. But where in the Bible does it say that everything we believe has to come from the Bible?

Anyway, this doesn’t mean that Mary ascended into heaven by her own power as Christ did. As Elijah and Enoch in the Old Testament, it was God who made it happen.

I used to fear death. In college, I flew a Cessna 172 on weekends, but I quit after about a year because my fear of dying overtook my passion for flying. It definitely wouldn’t have been a “happy death.”

What is a happy death? I believe it’s when we’re old and full of years, having lived a fulfilled, selfless life with our loved ones around us, with the hope that we will soon be with the Lord. That’s the only kind of death that I want for my family.

 

5. The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven – Fruit of the Spirit: Trust in Mary’s Intercession

I consider going to heaven a fringe benefit of being a Christian. Some people are too focused on it, but, honestly, it’s usually not even on my mind. I guess it’s because God has blessed me with a wonderful life right now. I’m not perfect. The world isn’t perfect. But life is good.

This mystery reminds me that I, like Mary, will receive a crown when I (prayerfully) get to heaven. What a glorious day that will be! In the bestseller Heaven is for Real, a non-Catholic book, someone asked Colton Burpo if he saw Mary in heaven, and if so, what she was doing. He responded and said that Mary was next to Jesus and never left His side. Just like a queen mother in the Old Testament. I found that inspiring even before I was Catholic.

Mary is praying for us, just like my good Christian grandparents who are in heaven. Recently I asked a friend to pray for my mental health. I trust that her intercession was effective. How much more effective and trustworthy would the intercession of “the mother of [the] Lord” (Luke 1:43) be?

 

Unrelated Thought

With Thanksgiving coming up, everyone will soon be focused on food what they’re thankful for. However, take some time out every day to count your blessings. You’ll feel a lot better.

I wish you, dear reader, a wonderful day.

~t

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Helping Students Beyond the Classroom: A Lady Named Colleen

I’m a college teacher, but sometimes I’m also a counselor for my students. During my office hours, it’s not uncommon for students to come and see me about problems in their personal lives. I am more than happy to give advice or, in most cases, just lend an ear. I trust that the Holy Spirit guides me and gives me the wisdom to help these individuals.

Yesterday morning, as I arrived at my office, one of my students was sitting against the door and crying. She is one of my best students, so I had a feeling it wasn’t grade-related. As she began telling me what was going on, I suddenly felt unqualified. “Are you sure you don’t want to meet with a counselor? The office is just down the hall, and it’s free for students.”

Her answer: “I can’t open up with just anyone. God has led me to you.”

The student, who I will refer to as Colleen, is in a marriage that is quickly spiraling downward. It’s complicated, but the gist is that her husband verbally and physically abuses her, won’t let her drive, and demands that she hand over all of her salary from her part-time food service job.

Colleen is from a country in West Africa, and her husband is American. He has arranged a court date for them to sign divorce papers.

Trusting in the Holy Spirit — since I didn’t get the memo that God was sending Colleen my way — I listened to her and clarified some things. Not really knowing what to say, I referred Colleen to some apartments near campus that were affordable. I’m friends with the coordinator of career services at the college, so I told Colleen where to find the office and to tell them that I sent her.

Lastly, I shared Romans 8: 28 with her: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” There is a reason for everything, I told Colleen. She told me that she believed and trusted that God would work everything out for her. I was humbled by her faith.

When we finished talking, Colleen felt so much better. Tomorrow she is going to court with her husband. When she walks out afterward, she will suddenly be alone in a strange new country with no home, no family, and not quite enough money to make ends meet.

“Thank you for everything!” she told me as she stood up to leave. “You have really helped me.”

“But I really didn’t do much.”

“Oh, you did. You really did.”

Luckily, Colleen will be in my class until the semester ends in December. After that, though, I may not see her again.

Please keep Colleen in your prayers.

~t

(photo by Topaz)


Communicating with God

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last week was very challenging. On Wednesday, I got into some sin that affected the remainder of my week.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain sins that, when I let my guard down and give in to, plunge me into the pit of despair. Unable to claw my way out, I start sinking deeper within the cold, muddy pit.

I know that God forgives me; I ask his forgiveness and (try to) repent. However, I find myself returning again and again to that filthy pit.

This is why I love the sacrament of reconciliation (commonly referred to as confession). With the power given to the priest by Christ (“Whatever you bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 18:18]), it’s as if I’m confessing my sins directly to Jesus who is sitting near me. What a powerful, electrifying experience to actually hear the words of forgiveness.

This past Saturday, I went to confession at my parish. I prayed fervently beforehand that the Holy Spirit would help me to pray the Act of Contrition from my heart, and that the Holy Spirit would fill me.

There is nothing like praying inside the church: various individuals kneeling reverently before the life-sized crucifix and the tabernacle beside it that holds the Holy Eucharist, the true body and blood of Christ present before us.

After exiting the reconciliation room (“the confessional”), I always locate a pew in front of the altar, kneel, and immediately bow my head, reflect on my sin, and recite the prayers of penance.

However, instead of bowing my head, I knelt with my hands clasped in front of me, and my eyes were instantly transfixed on the body of Christ that hung on the cross. What’s going on? I was unable to move. It was one of those moments when The Lord speaks before I do.

At that moment, my mind was profoundly connected to God’s, and our conversation began:

Lord, since Wednesday, I…

Forget it. It’s in the past now.

Dear God, thank you for forgiving me…

You’re already forgiven. It’s time to move on.

The dialogue was over, but God wasn’t quite finished.

As I continued to gaze upon the crucifix, I had a vision of two long paths running parallel and almost touching. The left path was my life: I saw myself going through life working, spending time with family, and so forth. On the right path, rays of light that resembled water continually shone down the path and out of sight. I saw myself occasionally taking a step onto the right path, the rays of light/water washing over me like a horizontal shower. After a brief moment, I would step back onto the left path and continue my daily life.

The right path was God’s forgiveness. The Lord was showing me that Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago, and His saving grace always exists and is close by; all I must do is take the step, wash myself in it, and carry on.

At last I felt that God was finished communicating with me, and it was time for my penance. I prayed one “Our Father” and ten “Hail Marys.” These aren’t just rote actions that we go through because the priest says we have to; the prayers help us to get our focus on God. The prayers came alive like never before, each word imprinted on my soul.

I have listed the two prayers here:

Our Father, Who art in heaven,

hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace,The Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou among women,

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners now

and at the hour of our death. Amen.

~t


The Joyful Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

I started yesterday with some good prayer, and the night before, I studied some uplifting passages in the Scriptures. However, it was a typical Monday for me once I got to work: I was unable to fully wake up, and my students gave me an especially hard time because I handed back the final drafts of their essays which never seems to go well.

I tell you, college students will argue ’til the cows come home in order to get me or my colleagues to reconsider their grades (I usually don’t).

In typical fashion, my focus was no longer on God but on my workday and on everything that needed to be done. By the time I got to my car in the evening, I was feeling pretty guilty about pushing Jesus aside the whole day. It really pained my heart. I needed to get my focus back and put the day’s events (and failures) behind me.

I have iRosary which is an app for my iPhone. I used to use it in order to learn the structure of the rosary and the prayers. Now, however, I seem to use it only to find out what the mysteries are for a certain day.

So I was instantly comforted to know that yesterday was the day for the Joyful Mysteries. God always knows what I need!

I have written some thoughts that I had during my praying of the rosary yesterday. I hope you are able to find some encouragement from them.

1. The Annunciation – Fruit of the Spirit: Humility

The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord may not be sending angels to let you know that change is coming, but He works in ways which we may not realize.

Because of His grace, God enabled me to reach out to Him in distress; he answered me by moving within my heart and assuring me that He blesses a humble spirit. God doesn’t want many eloquent words; He works best with a humble and contrite spirit.

You don’t have to be a canonized saint or the Mother of God for Him to speak to you. Just start with prayer and ask Him to help you and show you the way to His Son.

2. The Visitation – Fruit of the Spirit: Love of Neighbor

Gabriel visited Mary, and then Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John, the one who would baptize Jesus at the beginning of His ministry.

It’s been said that Mary was the first missionary, bringing Jesus to her cousin. The Scriptures say that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped with joy when Mary greeted her.

The fruit of the Spirit, love of neighbor, spoke to me the most regarding this mystery. I had just finished a stressful day with students and colleagues, and praying for and loving them were the furthest from my mind; another example of how God urges us and helps us!

3. The Birth of Jesus – Fruit of the Spirit: Poverty

Everyone knows about the nativity; we see it every December. As a result, when I pray this mystery, I try to meditate on something that isn’t ingrained in me like images of warm-and-fuzzy manger scenes on Christmas cards.

I once heard an Evangelical preacher on the radio say that he wanted to design a Christmas card image that reflected his own perspective on the nativity: a disturbing image of Mary on the ground drenched in blood, screaming in agony while giving birth.

The purpose of the preacher’s controversial idea, which may or may not have come to fruition, was to “tell it like it was” and shake people up. Although I’d rather not go to that extreme, I focused on poverty while meditating on this mystery and how God loved me so much that He allowed His Son to be born into a poor family. That little baby in a Bethlehem stable would definitely shake people up one day.

4. The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple – Fruit of the Spirit: Obedience

This particular mystery was a breath of fresh air for me yesterday. Our Heavenly Father wants our obedience because that is the only way He can help us. When we surrender to God and His will, we are like baby Jesus in the arms of Simeon, receiving a blessing in the Lord’s very own temple. It is quite an amazing image that  brought tears to my eyes.

You may feel that you are worthless and that nobody loves you. Maybe you’ve been told this so many times that you have started to believe it. Take another look at the image above and see how proud Mary, Joseph, and Simeon the priest are. God and all of the angels and saints in heaven are just as proud of you.

Do some studying and find out about God’s image of you. He created you, so believe Him instead of mean-spirited people in your life.

5. The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple – Fruit of the Spirit: Joy in Finding Jesus

Joseph and Mary had been looking for their Son who they thought was in their group as they made their way back home. After three days of searching, His parents were filled with joy when they found Him.

As a parent, I can imagine their joy and relief. Like any good mother, though, the first thing that Mary did was to admonish her Son for not keeping up with them.

Despite what the fruit of the Spirit says, I saw this in the opposite way: I was lingering behind, doing my own thing, and my spiritual family, The Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ, and all the saints in heaven, celebrated and embraced me when I rejoined them.

Final Thoughts

God is nothing like my earthly father: staring at me with a critical eye, waiting for me to mess up so he can hit and berate me. Glory be to Christ that I have a loving Father who longs for me to wallow out of my sin and come back each time I mess up.

As I smiled and praised God for turning my sadness to joy yesterday, I thought of all the individuals in the world who have been hurt by religion or who don’t know the joy and love of the faith. I pray that others can find that bright pearl of Christ in their own lives.

~t


The Sorrowful Mysteries

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Monday was the first day of classes at my college. The first week is usually chaotic as I try to get on top of my classes, serve on committees, get late students into correct classes, and so on. By the end of the day yesterday evening (only the second day!), I was exhausted, stressed, and reeling from sin and temptation.

Even though the fall semester has started, it’s still hot as blazes here in Texas, so a lot of students are still wearing as little as possible. Needless to say, it is not uncommon for me to encounter “spiritual landmines” throughout my day: lust and temptation.

I prefer to pray the Rosary at home in a quiet place, but I decided to play the CD during my commute home. I don’t listen to the Rosary on CD very often, especially while driving, but it was one of those days. What better way to cleanse the mind and refocus on God?

The calming background music and soft voice of the narrator immediately took the focus off myself. God knew exactly what I needed because yesterday happened to be the Sorrowful Mysteries. As I prayed along with the CD, the Mysteries and fruits of the Spirit totally matched my struggles. Not only did God put the idea on my heart to pray the Rosary, He also, in His glory, matched me up with exactly what I needed to hear and pray about.

I have listed each Sorrowful Mystery below, along with my thoughts and practical applications that I gleaned from my meditation.

Agony-in-the-Garden

1. The Agony in the Garden – Fruit of the Spirit: Sorrow for Sin

Three words stood out to me on this one: agony, sorrow, and sin. As I mentioned, it was a day filled with temptation (which day isn’t?), so I was feeling really guilty and sorry for letting my mind dwell on forbidden thoughts throughout the day. Even before I started the CD, I was already asking God to forgive me for not avoiding everything that led me to sin.

Plus, the image of Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane puts everything into perspective: I’m the sinner, so I should have been the one crying out to God to “take this cup away from me.” (Luke 22:42) Instead, out of His love for me, Christ took my place.

scourging

2. The Scourging at the Pillar – Fruit of the Spirit: Purity

There’s that word, purity. The Lord was speaking directly to me. That’s God: He always knows what we need and when we need it.

While I was letting my thoughts run loose, at one point Christ was being beaten within an inch of His life. He is the essence of purity yet was treated as a common criminal for my sake. Remember, He is God in the flesh, and He stooped down to this level for me.

That’s love. Not the warm-and-fuzzy sort of love that comes with infatuation; rather, it’s the self-sacrificing kind that a mother has for her child. I know that my mother would give her life for me, just as I would for my children.

St-Takla-org--Jesus-Crown-of-Thorns-07

3. The Crowning of Thorns – Fruit of the Spirit: Courage

Of course, when the word courage was mentioned during the introduction of this Mystery, I said a special “thank you” prayer to God. He was allowing me to see the progression I was to take: be sorry for my sins, vow to be pure, and now He was showing me that I must have courage to “fight the good fight.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

Let me tell you, when you give your whole self over to God, he will rock your world. And it’s scary. On one hand, you know that God is with you — you can just feel it. And it feels awesome! However, it pushes you out of your comfort zone, and you will periodically have doubts. For me, those doubts are crippling to me because I’m now doing something totally out of character like leading a men’s purity group or helping struggling Christians regain their faith.

He-Carried-That-Cross-For-Us

4. The Carrying of the Cross – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

Okay, so you’re feeling pretty fired up and are living out your faith. That’s wonderful. Now another hurdle is in your path: patience. Just as Jesus endured the long, arduous walk to the place where He was crucified, we must also carry our own crosses (Luke 14:27). There will be times that you stumble and drop your burdensome cross due to its enormous weight; those times call for patience, a fruit of the Spirit.

Actually, even when things are going well for me, just one unanswered prayer can sink my mood and discourage me like crazy. I need to remember that God has His own plan, and it’s usually different from mine!

There may have been a time when Jesus merely wanted everything to be finished. Imagine going through a hyped-up trial, a severe beating and torture, and then, half dead already, having to carry an instrument of your own execution for what seems like miles and miles.

crucifixion

5. The Crucifixion – Fruit of the Spirit: Perseverance

Being a Christian isn’t a part-time job or hobby. It’s a lifetime commitment. So it’s not by accident that the last fruit of the Spirit of these Mysteries happens to be perseverance. God never said it would be an easy life. In fact, the Bible says to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

We must persevere and not give up because the cycle will repeat itself: commit sin, resolve to be pure, find courage, exercise patience, and not give up. Persevere because we will fall again. When (not if) that happens, we must get back up and keep trying our best.

I always thought that crucifixion was an immediate death, but it’s not. The Romans perfected this method of execution to prolong the suffering of the victim as long as possible. When criminals were crucified in the first century, they most likely died from asphyxiation after hours or even days of excruciating pain on the cross. (Actually, the word excruciating is derived from crucifixion).

Conclusion

I am so thankful to God for teaching me this lesson as I calmly fought rush-hour traffic on my way home yesterday. Just typing this out helps me to recall and meditate once more upon these Sorrowful Mysteries.

I pray that The Lord will inspire me to write reflections on the other Mysteries of the Rosary as well: the Joyful, the Luminous, and the Glorious. I’m in no hurry, though, because I will wait on God to inspire me. In the meantime, I’ll be putting into practice the five fruits of the Spirit from this post.

~t


This Isn’t the Way

The computer screen became blurry as my mind began to shut down.  I could barely keep my head from falling onto my folded arms in front of my keyboard.  I had just finished cutting and pasting an old piece of flash fiction to my blog, and it was time to call it a day.  Never mind the fact that it was only 9:30 in the morning.

Luckily I didn’t have class.  I grabbed my bag and set off across campus, stumbling like a drunk, until I reached my car.  Behind the wheel, I felt a little better.  At least I could focus on getting home instead of having to sleep off last night’s dosage of my prescription meds inside my stifling hot car.

I knew I would come home to an empty house since my sons were on summer break, and my wife always took them to the park each morning before it got too hot.  Good.  At least I can crash.  Had my wife been home, I would’ve had to explain why I was home early yet again.  It was my fault that my wife was in a constant state of worry.  I had missed so much work over the past several years that I couldn’t blame her.

I woke to the sound of kids laughing and yelling in the next room.  I stared at my alarm clock, trying to register the numbers and which ones the hands were pointing to.  1:30.  Wow.  I had been out for nearly three hours.

As I lay there looking at the ceiling, my mind became clearer.  I turned my head to the left so that I could see the miniature wooden crucifix, all alone on the vast white wall.  “Help me, Lord…”  As usual, my prayer tapered off soon after it began.

For me, prayer sometimes means merely gazing at the crucifix, connecting my soul to God in the most primal way.  It’s funny because that’s usually when He answers me in the clearest voice.  Like just then.

Seek first my kingdom and my righteousness, and everything else will be given to you.

It clicked.

I jumped out of bed, grabbed my iPad, and quickly began to delete the flash fiction piece that I had posted.  Dude, what are you doing?!  This is what people want to read.  This is how to get more followers and comments!

Smiling at these thoughts, and finally able to see through the smoke screen, I finished my task.  I felt relieved.  The same sort of relief after I got rid of all my social media accounts.

It wasn’t the way.

I wasn’t on WordPress, paying for my own domain name, to seek out and capture more followers than other blogs.  I mean, it would be nice to have lots of people read my stuff and like it, but that wasn’t the point.

God had decided that my blog was to be a tool for Him to reach those who needed help, Christian and non-Christian alike.  Who was I to post depressing flash fiction stories with morbid endings that would hopefully appeal to the masses?  For one, that kind of negativity would end up making me worse; and second, where would God be in all of it?

Before I started blogging, I asked God to keep me from straying off the path.  I had a divine mission statement so to speak, and I knew that I could easily get sidetracked.

I lay back down, setting my iPad next to me.  Intending to rest and perhaps fall back asleep, I closed my eyes.  Instantly they opened and I gazed at the crucifix again.

The Lord still had more to tell me.

The word choice entered my mind like a bolt of lightning.

Choice.

That was it:  I wasn’t making the right choices during the course of my daily life.  There I was, moping around in bed in the middle of the week when I should have been at work.  Why was I there?  Because last night, I make the choice to take the full dosage of my medication knowing that it could affect me the following day.  And why was I taking medication in the first place?  Because of my mental illness.  Okay, but could I have made better choices to perhaps be in a situation where I didn’t have to rely so much on meds?

Yeah, I guess so…

It was all falling into place.  I get scared when the Holy Spirit grants me enlightenment because it’s like being assigned by the dean to spearhead  a committee:  I am handed a responsibility, and there is no backing out.  If I decide not to do it or do it half-heartedly, then it’s all on me; I have no one to blame but myself.

But being called higher by God is such a wonderful thing.  Like growing pains, it can be rough, but it’s natural.  Why wouldn’t I want to be called higher?

Psalm 19:8 says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart.”  I know from my experience that I am happiest when I am close to God.  For me, giving up things like extreme metal music was hard at first, but then I realized that it was hindering me in my relationship with God.

I’m not saying that everyone in the world needs to give up extreme metal or that you will get struck down by lightning if you listen to it.  Since I was already on shaky ground, I felt that I had to give it up, and it was the right thing to do.

Anyway, I am very grateful for those of you who are reading my blog posts and following me.  That is why we blog in the first place.  But I may begin to alienate some of you as I “toe the line” and get back to the original purpose of this blog.

When I started, I told myself that if only one person followed my blog and was impacted by it, then it would all be worth it.  The trick is for me to keep that mindset.

~topaz


St. Jude, Pray for Me

“It’s 10:00. Time to get off the computer,” my wife calls to me as she heads to the spare bedroom. It’s become her own bedroom recently. Not because we’ve been fighting. Actually, I’m not really sure why.

Ayako comes from a land far across the sea. It’s a land where I used to live. Seven years of my life, to be exact. One reason we moved back to the States after our two sons were born in Japan was because I was slowly going insane. I couldn’t handle life in such a tiny, crowded land anymore. I was fed up with everyone gawking at me like a caged zoo animal. Japan didn’t make me crazy, though. I already was.

“Yes, dear,” I reply, the sarcasm dripping from my lips like the cheap, sugary syrup we buy at Walmart. Asako knows that I can’t sleep at night, that I have nightmares; nightmares that cause me to awaken in the middle of the night, body and hair drenched in sweat, screaming in terror at the demons inside my mind. That’s one of the reasons she took over the spare bedroom and made it into her own little studio apartment.

I slam the magnetic cover of the iPad and toss it down beside me on the sofa. Well, now I have no excuse not to spend time with God before bed. That’s what I wanted, right? I barely succeed in convincing myself.

I grab my Bible and a small stack of holy cards, all of which were blessed by my parish priest, and head to my private chapel. It’s not as elegant as it sounds. It’s actually my, our, walk-in closet. I keep my plastic bottle of holy water on the top shelf, out of sight of my wife, and my gorgeous redwood crucifix with the silver corpus hangs above the doorway.

Ayako doesn’t mind. In fact, I always let her know that I’m going in to pray (meditate, as I call it) so that she knows not to bother me. Even though she’s lived in the U.S. for five years now, Ayako can’t quite grasp the concept of spontaneous prayer. I use meditate because she can at least use it as a reference point to her Buddhist upbringing.

I close the closet/chapel door and fall to my knees. Looking up at the crucifix, I quickly turn away, not worthy to gaze at the sterling silver body of Christ.

I’m such a failure. I’m such a screw-up.

I don’t attempt to utter anything to God. This is a time that I need the Holy Spirit to commune with my soul. In complete silence, I gaze down at the tan carpet, St. Jude staring at me from the pile of holy cards. He is the one I want, need, to talk to. Yes, Jesus can help me instead, but I feel a closeness to certain saints, especially Jude, the patron saint of hopeless cases.

Like me.

Eventually, as my legs become numb after sitting in Japanese seiza position for too long, I stretch out my legs and recite the prayer on the back of the card to St. Jude. I speak each word carefully, each syllable coming from deep within the well of my soul.

I had given up black metal and death metal the day before. My Internet cyber-buddies and our metal club were still around, but I was long gone, a cyber-ghost in the virtual clubhouse of my former Order. Music by bands such as Watain, Djevel, Cannibal Corpse, and Serial Butcher was still pounding through my buddies’ elaborate computer speakers. I didn’t hear any of it, though. The Holy Spirit was the only thing coursing through my mind and soul at the moment.

You did it.

I gave up Satanic music. No, I’m not talking about the Rolling Stones or Metallica; if you Google “satanic black metal bands,” you’ll see that I’m not just another religious right-wing nutjob. There really is Satanic music out there. And it appeals especially to lone introverts. Like me.

Satan didn’t unleash the wolves of Hell after me; he is much too sly for that. Instead, Satan gouged a hole in my heart, one reserved for loved ones who pass away too quickly or for sweethearts who leave too suddenly.

I never even met these people, I try to tell myself. In time I’ll get over it. That’s what Ayako tells me, too.

Feeling a little better, I look up the list of Apostles in the New Testament to see St. Jude’s name. It gives me comfort.

I go to the kitchen and pop two Xanax. I’m sure that the demons will visit me at some point tonight. The Xanax will help.

But Satan is smart: He will send the demons in the early hours of the morning, after the Xanax wears off.

~topaz