The First Sorrow
“…that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed."
(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed." (Luke 2:35)
As I do each time I pray the Rosary, I offer this chapter (mystery) to God our Father, in union with the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. I offer it for the healing of all abused and neglected children, even from the moment of conception.( Abortion is the ultimate form of child abuse, the total rejection and physical destruction of God’s child, within his/her mother’s womb, a place that God created to nurture the life of His child.) How many children born into this world are rejected, abused, and neglected? I also offer it for the repentance, conversion, and salvation of all child abusers.
Some of you may be old enough to remember a nursery rhyme that I heard a lot when I was a child:
What are little boys made of?
What are little boys made of?
Slugs and snails
And puppy-dogs' tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
What are little girls made of?
What are little girls made of?
Sugar and spice
And everything nice,
That's what little girls are made of.
It was a nursery rhyme that fascinated me when I was a little girl, and I think I would “ponder” questions like: “Are boys really that yucky? Are girls really that sweet? I don’t think that I am.”
After more than twenty-six years of marriage, I am more certain than ever that there are big differences between little boys and little girls, probably even bigger ones between men and women—not only in their bodies, but also in their ways of thinking and feeling, and their ways of connecting with others. What I am equally certain of is that the most important thing that little boys and little girls have in common—the most important thing that we are all “made of”—is a very tender heart. After all, aren’t we all “made in the image of God?” And isn’t God love? That means that God is, in a sense, “all Heart.”
Little boys and little girls, in their innocence, are most like God’s Son, Jesus, whose Heart was pierced by the rejection, abuse, and neglect inflicted on Him by the leaders of His people, His neighbors, and even His closest disciples and friends. When Mary and Joseph presented Jesus to His Heavenly Father, it is this knowledge of the terrible wounds to His Heart and His Body that Jesus was sent by His Father to suffer, that already pierced the Sorrowful Heart of Mary. Her Heart is still being pierced at every moment by the wounds inflicted on her daughters and sons, given to her by Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross.
Both my mother and my father had been abused and neglected as children. My mother often said, with a sense of pride (I think) that she had cleaned a 6-room house when she was a child. She also had cooked for her family. Though she never complained about that, what I understand from this and other things that she said is that my mother never had a real childhood. Her mother had gotten married when she was 15 or 16(?), and though I loved my grandmother very much, reflecting now on her personality, I would say that she never fully grew up. My grandmother used to say that my mother and she were more like sisters than mother and daughter, but my impression was that, in some ways, my mother was more like her mother’s mother.
Then there was the sexual abuse that my mother suffered, which I didn’t learn about until I was in my forties, and learning about it helped me to forgive my mother for the hurt that she had caused me. The man who had always called my mother “the apple of my eye” –and I think he meant it—had used her for his sexual pleasure. Putting together things that my mother and others said, I think that the way that she coped psychologically with the abuse she had suffered was to deny that it was abuse. “That’s the way that men are,” she told me once.
My father came from a family that was ostracized in the community in which he was born and raised. My paternal great grandmother had died when my grandfather was a teenager, and my grandfather and his siblings were placed in an orphanage. Eventually one of my grandfather’s sisters became a prostitute to support her brothers and sister. My grandfather and at least two of his siblings were alcoholics. “(That family) is no good,” many members of his community said. My grandfather abandoned my father, his sister, and his mother when my father was two years old. His maternal grandmother took care of him and his sister so his mother could work. “You’re no good, just like your father,” she would tell him; and later, when my grandmother remarried, my father’s stepfather beat him unmercifully. One time he beat him until he was unconscious, and maybe he would have killed him, except that my grandmother sent for a neighbor, who came and stopped the beating. Beaten hearts struggle to love, if they struggle at all.
Recently I read an article at http://www.americancatholic.org/Newsletters entitled “Mary: Mother of God and Our Mother” by Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. This article deeply touched my heart, and I especially want to share with you an excerpt that Fr. Cameron quotes from an early book of Pope Benedict XVI (then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger) entitled Principles of Catholic Theology (pgs. 79-80):
(Alone) we cannot come to terms with ourselves. Our “I” becomes acceptable to us only if it has first become acceptable to another “I.” We can love ourselves only if we have first been loved by someone else.”
That word “alone” has painful significance for me. I think that, even within my mother’s womb, I felt alone in a way that God did not mean for a child to feel alone, because my mother was physically carrying me, but her heart was far from me. As a young child, struggling to grow more and more into the little girl that God planned for me to be, I learned that nothing about me was acceptable to my mother. I felt totally rejected by her, unloved by her, and, as a result of that rejection, I have struggled all of my life to accept and love myself. I have carried a sense of being abandoned and alone all of my life. Mary, whom I now am blessed to know in a very personal way as my Mother, has been leading me ever more deeply into Jesus’ Heart, where the pain of my loneliness is being transformed into the joy of intimacy with Him.
I had no doubt that my father loved me; he was very proud of me. But my father was emotionally and mentally ill, had never fully matured, and was unable to be the strong, gentle father that I think that every child desires.
When I grew into adolescence, our relationship became disturbed, and my heart was broken by him. I am seeking to know more and more the goodness and unconditional love of God our Father, in order to heal my broken heart.
In the next two chapters I will write in more detail about my relationships with my mother and father. It is important to me that you know that I am not sharing the wounds that my parents caused me in order to dishonor them. I am not revealing my pain in order to blame or condemn them. I believe that I have fully forgiven them. I believe that my sins have been greater than theirs. I see that the wounds that they suffered as a child made them unable to love as fully and purely as they probably wanted to love; as I see that the wounds of my childhood profoundly affected the adult that I became. None of what I say is a denial of sin, but only God can judge us. We cannot even judge ourselves, a truth that my former spiritual director reminded me of over and over.
And he said, "Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD." And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And when Eli'jah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.
(I Kings 19:11-13)
When the winds of rejection and abuse; the earthquakes of so many traumas; and the fire of so much anger…were past, I was left “standing at the entrance of the cave of my heart,” listening and hearing the “still, small voice” of God.
My hope and prayer is that, by openly and honestly revealing the thoughts of my heart, “…that thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed…” to themselves. It is my hope and prayer that, by seeing and better understanding their own hearts, both those who have been abused and those who have abused (often one and the same person) will receive reconciliation and healing. My greatest hope is that they will receive the salvation that comes only from Jesus. Please pray with me, little handmaids, my sisters, for that gift for all of our brothers and sisters.
“Most Merciful Mother, remind us always of the sorrows of your Son, Jesus.”
(from the Kibeho Seven Sorrows Rosary)
God bless you, beloved little handmaids and friends!
Mary's daughter, Cami