“Lord, show us the Father…”
I think that You’ve communicated that it’s time for me to begin writing the next chapter of my book…What do You want me to express in that chapter, Father? He answers: “Your love for Me.”
As usual, when I think of my love for our Heavenly Father, I think first of His love for me, and the first Scripture that comes to mind is Is. 49:15:
"Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget,yet I will not forget you.”
The first time I read that Scripture, I didn’t experience love—neither God’s love for me, nor my love for Him. I’m not sure that I had much love for God at that time. I had more fear about what He would do to punish me, because I had just come to the realization that I had had no compassion on the children of my womb—my first four children, whom I had aborted.
However, after just a couple months of pastoral counseling with a Dominican sister, I began to profoundly experience God’s love—God who wills not to punish me or condemn me; but to forgive me, to heal me, to tenderly hold me and comfort me. I began to realize that God not only had never forgotten the babies that I had aborted. He also had never forgotten me; had never condemned me; had never abandoned me—even while I was committing the most grievous sins. I was in that counseling because He had tenderly called me there.
Recently I started praying the Our Father in a contemplative manner, and to journal with it—seeking a closer relationship with my Heavenly Father.
Sometimes when I pray those two simple, beautiful words, I feel my spirit drawn upward, and I often remember my experience of the Father in Medjugorje.
On my first day in Medjugorje, after the evening Mass there was a healing service, as usual, and I thought, “That’s what I need, healing,” and I walked up to the front pew, which had plenty of space, because most of the people had left after the Mass. But the Holy Spirit had somewhat different plans for me—a more powerful means of healing.
I was sitting close to the side door, and through it I could see a couple of the confessionals that were in a line outside. Suddenly I got a strong feeling that I should go to confession, and I went outside and stood in one of the lines. “No,” I said to myself, “I need to go to the healing service; healing is what I need.” And I walked back into St. James Church and sat down in the front pew again. But in less than a minute I felt compelled to get up and go back to the confessional line. That happened a couple times, until finally I surrendered.
When I got into the confessional with the priest, I told him, “I was Catholic as a child, but I left the Catholic Church as a teenager. The Holy Spirit wants me to go to confession, but He doesn’t want me to become Catholic again. (Ha! Ha!) The priest simply invited me to make my confession. I didn’t think about it at all. I hadn’t done any examination of conscience. I simply confessed what came out, what was heaviest on my heart and soul. (The Holy Spirit was obviously in charge of the whole thing.) I confessed to being sexually promiscuous for many years and to having had four abortions as a young woman. I cried a little, though I wasn’t even clear at that point about why I was crying. That very wise priest told me, for my penance, to continue to be led by the Holy Spirit. When I walked out of that confessional, my heart felt lighter.
After that confession, for the next three days (the time I had left in Medjugorje), whenever I went to Mass, I would feel the Father drawing me towards the altar. What I felt was the Father’s love drawing me to Himself, with such power, it felt like a giant, powerful magnet that I couldn’t resist, drawing me towards the altar. All of the Masses were standing room only, so I would just gently make my way through the crowd from the back of the Church towards the altar. I never made it to the front, but it was my whole focus throughout the Mass. How did I know it was the Father? If you haven’t already experienced the Father’s Heart, one day, hopefully—if not on earth, in heaven—you will experience a Heart that is unmistakably the Most Loving Heart of the Father, who has been longing for you, as you have been longing for Him, your whole life.
“…while he was yet at a distance, his Father saw him and had compassion and ran…” (Luke 15:20)
I knew that the teaching of the Church is that Jesus is present in the Most Blessed Sacrament, so, why, I asked myself, was I experiencing the Presence of the Father emanating from the altar? The following Scripture occurred to me:
Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Fatherand the Father in Me?” (John 14:3-13)
“…show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” It calls to mind St. Augustine’s words: “Our heart is restless until it rests in You…”
“…who art in heaven…”
Most days I get up some time between 5:00 and 6:30 in the morning, so I can, hopefully have some quiet, uninterrupted time to spend alone with the Lord, before my husband and two daughters get up and need my attention. The earlier I get up, the more focused time I have with the Lord. Usually, at some point during that quiet time, I feel an intense desire to get closer to the Lord. Recently, I have been focusing on our Father, hoping to get to know Him better by experiencing His love for me more, by expressing my love for Him more, and by simply opening my heart to Him, hopefully with more sincerity and trust. Many times I have had an image of being a little girl climbing up on the Father’s lap, and I lay my head on His chest. This is my heart’s image of heaven.
But often, when I have that image, I will quickly feel an intense anxiety and, in the image, I will quickly get down from the Father’s lap. As much as I long to experience being the Father’s beloved little girl, I often cannot bear being that close. My heart remembers the times when, as a child and, later, an adolescent, I got physically close to men whom I trusted, and who were inviting me to be close in what I thought was a purely affectionate manner; but, several times that trust and desire for affectionate closeness was betrayed when I was touched in ways that no adult should touch a child; in ways that no one should ever be touched by a close family member, other than a husband or wife. Those men were close members of my family, neighbors, and family friends. Those men, as one counselor said, were called by God to be my protectors, but instead they were the ones from whom I needed protection. For much of my life I have felt painfully unprotected and vulnerable.
Every child, a priceless gift from God, needs and deserves to be cherished by her parents. Every child is cherished by God our Father, by our Lord Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, by the Blessed Mother, and by all of heaven. Every child is created to be cherished by her parents and others. Being cherished by a parent is a source of strength, of joy, and of self confidence. It gives us the security of love and the sense that we are lovable and worthy to be treated with dignity.
I felt cherished by my earthly father. I felt like the “apple of his eye.” I remember the sparkle in his eyes when he spoke to me. I was the child in my family who looked most like my father, with his olive complexion and hazel eyes. He took great pride in my intelligence and my excellent grades in school. He told me that I could do anything I made up my mind to do. When, at the age of thirteen, I told him that I wanted to become a nurse, he told me that I was too intelligent to become a nurse; that I should go to medical school instead.
When I was eight years old, I did not yet know in a conscious sense that I was the cherished little girl of our Heavenly Father. Yet, I believe, I had a self image of being a cherished little girl, in large part because of my father’s love. I believe that that self image of being a cherished daughter was stronger than my image of being an unloved child (caused by my mother’s rejection)—because love is stronger than rejection or any other negative emotion.
That self image of being a cherished little girl was damaged—with what felt like irreparable damage—when I was sexually abused by my grandfather. I loved my grandfather because he was my beloved father’s father, which made my father “flesh of his flesh.” So in my little-girl heart I felt that he must be good, even though he was an alcoholic and usually came to our house drunk; even though he had abandoned my father when he was only two years old and had never done anything after that to support him. Still, my father loved him unconditionally, and maybe that was the most important reason I loved my grandfather. I loved him, and I wanted to be loved by him.
He was a river boat captain, and he often came to stay at our house for a few days during his time between trips. When I was eight years old, my parents were renting what is called a shotgun house, in which there is no hallway. The house is shaped like a long rectangle, in which the door of one room leads into the next room, from the front of the house to the back. So one time, when my grandfather was staying with us and was given my older brother’s room to sleep in, I had to walk through his room in order to get to my bedroom. My parents were a couple rooms away, in the kitchen, I think.
It was the early part of the night, dark outside, and my grandfather was lying on the bed drunk, and as I was walking through that room, he quietly called to me, “Come and lay by Grandpa.” I had no knowledge of sex at that time and no conscious awareness of it. To me, in my innocence, it seemed an invitation to loving closeness. And so I lay next to him, and he put his arm around me; that felt good to me.
Then he touched me in a way that I had never been touched before, in a place where I had never been touched before. Even though I was sexually innocent, I knew that what he did was a terribly shameful thing, especially for a grandfather to do to his granddaughter. Deep within me I was violated, and I want to say that it was a feeling almost as if I had been murdered.
I pulled his hand away, got up from the bed, and walked out of that room. I can’t remember what I did after that. I know I didn’t tell my parents or anyone else what had happened. I also know, as I reflect on my feelings now, that I felt that I was to blame for what happened. “I shouldn’t have lain on that bed with him! Why did I lie on that bed with him?” This is a semi-conscious, unjust—because no child is ever responsible for being abused—accusation that I have made against myself, repeatedly, ever since the first time I tried to process what happened that night. My strongest feeling about it is shame; it is a feeling that penetrated deep into my heart. My image of being a cherished little girl was “ruined” that day, like some masterpiece painting that has been slashed with a knife.
“…hallowed be Thy name.”
At Adoration I write in my journal:
I had an image of a light shining on this Scripture:
“Blessed be the God and Father of of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…” (2 Cor. 1:3)
Dear Father, “God of all comfort,”
You know that I need Your comfort this evening…
What “light” do You want to shine on that Scripture, Father? When I asked the question, “…the Father of mercies…” was anointed for me. What do You want to say to me, “Father of mercies”? I pray that God will fill my heart with His love until it is overflowing, with His mercy until it is overflowing, so that “You, Father, can pour out Your love on others through me.” I had an image of a hungry child holding out an empty cup to be filled, and I have the sense that it represents the world’s hunger for God’s love; and, at the same time, God’s invitation, plea, to me to bring His love to the world. How do You want me to bring Your love to the world, Father of mercies? The Father responds, “Be in the world in the truth of your life, My child. It is a beautiful truth.”
Thank You, Father, for affirming the beautiful truth of my life. You know that I still struggle a lot with shame. What do You want me to do with the shame, Father? I think of what Dawn Eden (in her book, “My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints.") said about wounds not being “toxic” when we hide ourselves in the Sacred Heart. In His Sacred Heart, Father, Jesus lifts us up to You, preventing us from falling downward into depression and despair. How can I move upward, instead of downward, when I experience shame and other emotional pain?
Thank You, Father, for the beautiful gift to be here with You. The Father responds: “You are My beautiful gift to the world, My child. Don’t deny the world that gift.
What do You want from me, Father? I had an image of Jesus standing (“Behold the Man!”) half naked, after His scourging, and as He was being condemned by His people, whom He loved so much. The Father says: “Your wounds are already beautiful, glorified in My Son, because you have given them all, along with everything else in your life, to Me. I am pleased, My child. Your offering blesses My Heart. Accept My blessing!
Thank You, Father. Words could never express my gratitude for such a great gift!
“Thy kingdom come.”
What do You want to say to me about Your kingdom, Father? I have an image of God holding my wedding ring and moving it back and forth to get my attention. I think You are communicating that it is through spiritual marriage that the kingdom comes fully. The kingdom comes when we marry the King and become His bride.
Marriage is the most intimate relationship. Two become one. God created men’s and women’s bodies to “become one” in sexual intimacy, and there are other areas of intimacy in which love seeks to become one. Through learning to communicate—which involves a flow of listening and speaking at different levels—the couple, if they are committed to giving themselves to each other, gradually become more and more “one” in understanding and accepting each other, and in finding agreement in the midst of conflicts. I think that one of the most beautiful intimacies between a husband and a wife is to be able to enjoy being with each other without speaking. This is something we see most often in older couples, who have been growing in love and understanding over a lifetime.
I have felt deep tension in my intimacy with my husband, most intensely in our sexual relationship; but to be receptive and vulnerable to him in any sense has been very difficult, like a heavy cross that I have carried in my heart. My husband has his own wounds and tensions from his painful childhood, so I think that it is a sign of God’s most loving and powerful grace that our love for each other has deepened over time, and we have, in some ways, in the last five years or so, fallen in love in a deeper sense than in the beginning.
At some point I realized that the excruciating anxiety and the anger that I would initially feel when my husband would approach me sexually were feelings that related to a very frightening experience that I had when I was ten years old. When I realized the source of the feelings I was able gradually to stop reacting to my husband in that way.
When I was ten years old, a great uncle was visiting my family when my parents decided to go somewhere, and they took my brothers and two of my sisters with them. They left me behind to take care of my baby sister, who was one year old at the time. My uncle also remained in the house with my sister and me.
After everyone else had left, my uncle invited me to come and sit on his lap, which I did. (Trust does not easily die in children.) As I was sitting on my uncle’s lap, he suddenly stood up, holding me in his arms, and carried me into one of the bedrooms. He laid me on the bed and, with a “soothing” tone of voice asked me to take my clothes off. Terrified, I started crying, and this must have caused my uncle to “wake up” to the reality that my family might come home at any time, and he backed away and kept saying that he wasn’t going to hurt me.
I got off the bed and, though I was almost paralyzed with fear, I went and found my baby sister and took her in the bathroom with me, where I locked the door. I was shaking with fear the whole time. As I sat in the bathroom with my baby sister, I feared that my uncle would come and break down the door. I stayed in the bathroom with my sister until my mother came home, knocked on the door, and called my name. Then I unlocked the door and immediately, with shaking voice, told my mother what had happened.
The way that my mother reacted to what I told her was very confusing to me. She seemed to make light of it. She said that my uncle was “punch drunk,” because he had been a fighter (boxer), and he was “like a little boy.”
She smiled the whole time she was saying that, the way an adult smiles at a child to calm the child’s fear about something they needn’t fear. Even now, as I think of her reaction, I feel confused. It didn’t surprise me that my mother didn’t hug me to comfort me, because she was not able to comfort her children in that way; but I think that I expected her to get angry about what my uncle had done and to say that he wouldn’t come into our house again. If she would’ve shown anger about what my uncle had done, I would have felt to some small extent that she was standing up for me and would protect me from him in the future. Even after that terrifying experience had occurred, I think I would have been consoled a little if my mother would have shown deep concern about the trauma I had suffered.
When she reacted the way she did, I squashed my feelings and never told anyone else about the experience. My terror and anger were locked in my heart—like I had been locked in that bathroom—from that time until a few years ago when, through prayer journaling, I began to feel freed from the bondage of those feelings. Still, in the writing of this chapter, I see that there are still painful feelings that surface and are released, through God’s grace.
Often, when I have thought about that experience, I have felt proud of myself for protecting my baby sister. Then, after I become aware of that feeling, I become aware of feelings of hurt and anger, that I was unprotected by my parents. If they knew that my uncle was “punch drunk” and “like a little boy,” why did they leave my little sister and me alone in the house with him? It has occurred to me that, since my mother coped with the abuse she had suffered as a child by denying that it was abuse, she was unable to see that kind of danger clearly. “That’s the way men are,” she told me once. After that experience, I felt totally unprotected.
As I journaled:
I had an image of Someone covering my face with His hand and wiping my whole face with blood. I sense that it is a protective covering. I think it is You, Jesus, covering my face with Your Blood, wiping away the shame. People cover their faces when they feel shame, but I believe that the Blood you are covering my face with is wiping away my shame…I hear a familiar, silent “voice”: “No more shame!” (I think it is Jesus casting out all spirits of shame.)
“…with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
Lord, please heal those who are covered with shame about the sexual abuse that they suffered as children. Cover them, instead, with the protection of Your Precious Blood, which streamed down Your Holy Face from the wounds that pierced Your Precious Head. Please be their comfort, Lord, along with our Sorrowful Mother.
“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Why didn’t you give me the kind of loving mother that I saw in other families, Lord? Why was I sexually abused as a child? Why did I become sexually promiscuous as a young woman? Why did I have four abortions? Why are you asking me to share these shameful experiences with others? I have asked myself those and other similar questions over and over again, but it has finally sunk in that the only important question is
Lord, how can I help you work for good in my life—in everything in my life--according to Your purpose?
This book is one of the ways that I am seeking to help the Lord to work for good. He knows the good that will come from it. I know that that good will come only if I am obedient to His personal directive to me to write it. Our Father works for good in the lives of all who love Him, no matter how late they come to that love—no matter how wounded, how broken, how sinful their lives have been.
Recently I have often felt foolish for sharing these memories in a book, but I strongly believe that it is Your will, Lord. I meditate on Jesus standing next to Pontius Pilate, before the crowd of people who are screaming for Him to be crucified. He is half naked: half naked of clothes, and even half naked of skin, because pieces of His skin and flesh are hanging from his Body after His cruel scourging. (I feel naked, Lord, and I feel that pieces of my heart are hanging in the view of others.)
Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matt. 26:53)
Did Jesus, in His humanity, feel foolish for suffering and dying for so many—many physically present before Him, and many more present in His vision of the centuries ahead—who had (and would) betray Him, abandon Him, deny Him, and reject Him? As He stood before that hateful crowd, knowing that He was about to be crucified, Jesus could have appealed to His Father, and His Father would have at once saved Him from any further pain. But Jesus, in His incomprehensible love, stood (for the sake of our salvation) and accepted the condemnation, the contempt, the hatred, and the sentence to be crucified. As I meditate on that terrifying—yet beautiful—scene, I know that I will go on writing.
“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the church…” (Col. 1:24)
“Give us this day our daily bread.”
“Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread,will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?” (Mt 7:9-10)
As I wrote earlier in this chapter, my father was the parent by whom I felt cherished when I was a child. He was the one who gave me the “bread” of love, acceptance, and affirmation. He was my hero, the man I most admired, my inspiration. As a child he had only received a third grade education. After that he had to work on fishing boats to help support his mother and his sister.
He met my mother on a leave during World War II, and they quickly got married, as so many couples did during that war. He received a medical discharge, because he had a nervous breakdown during the war. He suffered with psychiatric problems, with epilepsy, and eventually with serious heart problems.
In spite of these problems, he was always determined to learn, to live a productive life, and to provide for the material and—to the extent that he had the light—the spiritual needs of his family. He had a great love for learning and passed on that love for learning and books to me. He studied accounting and received what would today probably be called an associate’s degree in accounting. He became a “junior accountant” for the U. S. federal government and worked in that position until he became more severely disabled and was given a veteran’s 100% disability pension.
My parents each had a firm belief in God. I think that agnostics and atheists were not very common in those days of my childhood and adolescence. While both of them had a strong belief in God, each had a quite different view of God.
For my mother God was the Almighty Being who was in control of everything. He saw everything, and she reminded us of that in order to warn us to be good. She also had a strong belief that God provides what we need, and I remember her expressing this by saying, “With every child God brings the bread.” I wish I would have internalized that belief.
My father had a much more personal relationship with God. As I stated before, his father left him, his mother, and his sister, when my father was only two years old. He talked about his maternal grandfather with some affection, so he must have been loved by him, but there was still a big hole that was left in his heart when his father abandoned him. He shared with us that one day, when he was walking in the woods in the rural community in which he was born and raised, he met God. I was awed when he said that. It was the first time that I realized that God was a Person that I could meet. At the time I assumed that my father had seen God in the woods. Now I wonder if he had a vision of Jesus or had, instead, experienced his invisible, living Presence. What was certain is that he had met God, and he knew Him as His closest Friend.
My father always had a hunger—a restlessness—to know God better. It was that restlessness that led him away from the Catholic Church (I state with sadness now). I think he must not have met Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, because what could be a closer experience of God—if we truly experience Him—than His Living, Real Presence in the Eucharist? What could be more filling than to receive as our true food the Bread of His Body and as our true drink the Wine of His Blood?
When I was twelve years old, my father left the Catholic Church and became a member of the Church of Christ. Within a year of his move, my mother, one of my sisters and I also became members. In the Church of Christ at that time (I don’t know if their rule has changed), a preacher of a congregation was not required to have formal schooling. He only had to be accepted by a congregation. My father made friends with a man who had been a member of the Church of Christ for many years, but was not attending church services because of the long distance of the nearest congregation. That family of the man and his wife and ten children and our family began meeting in the man’s house, and my father became the preacher. The congregation grew as neighbors and other family members began attending. I became a Bible school teacher. At that point, my father was my spiritual, as well as my earthly, father.
During my teen years my relationship with my father became uncomfortably emotionally intense. He looked to me to be his friend and confidante. It seems to me, as I look back, that he wanted me to provide him with the emotional support and comfort that he felt he was not receiving from my mother. Then, when I was around sixteen years old, his feelings for me became clearly disturbed when on two occasions he violated me through impure touches. On both occasions I pushed him away and walked away from him.
I never spoke to him about those experiences, and he never spoke to me. I don’t know what was going on in my father’s mind after that, but I know that I never thought of those touches again until I was in my early thirties. I never realized that I had been sexually abused or violated by any of the men who had molested me when I was a child and adolescent, until I was working at a state psychiatric hospital, and I went to an in-service on the psychological effects on women of childhood sexual abuse. At that in-service the speaker stated that those women who had been sexually abused as children were either sexually promiscuous, or what was at that time called sexually “frigid.” A light went on in my head, and I realized immediately that I had been sexually abused several times, and that that was the reason that I was sexually promiscuous. When I had had those experiences, I had “shut down” emotionally and was unaware of what I was feeling.
When I spoke to my spiritual director recently about my father violating me sexually, I realized clearly for the first time that those experiences were the most shattering experiences of my life. I have come to the realization that the first time my father touched me in that way, the cherished daughter (who still lived in a little place in my heart) died. In her place appeared the shadow of a woman who believed that God created women to be sexually used by men. That was what my mother communicated to me when she said, “That’s the way men are,” and that’s what my father confirmed to me when he touched me in that way.
Looking at photos of myself when I was a younger teenager, I can see the sad expression of depression. After my father treated me in that way, the depression deepened, and, though I could function and still excelled in school, there was little joy in me. It was around that time that I took an overdose of pills, thinking I wanted to kill myself, but I realized after I took them that I didn’t really want to die, and so I told my mother what I had done, and she took me to the local emergency room. I worked in that emergency room, and I knew the physician who was on duty when I went there. He had his assistant give me some ipecac to make me vomit, which I did. He happened to be a psychiatry resident, so the next time that he worked, he brought me an application for a therapy group and said he would give me a recommendation to get me quickly into the group, which had a waiting list. But my mother was afraid of what people would say if they found out that I was in a therapy group for emotional problems, so I never attended the group.
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Try to imagine that you are Jesus, your hands and feet nailed to the Cross, your head crowned with thorns, and so you cannot even rest it against the wood of the Cross, because that would push the thorns deeper. How painful are the gashes in your back, legs, and arms—gashes made by the cruel scourging that you had suffered!
As you hang on that Cross, below you are those who had nailed you to the Cross; those who had scourged you; those who had crowned you with thorns. Also there are the leaders of your people, who had brought you to Pontius Pilate to be condemned. Those people who had screamed for you to be crucified had followed you to Calvary, and now they were mocking you.
In your heart are your closest friends, who have betrayed you, abandoned you, and denied you. Also in your heart are the people in the future who will refuse to believe you; who will reject you; who will treat you with ingratitude, contempt, and (worst of all) indifference.
As impossible as it is for me to fully imagine the pain that Our Lord suffered on that Holy Cross, His response to that abuse is even more impossible for me to even begin to imagine:
And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them;for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)
“To err is human, to forgive divine,” Alexander Pope wrote, a profound truth. The human heart is not capable of forgiving profound abuse by a loved one. If Jesus had only been human, He would not have been able to pray that incomprehensible prayer of mercy. But Jesus, we Christians know, is fully God as well as fully Man. It was the love of the Father—in union with the love of His Divine Son—that moved the Heart of Jesus to appeal to the mercy of His Father for all of mankind. And, so, to come to a place of forgiveness of those who painfully pierce our hearts, we must pray for the grace of union with the Merciful Heart of Jesus.
But first, my experience has taught me, we must be affirmed in our suffering, affirmed in our righteous indignation against the injustice and indignity we have suffered. We must name our sorrows, the causes of our tears. God has recorded them in His Heart.
“Thou hast kept count of my tossings; put Thou my tears in Thy bottle! Are they not in Thy book?” (Psalm 56:8)
When we are ready, we are called to beg, like Jesus on the Cross, for God’s mercy on our abusers. Only God knows when that time is. We are in the Father’s loving hands, in the loving Heart of our Redeemer.
I have struggled to know how to express my pain about what my father did to me. Then God planned for me to see in a video an analogy of that pain. My husband and I watched the 1961 movie El Cid, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. Sophia Loren plays Jimena, the fiancé of Rodrigo (El Cid, played by Heston).
Jimena and Rodrigo were passionately in love with each other, but a great tragedy threatened to destroy their love. Jimena also intensely loved her father, Count Gormaz, who was the champion of the king. In defense of his father’s honor, Rodrigo had a sword fight with Jimena’s father and killed him. Just before he died, Jimena’s father asked her to avenge him.
After her father’s death at the hands of Rodrigo, Jimena vowed that she would learn to hate Rodrigo. The King ordered her to marry Rodrigo anyway, and, in obedience to the king, Jimena married him, but told him that she would never give him her heart. Still it is obvious that Jimena is going through an intense inner struggle between love and hatred towards Rodrigo, and she goes into a convent for an extended kind of reclusion to try to “find peace,” to reconcile with her own intensely conflicting feelings, to reconcile with her husband. Eventually, her love for Rodrigo is victorious, and she returns to him to truly embrace him as her husband.
The intense struggle in me has been between the cherished daughter who still loved (and loves) my father and the deeply wounded adolescent who rejected him for the wrong he did to me. When I began to look at my relationship with my father more honestly, I tried to find “inner peace” by simply saying that my father was not the loving, good man that I had thought he was, and by saying to myself that he had been a phony, and to “write him off.” The good guy becomes the bad guy. The hero becomes the villain.
Of course that was very painful, but I realize now that what has been even more painful is to see that my father had truly cherished me when I was a child, and he continued to love me when I was a teenager, but his feelings became more and more self-centered. More and more he wanted me to meet his emotional needs, and then, on those two occasions, he crossed the boundary from emotional to sexual.
It was my father, who had loved me—my father, whom I loved (and still love) so much—who had violated me, and that was the greatest pain that I experienced in the midst of all of the abuse of my childhood and adolescence. It was my “loss” of a trustworthy father that was the greatest pain. Seeing that with my mind and my heart causes a kind of dissonance (inner tension) that sometimes feels unbearable. It is as if my heart is being torn apart. Like Jimena, who went to the convent to find peace, I am still searching for peace and wholeness in my heart.
I have been experiencing so much pain in trying to know and understand my relationship with my father and the abuse I suffered from him. As I was expressing my pain to you this morning and fervently praying for my healing, the word “purpose” came.
What purpose do You want to speak to me about, Jesus? Jesus responded: “My seed is deep in your heart…My word. Your suffering is fertilizer for its growth in you.”
Will you give me more understanding, Jesus? Image of me helping Jesus carry His Cross, like Simon of Cyrene. Jesus says, “Accepting your suffering is your strength.”
“…and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the Cross.”(Colossians 1:20)
How can I obtain “peace by the blood of the Cross,” Jesus? Jesus answered: “It is all in the acceptance.”
I think I’m trying to accept the pain in my heart, Jesus, but the weak human in me withdraws from it. How can I learn to face it, Lord?
What “seed” do You want to grow in my heart through the “fertilizer” of suffering, Lord? Jesus answers emphatically: “Faith!”
How can I completely accept my suffering, Jesus? Jesus answered: “Ask for the grace over and over.” Thank You, Jesus.
Do You want to say any more to me, Jesus? I had an image of Christ’s tomb open and empty. Jesus said: “It is from the pain that the joy is released…”
Since that journaling “conversation” with Jesus, when I feel intense pain, I am able to totally accept it—to surrender to it—offering it to Jesus, in union with His Passion. Immediately I feel the pain flow out of me, and in its place I experience profound peace. In its place I experience comfort. So, paradoxically, it is my intense suffering, in union with Jesus’ suffering, that brings me the most profound comfort.
“For my sighing comes as my bread, and my groanings are poured out like water.” (Job 3:24)
As Jesus hung on the Cross, who do You think He prayed most fervently for? I believe that Jesus gives us that answer through His Apostle of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina, in her diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul:
[Let] the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy.
I am one of the greatest sinners (because of the abortions I had), and I have placed my trust in the Divine Mercy of Jesus. Imagine! Jesus says that He cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to His compassion. Jesus has a Heart radically more compassionate than all of our hearts—our hearts, which judge others as deserving or undeserving of mercy. His desire to save all sinners—along with His infinite love for, and obedience to, His Father—is what gave Him the strength to carry His Cross to Calvary.
My gratitude to, and love for, our Merciful Savior moves me to offer my pain in union with His Passion for the redemption of those who abused me and for all abusers. It is in this way that I am receiving the deepest healing.
“And lead us not into temptation…”
Dear little handmaids, my sisters, let us pray for those who have been abused and those who have abused, that they will not be “led into temptation.”
Let us pray for the healing of those who have been abused. Let us pray that they will not be “led into temptation.” Good Father, we pray with our Sorrowful Mother, in union with Your Son, Jesus, that those who have been abused will not give into the temptation to shut themselves off from loving others and receiving the love of others. We pray that they will not remain ashamed, nor angry, all of their lives. Please give them the light to know that they did not sin in being abused. Please give them the grace to forgive their abusers. Please heal their wounded hearts. Let them fully feel your love, and know that You have always loved them.
We also pray, Merciful Father, that those who have abused will have the grace of true repentance, salvation, conversion, and transformation in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We pray that they will have the grace to overcome temptations to abuse. Please give all of us the grace to stop judging them, to look at them through Your compassionate eyes, and to pray for them daily. We also pray, Father, that they will be stopped from abusing others.
Some may think that it’s a waste of time, and even a kind of sin, to pray for abusers. Some may think that they don’t deserve our prayers. Some may think that it’s impossible for them to change, and that may be true in a strictly human sense. But “…with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). There would be no hope for this world if that were not true.
“…but deliver us from evil.”
“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
I believe that the most evil moment of my life was when I made the conscious decision to turn my back on Jesus. It was an evil moment because it grievously offended my Heavenly Father. It was an evil moment because it deeply wounded my Lord Jesus’ Heart—Jesus, who had been my one always true Friend. It was an evil moment because, most destructively, it put me in danger of having my soul and body destroyed in hell. It separated me from all that is good.
Somewhere in my late twenties, after having lived several years separated from God, years in which I committed evil many times, I remember one day asking myself: “Does good exist?” I was living in total darkness. I was totally blind spiritually, and so I could not see the “One who is good.”
And He said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good?One there is who is good. If you would enter life,keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)
No evil that was committed against me wounded me so deeply as the evil that I committed wounded me—wounded my very soul and threatened to destroy it.
Thanks be to God that I now know Him as my Loving, Good Father! Thank you, Father, that you have delivered me from evil, and You continue to deliver me from evil every day. This is my most profound healing.
Mary's daughter and your sister in Mary and Jesus,