Finding Inner Peace: When Our Hearts Are Broken

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-qctkd-af5830

Often, when life’s events break our hearts, we are ashamed of our anger and pain. We apologize for angry words and stifle cries of pain, pushing our hurts out of sight. We try to make peace with ourselves without acknowledging our anger and our tears—somehow these seem unacceptable to us. But they aren’t unacceptable to God.

From the very beginning of the Sacred Scriptures, we find God responding to the cries of his people.And he responds to the cries of our heart today.

If you’re wondering if you could get some help along the spiritual path but aren’t really interested in committing to one-on-one spiritual accompaniment, you should check out my Patreon membership.

If you want to explore more, from as little as $2 per month my valued Patreon friends develop their relationship with God through:

  • over 50+ audio and video programs and guides on spirituality and prayer,
  • my very popular Journalling Sheets created for each month
  • monthly HeartWork Exercise Guides
  • weekly new podcasts

Maybe you never heard of Patreon before? Worried about whether you could find yourself around?

Patreon helps fund writers and artists by letting supporters become patrons. The artist sets goals: what they will do with the pledged money. And the patrons pledge a monthly amount–in our case: $2, $4, $8 or $22. You choose your contribution. In return, you get rewards – and lots of them!

I hope to see you around!

Easter Reflection – When Jesus brings us to overwhelming places

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-njraf-ae9de6

As I was living the sacred days of the Paschal Triduum this year, I have been thinking of how overwhelmed people are feeling these days. It seems as if we have been brought to the edge: as a country, as a Church, and even the burning of Notre Dame has been as a kick in the gut.

Though we prefer to meditate on Jesus as the kind and gentle Shepherd, the merciful Savior, the consoling Master, Jesus actually brought his disciples into a state of “overwhelm” a number of times. Consider the storm on the lake. Jesus told the apostles to go to the other side of the lake. A sudden storm threatened to capsize the boat. Spotting Jesus walking on the water they cried out in fear. Peter, ever the courageous one, demanded to walk across the water to him. Looking down at the waves that swirled at his feet, he began to sink, crying out, “Lord, save me.” Or consider when Jesus was preaching into the evening and the apostles urged him to let the people go into the village to find something to eat. “No. You give them something to eat.” And then he offered them no instructions. “How are we going to do that?” was the immediate response of the befuddled twelve. There are any number of times when Jesus brought his apostles into “overwhelm” mode.

But Holy Thursday was a dramatic shift. With the shouts of joy and praise still in the disciples’ ears and hearts, the mood turned somber as the darkness fell. To the men who still wondered who was first, who was better, and if they were going to get something from an expected victory of Jesus over the Romans, their Lord and Master was now about to teach them truly what his life as Emmanuel was really about….

Support me on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/srkathryn.

Join my facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/srkathrynhermes

By His Wounds You Are Healed

Sr. Mary Leonora is one of those persons who lives her life as an artist. Great artists don’t create their own concept of what they wish to draw, but allow the subject of their painting to emerge from the colors they add, both dark and light, and lines both clear and smudged. I’ve known Sr Mary Leonora for many years now, and like an artist, she knows it is not about what she puts on the canvas, but what emerges under the guiding Hand of the Eternal Artist that creates of her life the beauty and hope the world so longs for. Having lived through great suffering in her life, there are a lot of dark colors the divine Hand has painted through the years, but she has touched up the sadder moments with colors that create a pathway of healing for the rest of us.
She has written:

Our culture is drawing more and more away from God while the need for healing is increasing. Where will we find healing, if not in the triune God who created and redeemed us? Yes, we can find healing for our bodies in doctors and the medical sciences. We can find at least some healing for our psyches and troubled minds from professionals. But where do we find healing and wholeness for our spirits, our souls, our hearts, when these have been abused and wounded? Who will heal our heart, if not he who created it? And who can heal the wounds of our spirit, if not he who let himself be wounded for our salvation?

Even though everyone’s story of woundedness and healing is unique and personal, I have noticed there are some common denominators in this journey, and I think these are what make up what I would like to call a spirituality of healing: a spirituality that focuses on Jesus and relates to him as the Divine Physician, who heals and transforms our wounds into channels of grace for ourselves and for others, leading us to wholeness and fullness of life.

I’m so happy to welcome Sr Mary Leonora to Touching the Sunrise and know that you will find the reflections she shares in these next couple of months both helpful and healing.

 

The Spirituality of Healing: 

In His Wounds, We Are Healed

by Sr. Mary Leonora, FSP

I’m back to continue our reflection on the spirituality of healing. You probably remember that in my last article I defined the spirituality of healing as “a spirituality that focuses on Jesus and relates to him as the Divine Physician, who heals and transforms our wounds into channels of grace for ourselves and for others, leading us to wholeness and fullness of life.” I would like to begin to unpack what I mean by that, beginning with focusing on Jesus. Holy Week seems the perfect time for it.

Why? First, because in this week we fix our attention on Jesus, on His sufferings, death and resurrection. Second, because I have lived first hand the amazing healing power of his wounds. St. Peter, quoting the prophet Isaiah, says that by Jesus’ wounds we are healed (cf. 1 Pt 2:24; Is 53:5).

Someone might contest that both Isaiah and Peter are speaking of spiritual wounds caused by sin. But when we speak of wounds caused by abuse, are we not speaking of woundedness caused by sin? Even sickness can be traced back to original sin and the loss of those special gifts possessed by our very first parents.

What does Isaiah say when speaking of the suffering servant? “He was pierced for our sins, crushed for our iniquity. He bore the punishment that makes us whole, by his wounds we were healed” (Is 53:5). Peter rephrases Isaiah’s thought, making explicit reference to the crucifixion of Jesus: “He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross…; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24).

As I continue these articles, I plan to tell you some of my story and my journey to healing, since the Lord is letting me understand that he wants me to share my experience to encourage others in their own journey of healing. Early on in childhood I discovered that gazing on the crucifix and praying before it is a great source of strength and spiritual healing.

Ever since I can remember, suffering has been a part of my life – physical, emotional, spiritual—trying to find a mother’s love, but never succeeding; seeking to make sense of explosive anger and blows that seemed to come unprovoked; and, the most difficult of all, dealing with rejection. By the time I was eight I was convinced that there was something terribly wrong with me and at the age of ten I decided that the only thing for me to do was to leave home. So, I got on my bike and left.

After pedaling for a couple of hours I was tired and stopped in front of a small church. The door was open, so I went inside. There, in the entranceway, was a more-than-life-size crucifix. Jesus’ arms were spread out, nailed to the cross and his head was bent as if he were looking at me. There was a terrible gash in his side and blood was coming out of his wounds. The expression on his face was so kind! His image burned itself into my memory and tears still come to my eyes when I remember that cross. I stood there, mesmerized, and just kept gazing on that face and bruised body. I felt his pain and wanted to comfort him; I was so taken with Jesus that I forgot my own pain.

Then suddenly, without even realizing I was speaking aloud, my hushed voice filled that small space, “You understand me,” I said. I don’t know what happened in that moment, except that I experienced a kind of all-encompassing embrace that left me knowing I was understood, accepted, loved. I didn’t want to leave that place. I just kept looking and loving—a response to the love that was pouring out upon me from that crucifix. Then, quietly, without any kind of deliberation, as if I were being gently guided, I left the church, climbed back on my bike and pedaled home.

I was not healed in that moment (I was still too young to even know how broken and wounded I was), but this was a tremendous turning point in my life. I now had a friend, a grownup friend, someone I could go to, someone who had suffered and someone who accepted and loved me! Later in life, I would discover that he had the power to heal me. But a relationship had begun, a relationship that would be crucial for my healing. In the years to come that relationship would grow and blossom into something alive and intimate, yielding fruits of love, forgiveness, happiness and healing that I could not even have dreamed were possible.

Relationship with Jesus is the first common denominator of spiritual healing.

Sr. Mary Leonora

Easter: From Ashes to Glory

All of us were glued on the Monday of Holy Week to phones and computers and television screens, to twitter feeds and facebook posts as we followed in dismay the blaze that was collapsing roof and spire of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

I closed my eyes and imagined all the people who had contributed to building Notre Dame Cathedral through the 2 centuries that stretched between 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and 1345. Craftsmen, artists, masons, architects, carpenters, painters, sculptors…all of them gathering around Our Lady in heaven with sorrow over the impending collapse of this magnificent icon of Christianity that bears her name, the cultural and religious heart of the French people and of all Catholics.

Our Lady received them with such gratitude for all they had done in her Son’s honor with a calmness that seemed out of character with all that was happening. And as I prayed, she seemed to say the words she has always said, “Fiat…. You will see that all shall be for God’s glory.” 

On Good Friday we remember the horror of the three hours Mary stood beneath the cross to which the Son of God, her son, was nailed. Jeered, derided, mocked…. Betrayed, thirsty, unable to breathe…

Moment by agonizing moment the fire of his love that had burned so brightly when he was alive seemed to flicker more weakly until, at last, she held his lifeless body in her arms.

“Fiat.” Perhaps the hardest Fiat of all.

There are no ashes where there cannot also be glory.

Notre Dame will rise anew from the ashes because of the millions pledged for the Cathedral’s renovation. In five years, as President Macron has promised, France will once again have its cultural and religious heart restored in the Notre Dame Cathedral. It will be a five-year intensive “retreat” for the entire country and for all Catholics as we follow the progress and prepare for the first liturgies of the opening day.

But the “glory” to which Our Lady in heaven referred is more than architectural splendor and a sacred space of worship that represents the heart of Catholicism and the French people.

The glory began already in the darkness of Monday of Holy Week and continues in the hearts of all of us who are yet pondering in our souls what this inferno of Notre Dame means spiritually to us personally, to us as Catholics, to the world as a whole.

In the marrow of our bones, we feel that this devastation of the sacred in the most sacred week of the year, carries with it the mystery of a message in a language we can no longer understand.

We no longer know how NOT to understand…Marian NOT understanding as she stood with peaceful faith at the foot of her dying Son.

We no longer have a comfort level with trusting that even if we don’t understand what is happening we can be absolutely certain that God is reliable and all will be for God’s glory.

This is now Easter week. And once again Our Lady is our guide to understanding the ways of God even in the midst of tragedy and loss.

All eyes have turned to her as she turns the attention of the world to a place of sacred worship of her Son.

We treasure in our hearts what we have seen and heard.

We ponder what it can all mean.

We ask the Holy Spirit to show us the deeper wisdom in all that has happened.

We enter with greater reverence our own sacred buildings of worship that, although they are much humbler than Notre Dame Cathedral, are nonetheless filled with myriads of angels and the presence of the Risen Lord in the Eucharist.

We rest with the Word in Scripture and let the dust settle so that we might be taught by God whose thoughts are far above our own.

We rejoice in the resurrection of Christ, as Our Lady must have done so, knowing that indeed God has the whole world in his hands.

In the ashes of last week, in the ashes of all of Lent, is the astounding way in which God’s glory, in ways incomprehensible to our little minds, continues to save us from ourselves and from the power of the Evil One.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen. Alleluia!

 

 

 

 

Overwhelmed and worried about the future? Ten steps to a more compassionate life

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-9qkvq-aa529d

Only the courageous can choose compassion. Only the brave can witness within themselves their ego’s demands, consistently breaking open the deeper places of love. I believe in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another, even as I see the fear that makes me tremble, so small of heart. I touch the anguish of the world, knowing it is no different from the love I insist on holding back from the person nearest me.

We can overcome the evils of the world only with the courageous choice by which we, as Jesus, would give our life for our brother beside us, in small decisions that choose compassion over cruelty.

Blessed by My Cross

My friend, you who are the delight of the Lord, sought-after by your God, blessings!

Wherever you are I want to encourage you to cast away every fear, that you may walk more boldly in Christ, for in him God has chosen you before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

The road is narrow and at times a difficult climb, but we will walk the road together. We shall say, “I give myself absolutely to you, O Lord, do with me as you will.”

These words may seem frightening, for we hand over our future and the control of all that occurs to God’s tender regard for us. What a mighty surrendering trust it takes to utter these words with absolute sincerity. The Annunciation and agony of the Savior in Gethsemane’s garden crystallized in these words: Behold the handmaid of the Lord…. And Not what I will, but what you will.

Sometimes, I cling so strongly to my own fears that I am unable to say these words, “Do with me as you will.”

From the first cry of the newborn’s wail to the final sigh of the crucified Savior, these words ring out. The tiny child lying on the straw on a cold winter’s night in the small town Bethlehem is the mystery of Jesus’ life that most fills my spirit. I have small reminders of Christmas around me wherever I live or work: a statue of Mary lifting into the air her son and the Son of God, a very small nativity set, a suncatcher on the window that depicts the manger. Christmas is never far from my mind.

Yet my life, as perhaps many of yours, has been marked by the cross.

Life and death.

The fresh innocence of beginnings and the heavy struggles of adult life.

The joy of a mother’s love and the anguish of a mother’s agony as she stands beside her child to the end.

The wood of the cross mounted on Calvary’s hill didn’t come as a surprise to Jesus and Mary. Its long shadow cast itself into their lives very early after Jesus’ birth. A sudden departure in the night at the warning of angels, fleeing to Egypt to escape the hands of Herod who would extinguish the Light of the World that his own light might flicker in the darkness a few years longer.

From the beginning the darkness wrestled with the Light. We often hear that the name Bethlehem, means House of Bread, which is only one possible meaning of the name. You see the word “Beth” in Hebrew means house. The word “Lehem” has two different possible meanings. The first refers to leavening dough in order to make bread. The second means “hand-to-hand combat,” where we are stretched and wounded throughout our lives which are punctuated almost daily with the struggles of human existence. It is as if we are thrown into the arena and must fight for our lives that Light might triumph. Or is it that God fights for our lives? The tree of life is planted in our very heart.

The cross, as it has appeared in my life, has been this wrestling match between Jesus and the passions that pummel my heart, between the force of Love and the shadows of darkness. He has wrestled with the immaturity of my heart and the prejudice in my mind. I was untested and unable to respond to him wholly without a lifelong struggle of repentance in which I discovered my limits and the wondrous call to become fully human in Christ. A call that was beyond my human limits. The wounds of love that I bear from experiencing the cross, these alone could bring me to the glory and joy of Christ’s vision for my life.

As I have watched how Jesus has fought for my very life in the crosses that have become divine wrestling matches through the years I have learned three things:

  • When life is brought to a shabby wreck through illness, failure, fractured human relationships, the bitter awareness of sin, it is this paradoxically that is the place of my great hope. He has given me the gift of sight to see beyond the visible to his invisible Love at work.
  • Jesus has defeated my logic and led me out of the prison of having to understand everything. The cross as it appears in one’s life is often illogical compared to what we think should happen. To realize that the conclusions of my rational mind are incomplete, to open myself to paradox, and to silently wait for understanding to be given to me has brought much anguish…but slowly I’ve learned that Jesus can be trusted.
  • The situation that has defeated me has only done so that I might see how Jesus fights for me, that he himself might triumph in my life. The cross is essentially how God works in and through the way-things-are to defeat the darkness that still struggles for the upper hand in my life. I have been blessed to realize, at least in my better moments, that I want to let God act. In the words of Job, I am finally able to say, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (cf. Job 13:15).

Friends, Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, stands with her Son as he hung on his cross, and she stands here with each of us. Whether the cross enters our life through loss, failure, sin, illness, relationships, Mary is with us because she knows our sorrow. She herself has lived through the agony of the moment-by-moment struggle to make sense of pain, to find a way forward, to reframe what is happening into something our minds can comprehend. And she knows the final leap of faith, the only thing that can make sense of this hand-to-hand combat we call our life.

I am sure of it. My crosses have become my blessings only because of this strong and tender presence of the Mother given to me at the foot of Jesus’ cross. She is the strong woman who teaches me how reliable God is, how ultimately secure I am in saying to him, “I give myself absolutely to you, O Lord, do with me as you will.” There is no easy way promised to us as we whisper these words, trembling perhaps, but wanting to give him everything. But it is God himself who guarantees our ultimate and absolute trust. When we have gotten to the end of our rope and the bottom of our heart where we find emptiness alone, God himself can take over where we have discovered ourselves impotent. He who has chosen us before the foundation of the world to be holy will guarantee that we are so, if we but repeat with every breath of our life: “I give myself absolutely to you, O Lord, do with me what you will.”

 

Finding Heart Peace in Deep Contemplative Listening

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-zc8zv-aa528c

It is in our heart-space that we receive after deep contemplative listening. That we unfold within the wisdom from God who makes diamonds of our dust. We have been created to hear the voice of God and His word. In a loud and noisy room, we all know we hear little. And if we are doing the talking in that loud and noisy room, we are so full of ourselves we receive nothing. Instead of unfolding, we clamp down in a hardened empty shell of self-importance.

So how do we return to our heart space so that we can live in the turbulence of our age with our heart attuned to the deepest place within us where wisdom is born, where God makes himself visible through us, and where we welcome both our own true voice and God’s Word, so that we can be God’s Voice the world so longs to hear.