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Prayer & Spirituality

“A rose’s rarest essence lives in the thorn.” –Rumi

 

In early January I declared 2012 The Year of Forgiveness. Since I’ve embarked on this resolution, the spiritual rewards have become more and more evident: I’m discovering that the more I forgive, the easier it becomes each time and the more at peace I am in general. 

This relates to the 12 Principles of Forgiveness that I posted earlier, particularly No. 8: starting to forgive about something that’s easy and work up to the more difficult situations. I knew I had to face a particular situation that was very difficult for me, and I knew there were many people I had to forgive.

More than 15 years ago, I had a run-in with a co-worker. At least, that’s how it was presented to me – by other co-workers, by my roommate, even by the police, who wrote the truth on the report: “aggravated assault.” The implications were that it was no big deal and also that I had somehow orchestrated the whole thing – or at least that I allowed it to happen. I’m not sure how coming home from work at around 3 pm dressed in professional teacher clothes lends itself to orchestrating it, but it’s a common reaction to assaults on women: She was asking for it. This, despite the discovery that my co-worker had a criminal record a mile long. I had never been able to forgive not only the assailant but the many people who downplayed it and implied that I brought it on myself. If there’s anything that presents a barrier to forgiveness, it’s that added sense of injustice.

So I stubbornly held on to the conviction that I’d been wronged twice; the you-asked-for-it was another assault of sorts. And in the process, I elevated my own sense of victimhood about the whole thing. This, I came to learn, is precisely where my inability to forgive dwelled. 

One of my favorite priests, who is a Franciscan, has quite a bit to say about the suffering we endure in our lives. Regarding the attachment to our own victimhood:

“It has been acceptable for some time in America to remain ‘wound identified’ (that is, using one’s victimhood as one’s identity, one’s ticket to sympathy, and one’s excuse for not serving) instead of using the wound to ‘redeem the world’, as we see in Jesus and many people who turn their wounds into sacred wounds that liberate both themselves and others.”

Well, I certainly understood what he means about being “wound-identified.” I wielded my victimhood like a battle-axe for years. I was needlessly defensive, quick to judge and didn’t let anyone get close. I took offense at things that weren’t offensive. I lashed out at everyone in my path, and my world was a dark, furious place. When that stopped working for me, I just buried the whole experience and moved on, suffering greatly on the inside. 

 

A dismissive boyfriend

So when I began this resolution, I was scared to face that whole situation. I just didn’t have the energy to get angry all over again, but I knew I had to. When I finally was ready to face it, I wanted to talk about it. I spoke of it to the man I was seeing at the time, who responded with, “Yeah, well, bad things happen to all of us.” The common reaction again: no big deal. Just a run-in. Yet again my suffering was downplayed. Needless to say, I no longer have any interest in his so-called friendship. 

So I re-read the 12 Principles, recited the Prayer of St. Francis and hoped for the best.

But I knew there was more work to do. I turned once again to the Franciscan priest and his ideas about the sacred wounds we carry. 

He says: “[There is] an incurable wound at the heart everything.” I knew that was true. Yes, bad things do happen to all of us. And it’s also true that most of us let those bad things shape our identity. But at some point, according to this priest, we have to learn to accept and transform our wounds if we ever want to develop spiritually. He says, “your holding and suffering of this tragic wound, your persistent but failed attempts to heal it and your final surrender to it will ironically make you into a wise and holy person.”

He goes on to say:
 
“You will be wounded. Your work is to find God and grace inside the wounds. This is why Jesus told Thomas, ‘Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side’ (John 20:27). Thomas was trying to resolve the situation mentally, as men usually do, so Jesus had to force direct physical contact with human pain: the pain of Jesus, Thomas’ capacity for empathy with that pain, and very likely with Thomas’ own denied pain. Deep healing has to happen corporeally and emotionally, and not just abstractly.

 

Jesus wanted Thomas to face and feel in his body the tragedy of it all — and then know it was not tragedy at all! In that order. That is how wounds become sacred wounds. This is the pattern of all authentic conversion in the Christian economy of grace: not around, not under, not over, but through the wound we are healed and saved.”  

 
Now I was onto something. “Direct physical contact with human pain” was something I was always pretty good at. I’m fairly empathic and my friends depend on me for it. But I never thought about making that direct contact with the wounds of The Christ. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it earlier, but now, this Holy Week, it’s the perfect time. 
 
I realized that not only was Jesus assaulted – aggravated assault, actually – but he was publicly mocked for his suffering. His detractors condemned and blamed Him. Certainly, He was asking for it. 
 
This realization was so humbling, so astounding, so healing, that I sat in a teary-eyed stillness for what might have been hours. I realized that it was the crucifixion, the actual wounds, that led to the resurrection; not His life of service or His being the Son of God. 
 
I finally understood.
 
I thought about Jesus on the cross, asking for His detractors to be forgiven. I visualized my enemies: the assailant and all the detractors. I understood that they too have incurable wounds in their hearts. I wished that their wounds would lead them to transformation, so that they could become “wise and holy.” Once you wish your enemies well, forgiveness is completed. I felt redeemed  from my victimhood as15 years of rage and despair quietly left me. 
 
I urge any CatholicMatch members who are wound-identified to really use this week to contemplate the wounds of Christ. In your wounds, find the sacred. Go through them and use them to liberate yourself. Be saved!
 
Now is the time.
 
 
 
 
The perfect song
 
Interestingly enough, I came across an album that deals with this very topic. It was written and performed by a talented new friend of mine. I heard the song “Pain of Salvation” and it spoke to me and to this experience. I am so grateful I heard it and wanted to share it with all of you. I hope you enjoy it. Have a Blessed Easter. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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7 Comments

  1. Ramona-738757 April 3, 2012

    “I will permit no man to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.”–Booker T. Washington The quote that sums up my life’s quest.

    First, Cate I’m so sorry you had to endure this. But, I shall be forever grateful that you found healing enough to post this in faith, that others too might heal.

    I was a victim of severe gaslighting over twenty years ago. I can’t remember how many times I crawled into bed with ma mere like a small child and wept. Come home from universitiy or work and fall to my knees and place my head in her lap, sobbing, “Please, make it stop.” The ‘it’ was the aftermath of the cruelty. Trust others? I didn’t trust myself. I lived in fear of making a foolish choice again. Mercy.
    I prayed for it. And, allowed myself to be consumed by it. I was worthy of His Mercy. What a road to get there. I first had to forgive myself. Not easy when you are told repeatedly that you are, “vile, unworthy, ignorant.” Many others that I shall not repeat. I thank God for my parents. And, my God. Justification of who I was and what I am and can become was theirs. Believe those who are merciful. Their love is freely given.
    Forgiveness to me is relinguishing the hope that if I did something different, my life would’ve been different. So, I can say “thank you.” You’ve shown me what I don’t wish to become. And, I pray that you will change not for me but, for yourself.
    I wanted to be apart of the Mystical Body of Christ. Completely. I had to embrace His Mercy. What prosthesis of soul is there?
    Do I stumble? Yes. But, I can get up. What I have learned is to rely on Him for everything. To seek Him in others when I need help on earth. Not a broken Jesus. Just Mercy personified.

    • Cate Perry
      Catherine Perry April 4, 2012

      Thank you, Ramona. You are so right – forgiving ourselves is perhaps most difficult of all. The consolation is that your past made you who you are today, and you’re lovely just as you are.

  2. Stephen-725391 April 3, 2012

    Catherine, I can read these things and have a sense of what is supposed to happen – to put it bluntly – there are no nuts and bolts to grab onto, no guide, no tangible instructions (or manual) that illustrates these 12 principles. Intellectually I know that this must be done, I haven’t got any idea how to get my arms around it and make it happen.

  3. Deanna-558852 April 4, 2012

    Thank you for another wonderfully written article. Receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation and asking for forgiveness so that I may forgive also helps me to remember Christ’s wounds.

  4. Roger-824748 May 16, 2012

    Thank you Cate for this article. We usually talk about forgiveness being the only way to peace of mind and the key to living a joyful life even though we don’t know what it means sometimes, but I know from experience that forgiving someone is difficult. I relate to every emotion described in this article.
    I see the gospel of John being mentioned above and reading this gospel helped me a lot by looking at Jesus and learning to forgive the way He does despite His wounds. My prayer would be that Jesus helps everyone to forgive.

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