Grace and Healing on 9-11: Praying for the 9-11 Terrorists

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I have been going through a period of deep spiritual struggle.  It has been the kind of struggle that bears much fruit.  These struggles are deepening my faith and teaching me to rely on Christ’s will for me, rather than my own will.  My eyes have been truly opened to different aspects of Christ’s betrayal and the Cross.  Today revealed to me just how much God’s grace is working in me.  The only source of my understanding is Him.

Today is the 13th anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.  It is a deeply difficult day for thousands of people personally, and a day of mourning and remembrance as a nation.  The last 13 years of my life have been shaped by my 9-11 experiences.  Three years after my relief work,  I suffered through a few years of debilitating PTSD.  After absolutely stellar treatment from some of the world’s top EMDR and PTSD specialists, I have been able to live with those memories.  I live with next to no PTSD symptoms, from that period in my life.  One aspect was still in need of healing and that was a spiritual dimension.

As Christians, we are called to pray for our enemies.  As Catholics, that includes the dead.  I have never been able to bring myself to pray for the 19 hijackers, until today.  At 9:37am this morning, at the exact same time Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon, killing 184 people, I started to pray a Rosary before holy relics of Our Lord’s Cross (yes, the actual Cross of Jesus).  As I started my Rosary, I began to list my petitions: the families of the killed, those killed, the relief workers, etc.  Then I got the thought to pray for the terrorists’ souls.  At first, I could not utter the words.  I began to sob in utter agony.  I fell onto all fours and sobbed uncontrollably for a few minutes.  I had the sense (eye of faith) that my Guardian Angel was there comforting me.  The Agony in the Garden came to mind.  I finally got back up on my knees and through my sobs, prayed for the souls of the terrorists and those who terrorize today.   It was the hardest Rosary I have ever prayed in my life.  I sobbed and shook throughout it, but I knew Our Lord and Our Lady were with me.  When I finished, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me.  The sobbing stopped and peace set in.

Some of you will read this and respond in anger.  Some of you will not understand praying for the souls of the dead, especially those who chose evil.  Catholics, unlike a lot of other Christian denominations, pray for the dead constantly.  But, some of you will understand why this is significant, and why it is necessary.  I had to walk into the Garden and cry out in agony. I chose courage.  I walked towards the Cross.   Something that I have avoided for well over a decade.  I knew those prayers would be hard.  It is only by God’s grace that I was able to utter them.  To release my own anger at those 19 men, who murdered so many, and left me in the throngs of PTSD 10 years ago.  This was God’s doing.  In choosing to let go, He was able to heal my hurt.  It is hard, but in confronting deep pain, with God as our guide, we are set free.

What agony do you need to confront?  Let God heal you.

Battling Anger

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Anger.  Why are so many of us angry? Do we realize that we are angry? Does it bother us? I was just observing a Twitter exchange, I can’t really call it a debate.  There was too much profanity and no intellectual exchange for it to be considered a debate.  What struck me though, as has happened before, was the level of anger this person lobbed at a friend of mine.  

 
At first I was incensed that someone would talk to a friend of mine like that, knowing full well that it is all too common on social media.  I myself have been on the receiving end of it.  I have been called: a bigot, racist, Pharisee, hater, homophobe, and the list goes on.  When I watched this exchange, I began to think about the person’s anger, it really seemed to be rage.  I began to see myself.  You see, I struggle with anger.  I have a fearsome temper.  It only comes out in all of its horrific glory a couple times a year.  Thank God for that! But it is awful, and it shows me the depths of depravity within me.  It also reveals unresolved pain and a fear that I am not loved either by my family or by God.
 
I know anger.  So when I see it in others, I know that there is some kind of pain that needs to be healed.  A hatred that is pointed inward, but lashes out at others.  It comes from a deep fear of not being loved and it is always driven by pride and power.  Rather than choose to accept Christ’s sacrifice for them, angry people fight between a belief that they don’t need a Savior and a deep rooted knowledge that they do.  It is a war that is in the hearts of us all. We want to be God, but we aren’t, and so our sinful nature drives us into anger.  Or we have been hurt by others and that fear of being unloved drives our rage.  How could God love me?
 
The other issue with anger stems from pride.  We don’t want to be told what to do, or hear that our lifestyle is wrong and immoral.  This is a big one in the “gay marriage” debate.  No one, and I mean no one, likes to hear from someone else that they commit grave evil.  For those who do not know Jesus Christ, this is even more difficult.  What they cannot see is that all of us either have, or are capable, of grave evil.  All they see is someone saying “no” to their choices.  Christianity is not about accusing others and relishing in their fall.  No, Christianity, is about saying that we are a band of sinners, hopelessly lost without Our Lord who loves everyone.  Only He can show us the true way, and yes that means abandoning sin.  But true freedom lies in that abandonment and falling into Love.
 
It is hard for every single one of us to abandon sin.  I sin daily.  The more I go to Confession, the more I see how deeply rooted my sins are and how much I need His grace to overcome them.  Saying that a behavior is sinful is the beginning of understanding our own inner pain and hatred.  Unhappiness stems from sin. Anger stems from sin.  It is hard to take a look in the mirror and say, God I need you to do it, I can’t.  This is especially difficult in a culture that is as fiercely independent as ours.
 
So, why are we so angry? I suspect it is because in those moments, or perhaps always, we are afraid we are not loved, we hurt, and we think we can do it ourselves.  Anger resolves nothing.  It hurts the people around us.  It destroys dialogue and quite frankly, it leads to violence.  I pray for healing for all of those who like me struggle with this deadly sin.  Advent blessings!

On Gossip

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I am not proud of this fact, but I have fallen into gossip lately.  It is one of those things that most of us fall into at one point or another. For me it usually involves orthodoxy, or rather, a lack there of.  Father Barron, in his series Seven Deadly Sins Seven Lively Virtues, discusses gossip under the sin of envy.  He talks about how we, as sinners, can become envious, or, even happy, at another person’s failure.  This is absolutely true.  Think about the last time you fell into gossip.  Was it because you heard some bad or juicy news about someone else?  I think that frustration can drive gossip, as well.

I am a revert to the Faith.  I spent my Twenties living in the somewhat Catholic category, before I fully entered cafeteria Catholic for a few years.  During that time, I had a lot of my fellow Catholics ignoring my behavior because they themselves ignored Church teaching in various areas.  Yes, relativism.  How can I be brought to the fullness of Truth when the people around me are not living out Church teaching?  That is how I felt.  And in living as I was living, I hurt others too by my example, to my utter shame.  When I finally found my way fully back to Christ’s Church, I realized just how much damage had done to me and to others.  Loving someone is not leaving them in their sin.  Loving someone is showing them God’s mercy and love and then showing them that in choosing to love, we must abandon our sin.  Do we fail?  Absolutely!  But, we cannot say to someone either in the Church or who is contemplating coming into the Church, that it is ok to ignore certain aspects of Church teaching because the Pope needs to “get with the times”.  Rather, we need to get with Jesus Christ.  Church dogma and doctrine, is God’s dogma and doctrine, revealed through Revelation and the Holy Spirit.  Because of my own dalliances in mortal sin, I am deeply passionate about protecting others from the same state.  It truly kills the soul and cuts us off from God.  Love shows us that we must help each other away from serious sin, as well as help each other with habitual sin.

That being said, sometimes my own passion can get the better of me.  It can start of as righteous anger in the face of ignorance or disobedience and turn to sinful anger.  I think that I have reached that point.  I realized it when my husband asked me if I had stayed late at the church last night “complaining” about what had happened this past weekend?  Whoops!  I have crossed into sin territory.  He is absolutely right.  I either need to take action or let it go, but stop harping on it.  I think that I may let it go for now and trust that our Bishop is working things out slowly.  There is a lot of clean up to do.  I need to pray for him and our Diocese.

Since we all do it from time-to-time here are a few ways to avoid gossiping about others:

1.  Say something positive about the person during the conversation.  Speaking in a complimentary and charitable way, reminds us that there are good traits in everyone and that we too are in need of mercy.

2. Talk directly to the person you have an issue with, instead of about them.  You may need advice from your spouse or a trusted friend beforehand, but always plan to confront the person, or forgive them, and move on.

3. Change the subject.  Try to veer the conversation into a new direction.

4.  Take action.  If it is a situation that you need to deal with, then get the information to the person it needs to go to.  Once it is handed off, then you need to move on and trust that it will be dealt with in an appropriate manner.

5.  Pray for the person.  When frustrated or angry at someone, be sure to pray for them.  It can be an inner struggle, but try to focus for a few minutes and ask Our Lord to bless them.

6.  Go to Confession.  After gossiping, go to Confession.  Gossip wounds us and it wounds others.  Go and seek forgiveness and be wiped clean.  It reminds us that we are all sinful and make mistakes, and it also sets us free from our anger and resentment.

I hope that this helps you to avoid gossip.  I know that it is something that I must work on now and in the future.  God bless!

Forgiveness and Abundant Blessings

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A couple of weeks ago one of my junior high students in my religious education class at church asked me an interesting question.  She wanted to know if God sometimes does not give us what we want.  I told her that sometimes he does not give us what we want because it is not what we need and sometimes gives us what we want either because it is what we need, or we may need to learn a lesson.  Yesterday, this question was answered for me.

In my previous post, I wrote about how I needed to forgive someone whom I loved long ago.  I felt God call me to write to him after four years of no communication and nearly 12 years since we last saw one another.  It is complicated story that a lot of military folks would understand, but that is neither here nor there.  I did not actually expect him to respond to my email, but he did, rather quickly, I might add.
His response taught me a few very important things.  First, it unleashed the power of forgiveness and healing across time and distance.  It showed me that in my honesty and vulnerability were both able to say what was needed.  Second, it showed me that our perceptions are not necessarily  reality.  We may not realize that people do not mean to hurt us and if we do not tell them, there can never be reconciliation.  He did not realize fully how much he had hurt me.  Third, we can love people deeply, but that does not necessarily mean that they are the right one God wants for us in the Sacrament of Marriage.  God wants us to become saints and not every person is right for fulfilling our vocations.  And we are not necessarily right for that person either.
I think that a lot of us have cared for or loved someone who did not turn out to be who we married or will marry.  Many of us, myself included, pray for things to work out with that person, but it doesn’t.  It may take some time, even decades to finally see why it did not work out.  To see that choices we made at that point, set in motion our future path.  This man and I both made that choice when he chose an overseas duty station.  It took longer for me to understand that that particular choice would impact both of us over the long term and eventually lead us to each find our proper paths in life.  His in the  military and mine with my husband and daughter.
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Even though I supported him in pursuing his dream of living in Europe, it broke my heart when he left.  I did not fully recover for a long time, even though I dated.  I wanted God to make things better, to re-unite us, but it never happened.  Some of it was pure circumstance, we just never could get to the same place, and some of it was God’s intervention.  I am sure of it.  That’s the point.  Sometimes unanswered prayers are God showing us an even greater love and path.  Sure it hurts in the process.  But, what a gift this guy was to me in those moments we had together.  He was the first to truly teach me sacrificial love.  When we are young, we tend to be impatient.  We also tend to think in the short term.  I wanted him to be the right guy, not looking at how my life would play out, or how his would either.
After I received his email.  I cried tears of joy for about an hour.  I was relieved and filled with such a deep gratitude.  I knew Our Lord was the one who had a hand in our reconciliation.  We were finally honest with one another and in doing so, we are both able to think fondly of one another and be grateful for the paths we have been given.  I was also able to apologize to him for all of my mistakes.   I had a deeper sense of love and awe for my husband.  I could see how God’s hand guided me over the last 12 years, even though it came with deep pain.  I saw how God wanted me to find my husband and He wanted to give me the tremendous gift of our daughter.  He wanted me to truly begin to understand joy and I can only do that with the right vocation.  My husband is my vocation.  So I found the right path and this man who I loved so long ago, also found his path.  It gave me great joy to know that he was safe and that he, like me, was finding his way.
Today at Mass I offered up my Mass for him.  I know that he struggles with faith and I prayed hard that he may find Christ.  I also offered up the Mass in deep gratitude for the peace and joy that came with our reconciliation.  My husband was very supportive.  Once I told him what happened he was glad that I was able to be set free and begin to understand the abundant graces that flow from forgiveness.  It is when we love as Christ loves that we are truly alive.  There are other deeper hurts that I need to forgive and this experience has revealed the graces that flow from choosing forgiveness, which is what He did on the Cross.  It is what He offers us every single time we sin.  We only have to ask for it.
So, what would I tell my student now?  It probably would not matter, because she, like I did, will want to make the mistakes and take the paths of youth.   I do not consider this man a mistake, rather a part of the journey.  Sometimes we love the wrong people and sometimes we love people who are only a stepping stone on the journey to holiness.  It is hard to let go of someone we love.  We were made for and by Love, but let go we must.  We never know what greater things God has in store for us until we let go.  I pray that, like me, you can receive and offer forgiveness and that Our Lord will give you abundant blessings in the process.
And Happy Feast of the Archangels!  It is my daughter’s big feast day.
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Forgiveness, Even Years Later

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This morning I felt called to write a letter, really an email, that I have wanted to write for about 10 years.  This person was on my mind recently because they are forever linked to my 9-11 relief work days and September can sometimes remind me of him.  I don’t mean in a longing or sinful way.  I am happily married and I have an amazing daughter.  I would not have it any other way and I no longer harbor romantic love for this person.  He just hurt me really deeply on multiple occasions over a 7 year period.  Much of that time separated by two different branches, continents, and jobs in the military.

 
Throughout my lifetime many people will hurt me.  Their impact will not be lasting and I will forget it quickly.  There are others who for whatever reason will stay with me and I must consciously choose to forgive them.  For that reason, I felt like God called me to actually write to this person and forgive them even though I have not had any contact with him in four years.
 
I know him.  He is a rather selfish person and I know that he may have never heard that he is forgiven before.  I know he has not heard it from me because we cut ties when he hurt me, yet again, a few years ago.  But, that does not change that I cared for him and it does not change the hurt I felt.  He comes to mind rarely these days, but occasionally he will in September.  I realized today that I needed to write to him and tell him what I never was able to say and to say that I forgive him.  I told him that I pray that he is happy, as happy and blessed as I am.  Really, besides saying that we forgive or choose to forgive, even if we don’t tell the person, all we can do is pray for these people.  Even in hurt, when we loved someone, we always desire the best for them.  It may take years to heal.  It is a journey.
 
I told my husband about it.  He didn’t quite understand, but we are different.  He wasn’t upset, he just moves on and would not need to write this type of email to anyone.  Don’t get me wrong, I have long moved on.  I felt called to write it for two reasons.  First, so that I can continue on my own journey of learning to forgive.  I have some other deep hurts that I need to work on that are much harder to tackle than this one.  This is a first step for me.  Second, I hope and pray that my forgiveness and honesty will help him to Christ.  He struggled a lot with faith.  I was trying to witness to the power of forgiveness and Love.
 
The thing about technology is that it keeps us in contact with people who would normally be long gone.  I am not friends on Facebook with this person, as I do not think it is appropriate for married people to be friends with previous romantic interests.  As Christians, I do think it is necessary for us to actually tell certain people that we forgive them.  Not only for their sakes, but for our own.  There is a great healing in uttering the words “I forgive you”, which is precisely why Our Lord calls us to forgive and to seek forgiveness in the Confessional.  It heals broken relationships, even if that relationship will only remain in the past.
 
Some people might think my choice strange.  But abundant blessings flowed into my heart when I hit send.  This is something that I have thought of writing for about 10 years, but never had the courage.  Perhaps because this person kept on hurting me over a 7 year period, because I let them.  It took that long for me to just completely walk away.  It was the best decision and I found the right man because of that choice.  I finally stopped comparing the men I dated to him.
 
Forgiveness is a conscious choice that we must each make in every moment of hurt.  Some things are easier to forgive than others, but forgive we must.  Is there someone or some people who you need to forgive?  Perhaps you could sit down and write them a letter.  If you cannot send it, then write it and throw it away.  The act of writing down your thoughts and feelings can set you free.  To forgive, the other person does not necessarily need to know they have been forgiven.  I have lived all over, and I do not have the contact information for every single person I have known.  Family may be harder to forgive.  The point is that we work towards that forgiveness.  Christ died on the Cross for each one of us, when we sin each and every day.  Unleash the freedom and peace of forgiveness into your own life.  Have a very blessed weekend!