EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Unfurling the Mercy of the Eucharist

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St Germaine Cousin, Patroness of Abused Children

 

          Today brought me learning about a young saint, St Germaine Cousin (1579 – 1601), who lived at the heart of terrible physical, mental and emotional abuse by the very people who should have loved, sheltered and cherished her, but who instead showed her what an earthly hell was.

          After her birth mother died prematurely, her father remarried. Soon, the sight of the young, pitiable girl with a withered hand and scrofula – a tuberculosis infection of the lymph nodes, which, in her case, resulted in unsightly abscesses in her neck, drove her stepmother into a frenzy of hatred. Fearing the risk of contagion to her step-siblings, Germaine was isolated and banished to a narrow space in the stables, shared with the animals she had to tend to during the day. I cannot help but wonder if the deformed hand, and the fact that scrofula was then known as the King’s Evil, might have worsened the abuse. Did her stepmother, who made a habit out of severely beating, scalding the child with hot water, and administering other abuses, delude herself into thinking she was ridding the child of demons through her mistreatment?

          Did her stepmother see demons where there were none? Did young Germaine’s purity of spirit agitate the darkness within the stepmother’s soul, worsening the whippings, food deprivations and humiliations? Driving the woman to a madness of violence, that perhaps, even she could not understand, much less contain?

          Germaine’s father, by some accounts, was said to be a weak-willed man.

          I think that’s too mild a word for someone who lived near such horrific abuse, but never suffered it himself, yet did nothing to halt it. 

          I cannot place him in a kinder light. I think he loved and cared much for his own self-preservation – to the point of excluding love for anyone else. Blood could pour out of his daughter, but nothing could be allowed to threaten the comfort of his position in that family. His entire heart must have been filled with himself; nothing left over for anyone else, not even his very own daughter. It must have been – to have deafened and blinded himself to his little girl’s tears and sobs and sufferings; not to have been moved by the even the sight of his own flesh-and-blood, living amongst animals, like an animal, dressed in rags, feet blistered and bloodied because she was deprived of shoes, rising before dawn to slave in servitude for him, her step-siblings and stepmother, and then shepherding in meadows bordered by wolf-infested forests.

          What heart of stone was this, un-softened by even a whisper of love for his own child?

          It is the heart of an abuse-enabler.

          That which belongs to one who looks the other way when abuse is being perpetuated. Who, like Pontius Pilate, washed his hands off Jesus, distancing himself from his duty. Who holds up the evening papers and huddles behind it to separate himself from the injustice when the child is being beaten and humiliated, convinced the child brought it upon herself.

          Did this man, to whom a child of God was given, over time, begin to nurse a secret dislike of his own child, by justifying to himself that Germaine must have been doing something to stir the nest of tempests in his tenuous household? And by that conjecture, hold her accountable for all that befell her?

          When the line was drawn, I wonder if he ever joined in the abuse – just to show on whose side he stood. Did he add to the slaps and kicks, on his wife’s demand, perhaps? Or join in the family chorus of vitriol against the defenseless child- just to ensure that he remained one of the others?

          Did this man, Laurent Cousin, find suffering in the second marriage of his choosing? And failing to find the courage to carry his cross, blame this daughter of his for necessitating this marriage of woes?

          And mercilessly hurl her to the wolves in his own household?

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          The little Germaine grew up and wore out the rutted paths of violence at the hands of her abusers – her entire family. But with each lash endured in silence and meekness, the angels buried her deeper into the Wounds of Christ. While she lived Calvary at the hands of her family, the young shepherdess’ soul was drawn into a deeper union with her Heavenly Shepherd, and some were privileged enough to witness this through the miracles of the parting waters as she went determinedly to mass, and the changing of bread in her apron to winter blooms never seen.

          But the far greater miracle borne of this pain, was the holy magnificence of a spirit that never yielded to the saddest consequences of abuse – the hardening of heart and the inward centering of the victim’s gaze. The more Germaine was abused, the more she loved others – through her teaching of what little catechism she knew to children, through her sharing of scraps, through her Rosaries. Her own suffering didn’t take hostage her sense of charity. It didn’t mottle her loving kindness. Nothing veered her from that steadfast adherence to her Shepherd’s call in her spirit. Germaine was given a paltry daily ration of black bread by her stepmother, but even of this paucity, she saved to share with others she deemed more deprived. The fate she was enduring was never foremost in her mind; mercy was.

          By the sharing of her rations with others, she gave them Jesus. 

          By humbly submitting to the breaking of her body, Germaine sent the Eucharist where mercy was most needed.

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          All through my Friday Rosary of the Sorrowful Mysteries, I met the pensive gaze of the holy shepherdess as I wove my prayers for abusers and the abused through the Holy Passion of Christ.

          And yet, the weave didn’t remain in place. I had the faintest sense it was  not the prayer I was called to that day. 

          In the hours that followed,  I probed my discerning. Slowly I felt the abuse that St Germaine suffered recede from my spirit. I struggled to hold on to it through prayerful probing, because that is the common thread she and I share. But it slipped through my fingers.

          I had the vaguest feeling, it hadn’t ‘slipped away’ as much as it was taken.

          In its place lay a little bud the shepherdess placed on my soul. 

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          It is in My Passion that you must seek light and strength. ~ #654, St Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy In My Soul.

In My Passion…..seek Light…

          I rested my mind in the Passion of my Saviour.

          And the bud began to unfurl its petals of red. I began to see that the breaking of Germaine’s body healed and nourished other souls, to go forth themselves, to multiply mercy through the same giving – the breaking of their own bodies for others.

          Going back to my own life, and petal by petal, my spirit saw each year lived. Every tear, every storm, every uprooting – converged on a single point of Light: the Holy Eucharist.

          I have slowly begun the journey to comprehend the purpose of the gnarls and twists and ruts in my life. Every nail endured through the loving of others is the unfurling of the mercy of the Eucharist in the pain of need, to be multiplied in a succession of other lives, one soul after another.

          .

         

Glorify

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          I didn’t always love my family. I polished the home, cooked every day, and cared for little ones when the sniffles and spotties came. But I didn’t spend enough love-time with them, listen to their hearts as much as I should have. I had lovely, joyful children blessed with a freshness only children possess, whose little stories tumbled out eagerly, yet, fell wasted on preoccupied ears. So, I didn’t get to hear firsthand about the yellow and white butterflies playing tag amongst the gardenias, or about the yellow-and-green ‘ballbirds’ in the lush trees  at night. My young ones got hugs and cuddles and kisses, but very often, they didn’t get them too, because I didn’t always love my family.
see_no_evil_hear_no_evil_by_pinkparis1233-d5sfuql[1]           For many sad, bereft years, I didn’t always love my family because I allowed trespassers into my little sanctuary – those who had little or no regard for the sanctity of family life. They came into my home armed with authority, under the pretext of love and shared values, and dispensed wisdom they said I didn’t have. Cowed, I let them hold my mind and heart captive to satisfy their every whine and whim. When my small inner voice rebelled that my family needed more, I made feeble attempts to wriggle free, but the deceivers in my life told me I was wrong because I didn’t know, and they were right because they did.
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           I bought into the fable of the trespassers that in order to live, I must be enslaved, and my family paid the price for that. A hug when they needed it they did not get. A comfort when they fussed remained a wishful thought. They got a wife and mother who got things done but forgot to love because she was busy putting others before the Family, and didn’t see anything wrong with it. My husband and children fell a distant second because I let others dumb me down and set the parameters for family life. I was lulled into accepting the flawed belief systems of others. I let them dictate to me the hallmarks of a good Catholic wife and mother. I even allowed them to drive my religious beliefs. Family life was not lived through the lens of the Almighty, and whilst we seemed the joyous all-Catholic family, we were tearing at the seams.
          I stilled my conscience in order to up the volume of the trespassers, and that was my sin, and mine alone.
          Good mother, they patted me on the head in glee.
          And they led me out the front door, away from the family, into the dark.
          But there was a God above, and He kept watch over my soul. I had in me a hidden part that I misted away from everyone but my Saviour. It was my tiny act of defiance to keep a space of my own that was not overrun by external dictates. It was in this secret hollow veiled from human knowledge that I crumbled before the Almighty. It was here to Him that I took my sorrows and doubts.
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          But prayer is never a one-way street of petitions and pleadings. My Lord spoke, and the words of Life came back to me, but couldn’t take root because the soil of my heart was not right. It was a soil watered by a lack of spiritual nourishment and a drought of holy obedience. The Word struggled to live in me because I had pledged obedience and loyalty to those who lived dual lives: outwardly upholding family life; in reality, undermining it.
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          There was an incessant howling at the door of my life, voices not of my family’s, commanding me to come out for I was needed for vineyards not willed by heaven. The feral howls continued for many years. I was powerless to resist because I lived in the dangerous aridity where sin and dark was king. I offered incense in homage to people, not to my Lord. My refusal to break with the dark, my fear of repercussions, was in fact, a personal rejection of Life-giving Truths – God’s Commandments – which would have set me free a long time ago.
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          Then, one still night, on the tenth chime, the angels broke my heart. I learned a pain never known before. The searing flame of a final farewell marked my soul, never to be erased. The sea of grief formed a wave of walls around me, making me an island; for the very first time in my life, cutting me off from all that had stretched me in a thousand wrong directions. Alone in my pain,  a sword knifed through my soul, severing in finality, the ropes that strung me to the deceivers. 
          Then, came the grace of divine sight, hitherto withheld, borne on a blue wind.       jesusmarymet02[1].jpg
          Into that sudden freed expanse, the Mater Dolorosa slipped in quietly. To tell me She’d been here before. In gentle wisdom, She parted the old swirling mists, and bade me see the life my family and I deserved ~ a life lived in freedom to glorify God, and no one else. A freedom that would come only if I let the angels unbind my conscience captive to the world, and avail it for the nurturing of my Lord and King.
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          From that night of grace of grief, on a journey that has spanned years and far from over, Mother Mary continues to gently lead me down the blossom-blessed path of bitters and anguish towards peace. Every day, my spirit in Her Hands, I learn to fight any darkness that seeks to still and rule my conscience. Every day is a learning to discern the voice of my Saviour from the beguiling chorus from the sewers.
          For my Mother has taught me there is only one life that glorifies God.
          It is a life where the conscience, the breath to the soul, is never shackled nor governed by human tyranny that seeks to kill God and all of God.

 

 

My Father – ST PADRE PIO ~ SEPT 23

Flower-Fairy-daydreaming-25485002-304-428[1]  My father loves me. Of that, I have no doubt. But he loves himself more. I am only loved to the point that he doesn’t need to exert himself too much, or give up something he loves more. Which unfortunately, is not God.

When you have a dad who loves you but loves himself more, he is not likely to make the necessary sacrifices of true Christian fatherhood. It would be easier to yell and hit, than to apply the teachings of the Bible with love, to correct the child. It would be easier to terrorise the child into good behavior without bestirring oneself to be a model of such. A lot less stressful to dismiss dangers and thus, not get into a knot trying to protect your daughter from them. And when the child is weighed down by problems, and not able to make her father laugh, or be a social comfort for him as before, then, for the father, it is the path clear of brambles to harangue the child, Move On! Go back to being the joyful person you once were – not said out of love and concern for the child’s well-being, but for the continued preservation of the father’s comfort and happiness.

After years of deep hurting and bewilderedness, I shrugged and decided it didn’t matter; it was time to stop whining for what I wanted but couldn’t have, others were worse off. But the truth was, it did matter. Having a father who failed because he didn’t try was a wound that needed healing, and healing didn’t come from stuffing the hurt down a dark hole in a dusty corner.

It was Our Lady of La Salette who brought my father to me. The light from my wound came from discovering the man who loved me enough to make me his daughter: St Padre Pio of Pietrelcina.

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fairytallflowers[1]  My Father Pio taught me that a sin was a sin, whatever the history, but forgiveness was readily available and it was imperative for a fresh start. I just needed to humble myself, for humility unlocked many doors, including that acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

One man from Padua, who had gone to confession to Padre Pio, tried to go to confession again before the eight-day waiting period had elapsed. In order to circumvent the waiting-period, he lied about the amount of days that had passed since his last confession to Padre Pio. When he entered the confessional, Padre Pio sent him out and forcefully accused him of his lie.  After being kicked out, the man said with tears, “I’ve told many lies during my lifetime, and I thought I could deceive Padre Pio too.” But Padre Pio had a supernatural knowledge of his action. Padre Pio demanded that each confession be a true conversion. He did not tolerate a lack of honesty in the confession of sins. He was very stern on those who made excuses, spoke insincerely, or lacked a firm resolution to amend their lives. He demanded frankness and total honesty from the penitent. He also required a true and sincere sorrow of heart, and an absolute firmness in a person’s resolutions for the future. 

Father Pio made it clear to me that in order to make a fresh start, I needed to make a clean break from my past failings.

flower-faerie[1]  Father Pio told me in no uncertain terms that I could not blame God for what was intended for my purification, and that my trials should take me to God, not fleeing in the opposite direction.

One woman who came on a long trip to see Padre Pio said to him in confession, “Padre Pio, four years ago I lost my husband and I haven’t gone to church since then.” Padre Pio replied, “Because you lost your husband, you also lost God? Go away! Go away!” as he quickly closed the door of the confessional. Shortly after this event, the same woman recovered her faith, attributing it to the way Padre Pio treated her – probably acknowledging how she had put her attachment to her husband above God.

Req-DaisyGirl-GraphicsFairy1[1]  I wasn’t in the habit of going to God with my problems and difficulties. I had an unhealthy self reliance that kept me from seeking His wisdom.

Padre Pio commented on the amount of confessions he heard, and how he was able to do it: “There have been periods when I heard confessions without interruption for eighteen hours consecutively. I don’t have a moment to myself. But God helps me effectively in my ministry. I feel the strength to renounce everything, ….”

vintage-flower-fairy-garland[1]  I wanted the firm guidance of a godly father. But I also liked humour, and Padre Pio had it.

One person in confession questioned the very existence of Hell. Padre Pio responded, “You will believe it when you get there.”

TheSnowdropFairy[1]  My father didn’t have much patience for much, and letter-writing/emails was the agony of agonies. I didn’t receive many from him, but the ones I did, I wished he hadn’t sent. St. Pio had many spiritual children, and he wrote them, and his letters were treasured for the life they gave.

Beloved daughter of Jesus, 
           May Jesus and our Mother always smile on your soul, obtaining for it, from Her most holy Son, all the heavenly charisms! 
           I am writing to you for two reasons: to answer some more questions from your last letter, and to wish you a very happy names-day in the most sweet Jesus, full of all the most special heavenly graces. Oh! If Jesus granted my prayers for you or, better still, if only my prayers were worthy of being granted by Jesus! However, I increase them a hundredfold for your consolation and salvation, begging Jesus to grant them, not for me but through the heart of his paternal goodness and infinite mercy….Therefore, be humble of heart, circumspect in words, prudent in your resolutions. Always be sparing in your speech, assiduous in good reading, attentive in your work, modest in your conversation. Don’t be disgusting to anybody but be benevolent towards all and respectful towards your elders. May any sinister glance be far from you, may no daring word escape your lips, may you never carry out any immodest or somewhat free action; never a rather free action or a petulant tone of voice. 
           In short let your whole exterior be a vivid image of the composure of your soul. Always keep the modesty of the divine Master before your eyes, as an example; this Master who, according to the words of the Apostle to the Corinthians, placing the modesty of Jesus Christ on an equal footing with meekness, which was his one particular virtue and almost his characteristic: “Now I Paul myself beseech you, by the mildness and modesty of Christ” [Douay-Rheims, 2 Cor. 10:1], and according to such a perfect model reform all your external operations, which should be faithful reflections revealing the affections of your interior. 
           Never forget this divine model, Annita. Try to see a certain lovable majesty in his presence, a certain pleasant authority in his manner of speaking, a certain pleasant dignity in walking, in contemplating, speaking, conversing; a certain sweet serenity of face. Imagine that extremely composed and sweet expression with which he drew the crowds, making them leave cities and castles, leading them to the mountains, the forests, to the solitude and deserted beaches of the sea, totally forgetting food, drink and their domestic duties…. 

          Don’t worry if you are unable to answer my letter for the moment. I know everything so don’t worry. 
           I take my leave of you in the holy kiss of the Lord. I am always your servant. 

Fra Pio, Capuchin 

I loved Padre Pio’s letters for the light in them and their lightness of burden. When the human will is exerted in letters, it is a burden that weighs down on you and takes the skin off your shoulders. It makes you go in any direction but heaven. I didn’t get that letter from my Father Pio, but it could have been written for me, and I too treasure it for it is a letter from a true father, setting me in the direction of God the Father.

2534033067_47c872012f_z[1]  In recent months, I have skipped away from my Father Pio, but in pursuit of heaven still. He does not bully me home or petulantly force me back in homage to himself, but prays me on my journey. Only a true father….

1999 ~ JESUS

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For most of my life, I lived in the bosom of shadows. I was held against my will there. But the Light always intrigued me. I’d part the leaves of my abode, and peer out into the golden cheer, and wonder how it’d be to live in the Light forever.

But as much as others chained me to darkness, I too allowed them, by the darkness in my own heart: my willfulness. The unwillingness to bend in yielding to God. I wanted to be free, but I wanted to do it my way, my time. I wanted joy, but not the Cross, and so, while I did carry my crosses, I did so with a great deal of unpleasantness. There were more than enough storms wrought by external circumstances in my life.

But I did my part in creating more.

I was born into this world with a singular purpose: To raise my birth mother’s name to perfumed heights. From my earliest memories, she drilled into me, day and night, that I was to go forth and make her, not Our Lady, known.

At every family gathering, in every conversation with family or friends, I had to seize opportunities to perfume the name of my earthly mother. I had to remember how to praise her, use the right words to let everyone know how well she cooked, how well she raised us, her many sacrifices. Woe betide me if I ever let one pass up. After every “marketing opportunity”, there’d be a post mortem of my performance at home, and the report revised and referred to for the next ten years.

When I married and swapped the dark roost of my childhood for another dark pit of my own making, I was forced to further grow into my role as Ambassador-for-my-mother. She wanted me to shine in my job, in my kitchen and shine spiritually too, and when others were drawn to my light, I had to point them, not to the good Lord, but to her – so all would bow down and pay my mother homage for her success in raising a good daughter.

There was one problem. I couldn’t cook. Born into a family of cooks, I struggled mightily to serve up half decent meals. My mother was immensely proud of her cooking skills, and I was deeply interested to learn from her. But for some strange reason, she kept me chained to just a couple of recipes, and refused to teach me more. She hid her recipes. She gave excuses. She fumed over the way I managed to underperform in cooking even those few dishes.

I tried but couldn’t get the dishes just right. I hadn’t married yet, and the only kitchen I had to practice in was hers, so there was no chance to cook alone and build up my confidence. But even after I married, my cooking standards remained low, because I remained obedient to her to never try anything other than what she had taught me. I didn’t think of buying a cookbook on my own because despite living miles away from her, I would have needed her permission. My mother had chained me to her from my birth, and I remained chained to her even after my marriage. So, my pathetic cooking continued its downward spiral. My mother writhed in agony over the shame I was to bring to her, by being the non-cook in a family of those born to please palates. She wrote me letters entreating me to try and learn to cook decently the dishes she had taught me or I’d bring so much shame to her – she, who was known to be a wonderful cook.

Letter after letter. Call after call.

Why letters, in this modern age? She wanted me to read and re-read her letters and commit her words of lament and admonishment to memory.

One night, the pain of those words got a bit too much. The house was in a mess. Dinner was in a worse mess. I looked over at my calm and unperturbed husband, and shame burned in me at how I had failed in my duties as a wife. My mother’s words of how I had failed the family numerous times before, as a child, and even then, as a wife, burned their roots into my soul. I was barren, couldn’t bear him children. I couldn’t keep house. I couldn’t cook a simple meal right.

That night, I reached the end of my tether. I left my husband watching tv and retired to bed to hide the tears that flowed unrestrained. Silently, I screamed and screamed and screamed to God to take my life. Over and over I sobbed like I had never before that He end my life before I hurt my husband who had loved me enough to marry me but whom I could not make happy.

I prayed for courage to drive the car over the cliff that it would appear to be an accident, so my family need never be shamed by the stigma of my suicide.

I screamed and sobbed deep into my pillow. At some point, I slept off.

Towards 2 or 3am in the dark night-dawn, I was awakened by an awareness. I sat up and looked around the dark room, searching. I turned and looked at my husband, sleeping in peace, blissfully unaware of the nutcase beside him. Finding nothing, I settled back on my pillow.

And nearly died of utter shock.

At the foot of my bed, towering above me, stood Jesus.

Jesus of the many paintings, and yet, a Jesus, never seen before. His eyes a blue-green that did not belong to this earth. There was none of the expected tenderness in His eyes. He fixed on me a look that reached deep into my soul.

The look reserved for a recalcitrant child.

After the initial paralysis, I suddenly realized I had tons to tell Him, and I had to do it fast, in case He left before I was finished. So, I let it all out. All the pain, all that had happened. My lips unmoving, from my heart to my Lord’s. On and on I went, slipping and skidding in my rush to have them all out.

He listened to me in silence. Still and utterly within my pool of pain, stood my Lord.

Slowly, I wound to a close, every heartache brought to the light.

In the stillness, He spoke words I never expected to hear:

Let go, Relax,

Let go, Relax,

Let go, Relax…

Over and over, they washed over me, like waves bearing the Light of Truth and Healing.

Let go, Relax,

Let go, Relax,

Let go, Relax…

I began to see another vision unfurl by His side. I saw Mother Mary wiping the wounds of her Son. They were not the wounds of the scourging. They seemed to be smaller ones, less severe. Wrought by me? Perhaps. But it was not the focus then.

Mother was tending to her Son’s wounds. Watching her, I had the strong sense that it should have been me doing it.

I fell asleep hearing the words, Let Go, Relax but I felt these final words imprinted on my soul: Wipe My Blood.

I woke up on the morrow no longer the same. I sat in the mess of my living room, and looked at the Jesus in a picture. I thought of his words, Let go, Relax, but didn’t ponder them, didn’t try to discern their meaning. I let the words hang suspended in my mind.

I called my mother and told her about the vision and the words I had not rehearsed or even thought of came out: From now on, I will cook but I don’t care how I cook because Jesus came and told me it’s not important.

Not a croak out of my mother.

Never again did I agonise over my cooking for her sake.

But in my ebullience over this culinary freedom, I failed to recall and ponder the last words He wrote on my soul:

Wipe My Blood.