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Here I am, Lord…Broken

Here I am Lord Broken

“That next day I sat in Adoration for an hour. Instead of reading or writing, I just sat there staring at the Blessed Sacrament, fixated on it as a life source. I was all out of ideas. I wasout of energy. I was losing hope. Something far stronger than me had its grip on my son.” ~ My 13th Station, memoir

When I was young I naively believed that all I needed in preparation for the big bad world was a college degree, a solid resume, and a little luck. As a poorly catechized Catholic, I was never taught the immense richness and beauty of the faith, nor did I learn about the essential need for forming an intimate bond with Jesus. These concepts were simply foreign to me growing up. I eventually left the Church at age 18 to spend the next twenty-two years flailing about—getting that college education and building my resume while living the cycle of sin.

At age 40 I came limping back to the Church, tail between my legs. Life had humbled me. A powerful hunger for knowledge about the Church of my heritage launched a years-long process of self-teaching. I devoured books as if they might evaporate before I could finish them, such was the sense of urgency. I gobbled up books on the Saints, writings of the Church Fathers, the Doctors of the Church, Scripture, and became pretty well-versed at apologetics. I was on fire.

It was during these early years after returning to the Church, about twenty years ago, that I discovered Eucharistic Adoration. I will never forget entering that dim little chapel and immediately, instinctively, falling to my knees in front of Jesus, present there in the
Blessed Sacrament. Thus began a deep love for spending quiet, special time with Our Lord in Adoration.

Who knew that these weekly visits would become my number one most important survival tool? It was as if Jesus timed my discovery of Adoration just in time for the exceedingly difficult years that would follow, unknown to me of course. I looked forward to my Wednesday evening “dates” with Jesus with such devotion and love in my heart. I began journaling while I sat there immersed in the warmth of His graces. Over the years I filled multiple journals with the details of my faith journey. I jotted down gushing passages about my children, as well as sorrowful entries about my crumbling marriage, while in His loving embrace.

For a few years there I gave up my weekly commitment and just popped in to the chapel at will. Funny, because looking back it is clear that those were the years that I should have committed to several hours per week. The wheels had come off. Spiritual warfare raged in my home, my marriage ended, and my dear son was overcome suddenly with depression at age 19.

Throughout the six years that my boy battled depression and, subsequently, alcoholism, I relied on just about every tool the Church provided. I found sources of strength in a daily rosary, Adoration, intercessory prayers, novenas. Still, my son’s illness worsened and his life began to unravel. I would go to that little Adoration chapel seeking solace from the Source of all graces, relishing those times when I was alone in the room with him so I would just wail and cry with abandon. Jesus was there for me.

Tragically, my beloved son didn’t make it. He lost all hope and took his own life at age 25 on October 23, 2013. I can say with all sincerity that without my deep faith and ironclad bond with Christ and His Mother I would not have survived the grief. Over these last six years since losing my son I have leaned on Jesus even more for the strength to go on. Now each week in Adoration I plead for His Loving Mercy on my son’s soul, to eventually allow him into Heaven.

I am a different person now when I visit Him. I still write in my journal and pray my rosary in the little Adoration chapel, but I am a depleted version of my former self. Even so, I know on some level that getting that dose of time each week with Jesus is helping to sustain me, even propel me. He still has plans for my life, and this time I realize how much I will need Him.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Theresa Anthony is a freelance writer who specializes in writing within the addiction and mental health space. Her recently published memoir, My 13th Station, offers a transparent journey into her son’s battle with alcoholism and depression, culminating in his suicide, as well as intense spiritual warfare. My 13th Station is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble in both ebook and print formats.


RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

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Sacred Heart of Jesus, Your Mercy Saved Me


I have a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Being that this is His month, I wanted to share a little story of my childhood.

Growing up, my mom had this image of the Sacred Heart in our living room. This is the image I would look at day in and day out. This was HUGE by the way it measured about 5 feet x 3 feet, think a big poster. I experienced many sad moments in my childhood: the loss of my father, sexual abuse by my step father (I’ve shared in Broken Childhood, Healed by Christ), my mother’s alcoholism due to the first two, and much more. But this image always gave me hope, even when we didn’t go to Mass, even when my mom fell away from the Church.

One time when we were moving for what felt like the 1 billionth time, she wanted to change the frame it was in because it was heavy and she and I were moving our entire apartment alone with my little sisters (I was 12 then). She messed it up and sprayed the image itself in silver. She cried and cried so much! I told her that it didn’t matter, it was beautiful anyway. Once we moved she never put it back up on the wall. Mind you this move was to get away from the abusive man that had hurt all three little girls and in the process my poor mother. My uncle saw it in a corner and thought it was trash so he was going to throw it away but then thought to keep the frame for another picture. So he starts pulling the picture off and guess what?

There was a second intact image underneath it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For us it was a miracle and gave us the strength we needed to move forward and away from the life we had lived for so long that was so far from God. I knelt before this image begging God to help my mom and her alcoholism MANY MANY times. I screamed at Him many times too, in those moment where I felt so alone and helpless. He pulled me/us through though. Many years later, when I was 25, my mom stopped drinking completely, not even socially. She had dry moments but that wasn’t enough. She went through a retreat and at the end of it there was a Mass and then followed testimonies of Faith. She stood up and told this story and then publicly apologized to me and thanked me for my Faith in Him, which is what helped her she said.

I have an incredible devotion to the Sacred Heart, can you see why?

But God’s amazing mercy didn’t stop there. When I met my husband, Peter, (on what used to be SaintRaphael.org and now CatholicMatch.com) he had this image as his profile picture for some time. It was a photo of the one that hung in his living room! The same exact one! It was what made me curious about him and got us chatting. His screen name was “SacredHeart1220”! In our bedroom we have a smaller but exact same image. My screen name was “LittleFlower1220”. Notice the 1220 that are similar? We have the same birthday, Dec. 20th. For me, there is no such thing as coincidence! Maybe God-incidences? See, I had just prayed a 30 Day Novena to the Holy Ghost and in it I wrote 30 things that I wanted my future husband to be like. I am not lying when I tell you he had all 30 things. It was just amazing, I giggle each time I remember…I met him on day 30!

Sometimes, it is hard to realize this but

God is always with us, even when men and the world, and the Devil want to hurt us. Cling to Him through the storm and in the end He will reward you!

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

 

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Broken Childhood Healed by Christ

 

Rushing to my pew, quietly and quickly, I tried to go unnoticed. A shy college student, I had no one to really go to Mass with me – well, not as often as I wanted to go, which was daily. Pulling the kneeler down, I felt my knees hit the leather chocolate brown cushion, folded my hands in prayer and closed my eyes in adoration. Just a few minutes later, I heard little feet scuffling the tile floor of the center aisle; I didn’t have to open my eyes because I knew it was the Sanchez mother and her nine little ones. In admiration, as I heard the last set of feet pass my pew, I opened my eyes to catch a glimpse of this lovely family which stood out like a sore thumb at our parish of over 500 families because of the size of theirs. It took two vehicles to get to Mass for them at the time, but you could count on them to be there almost on a daily basis. Their father was the Deacon at our parish, a sweet quiet man always quick to offer a smile and who also was a doctor. Teresa, their three year old, would look around the church and have a staring contest with the beautiful images of Mary and the saints frequently until her eyes met mine and we would share a quick smile and a little wave. Though their family was a little bigger than the Martin’s, they reminded me so much of what Saint Therese of Lisieux’s family must have been like while she was growing up. I admired this family and frequently thought to myself, “oh how I wish one day I too could have a family like that, but that probably won’t ever happen.”

Quickly negative thoughts would enter my mind as I closed my eyes again because I was still so very broken. I couldn’t understand why I was so broken at the time. I wanted to blame everyone else; after all, it was easier that way. It wasn’t my fault I lost my father to war and that he chose the military as his profession. It wasn’t my fault that my mother became a widow at twenty-five with three young girls ages five, three, and one and an immigrant to the United States of America. It wasn’t my fault she had to work two and three jobs at a time just to keep the water running and electricity on while my grandmother raised us. It wasn’t my fault she got involved with a man that was a child-molester and targeted all three of us as well as one of my cousins. It wasn’t my fault she became an alcoholic. It wasn’t my fault that uncles and male cousins thought I was “a pretty little girl” like my step-father. It wasn’t my fault we had to move around so much growing up – sometimes even going to two or three different schools in one year. It wasn’t my fault that we ended up in an apartment building in a not-so-great section of South Florida where gangs were popular. It wasn’t my fault I thought sleeping with my boyfriends from a very young age was the proper way to show affection; after all, wasn’t that the way I was taught by the only man in my life, my step-father? These thoughts ran through my head almost daily and I used them to continue to justify my actions even when God was showing me His love and mercy. After all, he had used one of these boyfriends to “bring me back home” and back to Church. That didn’t stop my broken nature though. I prayed and worked at a Church as a Youth Minister because I loved my Faith and my God but I didn’t really realize that my personal life was a wreck! So looking at what this beautiful family had, a lovely marriage, lots of little children, a happy Catholic life, that wasn’t for me. It would never happen, “stop dreaming”, I would tell myself frequently.

Of course, running a life pretending to be a good Catholic wasn’t working out. My hidden nature, the outcome of child sexual abuse would soon catch up to me. Soon after my graduation from the university I found out I was expecting a baby, the father didn’t want me to keep “it” and I decided I would raise the baby alone. This lasted about three weeks and his father, a man that had serious problems with commitment, decided we should go ahead and get married. We did, when I was five months pregnant; we had a big Church wedding, I bought the dress that concealed the baby bump and it was a beautiful day! That is, until reality hit. This man too was broken, but a different kind of broken – his childhood also tarred with abuse physical and alcohol. After four years of being the victim and trying to raise a child in this environment, I went to see my spiritual director and after failed attempts to save the “marriage,” I filed for a civil divorce and began my annulment process. Oh those were 2.5 years that felt like a century, between the pain of reliving my life for the application and realizing the vast signs and errors in both our ways {we really were two broken people that had no business being in a relationship to start with}.

During this time was when my life changed completely. I went on retreats often and to Confession frequently and since I couldn’t receive Communion, I went back to Adoration for hours on thinking and analyzing my life, realizing that really none of that was my fault, after all I was a child. But I had to make drastic changes in my life; I was now a mother and needed to work hard to raise a Godly young man. There I was again, my knees on that kneeler begging God to save me, “one more time!” Shortly after all this and living a now chaste single life with a child of three years old, I began a Novena to the Holy Ghost. In my heart of hearts I still dreamed of a family like the Deacon’s and his lovely wife, but I never thought that would happen; yet, God listens to our hearts. Since I was such the “Doubting Thomas,” I asked God for a specific kind of man {I even made a list, and among these were silly little things like being ambidextrous like my dad, a tall man, a man of a stronger Faith than mine}.

On the last day of the Novena, I met Peter (my now husband), and of all places, on what is now CatholicMatch.com. If I told you the details of my list and how precisely the description of Peter fit that list, you’d think I was crazy, lying or both. Peter had just finished discerning a vocation to the priesthood with the Fraternity of Saint Peter (an order of apostolic life which only offer the Mass in Latin}; he was a convert and knew so much about our beautiful Faith that ten years later I’m still amazed of how much he knows {versus me, the cradle Catholic who knows so little} and how perfect God’s plan in our lives is. This November it will be ten years since we met, courted, and later married in the Traditional Latin Mass.

Today my life mirrors that of the Sanchez Family more than any other family I’ve met; it amazes me that I never told anyone this nor did I ever ask for it, but the Lord listened to my heart. He heard that I needed His healing; my brokenness needed Him so much and through prayer and the Sacraments, here I am today, a better Catholic. I’m trying my very best to live a life of grace, a life of devotion and prayer as wife to the perfect man (for me) and mother to five little blessings.

Daily, I struggle with my sinful nature partnered with the sad memories of my broken childhood. I can now look back and accept what happened because it made me who I am today, and it also helps me look at my present and future with hope – true hope in Him. My wonderful husband who is so wise constantly reminds me by telling me this: “In your spiritual life, you are never standing still. You are either moving forward or falling back.” I strive to always be moving forward, much more than I did before I was healed by Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Without Him, I cannot do it; it is impossible. It’s not an easy road, not a perfect one either, but it’s a grace-filled one full of the love and forgiveness and healing power of God. So my sisters, yes, there is hope and a beautiful life, even when life fed you a broken childhood! Pray for me so that the Lord gives me strength to continue to heal and thirst for Him ever more.