In my child life, in my 7th year, on Holy Thursday evening, I was beaten by my father. Why? I don’t recall and this barely matters. I was beaten as a matter of course, and being beaten didn’t signify that I had done much of anything at all. Except that I was alive, and and unfortunate enough to be in the eyeline or grasp of my father.
I crawled into bed that evening – battered and numb. empty and lost. I felt as other wounded and trapped animals might; except that I didn’t have the option of gnawing off my leg to secure my freedom. There was no except for me, except death. I hugged my pillow to my pain filled chest, and I prayed for death.
to my great disappointment, my eyes opened upon a new day. I rose and dressed for school, donning the crisp blue uniform of my Catholic School, and then gathering my brothers and helping them to get ready for our father to drive us to school.
It was Good Friday and this mean that there would not be much in the way of academics that day. We would all attend church services at mid-day and then be released to go home. I was grateful for the relaxed attitude in school and looked forward to mass. I was a rather dreamy and introspective child. I always loved the mediation one could experience as part of the Catholic Mass. I loved the incense , candles, songs, prayers. I loved feeling united with others in the pews and with Catholics all over the world. Following the mass I found a well of deep peace – a much needed place of peace.
All of us children were herded in orderly row into the church, each grade occupying a group of rows together. I was surrounded by happy chatting young ones, but I sat apart and in pain. This again was not an unusual thing. I was not a popular child in grade school. I didn’t have friends. I was invisible, and for the most part, I preferred it that way. It hurt too much to be close to other people; I didn’t understand them – and other kids could sometimes be very mean. Being invisible was helpful and I bore the isolation as a necessary evil.
I did feel safe I church however. I cool, dark wood of the pew was soothing to my bruised thighs. I sat there lost in pain as the service began.
The Gospel on Good Friday is Christ’s Passion. It was a story I’d heard many times before. But today it was if I’d heard the words for the first time. My entire being was riveted with the retelling of the trial of Jesus; his torture, torment, and execution. Before I realized it, choking sobs escaped my small body, tears pours from my eyes.
Sister John Joseph took space beside me. At first her voice seemed very far away, and then closer and closer until I looked to my right and could see her l=kind and concerned face. I was no longer sobbing, but silent tears streamed and I imagine my expression was one of anguish, not to mention embarrassment at making such a scene in from of my classmates and during the scared rite of Good Friday Mass. Sister scooped me into her arms and took me onto her lap. St John Joseph was a very warm ,ample woman and my young body settled into her with relief and an exquisite experience of comfort. The comfort at first was upsetting because It was so unusual to me – so rarely was I touched without pain accompanying the experience. Could I trust this? Could I? I noticed her motioning to my classmates to turn around and to focus on the Mass. She then whispered into my ear. “Oh dear child, what’s troubling you? Are you weeping for our Lord?” I nodded affirmatively into her neck and accepted with gratitude the handkerchief she pressed into my palm.
“Oh she breathed again, what a good girl you are Lynette.” She began to gently rock me.” A sweet good girl to cry for our Lord this way. he loves you dear child – he loves us all. he endured what he did so that you can be free and happy. He endured this so that you can have joy, darling. But you are a good and sensitive girl and this has touched your deeply. I know. I know. “She said as she rocked me gently in her lap. “be strong dear girl, take heart – God loves you. You are his one precious girl.”
This dear nun had no idea how much I needed to hear her words; and now as an adult, I know that my tears were not only for my beloved Jesus, but for me as well, and that that was alright. This moment, in the arms of a loving servant of God was a message to me from the God I loved- a reminder of my worth. A comfort to my soul. It was a moment that connected me with all of the world’s sufferings great and small. I held on tight to this caring woman and accepted each kiss she placed on my brow with gratitude.
It was a reminder that I was worthy, loved and loveable. Loveable enough for my God to have suffered for me. Lovable enough for comfort to find me when I needed it most. Lovable enough to endure what was placed before me – at least for one more day.
One more day.
This peace is for all who suffer and who are being tortured. Be you an abused child or prisoner of war. May you be lifted daily with signs of God’s love and your worthiness, until your deliverance comes.
May the heart of your abuser be touched and healed – may your pain end today. May you be set free.