I have experienced some memorable moments since becoming a deacon. Caring moments, tender moments and oh yes, some funny moments. I’ll have to save the funny moments till another column — another time.
One caring moment? After four years of studies and formation, I remember when, at my ordination liturgy and Mass, the head of formation verbally ‘testified’ to our worthiness to be ordained (on behalf of his position representing the Church). We were then asked by Archbishop Charles Chaput to stand up, to turn around and face the 800 or so assembled family members and guests. Thunderous applause broke out. My family was near enough for me to see them. I believe that an adult son had tears streaming down his cheeks — this from a non-practicing young man who cared enough to be present at this special time in my life.
A tender moment? I vividly recall a time that I was delivering the weekend homilies at our parish back in Estes Park, Colorado. The church is a gorgeous, small-mountain town type place of worship. There’s an intimacy for those in the front sections; they were able to see my expressions and emotions, and I could see their’s.
The weekend that comes to mind was when I was preaching about emotional wounds that many of us carry — some carrying them like heavy baggage all through our lives. I spoke about having in my own life a father wound. I shared at this Sunday Mass about having a father who seemed disappointed in me. He was never that happy around me, and was mostly remote. In my processing of and reaction to this, I was smart-mouthed, sometimes insulting and unloving. In that Colorado homily, I shared about how sorry I was that I had never healed the relationship with my dad (or mom) while they were alive. And now they were deceased.
But what I did share was that I eventually went to the cemetery in Windsor, Canada where they are buried. It was a warm, sunny summer day. I went to their gravesite and I knelt down. I prayed for their forgiveness and I told them how sorry I was for my sinful behavior of earlier years. I told them I would pray for them. I asked for reconciliation and then I walked over to the car that I had driven there. I opened the doors and invited my parents to get into the car and to take a ride to a family reunion that I was attending. It was a family reunion for my late mom’s family. And since that time, I’ve become a daily Mass goer, and have prayed for them hundreds and hundreds of times. It is a part of my inner healing from wounds that I carried for years.
How well I remember delivering this homily in Colorado and seeing a man about my age sitting there with tears streaming…. streaming down his cheeks. I don’t know whether I was ‘opening’ a painful wound that he carried, or whether he was being ‘called’ to start a similar reconciliation in his own life. I’ll never know.
But I am convinced that many of us carry the baggage of painful wounds in our lives. Each of us come from differing circumstances. We may struggle with self-hatred, resentments, undue concern about sins we’ve committed and confessed, anger, guilt — our wounds are as many and as ‘mixed’ as the variations on the theme of the brokenness of original sin.
The wounds that we carry, like mine can originate from events of a generation or more ago. And yet they damage true happiness at times such as Christmas or New Years. I read once about the example of trying to push a basketball down deep into the water at a pool. The further we push down, the more the ball struggles to free itself from our grasp. That image comes from the struggle so many of us have to repress our wounds.
And so — if it sounds like a too-unhappy a topic to be bringing up at the season of the newborn Christ-child, remember that He said ‘Remain in Me and I remain in you. And ‘come to Me, all of you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.’
And so my prayer for any who might see this is a prayerful wish for healing one or more of the demons you carry with you in the form of wounds. This in turn can become a great gift to those around us: they are blessed by the healing of our inner wounds.
And so we pray:
“Lord Jesus Christ, I come to You and ask You to be present from the moment of my conception to this very moment, filling me with your infinite love and mercy; filling me with every grace and blessing: gifts to heal every hurt that I carry. Hurts known; wounds unknown.
Provide me with the fatherly or motherly love that I may not have had according to your plan. Provide me with forgiveness for parents or siblings or others who have hurt me in my walk in life.
As I journey through each new day in the New Year, I ask you to cleanse, heal and refresh me. Refresh and renew my life that I may be the gift to others that may have been missing in my earlier years. Help me to love and appreciate the gift of acceptance that I know you will give to me. Hold me close to you. Heal my wounds. Amen.”
I pray for you a holy and blessed Christmas, and a healing and happy New Year.
Copyright 2011 Deacon Tom Fox