October is not only the Month of the Holy Rosary, it is also the month of Domestic Violence Awareness and Sexual Violence Awareness. My sister, Laura, lived in an abusive marriage for more than 25 years. What I want to share with you today is not the story of her abuse, but the story of her healing. I want all to know, especially during this month of awareness-raising, that our Lord’s deep desire for each one of us is wholeness and healing. He is so very present, never abandoning us in our pain. Sometimes He answers our prayers quickly. Other times, as in my sister’s story, He answer comes more slowly; two decades passed! Sure, there were many moments during that time when she felt His nearness. And yet, He allowed her painful journey to continue. While we can’t fully understand why this was the case, in the short 10 months since her healing, the Lord has already brought great hope and a sense of community to so many other women in similar situations. Please read the story that follows. And as we pray our Rosaries this month, may we add an intention for healing and peace in all families where the climate is of violence and fear, rather than love.
I sat across from my spiritual director as he read the below Scripture passage from Ezekiel to me. I had sat with him many times in the past three years but something was very different this March morning. My typical posture in spiritual direction had been slumped over, head in hands, sobbing. Today, I was weeping but these tears were an outpouring of a swelling of gratitude and love that was too great for my heart to contain. I could barely keep myself sitting still and I felt no need to hide my face. What had affected this transformation, this flood of joy?
From the four winds come, O spirit,
and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.
I prophesied as he told me, and the spirit came into them;
they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.
Then he said to me:
Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
They have been saying,
“Our bones are dried up,
our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”
Therefore, prophesy and say to them: Thus says the Lord GOD:
O my people, I will open your graves
and have you rise from them,
and bring you back to the land of Israel.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD,
when I open your graves and have you rise from them,
O my people!
I will put my spirit in you that you may live,
and I will settle you upon your land;
thus you shall know that I am the LORD.
I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD. (Ezekiel 37: 9-14)
Jesus had opened my grave, His hand had been upon me, and He had breathed His Spirit into my dry bones … I was truly alive!
For nearly twenty years I had suffered from Chronic Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, depression, anxiety, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The ten muscles at the core of my body were clenched in fear causing pain that was constant and debilitating. But the worst part of this pain was that in the preceding three years it had daily triggered flashbacks and nightmares of the trauma that had caused it. My body, my mind, and my soul were stuck in my painful past. This is a particular evil of sexual trauma – I was buried and barely breathing in the inescapable grave of my own body.
And then, on the evening of Saint Valentine’s Day, Jesus opened my grave, touched my dry bones, spoke words of love, and raised my mind, body, and soul to new life.
As I lay in bed attempting to listen to a Catholic guided visualization and progressive muscle relaxation recording, I cried out to Jesus, “I just can’t bear this another day, Jesus. I cannot keep imagining You touching me! Please, Lord, please heal me!” The words had not even left my lips when He came and He touched me.
His touch is gentle and warm, and His Light is both brilliant beyond imagining and yet so soft. And His voice is like a sweet love song. For the first time in years, every muscle in my body grew warm and heavy and the clenching and tightness melted away. I drifted to sleep in His arms and there I slept peacefully until morning.
When I awakened to the sun shining in through my window, I was immediately overwhelmed with gratitude for a restful night of sleep. I prayed, “O Jesus, thank You! Thank You for the peaceful sleep. I can go on. I will be okay with the pain.” I truly believed that His miracle for me was one night’s rest with no nightmares or pain waking me!
Once I was out of bed and getting busy with the school day routine, I quickly became aware that something was “wrong.” Where was my pain? I had no pain! Each moment, was filled with gratitude and cautious hope. What if the pain came back in the next moment, or hour, or day? What if I was only imagining that I didn’t feel any pain?
A day, a week, a month passed by and not only was the physical pain gone but the emotional and psychological pain was gone. I no longer had flashbacks or panic attacks, no more nightmares, and no more depressive symptoms. With one touch, Jesus, my Lord and my God, had healed and restored ME … all of me … mind, body, and soul.
On that March morning, in Father’s office, the resurrection power of our Lord was evident in the brightness of my eyes, in my smile, in the ease of my walk and the straightness of my back. After listening quietly to my story, Father jumped out of his chair, grabbed his Bible, and turned to Ezekiel 37. As he read aloud to me, I wept and a prayer sprang up within me, which I share below.
I believe we are all called to speak Life and Hope in this world full of dry bones and souls barely breathing in graves dug by abuse, trauma, sin, and despair. Will you pray with me for the hand of Jesus to be upon you and for the breath of His Spirit to burn within you? Together, let us rise up into a vast army and the air will resound with the thunder-like rattling of dry bones coming to life!
I was dry bones, Lord.
I was … skin and bones … nearly dead.
But You have made flesh grow on me,
covered me with new skin,
and breathed life … Your Life and Spirit … into my bones …
into my heart, my soul, my mind.
I have come to life!
You have opened my grave and risen me to life …
life with You … Life in Your Love …
and I know You are God …
my Lord and my God ….
And I will not be silent any longer …
Your Spirit in me longs and
burns to be known,
leaping within me …
urging and inspiring me …
too powerful for me to contain
and keep hidden.
Oh Lord, may my Spirit-filled bones dance for You
and help You to raise up those
who still lie in their graves!
May I speak Your words of
Life and Hope to them!
May I be part of Your vast army
of dry bones come alive!
National Catholic Register article on Domestic Violence: “Catholics are not immune to domestic violence”
Copyright 2019 De Yarrison