Reflections from Survivors (including Towards Peace clients)
Written reflections by people who have been abused by Catholic Church personnel. For some people, their faith life may be too shattered for words or repair; for other people, their faith may be what is holding them together.
Personal experiences of Towards Peace
“I would like to thank Towards Peace from my heart, for connecting me to my Spiritual Companion. Because of my own personal past experiences, and indeed other members of my family, I felt so betrayed, confused, broke and lost. I am getting older, weaker, fragile and in a lot of emotional, physical and mental pain. I felt a great need for spiritual direction to help me to prepare to meet my God.”
“Towards Peace has given me the opportunity to address the impact that abuse by a Catholic priest has had on my life – particularly my vocation, faith and relationship with Jesus/God. I have felt heard, respected and understood as I work through the spiritual consequences of the abuse in my daily life. In working with a spiritual companion, I hope to come to a place of peace and acceptance in my spiritual life and faith journey and hopefully come to believe and feel that there is a loving God in my life as I have lost all sense of this over the years because of the abuse.”
Reflections from Survivors
At this time of the year I am reminded of my journey from Darkness to Light. This journey was made possible with the help of my counsellor who is a priest. He walked with me with a sense of compassion and understanding which enabled me to acknowledge how angry and hurt I was. He also helped me to realise that I had the right to be angry and my abuse was not in any way my fault.
It took a lot of energy to keep anger alive. It is exhausting and not life giving. It also gave power to the one who hurt me. I gave anger a lot of space in my life. It was only when I realized how angry I was and let myself feel it as much as I wanted that I knew how I had put it into a very deep place. It came out in my body in different ways – headaches, fear, bad dreams and lack of energy.
This was the stone that was blocking my freedom and preventing positive energy flowing through my veins. It was a very dark place to be in.
I decided with Gods help to let go of this anger and forgive my abuser and hand him over to God. I did this at his funeral and have never experienced the peace and joy I felt that day in my life before. This does not mean that I have forgotten my hurts and anger but have learned to remember them in a way that does not damage me. I cannot or did not choose the events of my life but I became aware of my attitude to them and throw out harmful thoughts as soon as they come into my head. I no longer hold a grudge or desire revenge against this man. I reported his actions and realised that seeking justice is not the same as seeking revenge.
There is a God given wisdom in the request to forgive those who harm us. First because we need to free ourselves from the burden of anger and hurt, secondly because those who hurt us are still human beings in need of Gods mercy and peace. It was hard moving from feelings of “punish him” to forgiveness and mercy but with my counsellor walking with me this was made a lot easier. We cannot do this alone.
I know some people may never be able to forgive and I completely respect this. We are all at a different stage of our journey.
My prayer for us all at this Easter time is that God will give us God’s peace which God has promised and that all who are hurting will find the courage to reach out for help on their painful journey to move whatever stone maybe blocking their journey from Darkness to Light.
As we approach Christmas when we celebrate the birth of Jesus I think of Jesus coming to be present in lives. We are told this often and I ask myself do I really believe this?. It is really hard at times because I cannot see or touch him. I came to realise that physical presence is not the only way in which we are present to each other when my son went to work and live in Switzerland. It is love that makes us present to each other. I cannot see or feel him but this does not change our love for each other because it is a close relationship and we know and experience this love even from afar. God who loves each one of us infinitely is totally present to us even though we do feel it at times often wondering where he is hiding. Each morning I place myself in the hands of God and it has helped me to develop my relationship with God. Each time I say goodbye to my son I tell him I will be with him and hope he realises that no matter how far away he is my love is always with him. These are the words Jesus spoke to each one of us “I am with you always until the end of time”. At this time I ask God to help me to believe that as two people separated by time and space can be together and united in love we may through a deep relationship with Jesus share this love with Him. May the Peace promised to us by Jesus be with us all this Christmas.
I was feeling a bit down recently, finding it hard to keep positive and wondering how am I going to continue my journey in life with energy and the belief that Jesus is there helping me all the time. I suddenly remembered the story of Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13) which I have often read and liked. I got it out and read it again slowly.
The story goes like this: There were two disciples walking along the road feeling discouraged and not able to make sense of their lives. While they were walking and discussing life and all the things that had happened to Jesus, He then came and joined them on their journey, but something stopped them from recognising him. The ‘stranger’ asked the disciples what they were discussing along the road. They stood still looking sad. They asked Him, “Are you the only person in the whole of Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened to Jesus?”
He listened silently to their story. As I reflected on this I began to realise that their story had lots of ups and downs, just like mine. As Jesus was about to leave, the disciples invited him to stay with them because the day was nearly over and they were hungry and tired. Jesus accepted the invitation. While they were at supper Jesus took bread blessed it and broke it and gave it to them and suddenly their eyes were opened and they recognised Him. But He vanished from their sight.
The disciples then began to remember their conversation on the road to Emmaus and realised that Jesus had been opening the scriptures to them. They were filled with joy.
Immediately they returned to Jerusalem to tell the apostles and the rest of their companions what they now knew for themselves – “The Lord has truly risen! He has revealed Himself to us through the scriptures and the breaking of bread.”
As a result of their encounter with Jesus in their hour of confusion and worry, even though they were slow to understand, these people grew in wisdom and returned to their daily tasks with a new heart.
As a result of that same encounter, I too can now lift up my heart because the Word of God has helped me yet again to remember that Jesus is on my journey with me if I but take time to recognise Him. He never moves from me, but sometimes I close my heart and eyes to Him and as a result I get down and confused.
Thank you Jesus for the great wisdom and comfort contained in your Word. I will now continue my journey through the winter with Jesus by my side. I ask Him to help each one of us to be aware that He is there just waiting to be called on especially when we are really feeling down.