Our newsletter has now too many issues to send them all in the ‘starting mail’. Here is a small summary of issues 16 and 17.
Issue 16 – October 2002: IF YOUR MOTHER FORSAKES YOU
During this month of the Holy Rosary, let’s contemplate Mary, the Holy Mother of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. We often confide to her the child so dear to our hearts, the child the Lord gave us to love in our prayers, this little one wounded by the poverty of adults. This child is HER child.
Mary is the image of the good mother par excellence:
- She is the one whom God chose to carry in her womb the hope of the world and who was overcome with joy; this joy came from the depths of her motherly heart when she exulted in the Magnificat: ‘All generations shall call me blessed’.
- She is the one who, worried, was searching for her child who had disappeared for three days and whom she found in the Temple in Jerusalem. And Mary told Jesus: ‘Look, Your father and I have sought you anxiously’. (Luke 2:48)
- She is also the one who, confident, remained silent when faced with God’s will that was beyond her but that she accepted: ‘And his mother kept all these sayings in her heart’ (Luke 2:51).
- She is the one who suffered silently at the foot of the Cross … crucified in her motherly heart: Mary, the icon of the motherly Love of our God, our Father; an image telling us the visceral suffering of our Creator in front of the suffering of his children and more particularly of abused children, little ones among the little ones.
Abuse from a mother is often felt by children as a far more painful wound than abuse inflicted by another person. How can a woman who carried a child in her womb make him/her suffer? We stand speechless. And how difficult it must be for these children to pray Mary, our Mother when the earthly mother is absent or weak! Therefore let’s pray Mary for them, Mary, our Heavenly Mother!
But let’s listen to Father Bruno:
IF YOUR MOTHER FORSAKES YOU
As I was praying with my breviary at vespers on the first Wednesday, I found out these words from psalm 27 verses 9-10: ‘Leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up’.
First, the discovery. This is the law of meditation. Within the context of our intercession, these words prayed thousands and thousands times took a new colour. Well-known words can seem new only thanks to patient rumination. This is a true revelation.
Up to now I had paid attention to another verse (Is 49:15): ‘Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee.’ I used to read it like that: how unthinkable it is that a mother may forget her child, how much more…
But with the experience of abuse we are stunned to discover gradually that a mother may be poor, very poor and forget her child with more or less violence.
And here is again this first verse: my father and my mother forsake me.
Rightly or wrongly this seems to me more unbelievable from a mother! When God evokes this faithfulness to his child, he uses the words of the woman, of the mother, the womb which carried the child.
Other texts are coming back to me. Among them, there is the famous poem ‘On Children’ – used sometimes for christenings – by the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran: ‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.’
As if a mother could forget! Yet, unfortunately a mother can forget. As it is said in the psalm: ‘My father and my mother forsake me’.
With or without violence, simply forgetting is fundamental abuse. Anne da Costa tackles this form of abuse in her book entitled It is Said that Orchids… The Story of a Woman whose Mother gave Her up at Birth. The very good magazine France Catholique dating back to February, 15th 2002 lets her speak: ‘No. Writing this book cannot be turned into a therapy. Writing is a ‘catharsis’, a purification. It is quite different. If you are one-legged as you begin your book, you will still be one-legged at the end. For me the only true solution would consist in finding the name of my mother. I am extraordinarily lucky to have a Church that gave me God as a Father, Christ as a Brother and Mary as a Mother … These are not only words. Nevertheless I must acknowledge that I miss my earthly mother.’ Let’s pray again and again. May your reign come!
Issue 17 – January 2003: THE PRAYER, OUR PRAYER
January 12th is the feast day commemorating the Baptism of Christ. Luke (3, 21-22) tells the story of this baptism: this is good nourishment on our Christian path, nourishment for our prayer. Jesus, baptized in water is the First one to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
But let’s go back to the beginning of the text: ‘Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, [was] praying’. As he was praying, he received from God the Father the gift of his tenderness: the Holy Spirit. Jesus completely offered to God through prayer, could completely receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This gift of the Holy Spirit, this grace of God’s visit, are an answer to the inexhaustible perseverance of the Messiah’s prayer.
The prayer, our prayer … for these children who are suffering and for their torturers seems so often vain, seems to bear so little fruit. How frustrating it is not to know what becomes of the child whom we are praying for, if things are going better for him/her … we want results, we live in immediacy. Modern Saint Thomases, we want to see, we want to know. We call God to account because we are conditioned by our social and occupational lives. We trust God so little that we do not stop begging of him: ‘Lord, give me a sign … explain yourself to me!’
Isn’t it necessary to think again about what praying is?
- First it is the prayer of all the members of Christ’s body for other suffering members of Christ’s body, for Christ himself, the Head of his body, and for all the members of this Body. It is the prayer of the Church, of a Community, of a Sacerdotal people, that is to say of articulated and organized Christians, incorporated into Christ’s unique prayer.
- Our prayer is also a free gift, which, in communion with the Saints, tells us again the mystery of Faith and this passionate love God has for us.
- The prayer is the nourishment of the soul which gives us the grace to welcome the Lord in our daily actions, and which, through compassion, makes us so close to those who suffer and particularly to these wounded children.
- It is also a sign of humility: we must confess our poverty, acknowledge our sins in front of God’s holiness so that our prayer may be true.
We must become very humble in front of God and get rid of the fetters of our daily routine, of our pride that wants to act on God’s behalf.
Trusting the Lord, trusting on behalf of these children who no longer trust anyone. Trusting… like Mary, like Joseph.
Have you ever noticed how our perception of others changes when our gaze has been shaped in prayer by divine Love? Father Henri de Greeve used to say: ‘If you want to change the world, start with yourself’. We are the first ones to benefit from this prayer: how clearly our hard-heartedness is revealed to us when we must pray for abusing adults. And how much the Lord kneads our hearts to draw us closer to the holiness of his Love. Only God is Holy!
And if our prayer bore fruit? More and more parents dial 119, an emergency phone number and leave an SOS before coming to slaps and blows. The number of parents asking for help before coming to irreparable violence and abuse is increasing regularly.
Therefore in perseverance and in faith, let’s say again that we trust our Father who knows better than ourselves, what is good for us! He loves us so much!
The Christian prayer is a huge, complete prayer, and like a collective symphony. In a symphony, none of the instruments plays the whole piece of music. Each instrument has its part, its score. Some repeat only a few muffled notes, always the same ones; others are silent for a long time with from time to time sudden explosions or a few isolated arpeggios; at times others sketch the general theme, but with softened tones; finally others sing what the rest suggests: a few clear notes the sinuous curve of which prevails over the rest. They say it and repeat it, then their voices, after bursting forth, fall silent. The melody goes from one instrument to the other, continuing again and again, developing and strengthening, and, leading the whole. Everything echoes, ends and harmonizes in it, and all the notes of all the instruments merge into a unique song. This song is so rich that no instrument can play it by itself; but as it is a whole, all the instruments must be linked together to play it entirely. Thus, the same applies to Christian praying. Each member has to do his/her part: it is indicated to him/her by his/her disposition, turn of mind, ability to be attentive and fervent. These particularities turn his/her prayer into a personal, unique prayer, because there are no identical people. Because of these particularities, there is a way of loving God that he/she is the only one to be able to achieve, a note with a special quality that he/she is the only one to be able to give.
Emile Mersch, S.J.
Thank you again for your daily prayer for these children and the people abusing them.
Mona Le Cunff and Father Bruno