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Oct 20, 2021 225 Rosanne Pappas,
Encounter

A Journey to the House of Grace

When I realized I had done the same thing to my son that my mom had done to me…

“You are like the Samaritan woman,” my spiritual director said as he prayed over me.

His words shook me.

“I’m like the Samaritan woman,” I asked.

He nodded.

His words stung but his wise brown eyes were pools of compassion. He was no ordinary priest. I had been meeting with him for years and had had difficult and extraordinary experiences of God through him. Every time I met with him, the waiting room outside his office was filled with people from different parts of the world, who had heard of him and were waiting to see him for healing or encouragement. This quiet, humble and holy man had been God’s instrument for years and I had brought countless people to see him.

On the way home, I wrestled with his comparison. The Samaritan Woman? I didn’t have five husbands and the man I was living with was my husband. And then it occurred to me that maybe I was like the Samaritan Woman, because after her encounter with Christ, she ran into town to tell everyone that she had met the Messiah. Maybe that is what he meant.

Little did I know that his comparison would be prophetic…

Retaliation

Over the years, conflicts and problems in the home escalated and I ended up in therapy. For all my knowledge of the Catholic faith, I had very little self-awareness. I believed that I was holy because I was a devout Catholic who lived the sacramental life and was generous with my time and attention. Yet in Confession after Confession, I continued to admit committing the same sins over and over again. Much of my Confession time was focused on the sins of those closest to me and how they needed to change. Even while I listened to homilies at Mass, I thought more of the people that were not present, but needed to hear what I was hearing. I was certain that I was righteous, and that God was on my side. . .

Therapy began a journey of personal unveiling. I had been living in a House of Shame instead of a House of Grace and I had hurt the people closest to me and damaged our relationships. Each day brought opportunities for change, but it was not easy.

“Can you watch your sister for me for an hour or two? I need to run errands,” I asked my high school son who had just walked in from school and was headed up the stairs. In a nasty tone he said, “No.”

It was not what I had expected, and I was mad. I wanted to put him in his place and to level accusations like, ‘How dare you talk to me like that! You are a disrespectful and ungrateful brat. You’ve been away all weekend with your friends, and you can’t sit with your sister for an hour or two? How selfish of you.’

The battle with my ego was in full swing. Help me Jesus, I prayed. I remembered one of my first therapy sessions. “Ignore your first inclinations.”

I took a breath and shifted my focus away from myself and onto my son. I could see that his reaction was not equal to my request. He was mad. There was more behind his indignant refusal, and I wanted to know what it was.

“You are really mad. This isn’t like you. What’s going on,” I asked sincerely.

“It’s always me. You never ask my brothers,” he snapped.

The voice in my head retaliated, ‘He’s wrong! His brothers watch her when he isn’t around. He’s accusing you of being unfair, it’s not true.’

Jesus, help me stomp my pride and my ego.

My cheeks flushed. I felt exposed and ashamed.

Do I want to be right, or do I want to understand him and connect with him, I asked myself? Deep down I knew he was right. He was the one I always asked, because I believed he was the most responsible.

“You’re right, I always ask you,” I admitted.

His face softened.

“Well, it’s not fair.” His voice trailed off and his emotions intensified.

“You left me to take care of her when she was a tiny baby, and I was a wreck the whole time you were away because I didn’t feel like I was capable,” he said.

My mind flashed back to a memory. I was very young and home alone with my two brothers who were babies. I remembered the panic I had felt. I stood there looking up at him shocked by the realization that I had done the same thing to him that my mom had done to me.

“Tell me about it,” I murmured gently.

With deep emotion he recounted what he remembered. I moved closer to him.

“That’s awful. I should never have put you in that situation. My mom did the same thing to me. She thought I was more capable than my siblings, and she leaned heavily on me, depending on me for things I should never have been responsible for. I’m really sorry,” I admitted shakily.

Full of regret and pain from the hurt I had caused him, I resolved to make a change.

True Adorers

Remembering how I had felt as a child, and acknowledging my own anger and resentment toward my mom and siblings had helped me see the subtle ways I had unfairly leaned on him and avoided giving his brothers an opportunity to grow in responsibility. Worse, I began to see and accept that some of the tasks I had enlisted his help for were burdens meant for me or my husband to carry.

I made a concerted effort to split the responsibilities more fairly.

Our relationship improved, and as the pressure of responsibility was relieved, he felt less resentment towards his brothers.

Although conflicts continued to present opportunities for self-awareness, improved relationships increased my desire to squash my ego, extinguish the voice of accusations in my head, and accept and grow from my imperfections and mistakes.

One morning after Mass my sister-in-law approached me.

“I found a quote from a priest. I think it sums up what you mean when you say you are learning to move from a House of Shame to a House of Grace,” she said as she scrolled through her phone.

“Here, I found it,” she said.

“When the amount of your spirituality is equal to the amount of truth you can endure about yourself without escaping it, this is a sign of deep spirituality. That’s how transformation of the heart happens. Only Truth can set us free. And then we’ll be true adorers of the Lord. We will adore the Lord in spirit and in truth,” she said.

“Yes! That’s it,” I declared. “For so many years I thought all I needed was to know the truth of the Church. But there’s another truth I need. It’s a truth I can’t easily see or admit to in myself. It’s the battle within my heart and soul to live in a House of Grace rather than a House of Shame. And I can’t do it without Jesus.”

On the way home, I wondered where I had heard ‘Adore the Lord in spirit and in truth?’ As soon as I got home, I grabbed the Bible and found those exact words at the end of the Samaritan woman story. Chills ran down my spine. When Jesus exposed a personal truth about her to her, she acknowledged it instead of denying it, opening the floodgates of grace. “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could he be the Messiah?” (John 4:29)

My spiritual director was right. I am like the Samaritan woman.

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Rosanne Pappas

Rosanne Pappas is an artist, author, and speaker. Pappas inspires others as she shares personal stories of God’s grace in her life. Married for over 35 years, she and her husband live in Florida, and they have four children.

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