Seeking inner peace? Here are proven ways to heal your soul
The evening was cool; the church quiet, save for the soothing voice of a priest from the Prelature of Opus Dei. A dozen women reflected on his meditation. Despite the liturgical season of Easter, it was focused on the Cross.
“The Cross does not make victims,” declared the priest, as he indicated the crucifix hanging above the tabernacle. “It makes saints!”
He repeated that truth before continuing: “Faith in God does not mean that there will be no darkness in our lives. Faith is the light that guides our path through the darkness.”
It is easy for us to forget that The Cross can be a channel for inner healing. Too often we fall into the mindset of ‘carrying our crosses’ as a way of dismissing suffering without fully entering into its redemptive potential.
Playing the victim, and feeling sorry for ourselves does not aid the healing process. Instead, we are called to imitate Christ—the perfect victim.
“You have made us for Yourself, O Lord and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” This famous line from Saint Augustine of Hippo never fails to resonate because we are made to know, love and serve God. To be fulfilled, we yearn for a meaningful life.
Although we deeply desire to know, love and serve God, we are still human: the spirit might be willing but the flesh is most certainly weak (cf. Matthew 26:41).
What began with the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, continues with the shadow of concupiscence—that part of our human nature that responds to the allure of sin. “The new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized such that with the help of the grace of Christ they may prove themselves in the struggle of Christian life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1426)
In other words, even though the stain of Original Sin is washed from our souls through Baptism, we still find sin attractive. This attraction to sin will remain with us in this lifetime, but with the grace of Our Lord, we can grow in holiness.
Our willing submission to His will—the growing in His likeness—is the vocation of every soul. In practical terms, inner healing and our spiritual health are irrevocably intertwined. If we want to achieve true and lasting inner healing, then we need to advance in holiness, but it cannot be achieved overnight.
In Matthew’s Gospel we read the following: And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent round to all that region and brought to Him all that were sick, and besought Him that they might only touch the fringe of His garment; and as many as touched it were made well. (Matthew 14:34-36)
As many as touched it were made well—what a blessing for them. But what about us? We are not contemporaries of Jesus who can flock to Him and jostle with each other to touch the fringe of His tunic to gain inner healing.
However, the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “In the sacraments Christ continues to ‘touch’ us in order to heal us.” (CCC 1504)
He comes to us in the sacraments! This is both a tremendous blessing and an ongoing source of hope. In particular the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist are a beautiful manifestation of God’s healing in action.
Through Confession: ‘The whole power of the Sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with Him in an intimate friendship.’ Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the Sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation ‘is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.’ Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true ‘spiritual resurrection’, restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God. (CCC 1468)
Frequent reception of the Eucharist is a supernatural phenomenon with benefits that are out of this world: “Holy Communion separates us from sin.” (CCC 1393) “As bodily nourishment restores lost strength, so the Eucharist strengthens our charity, which tends to be weakened in daily life; and this living charity wipes away venial sins.” (CCC 1394) “By the same charity that it enkindles in us, the Eucharist preserves us from future mortal sins. The more we share the life of Christ and progress in His friendship, the more difficult it is to break away from Him by mortal sin.” (CCC 1395)
Zelie Martin, mother of Saint Therese of Lisieux, was canonised in 2015 alongside her husband Louis. This industrious mother and lace-maker knew all too well the effort and work required for inner healing.
She famously penned the following: I want to become a Saint; it will not be easy at all. I have a lot of wood to chop and it is as hard as stone. I should have started sooner, while it was not so difficult; but in any case ‘better late than never.’
Her own earthly journey to holiness would end with an early death, passing away from breast cancer when her youngest daughter Therese was just four years old. She knew the value of imitating the perfect victim; she carried her crosses, successfully ‘chopping the wood’ that was as hard as stone. The fruit of such work is easily visible in her family: religious vocations and canonizations.
Each of us has different ‘wood’ to chop. Our journeys to inner healing will vary, for though we are all created in His image and likeness, we are each of us unique and thus our strengths, weaknesses and personal experiences are different.
Regardless of this, the Catholic Church, the institution entrusted to Saint Peter, is a treasure trove of aids for inner healing and spiritual health. But we have to take the first step and reach out to Jesus, through the Church, and grasp firmly onto the hem of His tunic, resolving to continue to reach out should our grip loosen because we are distracted by our attraction to sin.
True inner healing can only come about if we have the faith to touch Jesus, to embrace both Him and His Cross; to trust in the redemptive suffering of The Cross in our own lives, to make frequent reception of the Sacraments a priority, and to look for our spiritual and emotional fulfillment in the eternal.
Pope Saint John Paul II was one of many who understood that true inner healing comes from God alone. Because of this, he spent much of his pontificate urging the faithful to cling to Christ, and to have the courage: “to be the Saints of the new millennium.”
©Emily Shaw is a former Australasian Catholic Press Association award-winning editor turned blogger for australiancatholicmums.com and is a contributor to Catholic-Link. A wife and mother of seven, she resides on a farm in rural Australia and enjoys the spiritual support of her local Catholic community
Are you praying for a miracle? Here’s a wonder-working formula for you! Several years ago my husband and I decided to face the inevitability of mortality head on. We dove into the world of wills, trusts, executors, probates, lawyers etc. and tried to sort our earthly possessions. It was very surreal trying to catalogue our possessions by value. Is a vehicle worth more than our wedding album? Would our children understand the value of memories, sentimental objects or family heirlooms the way their father and I did? What lasting legacy could we leave each of our children that would be valuable or meaningful for them after we had gone home to the Lord? Fortunately, God had the answers to all my questions and, just as in Scripture, He used stories to reveal these truths. Trinkets and Treasures This story revolves around our second son, James (or Jimmy as we have always called him), when he was about 6 years old. We raised our family in a wonderful, quaint New England area that offered many wholesome family events for community interaction, such as the annual country fair our church held each Fall. Our family was actively involved with the preparation of this fair and looked forward to it every year. Our children grew up helping where they could and when they were needed. As a result, our kids were familiar faces to other parish volunteers who also helped make the fair happen. Jimmy had learned which booths were apt to have treasures that piqued his interest. He particularly enjoyed the various White Elephant and Rummage Sale booths. So, in the weeks leading up to the fair, he would volunteer to help set up those booths as a strategy for inspecting any incoming goodies. Jimmy had a particular interest in all kinds of trinkets and was blessed with a keen eye for treasures and a knack for bartering for them as well. (Just a side note...he still does!) One year, on the day of the country fair, when all the preparations had been completed and we were ready to enjoy the festivities, Jimmy asked if he could go off in search of treasures. With a small pocketful of money and our blessing, he happily and independently set off on his quest. The rest of us spent the day wherever we were needed to make the day a success. The full day of festivities was exciting and fun for our family, but it also proved to be long and tiring, especially for our little ones. At the end of the fair we wearily returned home and took turns sharing the day’s events and displaying any of the treasures we had acquired. When it was his turn, Jimmy proudly pulled a handful of precious knick-knacks from his pocket. Methodically, he explained their importance to him and how he had bargained for each item. He saved his most valuable find till the end. As he slowly reached into his little pocket, he carefully extracted a long, worn, golden chain holding an equally worn golden cross. As he lifted it high for all of us to admire, he radiated a smile that practically exclaimed “TA DA!” My mother’s heart leaped with joy. This precious child of God had instinctively realized the intrinsic value of the worn cross. I hugged him at least a half dozen times to share his joy, before sending them all off to bed. A Tiny Crack Not long after they had disappeared to their rooms, a long drawn out cry of “Moooooom!” echoed down the stairwell. It was followed by a distinct distressed sobbing that indicated something was unusually wrong. Praying that no one was hurt, I dashed up the stairs to find Jimmy standing in his doorway pointing toward the corner of his room. “What is it? What happened? What is the matter?” I rattled off my standard motherly questions as I scanned the room for possible answers. Finding no apparent explanation, I stooped down to hear what was making him so distressed. Trying to catch his breath through the tears, he explained that the chain had slipped through his fingers and fallen through a very tiny crack in the floorboards. His tear-stained eyes were fixed on me, imploring me to recover his precious treasure. I asked his older brother for his rendition of events and he verified Jimmy’s story. Plan A involved shining a flashlight into the tiny hole, hoping that it had fallen straight down where I could see it and then figure out how to retrieve it. But…no such luck. Moving on to Plan B, my husband gathered his tools and began prying up floorboards. Although we all scoured the area carefully, the chain was nowhere to be found. While my husband reattached the floorboards, I tried to console our disappointed, tired little boy. We were all worn out, and it was apparent that nothing more could be done that evening. However, as we began to say nightly prayers with the boys, a thought came to me. When I was a child, just about Jimmy’s age, I had a toy jump rope that was very special to me. Somehow the jump rope had been misplaced and I felt very sad and helpless. I stopped and asked God to find it for me and place it in a specific location for me to find the next morning. To my delight, it was there the next day. God had answered my prayer and I have never stopped praying or trusting Him since then. (Read this story in my article “Just Like a Child” for the September/October 2019 issue of Shalom Tidings at shalomtidings.org). Recalling that feeling, I relayed my story to the boys and we prayed in the same way for God to help Jimmy. Jimmy asked for God to place the necklace on his dresser in a little container where he had placed other important treasures. We ended the long day with that prayer. Timeless Treasure The next morning I woke up to another long drawn out cry of, “Moooooom!” Gathering my wits and my robe about me, the same list of questions echoed through my head as on the previous evening. However, instead of finding a crying son in the doorway, I saw Jimmy smiling from ear to ear as the worn golden chain and cross dangled once again from the grasp of his little hand. “Did you find my chain last night?” he asked excitedly. I gasped. I knew that question! I had asked that same question to my mother many years ago, regarding my jump rope, when I discovered it had been located. I knew the impact my answer was about to have on my son. I slowly shook my head and reached out to hold Jimmy’s little hand. “No, Jimmy. I did not find your chain. You asked for God to help you and He answered your prayer.” I let my answer sink into his little heart for a few moments. My husband and my other sleepy son appeared in the doorway asking, “What’s going on?” Jimmy directed the same question at them, “Did you find my chain last night?” Neither could explain how the chain had appeared in the little treasure box. God had visited Jimmy that evening and it was time for me to pass on the lesson I had learned as a child. “Jimmy, when we pray to God, He listens to us. Last night you needed help and you asked God to help you in a very specific way. God heard you and helped you. I want you to always remember this moment. I want you to know that, you can ALWAYS ask God to help you no matter what you need or how old you get. He will always help you. Do you understand?” He looked down at his little cross and nodded. The impact of what had just happened began to take root in him and in all of us. None of us have forgotten that day and we have shared the story of the little cross to the children that were born after Jimmy. Precious Legacy My husband and I finally concluded our deliberations on how to distribute our belongings to our children. They may not fully understand the monetary or sentimental value of our earthly possessions and that is okay. When I recall this story, God reminds of what He said in Matthew 6:19-20 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.” God tells us in Scripture not to store up things on this earth that will wither and pass away. He tells us to store up our treasures in Heaven. We have stressed to our children the importance of prayer and the eternal value of having faith in God. I have found peace and comfort in knowing that we passed on to our children the importance of having a close prayerful relationship with God. They, in turn, are passing their faith and their stories about God on to their families. Praying forward our faith has become our everlasting legacy and heavenly treasure. Today, I want to encourage you. It is never too late to start your own legacy. Pray for your faith to increase and then pray forward your faith to those God places in your life. God bless you dear brothers and sisters.
Raymund Kolbe was born into a poor, Polish farming family in 1894. As a child he had such a mischievous nature that no one would have guessed he would be called Saint of Auschwitz, Founder of the Militia Immaculata, Apostle of Mary and Patron Saint of the 20th century! One day his mother was so frustrated with his behavior that she yelled at him in exasperation: “Raymund, what will become of you?!” This shook him to the core. Filled with grief, he went to a church and raised this question in prayer, “What will become of me?” Then he had a vision of the Virgin Mary appearing to him holding in her hands two crowns, one white and one red. She looked at him with love and asked him if he would like to have either. Raymund answered "Yes", he wanted both of them. The white crown of Purity came first, when he took the name Maximilian Kolbe and professed religious vows, one of which was Chastity. Back in the minor seminary, he often said to his classmates that he desired to consecrate his entire life to a great idea. Eventually he found the “Militia Immaculata” in 1917 with a goal to bring the whole world to God through Christ under the generalship of Mary Immaculate. In order to fulfill this mission, he sacrificed everything, and that brought him to the red crown of Martyrdom. In 1941 Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. A fellow prisoner wept for his wife and children after being arbitrarily chosen to be locked in the starvation bunker when a prisoner escaped. Hearing this, Father Kolbe volunteered to take his place. During those terrible days in the bunker, he led the men in prayer, and encouraged them. During every inspection, while the others lay on the floor, Father Maximilian knelt or stood in the middle, looking cheerfully at the officers. After two weeks nearly all the prisoners except Father had died due to dehydration and starvation. On the eve of the feast of Mary’s Assumption into Heaven, the impatient Nazis injected carbolic acid into Father Kolbe who raised his left arm to calmly take the deadly injection. In 1982 Pope John Paul II canonized Maximilian Kolbe as a Martyr of Charity and “patron saint of our difficult century.”
Sometimes it’s the little miracles that bolster our faith and prepare us for the hard moments in life. In our mid-twenties, when my wife and I were discerning a call to move from Chicago to Eureka Springs, Arkansas with members of our Catholic Charismatic community, we decided to visit Eureka to see what kind of housing was available. Two of our community members hosted us and showed us around. After a week, excited about our future in this picturesque town, we started our return trip to Chicago to make final preparations for our move to the Ozark mountains. Twists & Turns A few hours into our trip, engine trouble forced us off the road. The service station had good news—it was not a major problem, and bad news—they couldn’t get the replacement part till the next day. We had to get a room at a nearby motel. The next day, with our car in good working order, we headed out a good bit lighter—money-wise that is. The motel room and the repair work used up most of our cash. We’d barely have enough for food, and since Nancy was pregnant, skipping a meal was not an option. I had no credit cards in those days. We were sailing down the road when we were stopped by a state trooper. He flagged us down, along with five other cars, for speeding. One car after another, we pulled to the side of the road awaiting our tickets. I knew nothing about how to pay an out of state ticket nor, more importantly, how to dispute the speeding charge. Very politely, the officer said, “You can go to the courthouse if you want. Get off at the next exit, follow the signs into town, and you’ll see the courthouse.” Reminiscence The year before, Nancy and I took a delayed honeymoon to the Italian town where I was born. On the way there, we stopped at Assisi to visit our favorite Saints, Francis and Clare. In the basilica of Santa Chiara (Clare’s Italian name) we saw her actual golden yellow hair preserved in a glass case. Nancy turned to me and said, “If we ever have a girl, I want to name her Chiara.” I heartily agreed and looked forward to the day Saint Clare would have a namesake in our family. As we neared the exit, knowing we couldn’t pay the traffic ticket, Nancy and I turned to Santa Chiara. “Dear Saint Clare,” we prayed, “help us get out of paying this ticket. Please help us.” Half-jokingly I added, “Saint Clare, we’ll definitely name our baby after you… even if it’s a boy!” Immediately, the sign pointing to the town came into view. We could not believe our eyes. The officer had not told us he was sending us to St. Clair, Missouri! Not till recently did I learn it was named for a Revolutionary War general. But our naïve eyes saw the “St” followed by “Clair” and Saint Clare filled our hearts. We did not notice the difference in spelling of what we assumed was our beloved Saint’s name. This town of 4,000 in the American Bible-belt, we thought, was named for the Saint of Assisi! Overjoyed, we were convinced we had chosen well in turning to our dear Chiara. Edging Off I rushed toward the courthouse hoping to beat the other drivers so I could plead to the judge for mercy, but immediately the others pulled into the parking lot alongside us. When the courthouse clerk asked how I wanted to pay my fine, I said I didn’t think I was speeding and asked if I could speak with the judge. Though surprised, she said I could and nodded to a man seated at a desk across the room. As he took a long black robe from a nearby hat-stand, the clerk motioned us toward the courtroom where the man I had just seen was already sitting behind the bench wearing judges’ robes. He called the first “speeder.” She insisted she had not been speeding and, to my delight, the judge was understanding, even agreeing that sometimes police officers make mistakes and innocent drivers get wrongly ticketed. I was much encouraged until he said, but he is the police officer and I must take his word. Your fine is seventy-five dollars. The second defendant tried the opposite tack; all sugar and kindness, she explained the good officer must have made a mistake. Again, the judge indulged, conceding that officers are not perfect and sometimes even the radar equipment fails. But again, he turned on a dime reminding us that the officer is the duly appointed officer of the law. Her fee was eighty-five dollars. I was next, and I started with a question. “Your honor, is it possible for me to be found not guilty here today.” “Oh no,” he said. “The clerk said you wanted to speak with the judge, so I’m happy to listen. But no, I can’t find you not guilty. We would need a jury trial for that.” My only choices, it turned out, were to plead guilty and pay my fine or plead not guilty and pay my fine. There was no leaving without paying the fine. If I wanted a trial, I would have to return to St. Clair. When Hopelessly Lost “My wife and I are moving to the area in September,” I told him. “I’m willing to return for a trial.” The look on his face told me I was making progress. But suddenly Nancy rose to her feet, protruded her pregnant tummy, and called out for all to hear, “Oh honey, don’t try to reason with him. He doesn’t care about us. He doesn’t care that our car broke down and we spent all our money on a motel room and repair costs. Don’t try to reason with him, he just wants our money.” Try as I did to hush her lament, she forged on. When I turned back toward the judge convinced hope was lost, he motioned to me to approach the bench. As I neared, he asked, “You’re planning to move to this area?” “Yes, your honor. We’ll be moving to Eureka Springs in September.” He reached under his robe into his pants pocket and pulled out a business card. Handing it to me he said, “The next time you drive past St. Clair, give me a call.” I stood there, uncertain what to do. He gestured for me to go. I still did not understand. He motioned again, more forcefully. Tentatively, Nancy and I slowly left the courtroom. As we approached the counter, the clerk asked, “What did the judge say?” “He told me the next time we drive through town I should call him.” She looked annoyed. “What’s your fee?” she asked. “He didn’t give me one,” I said. She looked as befuddled as I had been. “This has never happened before,” she said. “I don’t know what to do with your ticket.” She looked at us and said, “Ok, I guess you can go.” Nancy and I entered our car in disbelief, stunned by what had happened. But we knew who to thank. When we are young and less mature in faith, God often blesses us with small signs, like this, that strengthen our faith and ready us for the challenges life inevitably brings. Nancy and I received many small signs in those early days with the Lord. They persuaded us that God cares even about the smaller things in life—not just the cancers or heart attacks, not just the foreclosure or lost job. And God uses his faithful ones, the Saints, to be channels of his grace. As we grow in the Lord and our faith matures, we may see fewer signs because those early ones have built a foundation of solid faith that enables us to “walk by faith and not by sight (or signs)” (2 Corinthians 5:7). But on that day long ago, in a town we were sure bore her name, we prayed that Santa Chiara would help us. And we have no doubt she did. Five months later our daughter was born in the Eureka Springs, Arkansas hospital. She was christened Chiara Faith.
When I was about 15, my Dad passed away and I was in a desperate situation. One night while I was praying, I yearned for God because I needed His help. And He answered me. I saw Him in a vision. At first, I was shocked because I had never had any experience of that sort. Jesus answered my prayer by showing Himself with His hands opened wide, a crown of thorns on His head, and His heart glowing. He did not say or do anything, but I was deeply touched by His presence. This was the first time I felt extremely close to Jesus. As I look back, I realize that aspects of what I saw in the vision symbolized aspects of my life. The crown of thorns symbolized the pain I was going through at that time, and Jesus’ glowing heart communicated His great love for me. Every time I remember the vision, the image of Jesus’ wide-open arms reminds me that everything is going to be alright because He is always with me. Growing up in a Catholic family made it easy for me to practice my faith. Regular Mass attendance was part of our routine. But when I moved to South Africa to teach English, I lived in a rural area where Sunday Mass was not available. This made me aware of how grateful I should be for every opportunity to be in the presence of the Eucharist and to receive Holy Communion. When I went to Albania to teach English, I was fortunate to stay in a convent where adoration before the Blessed Sacrament was part of our daily routine. That experience helped form my love for adoration and deepened my love for the Holy Eucharist. During that time with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament I opened my heart to Him and shared everything I was feeling. People ask me how I can be so sure that Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament. I believe without a doubt because I can feel Him. His presence—His warmth and love—surround my whole being. Adoration is crucial in my life because it gives me the opportunity to listen to what God wants me to do. The more I listen to Him, the better I am able to discern God’s purpose in my life. While I was at university, I had a wonderful experience going to World Youth Day at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. Four million of us celebrated adoration on the beach. The waves rolled in on one side, the sun shone upon us and when the Blessed Sacrament was raised, I was overwhelmed. The glory of Jesus, His invisible presence, was profound. As I knelt, with bowed head, surrounded by millions, I felt my burdens lifted and I was drawn closer to Him than ever before. Over the years, my relationship with Jesus has deepened and the Holy Eucharist has become central in my life. Even through the trials of my life, I have known Jesus is there for me. Whether at Mass or in Adoration, or in my own private prayer, I am always struck by His awesome, wonderful presence.
Want to be in the loop?
Get the latest updates from Tidings!