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.
What happens when a Protestant Pastor finds a great treasure in the Catholic Church? Becoming a Catholic was not easy for me. Like many converts, I had my share of misconceptions, and obstacles. My biggest obstacle was that my faith/ church perspective was also my career. At 20, I entered into full-time ministry as a Youth Pastor. Throughout my 22 year career in ministry, I have performed many roles—Senior Pastor, Teaching Pastor, Worship Leader, Missions Coordinator etc. My faith was my life, and the idea of leaving it all behind to become a Catholic was something that I wrestled with. I never would have thought it could happen. I had no Catholics in my family. Growing up as the son of a United Methodist pastor, my only exposure to the Catholic faith was from people who hated the Catholic faith. When I met my wife, I asked her if she went to church. She replied, “I’m a Catholic but I don’t go to church”, so I took her to my church and she loved it! We were married in the United Methodist church where I worked; and never looked back. Until… Caught Unawares Like many others who ultimately convert, my first experience with a Catholic who actually practiced his faith proved to be life changing. His name is Devin Schadt. He was a graphic designer. I hired him to create a logo for our youth ministry which led to some interesting conversations about faith, church and eventually his Catholic faith. My first impression of him was that he loved Jesus and had a vibrant faith. This seemed very strange to me, because as I sat in his dining room, I was intrigued by the icons, paintings and other “Catholic looking” stuff he had in his house. Who does that? I had to press him on this. I had never heard a Catholic talk about Jesus in the way Devin did. I had assumed that he just hadn't read the Bible enough to see that his Catholic faith contradicted the Scriptures. I was licking my chops at the idea of sharing some verses with him and explaining the Gospel. I was certain that after a few minutes of this, he would be ready to become a “real” Christian, pray the sinner’s prayer, and become a Protestant like me. I asked him, “Devin, when were you saved?” I wanted to see how a Catholic would answer this question. I did not expect much. I was so wrong. Not only did Devin have an answer to that question, but he had his own questions for me. Questions that I was not at all prepared for. For example, “Keith, where did your Bible come from?” “Why are there so many Protestant denominations?” “How do we know who is accurately teaching the truth of Christianity when there are so many differences between Protestant denominations?” And so many more! I had never heard any of these ideas before, but although I was intrigued, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the possibility that the Catholic Church could be the one true Church founded by Christ. Even the idea that there was one true Church founded by Christ was a new idea to me. I had always believed that what mattered was a person’s faith and belief in the scriptures, not any connection to an institution. Devin was helping me to see that the Bible itself shows that Jesus not only founded a Church, but that it still existed today through the authority of the apostles as they had handed down the faith. However, this was not something I could easily accept. When God Called Me Devin and I would go on to have many conversations over the years. We would take a pilgrimage to Rome and Medjugorje together. We would argue passionately. During this time, my ministry and my family were growing. I loved my role in my church. God was moving and things were great. Although there were many things Devin had showed me that challenged my Protestant thinking, I was still too afraid to seriously entertain the idea of converting. However, there was one night in particular where God called me out. I was at a church camp and one of my friends was leading the youth in a communion service. It was nothing new to me, but as he worked his way through the service and held up the bread and juice and said “this represents Jesus”, I knew that this was not what Jesus said, and I also knew this was not what the Christian Church believed for 1500 years. It was as if God was calling to me “Come home and I’ll show you more...” I broke down and left the room. I called Devin and confessed to him that I was feeling called to become a Catholic. I was terrified that he would rub it in my face that he was right (only because that is what I would have done), but he did not. He simply said he was there to help. I wish that this was the part of my story where I converted, but it is not. I was too afraid. I bailed because I could not wrap my mind around how this could work. What would I do for a job? What would my family think? How could I explain this? All of these questions overpowered the leading I felt and I put this whole Catholic thing behind me for many years. It’s one of the biggest regrets of my life. More than 10 years later, eventually God’s call home would become something I could no longer ignore. I had been the “Pastor to Youth and Mission” at a United Methodist Church for a couple years when a good friend of mine named Greg invited my wife and me to attend a screening of “Apparition Hill”. This movie was a documentary that followed seven strangers on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. I had not thought about that trip in quite a while, but when Greg called I thought I’d better go, since he was the one who originally took me on that trip all those years ago. The movie brought so many things back into my mind and had me in tears a few times. This film was clearly used by our Blessed Mother to reach out to me. Worst Part I had been in a bit of a storm in my church. Although my local church was great, our denomination was a mess. It had become clear to me that without an authoritative voice to not only interpret Scripture, but even history, chaos and schism were inevitable. For the United Methodists, the cultural issues of the day surrounding Marriage and Scripture were unraveling what was once a strong denomination. I found myself at odds with many people who wanted the church to change with the times. It did not seem to bother them that the scriptures clearly defined things like marriage and human sexuality. “That’s just one interpretation”. “The church has had it wrong all these years and we will fix it”. “God doesn’t hate. He/she loves everybody so you can’t judge anyone”. These were just some of statements I wrestled against all the while knowing that I really did not have a leg to stand on without some kind of external God-given authority to tell me otherwise. During one of my conversations with a very liberal pastor friend, she said to me, “Keith if you believe all that Church authority stuff, why aren’t you a Catholic?” Great question! I had begun to reopen that idea. It seemed that the more I thought about everything Devin and I had argued about, the more it made perfect sense. I was in a different place. I had learned that not listening to God is the worst thing you can do. I still had objections. I still had issues, but I had begun to feel a new sense of calling and a new presence in my life. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but it all became clear to me as I was preparing to preach a sermon on the Annunciation. (It was Advent—so we could talk about Mary.) As I worked on this message in my office, I became overcome with emotion. The more I thought about Mary, the more I became aware of not only how amazing she was, but how connected to the Holy Spirit she continues to be. I felt her presence. When I preached that sermon, I could feel the Holy Spirit moving. I talked about how Mary was the “New Eve” and the “New Ark of the Covenant.” I talked about how amazing she must have been for the angel, Gabriel to greet her “Hail, full of grace”. The people were so intrigued by this. One man came forward afterwards in tears, saying he had never heard anything like that before. There is so much more I could say about this, but the bottom line is: My doctrinal objections were solved not by arguments, but by The Blessed Mother capturing my heart. However, I still had the issue of what my life would look like if I converted. My dad had told me once, “Keith you can’t just quit your job and become Catholic, there needs to be a way”. He meant that I needed to know how I would feed my family. What would I do for a job? What about my ministry? A Step of Faith The answers to those questions would not be revealed to me for some time, but one night as I prayed before a crucifix, I said to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to become Catholic, but I need you to make a way.” With as much clarity as I have ever had from God, Jesus spoke to me from the crucifix. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. You don’t need Me to make a way, you just need ME”. I knew what this meant. I had just received my blessing during the Mass (because I could not receive the Eucharist). Jesus was showing me that He was not only truly present in the Eucharist, but also that my primary need was not for God to make things easy or fully revealed, but rather to take a step of faith like I had never taken before. He was showing me that what I truly needed was not control, or assurance. What I needed was Him. I was realizing that even if I lost everything I have in this world, but gained Jesus, I had won! I had to get to the place where I did not need it all to work out perfectly in order to convert. I had to be willing to sacrifice it all for Jesus. Once I was able to take that step, it all became clear. There was no looking back. Jesus said, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” (Matthew 13:44) After all these years, I was finally ready to buy the field. I am so happy I did. Since becoming a Catholic, things have not been easy. I have lost friends, money, security, stability and more. But what I have gained has been more valuable than I could ever have asked for. The blessings I have received are incomparable with what I sacrificed. God has been true to his word. I know that no matter what happens in this life, I will never leave the Church. When you follow the call of God, it does not mean life will become easy, but it does become more meaningful. I am so grateful for the grace he has given to me, and I can only dream, about where this journey will take me from here.
Are Angels real? Get to know the truth here... We often come across Angels as messengers of God in the Scripture. The Catholic Church recognizes the names of only three Angels, all of whom belong to the Choir of Archangels. Each year the Church celebrates the feast of these Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael on September 29th. Saint Michael the Archangel means, “Who is like God.” He is the patron of soldiers, police officers and firefighters. Traditionally, Michael has been referred to as the Guardian Angel of the people of Israel and he is now revered as the Guardian Angel of the Church. In the Book of Revelation, Michael is the angel who led the forces of Heaven to defeat Lucifer/Satan when he rebelled against God. We learn from Scripture and Tradition that Saint Michael has four main responsibilities: to combat Satan; to escort the faithful to Heaven at their hour of death; to be a champion of all Christians and the Church; and to call men and women from life on Earth to their Heavenly judgment. Saint Gabriel the Archangel means, “God is My Strength”. Gabriel is God’s Holy Messenger. He appeared to the Prophet Daniel to explain a vision from God. He appeared to the priest Zacharias to announce that he would have a son, John the Baptist, and he appeared to the Virgin Mary at the Annunciation. Catholic tradition indicates that Gabriel was the angel who appeared to Saint Joseph in his dreams. God entrusted Gabriel with delivering the most important message of our Catholic faith to the Virgin Mary. He is the patron saint of messengers, telecommunications workers and postal workers. Saint Raphael the Archangel means, “God heals.” In the Old Testament book of Tobit, Raphael is credited with driving the evil spirit from Sarah and restoring Tobit’s vision, allowing him to see the light of Heaven and for receiving all good things through His intercession. Raphael is the patron saint of travelers, the blind, bodily ills, happy meetings, nurses, physicians and medical workers. Angels all around us “Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for without being seen, they are present with you.” Saint Francis de Sales. Have you experienced angels protecting you from apparent dangers? Sometimes a person knows deep down that Someone had come to their aid. Many of us have probably realized that angels have protected and helped them at times. One of my experiences of angels assisting me is etched forever in my memory. When my mom was being treated for cancer, we had to make a 240 miles round trip to the nearest cancer treatment center. On the way home one day, as we drove along a secondary highway, my car began to lose power while the engine started to bang and make all kinds of noise indicating that the car was about to die on the spot. My mom was exhausted and feeling ill, so I knew that it could be disastrous if we stalled on the side of the road in the heat of the summer. I began to pray desperately, asking the holy angels to come to our assistance, to keep the engine going until we arrived home. After chugging disjointedly along for about a mile or two, all of a sudden the engine started to smooth out, gain power and ran smoothly all the way home. We were thanking God for sending us angels to assist us. The next day, I brought my car into the mechanic shop to have it checked out. To my pleasant surprise the mechanic could not find a single issue with the engine. I felt thankful and amazed that our very own angel mechanic had fixed the car so that it ran even better than before. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them.” Psalm 35:7 From the moment God created me, He assigned me a guardian angel. “Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” (CCC 336) Our human lives are surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. Our guardian angel’s task is to get us to Heaven. We will never know, this side of Heaven, how many times we were protected from dangers by angels or how often they helped us avoid a fall into serious sin. “The angels work together for the benefit of us all.”— Saint Thomas Aquinas. No wonder the Catholic Church has set apart October 2nd as a feast day to remember the Guardian Angels. Many Saints were privileged to see their angel. Saint Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was a young woman who was called by Saint Michael the Archangel and other saints to lead and inspire the French forces in numerous military battles against the English during the Hundred Year War. God used this courageous woman to do battle on His behalf. Pope Leo XIII who reigned during the latter half of the 19th Century, had a vision of Satan and composed the following Prayer to Saint Michael which is recited after Mass in many Churches today: “Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the hour of battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.” When we sing praises to God we are singing with the Angels. At every Mass, we are swept right up into Heaven. "The Mass as Heaven on earth …is a mysterious participation in the Heavenly liturgy. We do go to Heaven when we go to Mass, and this is true of every Mass we attend.” Dr. Scott Hahn. Heavenly King, You have given us archangels to assist us during our pilgrimage on earth. Saint Michael is our protector; I ask him to come to my aid, fight for all my loved ones, and protect us from danger. Saint Gabriel is a messenger of the Good News; I ask him to help me clearly hear Your voice and to teach me the truth. Saint Raphael is the healing angel; I ask him to take my need for healing and that of everyone I know, lift it up to Your throne of grace and deliver us back to the gift of recovery. Help us, O Lord, to realize more fully the reality of archangels and their desire to serve us. Holy angels, pray for us. Amen.
Every moment of searching is a moment of encounter. Look out…for those life-changing moments Pope Francis opens his first encyclical with this line: “The joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus.” Then he boldly invites “all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting Him encounter them. . .” “Encounter,” a keyword of Pope Francis, came to me as the Lord’s answer to a theme for my upcoming retreat. I realized that I needed to develop this quality in my own life—striving to really listen deeply to Jesus in my prayer, and then to the people He sends. Carried Away Our society does not cultivate real encounter. Absorption in screen-based activities and trivial conversations and activities impedes our interactions. We often judge by externals without taking time to see the person within. During my five-day retreat, I chose a Joyful Mystery as the focus of each day. While I took my morning jog, I contemplated each mystery and renamed them: 1. The Encounter of the Archangel Gabriel with Mary. 2. The Encounter of Mary with Elizabeth, and of Jesus and John. 3. The First Face-to-Face Encounter of Jesus with Mary and Joseph. 4. The Encounter of Simeon, then Anna, with Jesus when He was Presented in the Temple. 5. Mary and Joseph’s Encounter after Losing and Finding Jesus. When my mind roamed, I would draw my attention back to the key encounter. Within My Soul Occasionally, when I catch myself praying the psalms, prayers and readings from the breviary without fully engaging, I try to re-frame it as an encounter with the Father, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, with Mary, or with the saints. Sometimes, a strong distraction carries me away. For example, if I think about a person who has hurt me, and let that resentment intrude, I need to encounter the Lord’s healing. Often enough what bothers us about someone else is actually reflecting something about ourselves. So we are to ask ourselves: “What does my anger or resentment about this person tell me about myself? Relishing Friendship In my perpetual efforts to clean up and get organized, I have found it helpful to ask: “Is this book, paper, CD, photo, really something very helpful, or have I just carried it around without using it beneficially? If I have not had an encounter with it, can I give it up, throw it out, or do something better with it?” My daily prayer is to really encounter Jesus deeply, then to go out to encounter others in whom he truly is present. As Pope Francis says, we must “be sustained by our own constantly renewed experience of relishing Christ’s friendship and His message, . . .convinced from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known Him. . . We pray that Our Lady will help us do as she did: “Mary, help us to say our own ‘Yes’ to proclaiming the Good News, and to encountering God in service of others.”
I was terrified and frozen with fear, unable to move or make a noise. It was a cold and eerie night. I was peacefully sleeping in bed when suddenly an enormous, grey wolf climbed in through the bedroom window. It bounded swiftly across the floor and hid under my bed, pushing its snout through my mattress. I could really feel the snout of the wolf pressing right at the small of my back. I was terrified, frozen with fear, unable to move or make a noise. As time passed by nothing happened, and I thought to myself, “I have got to do something!” As a child I knew that the best thing I could do was to call for Mom. And so I tried to call her, but all that came out from my mouth was a small, feeble voice. Mom couldn’t hear me, but the wolf didn’t move either. I felt a little bolder and braver now, so I tried again, “Mom!” It still wasn’t loud enough for my Mom to hear, but the wolf still didn’t move either. So I took a deeper breath and screamed as loud as I could, “MOM!” Rescue Mission Soon I could hear my Mom rushing up the stairs, followed by the heavy thuds of my Dad. They burst into the room shouting, “David, David what’s the matter?” My voice was still trembling as I murmured in a low voice “There’s a wolf under my bed”. My Dad was startled and tried to assure me that we had no wolves in this country, but I quickly narrated how a big grey wolf had climbed in through the window and scampered under my bed. I concluded by whimpering “I can feel the snout of the wolf still pressing at the small of my back”. My Dad took control of the situation while my Mom stood perplexed. He declared, “I am going to count up to 3. On the count of 3, roll off the bed and I will grab the wolf.” My Mom gasped, but I agreed. On the count of 3, I just rolled off my bed. My Dad didn’t move nor did the wolf. We got down on all fours and peered under the bed. There was no wolf in sight. We searched under the doorway, and every nook and corner but there was no wolf anywhere. Bewildered, I looked back to the bed and suddenly noticed a small button turned on its side, right at the place where I had been lying. A tremendous realization struck me…I had been lying on my bed, frozen with fear, unable to move or make a noise…terrified of a button! The memory of this incident from my childhood is deeply etched into my mind. As I got older and wiser, I came to realize that most of the things that frighten me were, in reality, mere buttons, just like that mighty wolf who had been lying in wait to pounce on me. And I am definitely not scared of buttons. Take a Look Throughout the Bible, there is one message that is emphasized over and over again. “Do not be afraid.” Surely it raises a question. Why don’t we need to be afraid? All around us, terrifying scenarios are building up, and it seems right to be afraid. But God says, “Do not be afraid.” Does that mean you are doing something wrong when you are afraid? No. It simply encourages you not to let fear inhibit or stop you from being the person you were created to be. Fear is a natural human response. It focuses our body and our mind on situations requiring our urgent attention. So, the fear that invades my mind when I am aware of a wolf under my bed is good and even healthy. But when that fear is based on something that isn’t true, then it can have a really negative impact. We can get stuck in that situation, unable to move or respond. So when we are frightened, we should stop and take a second look. We ought to pray about it, listen, reflect and think, “Is this something I need to be afraid of?” Maybe I can just push it aside. Maybe it is like my wolf, in which case I need to ask for help to transform my flawed perception of a terrifying wolf into a harmless button. So why don’t we need to be afraid? The simple answer is: we are God’s children. No matter how bad the situation you are in, God holds you in His strong arms. He speaks to you today. Listen to Him saying, “Be not afraid” and seek His strength. Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much. You know everything about us—all our strengths, weaknesses, and all the things that terrify us. Lord, help us to experience Your Peaceful Presence surrounding us, giving us strength to face our fears. When we feel trapped by anxiety, grant us the grace to overcome our panic and escape the bondage of fear. We ask this in Jesus' Name, Amen.
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