“Prayer is being on terms of friendship with God, frequently conversing in secret with Him who, we know loves us.” — Saint Teresa of Avila
This is my experience of how prayer has always and continues to heal every aspect of my life, including my relationship with my earthly Dad.
They say you can choose your bottom, so I chose this last bought of all my mental illnesses to be my bottom. It included a bought of self-harm, extremely disordered eating, crippling self-pity, and random negative, isolating thoughts of deathly self-loathing. Oh what fun!
I’ve always had faith in God. Even when I leave Him, He is always there, waiting with His unconditional love. Unconditional. So no matter how many times my humanness falls short of the glory of Heaven, there He is, picking me up and saying, “I love you. I am love, itself. Let me help you, my beloved.”
Sometimes it seems most insignificant but I think it is actually one of the most significant things I can do (see how mental illness twists things upside down?) is to turn my thoughts to Him who presides over us all, and keep faith that He hears me, and I can assure you, He 110% does hear me loud and crystal clear, even when I express myself to the degree of a grain of sand in ratio to the entire California coastline.
We know there are different types of prayer. There are the prayers that Exorcist Priests use (and only they are to use them) to drive out demons, there is the Rosary which according to Saint Padre Pio, the devil cannot harm you while you are praying it. Also, when you say a Hail Mary, Mary literally appears even though we cannot always see her with the naked eye. There is prayer to the Saints, who are our dear friends in Heaven. There are countless devotions to different Catholic icons, such as the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. These are the real idols for us, not the false idols of Hollywood, or born in the seven deadly sins.
One of my favorite prayers lately is the prayer of St. Michael: “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in this day of battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou oh prince of the Heavenly Hosts, by the Power of God, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.” A very powerful prayer. A Catholic friend of mine recently reminded me to never talk to the devil directly but to always go through a Saint or Jesus himself. The devil is the father of lies and he never rests, he is always waiting to attack us and we are to let the Saints fight the battles for us.
There is the kind of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, on our knees in private, at grace before meals, or as St. Therese of Lisseux said: “For me, prayer is a surge of the heart, it is a simple look turned toward Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” I used to think prayer had to fit into just one category, and that I had to do it “perfectly” or it didn’t count. What little perception of perfection I have, anyways! As I live my life in pursuit of Christ, as He simultaneously pursues me eternally, I begin to realize my life is one giant prayer, my inner relationship with God Almighty.
About my earthly father. I moved back home unexpectedly a few months ago after being away for a year and a half and was very triggered by a lot of things which I didn’t fully realize or was prepared for. Mainly, I felt like a failure (can anyone relate?) I’ve been so codependently enmeshed with my Dad my entire life. If you are unfamiliar with Codependency, I highly recommend doing some of your own research on it. It is a fascinating subject, It has been a wonderful answer to the root of all my issues. My relationship with my Dad and this fundamental trauma-bonding has set a template for all of my relationships. How ironic, because so greater does my relationship with my Heavenly True Father set the ultimate tone, yet how often I forget my sights on Heaven. To trauma-bond is the be hyper aware and in anticipation of anothers emotions, and to accept abuse or neglect as the norm, because without a primary caregiver, a child would die. That is just scratching the surface. I never would have understood this to the depth I require for my recovery without the help of my Codependents Anonymous sponsor. I never would have understood a lot of things without the help of many people whom God has blessed me with. Everyone can teach you something. May God help you discern spirits wisely!
CoDA (short of Codependents Anonymous) is a 12-step program which has drastically changed my life. Working the 12 steps of recovery with a sponsor gives one a Spiritual Awakening, with many spiritual experiences along the way.
Toxic shame which sounds like “I am a bad person with no hope” versus regular shame which sounds like “yes, I may have made some choices which were not condusive to my highest good, but I also have a future, hope, and have and will make good, life-affirming choices” is a distinction which, when living in toxic shame, can cripple me. Conversely, experiencing normal shame is simply a part of life and a good indicator we need to go to Confession.
To highlight some of my behavior concerning my relationship with my Dad which I have uncovered through my 12-step work, I was pointing the finger outward and blaming others instead of looking inward at my own behaviors. I couldn’t do this turn-around alone. In my desperation, in my crippling “stay in bed all day and hate myself mode of life” I reached out slowly, online, and to some people I knew and some of the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. It was a miracle. It was painful. But today I honor my pain. I align it with Christ. Today I honor my emotions and focus so much on my own improvements and spiritual awakenings that I have no time or purpose to hyper-analyze, control, care-take, victimize, play the victim, play the savior, or rescue others like I used to. I wanted my Dad to act how I wanted and how I needed him too. I wanted others to love me like I needed but never received in childhood. This will never happen. I can only continue to build my bridge to God and love others like I needed.
I started following some positive pages on social media and making positive acquaintances that encourage me and uplift me daily and even hourly, not to give up hope, but to strengthen it. I need this, my life depends on it. I must recover or die spiritually, mentally, and eventually physically. Mental illness kills, but God saves. I pray to a couple of my favorite Saints, and no matter how imperfect or meager my prayer may seem, they hear me loud and clear. Prayer has taught me many things. It has taught me to take my recovery seriously and to put it #1 in my life, but also to know that God truly has a wonderful sense of humor. After all, we do laugh.
I can’t solve other people’s problems. I can’t even solve my own. I need help and I have a long way to go. But that’s part of the beauty of it. Our deep, rich, true Catholic Faith tells us we are preparing for an Eternity in paradise with the Holy Trinity. Any earthly suffering is to perfect me for Heaven, which intrinsically I don’t deserve but Jesus says I do, as said during Mass in Matthew 8:8 “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”
Slowly but surely I am working on my relationship with myself and God, my fears, and my inner world, my triggers, my boundaries, and my recovery. I suspect this will continue for my lifetime but the results and spiritual fruits like peace of mind, well-being, and real happiness are just too awesome not to continue. I enjoy hearing others share who are going through similar feelings or who have overcome their struggles and who share their wisdom. I feel very blessed that God continues to lead me through the darkness. He is my light, and He makes me light up. Today I know I am not responsible for others’ emotions, but only in my actions and how I react to life. Pausing is a great tool for me. “We” can do this. If you don’t have a spiritual director, a therapist, 12-step sponsor, or some sort of experienced guide, I highly recommend it.
Prayer continues to be my lifeline and my life. Remember to pray for others and anything you wish, and do not lose hope. God has a mysterious way of working everything out. I get caught up so easily in the world and the flesh, but God always is there for all of us in His Great Mystery and Wisdom and I am thrilled and honored to be on this divine spiritual journey with Him and with you. May God Bless you!