Making room in a wounded heart for the infant ChristBy Dawn Eden
DEC. 1, 2011 (www.catholicnewsagency.com
) - As we enter the Advent season, when the Church invites us to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, there are some who, even as they long to welcome Jesus, fear that He may not welcome them. They are those who go through life burdened with a sense of being stained—not by things they did, but by things that were done to them.
Their numbers are large enough to include someone on every pew, in every parish—an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men. They are adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, and, for most of them, their abuser was a relative or family friend—someone they risk seeing again if they choose to come home for the holidays.
Children who are sexually abused typically blame themselves—thinking they did something to provoke the abuse, or did not do enough to prevent it. But the truth is that we are not responsible for things that were done to us at an age when, vulnerable and trusting, we could easily be subjected to the will of adults or peers. If you feel unworthy of Advent joy because of what was done to you as a child, I invite you to seek out a little-known benefit of a well-known sacrament.
Many parishes during Advent offer extended hours for the faithful to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This great sacrament is, first and foremost, our opportunity to be forgiven for what we ourselves did or failed to do. Few people are aware, however, that it carries an additional benefit. When Christ, acting in and through the ministry of the priest, absolves us, restoring us to His most intimate friendship, He gives graces that help heal those wounds that were not caused by our own sins.
This healing power is part of the very nature of the sacrament: Christ, in His act of forgiveness, reaches out to touch us. When He touches us, He always brings grace “to save that which was lost” (see Luke 19:10)—not only what was lost by our own sin, but what was lost by the sins committed against us by others. When you, enlivened by this sacramental grace, bid Him enter more deeply into your heart, Jesus in turn enables you—through your very wounds—to enter more deeply into His own wounded Heart.
So, this Advent, make room for Him. For the glorious truth is that even if we ourselves were not welcomed and loved as children, we can now, through the love that God himself puts into our hearts, welcome and love the infant Christ.* Dawn Eden is the author of "The Thrill of the Chaste" and the upcoming "My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints" (due in April 2012 from Ave Maria Press).