I remember the first time I cried in front of my closest friends at college. The dorm room was poorly lit, and they were all gathered around me as I expressed some frustration and disappointment.
Their faces are still vivid in my mind’s eye; not only sad, but also a bit stunned. Despite our closeness, over years of friendship, I had never allowed myself to be that vulnerable with them.
A Struggle We All Face
We all struggle with mask-wearing. Here I’m not speaking about physical masks, but about spiritual and emotional personas which we portray in various situations; with certain friend groups, at work, at church, etc., and which ultimately hide parts of ourselves.
Certainly, different situations require different types of behavior. Going a step further, we all need healthy emotional boundaries. Neither of these are the issue at hand.
Rather, the challenge requiring our immediate attention is the challenge to be authentically ourselves; with ourselves and with God.
For example, how often do you and I try to push aside the struggles we are facing with our health, employment situation, marital or familial relationships…? How often do you and I choose to ignore those nagging wounds we carry—anxiety, loneliness, fears or scruples, unforgiveness, anger, feelings of inadequacy…? Too often, we mask them, and move on.
Problems arise when these wounds fester; when these struggles stretch us thin. The wounds worsen—spreading to our family, our neighborhood and workplace, to our city, our country, and yes, even to our Church.
Take a Cue From the Saints
What then, are we to do?
Someone who understood intense problems of society, State, and Church was St. Catherine of Siena—who is credited with resolving social disputes in Italy, advising royalty, and even bringing the Pope back to Rome following the scandalous Great Western Schism.
It sounds absurd. How could a young, non-royal female living in the 1300s have been so influential?
The powerful key to her impact is described in Catherine’s mystical Dialogue with God, whom she recounts as revealing to her;
“The only way to taste my truth and to walk in my brilliant light is by means of humble and constant prayer, prayer rooted in a knowledge of yourself and of me.”
If we fail to be truly honest and vulnerable with ourselves, and with God, we will continue to live in the darkness of our hiding places.
Perhaps we prefer to hide. We are ashamed, uncomfortable, or too hardened to care anymore.
God understands. In a famous prayer, St. Ignatius Loyola underscores God’s understanding;
“O Good Jesus, hear me. Within your wounds, hide me.”
You Are Not Alone in Your Suffering
God sees our woundedness, and does not leave us to suffer alone. He chose to become one of us; to adopt our wounds onto his own human body, and to allow his own human heart to be pierced.
Don’t hide in the wounds that the world has inflicted upon you; abide instead in the wounds of Jesus. As unbelievable as it sounds, by his wounds, we are healed (cf. 1 Peter 2:24).
How can this happen? Begin with an image of Jesus; on the Cross or resurrected with his wounds exposed. Keep it in a visible place in your home, or carry it with you. Commit to a consistent, daily, and honest dialogue with him. Speak from the heart. Smile, laugh, and cry if you need to.
In humble, constant prayer with our loving and wounded God, we can find the freedom to be our true selves. Better yet, the more we surrender into his pierced heart, the more we will find ourselves renewed. Like St. Catherine, we will see that renewal overflow into the world around us.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life.
Angela Sealana is Media Coordinator for Pilgrim Center of Hope, having served at the apostolate since 2010. She also serves on the PCH Speaker Team.