A Plea to the Sacred Heart of Jesus from a Mother's Broken Heart
I wrote these words less than a month after John Paul Raphael died. I want to share them today, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. They reference a meditation the Lord gave me several years ago about carrying my sufferings to his Sacred Heart. You can read that here. Devotion to the Sacred Heart existed from the earliest days of the Church but became more popular when St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690), a Visitation nun, had a personal revelation involving a series of visions of Christ as she prayed before the Blessed Sacrament. She wrote, “He disclosed to me the marvels of his Love and the inexplicable secrets of his Sacred Heart.” Christ emphasized to her His love and His woundedness caused by Man's indifference to this love. He made many promises to those who consecrate themselves and make reparations to His Sacred Heart. Let nothing keep you from coming to Jesus -- his mercy and love wait for everyone!
2/2/2018 Today is your due date, sweetest baby. I have come again to you in the chapel, my Jesus, always the only place I can go in my agony, loss, fear, sadness, and grief. I have come needing hope, trust, love, joy, and peace. My beautiful baby’s blanket lies across my lap. I bring every tear and question and shattered piece of my life and my heart. My altered identity. Every empty space within me. This giant John Paul Raphael void, so enormous for one tiny baby.
I want to climb into your lap and bury my face in your softest robes. I remember where you have called me to come in my sorrows and I climb up my ladder at your cross, the wind whipping through my hair. I climb up close to you and I stand there. It is a desolate place, this Calvary. The Valley of Tears stretches vast, endless. The rust-colored mountains and the gravel and dust of a thousand years cover everything. I close my eyes and breathe. The smell of salvation, the hope of eternity fills my lungs.
It is possible, I think, this life of love and loss and longing, of emptiness and overflowing. It is possible with you, Jesus. The comfort comes just from standing by your side. The juxtaposition of this surprising peace even while the blood drips from your Sacred Heart onto the nape of my neck. My Jesus. Always the way. Always the answer.
I stop to look at the bloody load of pain I have carried to you and I cannot find it. My hands are empty. It is all of me. I am the offering now. But how can I press all of myself into your Sacred Heart? How can I squeeze in there, into your tabernacle heart of blood and flesh, the smooth gold walls of your gift to us? I want to be held safe and warm in your heart, your own womb of salvation. Before when I came, I could slide my hand in your side while holding my suffering and feel again the pulse of your heart, the life-blood of your salvation, immune to death. But now the wound is all of me. The blood covers my whole body. I am the pulsing, grieving wound, every inch of me. Throbbing with agony and confusion and blinded by your will. I come again having surrendered it all, having handed him over. John Paul Raphael. (I WANT HIM BACK, I scream in my weakness, the snake slithering around my ankles.) I shake off the lies and the doubts that you are not good and my baby is gone forever and I am all alone... I lift my face to your face and see your eyes, the bottomless well of eternity, liquid brown love, pouring over me and I know I am SEEN. I am pierced in love by your gaze.
I close my eyes and the sun breaks through the clouds warming my face. I know I am held tight in love only by your look, since your arms are still bound by nails, the nails I hammered in with every doubt, with every sin, with every betrayal.
“I am empty,” I whisper to you.
My arms. My womb. My hope.
I hear your answer in my heart.
“I know. I have emptied you.”
In that moment I have a fleeting glimpse of this child, my child, OUR child, John Paul Raphael… A laugh or a giggle, a fat healthy baby that I can’t see but sense in that way you think you hear a noise but you aren’t even sure, like a train whistle so far off in the distance it could be only the silence I hear. This brief vision brings me both comfort and pain.
John Paul Raphael. His name brings a roar of grief through my head and I open my eyes to lock onto yours again, oh my Jesus. Here standing at your cross in the valley of tears, I remember: I said I would suffer with you. For you. I offered my life, my heart, my will and my body to you again and again over the last few years. WHAT DID I THINK THAT WOULD LOOK LIKE???? How did I think you would move in my life to create that suffering? What greater suffering could you allow me than this? You brought Ralph and me the most beautiful child of our love, the love of middle-age that grew from total brokenness and death and exploded into life through your grace and healing. We longed to bear the fruit of your blessing to share this love with the world.
You brought our son to us in the perfection of your love and your will. And in that perfect will, you gently slid him back out of our arms. So lovingly. So gently. All the while whispering in our ears, “I am here and I will help you and hold you and honor your loss. I see you. I will hold and carry your baby for you if you will hold and carry some of my death and suffering. And in your carrying it for me, bring souls to my Sacred Heart. Souls I long for. Souls I will use your beautiful child and your broken hearts to reach.”
I rest there, standing by your side, my arms around your beautiful legs and hips. I press my forehead against your skin. You are my God, my Lord. The lover of my soul and my closest friend. I slide my hand up your side and into your wound – the warm flesh opening like birth – new life born over and over from your death. I see the vibrant pink of your flesh as I seek your Sacred Heart where I can be held, burning in the fire of your love. Forgive my doubt. Forgive my fear. Forgive the weakness of my humanity. I long for your, Jesus, and I long for my son. He is wrapped in your arms, held in your love so that I know in longing for one, I am also longing for the other. In finding one, I am finding the other. In holding one, I am holding the other.
I rest there curled in your Sacred Heart. You have brought me here. You called me to First Friday, the memorial of adoration to your Sacred Heart, a devotion strong on my heart for several years. You watched us sing Praise and Worship at Adoration on First Friday. I think now of September through December 2017 where I poured out my heart and soul to you during Adoration on those four First Fridays, praying that it be your heart and soul flowing through my hands and voice. I realize that in your omnipotence you knew that on the next First Friday you would take our child from us. And here today, his due date – also First Friday. I am flooded with comfort and consolation in this, the beautiful details of your plan.
I realize also that you came to me in the Eucharist. Part of the First Friday devotion is going to mass and receiving communion on that day. On Friday, January 5th, 2018, Father Stefan Starzinski came without being asked to our hospital room to check on us and John Paul Raphael. As he was leaving, he turned back and asked if anyone wanted to receive communion. Of course I did! How did I miss this? Why did I not MARVEL over the kindness and mercy of your First Friday gifts of love to me? Love of your Sacred Heart had been growing so much in me; your whole first vision to me of Calvary was to find your Sacred Heart and live united to the Sacred Heart in and through my sufferings. You were preparing me. As I continued to attend First Friday masses, you brought into my heart the longing for Praise and Worship and Father Guest was your instrument to plan for it to be on First Friday. And now our beautiful child is called home on a First Friday and you came into our hospital room in the FLESH to bring your holy presence to strengthen and console us as the hour of his death was near.
Jesus, I miss my baby so much. It is not a load I can carry without you. I have been angry and crushed by the burden of grief and loss and disappointment. It is the greatest UN-fulfillment of my will and yet somehow the perfect fulfillment of yours. As my arms ache in emptiness, I will try to remember to stretch them wide as yours are on the cross, my own pathetic offering of suffering for my family and for souls.
The gift of devotion to your Sacred Heart is loud for me today. Thank you. Open my heart to hear your voice and to do your will. There is an empty spot as I look ahead where raising John Paul Raphael used to be. Show me your way.
Let yourself be loved.