PASSION FOR PEACE
It may appear obvious that I have a passion for peace! My e-mail address and my website title contain the word “peace”. I write of seeking silence within myself. It is in that silence that I am able to reach a deeper and more intense level of peace. The depth sometimes carries over to my everyday life.
Where did I get this desire for peace? Was I born with it? As a child, I hated when voices were raised or when anger was apparent to me in the silent actions or facial expressions of those around me. I became an excellent detector of a person being upset. As a little girl, I soon found I could not soothe anyone’s anger or frustration. My best bet was to become invisible. I did not take on a caretaker role or a co-dependent role of trying to make it all better – not overtly. I became as quiet I could. It seemed best not to draw any attention to myself. My skills used to being invisible became quite good. Nothing mattered though. Invisibility did not work. I was still used and abused. Peace only existed when I was able to find an inner silence – either in emptiness (an empty mind) or in a spiritual way with Blessed Mother as a spiritual guide and comforter. Children find ways to cope with the horrendous.
I attended a Catholic high school near Chicago. Two of my favorite classes were world literature and comparative religions. I knew the world was larger than my world of fear and abuse. The Catholic world at my high school was somewhat different than the teachings and experiences in my neighborhood church. The sexual and spiritual abuse I suffered by clergy (priests) in my parish of origin warped my view of the world, let alone of religions. It surprises me that I still had a desire to find the Divine. The song of my senior year class was “Let There be Peace on Earth”. I loved that song. Peace intrigued me.
(If you would like to listen to a recent version of “Let There be Peace on Earth”, here is the link.
After high school, I met Tom M. and became caught in his web of domestic violence, extreme abuse, human trafficking, torture-porn, and torture. My spiritual life went into hiding. I shut down on a spiritual level as well on other levels. There was little peace. Those years were spent surviving on physical, emotional, and mental levels.
Once Megan, my daughter, was born the urge to return to God via religion occurred. Catholicism ended up being my choice after much thought and some researching. It was after my return to the church that Tom M. used the avenue of ritual abuse (extreme abuse) to escalate the sexual abuse, torture-porn, torture and spiritual abuse. Life was hell.
In Germany (around 2002), I began pastoral counseling with Fr. Marcantonio and attending 12-step meetings for alcoholism. As I faced the past and present abuse and torture in my life, being part of the Catholic Community in Germany was a huge blessing for both Megan and I. The benefits are too numerous to state here. Community can be one of the best aspects of belonging to a faith-based group (or any group). I am still quite grateful for the love and support Megan and I received from the Landstuhl Catholic Community at that time. Love was the operative word. I learned how to truly give and receive love. The seeds of self love and self compassion were planted in those years. The seeds of peace planted earlier in my life were watered.
I could access peace, inner peace, as I sat in that small church on Landstuhl. My inner spiritual life was truly awakened! Mass, as hard as it was to attend at times due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and flashes of the ritual abuse scenes at home perpetrated by Tom M. and the others, gave me strength and solace. It was the community though – not just a Mass with strangers with little desire to know one another – that added to my healing process as well as my faith journey.
I was connected and connecting with friends and others. Love was the common denominator. Love was not stated much, but shown in actions often. We cared for each other’s children, shared meals together, gave rides to elderly friends as needed, shared in the joys and sorrows of the community, welcomed new people, said good bye to those leaving, etc. For me, I experienced community and love in healthy and healing ways that I had never truly experienced ever in my decades of life. I am grateful that Megan Ellen experienced that faith community’s love as a child.
People in 12-step programs speak of serenity often. There are as many definitions and levels of serenity as there are of peace. A friend in Spokane once gave me a poster that I have still have. The words written on the poster are:
“Serenity is not freedom from the storm, but peace amid the storm.”
Serenity and peace can be surface-based or much deeper. It is that deep, inner peace that I mostly seek now. Initially I only wanted and needed the peace of no abuse, no angry words, no torture, no domestic violence …..
When I left Germany with Megan in 2007 in order to protect her, a true spiritual foundation had been firmly laid. As a protective parent, a few of the locations that Megan and I resided provided us with authentic, compassionate people. The final place Megan and I lived together was a convent for mainly retired Sisters of Providence. The peace in that location was palpable. After Megan was taken from me, the peace and love within the walls of the convent kept me alive during that PAINFUL and SORROWFUL time as well as the prayers and spiritual energy sent by people from other parts of the world who cared for Megan and I. I did not survive on my own will power. Spirit was involved. Grace enveloped me. I see that with even more clarity now.
That community of sisters quietly showed me what a deep Catholic faith could be. This faith-based community gently cared for me. Food and shelter, (one’s basic needs), were provided. Most importantly, these sisters and a few lay people cared for my spiritual health. I was welcomed to join in the daily Masses and other services, such as retreats, which expanded my knowledge and view of Catholicism. Mysticism and contemplation were brought to light. I read books from the convent’s library. I realized that mysticism and a deep, personal relationship with God resonated with me.
As I awaited trial for custodial interference with no contact with my daughter, the time during this period moved excruciatingly slow. The pain and despair along with my deep concern for Megan permeated every aspect of my daily life. If it was not for my faith, my relationship with the Divine, and the spiritual help from others, I doubt I would be writing this blog now.
After the trial and the dismissal of the charges, I slowly reconnected with Megan who lived with her father, the perpetrator. I decided to move out of state to once again rebuild my life – this time without my daughter.
Even as I sought a job, I tried to find a faith-based community that fit my needs and desires. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one. I did find a job. My basic needs of food and housing were again met. Good therapy was discovered with good results. Time since has been spent searching other religious and non-religious communities. My knowledge base has enlarged. I have gained spiritually from all aspects that I have explored. My faith in the Divine, God, Providence, Universe, or Higher Power has deepened. I still seek a spiritual community. One day …..
Along the path, I discovered various types of meditation, contemplation and centering prayer. I have found ways to combine faith practices and beliefs that suit my personal spiritual needs. A favorite mantra that will seep from my heart to my mind when I walk home at night is:
“Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord; and I will heal them.” (IS 57:19)
I think of those in need, individually and collectively, as I perform this walking meditation.
Another gem I discovered on this road is a Sufi writer, Hazrat Inayat Khan. An excerpt from his writings follows.
“The one who lacks peace, with all his possessions, the property of this earth or quality of mind, is poor even with both… The secret of mysticism, the mystery of philosophy, all is to be attained after the attainment of peace. You cannot refuse to recognize the divine in a person who is a person of peace. It is not the talkative; it is not the argumentative one, who proves to be wise. He may have intellect, worldly wisdom, and yet may not have pure intelligence, which is real wisdom. True wisdom is to be found in the peaceful, for peacefulness is the sign of wisdom. It is the peaceful one who is observant. It is peace that gives him the power to observe keenly. It is the peaceful one, therefore, who can conceive, for peace helps him to conceive. It is the peaceful who can contemplate; one who has no peace cannot contemplate properly. Therefore, all things pertaining to spiritual progress in life depend upon peace.”
“To attain peace, what one has to do is to seek that rhythm which is in the depth of our being. It is just like the sea: the surface of the sea is ever moving; the depth of the sea is still. And so it is with our life. If our life is thrown into the sea of activity, it is on the surface. We still live in the profound depths, in that peace. But the thing is to become conscious of that peace which can be found within ourselves….. the first thing is to seek the kingdom of God within ourselves, in which there is our peace. As soon as we have found that, we have found our support, we have found our self. And in spite of all the activity and movement on the surface, we shall be able to keep that peace undisturbed if only we hold it fast by becoming conscious of it.”
As my journey continues, I still like to sit in churches and temples (especially empty ones) of all religions. These holy buildings make it easier for me to sit in silence to access deep, inner peace. My goal, of course, is to carry deeper and deeper levels of peace within me wherever I am.
Facing the truth of my past (and at the time, the abuse that was occurring in the present) opened the doors to peace, to true love, and to joy as well as to the actual freedom from abuse and torture. Without facing the abuse in my past, I could not be open to all the goodness in the world. Without facing and dealing with the trauma in my past, I could not be free. This freedom does not only include lack of abuse on all levels. This glorious freedom includes the ability to be an authentic person. I do not have to hide anything. Secrets do not help me. They never really did help me. Oh, I can and do choose what is private, what to share, and when to share. Yet, I have the freedom and power that comes from a lack of shame and guilt. The abuse, the incest, the torture, the human trafficking, the clergy abuse, the torture-porn, and the spiritual abuse are not my shame. I suffered greatly. Gratitude flows through my heart for the gifts of strength, courage, truth, resiliency, peace, joy, and love I have been given.
I wish that all those who are now in any type of abusive situation and those whose pasts contain abuse, trauma, and/or torture find the strength to face the realities of the abuse and to heal. May you find the source of strength within you to step on the road to freedom, to find support from others, to begin anew your life on a challenging and most wonderful path of healing to walk on the road of glorious love, joy and peace! This entire road –journey – is filled with other survivors. We are not alone. Each of us is able on all sections of this path to help each other, to give and to receive, and to share true love along with the truth.
My wish is that each and every one of you discover true freedom, genuine love, and a deep, deep, inner peace.