Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Unhealed Wounds ~ And the Virgin Mary of Czestochowa



The Virgin Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Czestochowa, is Poland's patroness and queen. She is also titled The Black Madonna as her features have been darkened by centuries of candle smoke. Some claim the icon was painted by the Evangelist Saint Luke. Art historians date it to somewhere between the 6th and 9th centuries. 

Historical documents indicate the icon has traveled widely through Constantinople and then in and out of the hands of kings and castles. Eventually it found its way to the monastery at Jasna Gora where it is enthroned today. 

It is said that when an enemy wants to attack the Catholic Church it does so by going after the Virgin Mary and the Eucharist. And so in 1430 there was a Hussite invasion of Jasna Gora, leaving the monastery plundered and the icon's face and neck slashed. Attempts by art restorers to repair the painting have failed - the gashes repeatedly re-appear. 

Whether heaven has intervened in leaving the scars on Mary's face or simply that modern repair techniques won't adhere to centuries old paintings, doesn't matter: the message is the same - Mary is human - one of us - and we all bear wounds that sometimes just don't heal.

Some of that damage is suffered at a very early age, some later in life. And despite our prayers, hopes and perhaps even professional help, the scars remain. Time does not heal all wounds. Saint Paul writes in his Second Letter to the Corinthians 12:7-9

So tremendous, however, were the revelations that God gave me that, in order to prevent my becoming absurdly conceited, I was given a stabbing pain - one of Satan's angels - to plague me and effectually stop any conceit. Three times I begged the Lord for it to leave me, but his reply has been, "My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely." There, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weakness, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ.

Some scars can even remain quite painful. This leaves me to suffer them the best I can and perhaps to be compassion-ated by them. By this suffering I might become more understanding, more resilient, more connected to other sufferers, newly mindful of some gift of which I was previously unaware.

Suck it up and Just get over it are unkind and unhelpful responses to persons carrying even old wounds. We might wonder if we use phrases like this because we're unwilling or unable to be real companions to others in their sorrows. Or perhaps it's just laziness, or fear of one's own vulnerability. 

Mother Mary of Czestochowa  carries wounds. Sometimes the unhealed wound is national or eccesial: the national wound of what was done to Native Americans in this country. The wound to the Church in the recent sex abuse scandal and the institutional, self-protective stance of some bishops once the story broke. Or the wound is deeply felt in a very personal way:

the wound of family dysfunction
of carrying addiction
of child abuse
of some grave loss or disappointment

the scar of divorce
of failed parents or teachers
of an experience of personal violence
of a loved-ones sudden death

the pain of inner disturbance
of war
of betrayal and infidelity
of rejection or abandonment

the injury of being marginalized
of marital abuse
of lies and deception
of being taken advantage of 

The scar of repeated failure
of ridicule and bullying
of physical disability
of chronic pain


We can bring these things to mind and hold them in silence before the Czestochowa Mother of God who bears her own scars. It isn't necessary to speak - just exchange gazes. 

34 comments:

  1. That we all share in this wound carrying is actually a comfort to me. We all have some affliction, whether it be external or hidden inside, deeply routed. Thank you for reminding us that Mary carries the suffering with us. She understands our pains.

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  2. This may be one of the most beautiful icons of the Mother of God, for she is human and real. Her inflicted wounds show through even after the attempts at covering them up. She is not ashamed of them.

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  3. That's right. No shame. The icon is a little westernized - especially her nose. It's not a classic Byzantine icon nose. Small matter. It's more about the scar-wounds than the nose anyway.

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  4. The scars we show to no one that burn under our outer layer of skin, are most dangerous. For they always risk exposure. Partially healed, they remind us of where we came from and the journey we have had to endure.

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    1. To be sure - this isn't about what shows. The scars on the face of the Mother of God are symbolic of what we carry inside. Hidden, unless they are shared and revealed, and often for many people - a lifetime.

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  5. Let us not overlook this very touching prayer that strikes a chord in all of us.

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  6. I have heard you speak of wounds and healing and it is truly inspiring. This prayer ignites the flame that lights up the remembrances to the connection and vulnerability that I felt. I am grateful for your continued lessons and reminders to stay close to God. I can hear your voice in these words.

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  7. So many people carry deep wounds. It's very important that in the life of the Church we talk about these things. I'm pleased for all of the encounters on retreats, at Masses, in classes when we have been able to do that. "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted...." the psalm says.

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  8. That was pretty neat to be able to see this icon up close. You really got the feel of it, probably better than if you saw it in person. St. Paul's writings are always clear and tough but so true. When you are down and filled with sorrow and the graces come through and you feel God's presence. It is quite a feeling.

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  9. The icon is photographed here without its riza, which is a metal covering which allows only the faces and hands to be seen. The riza is often highly decorated with gems and stones. A riza, however artistic or beautiful or precious, does nothing to reveal the icon. In fact, it would distract. So yes, it's good to see the icon in its humility and closeness.

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  10. I don't know how personal your prayer is to you, but struck my insides and awakened me to the realization that I harbor more wounds than I care to admit. They play such a part in who I am that I just live with it day in and day out. I am trying to look at them differently as I read this again and again. An examination of my inner being, leading me to desire some sort of cleaning out of the wounds and letting them heal again differently. I feel this ties in to your explanations of resentments which prevent a true healing.

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  11. If I may - I'd address the resentments first. Check out resentment in the archive here. We might be surprised at the recovery/healing that takes place with letting go of resentments.

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  12. How miraculous that this icon will not accept healing paint. And intervention from above reminding us that we are not in charge here. God is sending us a message and we can choose to listen or ignore him. I love the challenges you present us with Father. You should teach a class at a university. Kids would flock with their hunger for some spiritual direction that truly matters.

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  13. To teach a university class - I'd like that. Pope Francis has said the problem today is not atheism, but that we have not been successful in satisfying the thirst that people (especially young people) have for God.

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    1. Yes, this is what I mean. I teach young adults and they thirst for direction. They would be so willing to open up to the teachings of Jesus of only someone would take the initiative and guide them. They are without faith because they don't know how to trust in God. They have never been taught. You are the type of priest that can make a real difference. So many clerics miss the boat on this. At least in the Catholic faith.

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    2. I hope so. That's my intention anyway. Refer them to the blog here. I'd be glad to speak with them.

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  14. I carry the scar that says "You are different. You don't belong. There is something wrong with you." I do this proudly and stand up for others so that they might not feel disgrace at the hand that they have been dealt. By speaking up for others, our scars may be more visible, but much less painful. In that I find healing. Amen.

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    1. This is why we have each other. AA is very good at this. At the end of a meeting the new-comer is surrounded by people who want to offer help - a phone number and promise of companionsihip.

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  15. Looking at the different icons of The Mother Of God bring a state of inner peace. Thank you for shedding light on them and teaching us the meanings behind the symbolisms.

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    1. You're very welcome. I'm pleased for the audience out there - folks who love Mary and her images and titles.

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  16. There is a song on the radio that describes how one's face can go numb when overcome with love and emotion. This is how I feel when I read your prayer. It makes me go numb with a multitude of emotions.

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    1. I'm grateful for the many people who pray the intercessions each week - especially as a Sunday Mass preparation. I feel a great sense of prayer-solidarity.

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  17. Great post Father Morris. Thank you for sharing your thoughts which will certainly lead others to their own healing journeys.

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  18. Thanks for finding the post - through the online Evangelization Magazine? I send a blessing as Sunday draws near.

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    1. Yes, how did you know? But now I have subscribed to the e-mail so that I can read all your posts.

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    2. The post about the Unhealed Wounds was only up a few hours on the new Evangelization Online Magazine when you sent your response.

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  19. Strong and powerful words, yet laced with compassion and understanding of the human plight. Many years ago I promised to never tell someone to suck it up and get over it. This post says all that I carry inside me. I think healing begins with opening up and seeking a source of healing, whether it be a kind ear to listen, or prayer and self reflection. Maybe a little of both.

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    1. We say things like, "Suck it up" because we're afraid - of not knowing what to say, or afraid of the person's pain/wound. We might even be afraid of having to listen more than we want to. Or maybe even because we're just lazy. Whatever the reason - it doesn't help.

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  20. Thank you Father for a beautiful and encouraging post.

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  21. You're very welcome. "Keep the faith", my father would say.

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  22. Intercessory prayer is an important commitment I've made. Just recently I have added to my prayer list prayer for children whose parents are divorced and for children who live in dysfunctional families.

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  23. I just found your blog from an online source and signed up to get your new posts on Google so I don't miss out by waiting for once a month. I am a Catholic, churchgoer, filled with faith, yet questioning Catholicism as it pertains to my life today. Your blog posts really do address many of the issues at hand as to how can I be a better Catholic and how can I find my spiritual way. Thank you a million times over for putting this up and out there. I am feeling a gleefully blessed at the moment.

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  24. Welcome, Grace! My mom's name was Grace! I'm glad you've found the blog. Posts go up every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Thursday is always intercessions for the coming Sunday. Some folks pray the intercessions before Mass begins. I avoid contentious Church issues here - Pauca Verba (a few words) just points to the Spiritual Life with Christ at the center.

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  25. Welcome, Grace! My mom's name was Grace! I'm glad you've found the blog. Posts go up every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. Thursday is always intercessions for the coming Sunday. Some folks pray the intercessions before Mass begins. I avoid contentious Church issues here - Pauca Verba (a few words) just points to the Spiritual Life with Christ at the center.

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