The ARM of St. Michael
The sexual abuse of a child, in molestation or rape, is a traumatic wounding and a shock to the soul, so strange and large as to defy being able to 'know' it as a wound.The childhood experience of a sexual violation is total, and in a way dwarfs the survivor's capacity to relate to it. Child sexual abuse can generate a post- traumatic stress disorder response, in just one encounter. Words do not exist, to adequately name its shape or dimension. In a rational age, this is likely why it can be overlooked for a long time in the search for freedom from its damage.
The crime of sexual abuse is not like any other experience in a young person's life, when it happens. Since it has no relative, eludes description and naming, induces a horror that invites repression or dissociation, the wound of abuse becomes invisible. Similarly, it has been said that sexual abuse "silences its victims".
An abused person longs to escape the danger of fear and the intensity of atrocity's confusion. The pain of discovering the true fact of having suffered is often denied, avoided in favor of simple oblivion: intoxication, or somatic illness, or other survival technique of wound-substitution. At all times the fear of the unfelt pain keeps the possibility of processing the traumatic event numbly sequestered. Yet there remains an emotional response, with decades of patience, begging to greet it.
Even if there is a dawning that abuse has been a substantial harm, there comes another fear, that an appropriate all-at-once emotional response might not be possible: a prospect too terrifying or overwhelming. The wounded child can 'split off' to create some sense of control, self-coherence and self-protection, ultimately to delay the encounter until it is somehow more manageable. It is almost natural that this happens.
The line between a sexual abuse victim and lust addiction can be perilously thin for a young adolescent. Precisely at the worst possible time, illicit pubescent intoxication of fantasy, pornography and masturbation, can act together to 'hardwire' a young person's sexuality toward abnormal configuration. Since prolactin, the sexual relaxation hormone, is released in insufficient amount, masturbation never accomplishes satieties in a teenager. The unrelief of these behaviors further drives the desperate orientation toward more self-medication through lust.
As obsession and compulsion are reinforced by repetition, there arrives in short order, enslavement: lust addiction. But, beyond this horizon waits another: the place when the compensating self-comfort of intoxication itself is finally seen too as a wrong. Eventually the pain of addiction surpasses the original pain of trauma.
The last place to reveal the lingering invisible wound is the subconscious, the human faculty that catches, as in a net, the reality of trauma undealt with. A lust addict seeking freedom, works from the outside in, controlling first environmental factors, then personal conscious choices. If lust still persists, pressing in through the final refuge, the subconscious mind, it brings the uneasy but long hoped for news, that the hour of liberation is near, to deal with the problem way down in the 'sub-basement' that has long waited.
Trauma deserves a genuine emotional response. Trauma asks that the victim stand up and own the deep feelings that are proper to one who has suffered injustice. The work of getting in touch with the first line emotions of grief and anger is difficult. As is commonly observed, a victim may indefinitely postpone grieving for fear he may never stop. Anger, perhaps even more fiercely, is also delayed, for fear others may be harmed by the expression of it, for risk of committing sin.
Therapy, counseling, and retreats can all provide the zone for the 'safe' discharge of feelings. Getting angry without sin is the common obstacle for a Christian. But the Holy Spirit, in mercy, continues to reveal that there is a safe space for the working out of the unresolved. Playfully, wondrously, we can assign this space a creative and experimental name, to protect the sufferer from sin, while letting 'the past debts' of previously unhonored feeling out of the body. Jesus turned over the tables at the temple not the merchants. Jesus healed the body.
On sacrifice: paraphrase of a homily by Fr Dominic Allain
Sacrifice in the original meaning is to 'make holy': fice (fee chay) - to make, and sacri (sacree ) - what is sacred.
No human being can make any thing holy. It is God, Divinity alone,'Who makes holy'. What is offered to Him, comes as whatever we have or are. We place this on His altar, whereupon it is taken up and transformed by Him into what is pure and 'acceptable'.
This is what Jesus has done with the Cross. He bore our iniquities, errors and 'many missteps'. He had no human 'sin offering' of His own to lift up. He put Himself on the Cross as a kind of objectification of humanity's sinful or evil debts. And He offered that to the Father on an altar of sacrifice. He could do this only inasmuch as he was a true man and also God.
The idea of sacrifice is frequently mistaken from what it actually means. It does not connote an act of drudgery accomplished with barely overcome reluctance or resistance. Rather it is for us to bring before God the unsightly wound, the infection hidden so tightly in our hearts away from the Light, with faith, to His powers of transformation. It is not an empty offering. Indeed, it is often painful, and even fearfully so. "What would happen if that old hidden sore were exposed to the eye of God?" It can make one shudder in shear ignorance! But we needn't be afraid. God is love and tenderness and the wonder of 'Daddy can make it better'.
The obstacles to go to the dread place of truth are numerous. Pride, the bearing of that insult that 'I am in fact not in charge of the universe' is first. For those so used to being under their own 'recognizance', to surrender a self-crown for no crown at all, is a hardship.
The second is lifting that little wing to let the unspeakable happen, God being allowed into the presence of the hideous, shameful or grotesque 'truth of the wound'. The sinner, not knowing God's true nature, or mistaking his nature as rejecting the impure out of hand, can get it all backward. The thinking error is not a judgment but a side effect of self-reliance, the unfortunate blindness of helpless ignorance.
The sinner perceives that God is indeed holy, but wrongly that He must be prevented from having personal audience with 'the unclean'. Yet, He came to heal the sick, not the healthy! God only wants to fix the wounded so as children, we can become happy. And we have only our fallacious concepts and categories of Who and What He actually is to set aside long enough to let Him be the Doctor. God is everywhere, aware of all things, holding all things, enduring all things. Humans in sin can only map human-size characteristics upon God. But He is far greater. What is needed is some cognitive restructuring! SMPG calls it "Correcting thinking errors."
The simplicity of Christianity, salvation in Christ Jesus: His fellowship in suffering with His creature which he did not avoid or interrupt, is the perfect offering (since He was pure and sinless) that has infinite merit and takes our "sin offering" and perfects it unto cleanness, redemption. We unite our (unjust and just) sufferings to His, and He makes them holy. It is a marvel only God can orchestrate, yet it is not magic or produced out of thin air, but paid for by the Christ willing to undergo the worst, by blood, by fellowship in human agony. He goes before us to endure mockery, humiliation, injury, insult, cruelty, wickedness, evil, even death. So He knows, what the abused already know too well. We cannot say that God doesn't know what it is like to be His own creature, or suffer the worst kinds of abuse.
Here is the salvation of our God, it is simple. We come to Church, to Mass, to Jesus and place our wounded, degraded life before Him and He makes all fallen, broken life new. Our part is daring to admit it, and the faith to believe in His infinite power to work the miracle.
Lord of all, grant courage to those who lack it, desperation to those who are indifferent and weary, humility for the proud to accept the perfection of Your remedy and the only sound alternative, life forever in You.
In Jesus' name we beg. Amen.