It was something that I had never spoken out loud or had admitted to anyone. Including myself.
But my fear brought shame. As a cradle Catholic, I understood the significance of the cross, which made it all that much harder. Nevertheless, I felt ashamed that I struggled to look at a crucifix. At times I would advert my eyes. The more realistic the crucifix was the harder I struggled. At times I felt terrified. I remember as a child running out of the room, crying and in distressed at the crucifixion scene in the movie “Jesus of Nazareth.”
The world felt like a cruel place.
Fast forward to 35 years or so and I am begging God to heal me. To heal my wounds and everything along with it, because these heavy chains, this cross, was crushing me. This was not what God had desired for me.
One day in 2021, my family and I attended confessions at a small church.
While we were waiting, as everyone took their turn, my youngest daughter was in awe of all the holy icons she could see in the church. I quietly followed my daughter as she pointed out various icons, asking questions.
She eventually brought us to a small table with a large crucifix on it.
As my daughter pointed out the nails and the blood on Jesus with uncertainty, I explained simply that there were bad people who didn’t like Jesus and wanted to kill him. I showed my daughter that we could gently touch the feet of Jesus and say to him “Jesus, I love you. I am sorry for my sins.” As my daughter echoed an “I love you Jesus” and reached out to touch the feet of Jesus, I realised what was happening.
I was directly standing in front of a crucifix.
I deliberately turned my body, so I was completely facing our Lord. I then too, reached out and touched His feet. My beautiful daughter, had brought me to the foot of the cross to face my fears. A few days later, my daughter reminded me of what I had lost.
She was calling me from down stairs as she made her way up the stairs. “Mum! Mum! You lost something. You lost something, mum.”
She placed something she was holding into my hand. I looked down to see what she had placed into my hand. It was a St Benedict’s Cross.
As Jesus continues to call me to the foot of the cross, as he reveals to me the suffering and the wounds, he has endured for me, a deep healing has begun to take place. One that cannot adequately be explained with words but can only be understood by the movements of the heart.
Recently my daughter had trouble sleeping, one night in particular, she was very much struggling. “Come on.” I said “It’s time to pull out the big guns and call on Jesus for help.”
I pulled out my Holy water, Blessed oil and salts. I blessed her and asked God to remove any demons or evil spirits that may be frightening her and keeping her awake. I handed her my crucifix to hold and lead her in praying the “Angel of God” prayer.
When we had finished praying, she eagerly asked if she could take the crucifix with her to sleep.
Twenty-five minutes later, I went to check in on her and she was fast asleep, the crucifix, embraced in her arms.
She now sleeps with a crucifix by her side, where she can see it every night when she goes to sleep.
The crucifix, that had caused me so much fear, now brings comfort to both myself and my daughter. I now often have a deep desire to be in front of a crucifix and to always have the crucifix where I can see it.
And while I still have many battles to fight, sometimes multiple battles at the same time.
I am constantly called to be reminded of St Joan’s own bravery and courage. To not be dissuaded at the enemy’s attacks, but to face them head on, knowing I have Jesus on my side and by my side.
Though my own sufferings are but a drop in the ocean, compared to the suffering Jesus Christ endured for me, it brings me immense comfort to know that Jesus not only suffered for me, he suffers with me.
The passion of St Joan of Arc is a powerful reminder of what it means to keep our eyes fixated on Jesus, including during trials and battles we face on a day-to-day basis and most importantly when we feel our own lives have gone up in flames around us. The beauty and the love, pouring out from Jesus and his suffering for us on the crucifix can and will bring us a strength and courage we may not even recognise within ourselves.
St Joan of Arc was accused of heresy and was burnt at the stake on the 30th of May 1431. Her bravery and her courage as well as her complete surrender and obedience to God captivates me. Her request to have a crucifix held up in front of her while she burns, speaks to my heart and draws within a desire to have the same deep faith and trust in our Lord that Joan did. In her ultimate hour of agony and suffering, she turned her focus onto Jesus Christ, her eyes fixated on the crucifix in front of her.
Her last and final word, uttered in a cry “Jesus!”
This is a stark reminder for myself, that no matter the battle that lays ahead, the sufferings I may endure, to always bring it all to the foot of the cross. There I will find Jesus Christ, waiting for me.
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