April 21, 2020 // National

Heartfelt healing amid the coronavirus crisis

By Mike Hoffman

Editor’s Note: April is Child Abuse Prevention and Awareness Month The following reflection was shared in the April issue of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection Newsletter and encapsulates the lifelong process of healing experienced by victim-survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy.

Healing from my wounds of childhood sexual abuse, I take comfort in regular and predictable routines at home, work, socially and at Church. With coronavirus, the shelter-in-place order, near constant disruption of regular life patterns and what seems as all bad news — predicted to get worse before it gets better — I am fully aware of my own brokenness. I have a deep concern for other survivors of any kind of abuse that they might feel unsettled and anxious, like I do. I’d like to offer a message of hope in the midst of real despair.

This Fourth Sunday of Lent, I viewed the taped Mass celebrated by Cardinal Cupich from Holy Name Cathedral. Additionally, I livestreamed Mass celebrated by Father Aidan O’Boyle, our former administrator at St. Mary of the Woods.

During his homily, Cardinal Cupich spoke about healing in all aspects of our lives. He spoke about the man in the Gospel reading, born blind, who literally had zero points of reference in his life for his next step, his next meal and how to survive each day. Yet Jesus brought healing to him. I can relate to this story. At first, I heard the cardinal’s words from the perspective of a survivor of childhood abuse. I have felt alone and abandoned as a childhood sexual abuse survivor, similar to how the blind man would feel. Getting through and surviving each day is mine and so many other childhood trauma survivors’ daily reality. Yet, with God’s grace, I have accepted healing from my wife, my family and my friends. Looking past my own lens, as all of us cope with the impact of coronavirus and the related feelings of isolation, each of us has zero points of reference in this new reality which causes us all to feel unsettled. Jesus, in the act of spitting on dirt, making a paste, coming close to the man and applying the paste to his eyes, in a true miracle, caused the man to see. He was healed. He was not abandoned and alone, and with that, he now had points of reference to reorient his life. I appreciate Cardinal Cupich reminding me that I, and all of us, are not alone. Even in this time of despair, God is with us. God offers us healing. From the perspective of a childhood abuse survivor, I am comforted by these words and I feel their impact in my heart. I hope other abuse survivors can be comforted as well.

Additionally, I livestreamed Mass from St. Muredach’s Cathedral Ballina County Mayo celebrated by the former administrator of St. Mary of the Woods, Father Aidan O’Boyle. During his opening welcome, he also welcomed us from his former parish. It is Mother’s Day in Ireland today, and Father O’Boyle acknowledged all mothers, including three mothers who recently died in our parish. Sitting on my living room chair streaming the Mass at 7:30 a.m., with tears in my eyes, I was comforted by his thoughtfulness from half a world away. During his homily, Father O’Boyle shared how hope is contagious. I believe that!

I’d like to remind all abuse survivors they are not alone, or abandoned, during this time. Please take time for yourselves and your needs. Hope and healing is possible, even now. My thoughts and daily prayers are with survivors of abuse. Stay safe and be well.

Hoffman is a co-founder of The Healing Voices Magazine.

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