Oil painting by Liza Montoya-Hayden
Liza Montoya-Hayden is a native New Mexican oil and acrylic painter. I'm constantly amazed by the artists who come out of the Land of Enchantment. Liza's artwork definitely reminds me of Georgia O'Keeffe's. I absolutely love how she captures the beauty of color and light. Liza's faith and love for God are just as inspiring as her paintings. I'm very thankful for her generosity in sharing her faith-filled works of art!
by Rita Simmonds,
based on the Mexican Poppy painting by Carrie Bucalo
I left the violet mount “in secret, on a cold, dark night,”
I hoped to find my blissful side, the child I never met.
I fled for days of frolic; but skips were weighed with stone.
I could not leave the mountain; it caved inside my soul
majestic, proud and threatening—a bruised and throbbing mass,
an anchor and a sickness I could not heave or man.
I knelt from imposition. I begged beyond the clouds
defeated by injustice—the crime that kept me bowed.
“My Father, do you hate me?“ I screeched, and tore my clothes.
The mountain echoed, “Hate me!” A darkness pierced my own.
“Finished…It is finished.” I heard but couldn’t see.
A white and blinding brightness infused new sight in me.
An earthquake cracked the boulder that kept my heart entombed.
Strengthened like a soldier, I faced the twisted truth:
Like tumbleweed entangled, the lies rolled rootless on.
I walked the sandy desert; my steps made poppies bloom.
They waved their yellow petals in victory over thirst.
The sun set on the mountain; it’s purple turned to grace.
The sky takes from its grandeur and sweetens cotton clouds.
The child in me can wander in lavender and gold.
May 17, 2016
Rita A. Simmonds
Photograph by Justin Bucalo
My sister, Christina, and I battle through our faith-wounds together. We've been through a lot, but God has captivated our hearts through the beauty of art. Christina loves to draw, and I was so happy when she agreed to draw this piece for my website. Her cross, covered with roses and thorns is a great reflection of the journey we walk together, and I'm so proud to have her for a sister. Here are her words about this piece:
"A cross of roses, from the bottom of thorns, there is beauty which unfolds, into the light we hold."
This is a wonderful book of poems by my dear friend, Rita Simmonds. It is filled with deep Advent and Christmas expressions and emotions. I wish I could give this to everyone for Christmas this year! You can find it and order it, inexpensively, online at Amazon.com.
Painting and reflection by Carolyn
Watercolor by Carrie Bucalo
I had the joy and the honor of doing a radio show with EWTN's Barbara Mcguigan, on The Good Fight. We talked about Pope emeritus Benedict XVI's essay on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and my perspective as a survivor. If you listen to the show, you'll be wondering if I ever heard back from Pope emeritus Benedict. Well, I did! He sent me a signed copy of his book, A School of Prayer, along with a card and his Easter blessing. You can listen to the radio show by clicking on the link below.
by Dolores Cameron
A dear friend of mine gave me a book of letters that his mother wrote, called A Thank You Note To God. In her letters, Dolores wrote with beautiful words to illustrate how much she loved God:
"Dear Lord, thank you for the beautiful sunrays shining and glimmering through the trees last night. They were so beautiful... I have not forgotten you, I think of you constantly every day of my life. You are the most important person in the whole world to me. Thank you for everything--- just as it is my sweet Jesus"
(Letters from June 29, and July 15, 1994).
Dolores constantly thanked God for her family and children, which encourages me to be a thankful mother too:
"Thank you dear Jesus for everything--- just as it is. The way things are is the way You want them to be, whether they are bad or good in our eyes. I know You are always taking care of me and all my children and whatever happens is because You are allowing it to happen for our good. Thank you my dear sweet Lord. I trust you completely, always and forever"
(June 8, 1994).
Thank you for your beautiful words, Dolores. I hope many people find a way to be as thankful and as beautiful as you.
(You can buy her book on amazon.com)
"You will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus," (Phil. 4:7).
"I was prayed over by three different people for physical healing. All three people gave me the same message from God: 'You are a rose among the thorns.' God did not heal my illness. He chose to heal my soul and gave me strength that can only come from Him. God's healing of my soul was the most important choice."
Acrylic painting by Dawn Nava
POEMS FOR THE HOLIDAYS
by Rita A. Simmonds
by Rita A. Simmonds
(from her book Greeting the Seasons, based onThe Nativity watercolor painting by Carrie Bucalo)
A sky so filled with constellations
at last displays the essential star.
We need decode no more
but simply follow what is most pronounced-
what we cannot help but heed.
We discerned a cross on the mountain top
still a long way off,
and thought that would be our aim
until we caught sight of a warm light
at the foot of the hill
seeming to rise to meet us
as we moved quickly toward
nothing but a family
huddled in a cove---
but we were explorers
and had to know
yet somehow couldn't ask.
The baby slept
the mother smiled
the father watched,
and held his staff.
No one said a word.
From science we learned to observe.
In silence we learned to adore.
We gave our gifts with trembling hands.
Our velvet knelt in straw.
The truth that ruled was plain to see---
we couldn't see it all.
The cross was still a long way off.
The star had led to light.
The journey to the mountain top---
An hour, not this night.
We headed back a different route.
The hour not this night.
-- Rita A. Simmonds
Watercolor with pressed flowers and leaves, by Carrie Bucalo
In January 2020, I had the honor of joining Dan Cheely for his show on Relevant Radio. Dan and I discussed the hopes we both have for healing in the Church and in the world, after the wounds of sexual abuse. We talk about how human freedom, our encounter with Christ and the presence and the Carmelite Saints are all here to help steer us into a brighter future. You can listen to the show on the Relevant Radio website. Look for episode 17 (January 25, 2020), on the Dan Cheely Show page.
When I think of Christ at His resurrection, I see Him as being utterly creative. He rises; He breathes, He speaks; He moves. And life springs forth with His every step. His movement beckons for a greater imagination and belief in what is beautiful, and what is good.
Watercolor and pressed flowers
by Carrie Bucalo
Paintings and Reflection by Nancy Laughrige
oil painting by Liza Montoya-Hayden
Watercolor and reflection by Deborah Brenna
I ask for strengthening, peace and courage to overcome the difficulties I endure because of my wounds.
I ask for renewed trust and faith in God the Father.
I ask for the strength and the gift of uniting myself more closely to your passion; to be consecrated to bear fruit, by my configuration to your holy cross.
I freely unite myself to your passion, death and resurrection, to contribute to the good of the entire People of God.
I ask your Holy Spirit for the gift of healing,
and for the gift to glorify God the Father in my life.
I ask this through the intercession of my brothers and sisters, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Communion of Saints.
(Prayer based off the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1520-1523)
"This is my hermitage: a place of peace and healing, growing, learning...how to be me after an abuse situation. Not just me, but who God wants me to be. 'This is the Garden of Life I have for you.' But it takes time. Sweet, sweet peace of Jesus. At times elusive, hidden but if we keep totally connected to him- no matter what- He reveals what we need to know."
~ by Susan H.
with Barbara Mcguigan
"One winter evening, as I was walking through the woods at sunset, God asked me: 'What do you see?'
I said, 'I see beauty.' Then I asked God , 'What do you see?' He said, 'I see Love.'"
Blessed are the powerless, for theirs is a foretaste of life’s end:
The infant, pushed out and into the world’s unfeeling sight;
The schoolboy, knocked around by bullying might;
The lover, defenseless against his beloved’s charms;
The soldier, pierced under orders through battle’s harms;
The advocate, defeated and overthrown by perjurer’s lies;
The washed-up, worthless and without status in his family’s eyes;
The senile, restrained like an errant pet and penned.
Blessed are the little ones, who find their way to Christ.
And eat the crumbs begrudged to them, taxed and over-priced.
Blessed are the honest, drawing hatred from all sides.
The prophet targets he who mocks and derides.
Blessed are the patient ones, who rise from falls each day.
More blessed are the simple ones, who delight in life and play.
O Lord bestow your blessings upon the powerless,
So we may hear You say: “My beloved—My great success.”
Not too long ago, my family and I had the pleasure of meeting up with Marty Rotella in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Marty is an award winning songwriter and musician who runs a healing ministry called Spirit Power. Marty's music and healing ministry have been touching the hearts of many across the world, with songs like Whisper in the Wind and Queen of the Americas. We met up at Caliche's Frozen Custard and had some amazing fellowship and ice cream!
Marty recently wrote two new songs after reading his MAGNIFICAT and visiting Healed By Truth. He told me that he felt very moved and inspired by all the art and reflective writing of the many contributors to the website, that he wrote: Living Flame and Rose Among the Thorns. I'm so thankful for his response and I'm honored to share the lyrics of these songs with you now.
I believe these songs are a true testimony to the shared hope and talent of survivors of abuse, family members, friends and ministers in the Church who believe that faith-healing is possible. You can hear the songs and learn more about Marty's ministry by visiting his website: https://spiritpowermusic.org/
By Greg Cook, firstname.lastname@example.org
'Sacred Heart' watercolor by Carrie Bucalo
Watercolor by Carrie Bucalo
The COVID-19 Pandemic is Revealing
As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have a proposal during this world-wide lockdown. This is a very rare opportunity for believers to join in solidarity, not only with the victims of Covid-19, but with victims of sexual abuse as well, who feel spiritually isolated and locked down every day, not because of the Coronavirus, but because of their wounds. Many victims of abuse cannot pray the way they want to, and many cannot make it to Church because of the devastating levels of betrayal and rejection they have experienced.
As the Covid-19 restrictions begin to loosen and finally lift, allowing church-goers the ability to attend religious services once again, please keep in mind the victims of sexual abuse who still may be unable to pray or step foot inside a church because of their wounds. Unfortunately, inner restrictions and long-term effects of abuse are very heavy on the shoulders of survivors.
But there is hope! Many still believe. The hardships and difficulties have not robbed us of our hope that God hears our cries. I only hope that from this experience, the whole Church will be more willing to listen to survivors and accompany us with a newfound depth and wealth of understanding through shared hardship.
One good thing that can come out of this pandemic is a Church that is more united. We all long for God, and for his healing. Perhaps an unprecedented opportunity like this one will surprise us all and bear much fruit. Maybe we'll even recognize each other's beauty and faith. That would be a reason to truly rejoice!
Painting and Collage by Susan H.
by Carrie Bucalo
As a child, I found myself walking through life's dark forest, metaphorically speaking. With everything that happened to me, I figured I'd be lost forever, cast far outside the reach of family and love. Like Hansel and Gretel, I was afraid and struggled to find my way back. With no real means of saving myself, I was surprised to find a trail of "bread crumbs" laid out by Mother Church.
I followed these shining morsels, which I found in the lives of the saints, the prayers of the liturgy, and the faith of the members of Christ's Body. Our Blessed Mother guided me with her cord through the darkness; Saint Therese wove flowers in and out of my shadows in the garden of Carmel; and the couple at the wedding feast of Cana shed light on my path, encouraging me to trust that God would provide for every moment of my marriage.
As my husband and I have traveled further down this road together, we've found the companionship of a great crowd of believers, from every time and place. Each of their stories has inspired us to leave a trail for our own children, who also need to be guided and led.
Thankfully, we're never alone. With her basket filled with unperishable bread, the Church leaves a trail for everyone, reaching into the darkest spaces, and out of the deepest caverns, straight to the Father's house. Along this path, no one is left knocking on perdition's door.
(From She Pondered These Things in Her Heart, July 2020 MAGNIFICAT. Published with permission by MAGNIFICAT
"Are we willing to love those who are not exactly like ourselves?"
I painted this piece when I was a Carmelite nun. When I couldn't turn to God in prayer because of my faith-wounds, I found help in Our Blessed Mother. I wrote about my journey of faith in The Spiritual Journey of Healing, which you can download by clicking on the link below.
Watercolor by Carrie Bucalo
Watercolor by Carrie Bucalo
photograph by Carrie Bucalo
Photograph by Carrie Bucalo
photograph by Carrie Bucalo
Paintings and Reflection by Susan H.
Marty Rotella's songs for healing
Deb, has gone through her own journey of faith-wounds, yet has found incredible peace and beauty in her home and faith life. Here is one of her first paintings. (A marvelous first painting)And here are her words about it:
"A writer by trade, I also love to craft. I am always dabbling in this or that; pouring myself out and receiving joy in return. Though I am not normally a painter, I have lately been learning to paint. With this Fall came a new year of nature study in our homeschool adventures. It lends itself perfectly to this venture. And I've been enjoying it immensely.
Fall has always been my favorite time of year. Something about the harvest invokes a deep sense of awe for life and its seasons. Life is so often a frantic, messy business. Yet in the midst
of all the stress and worry, fall is an invitation to a deeper connection with the world around me. My children and I head outside to enjoy the cooler weather. There I'm immersed in God’s heart. I see Him in the wisps of clouds; and the brilliant
color of our mountain; in the trees shrouding themselves in beauty before their long sleep; and in the providence of the harvest. I see Him in the curve of a pumpkin, the orange skin shining radiantly in the sun. There, is an invitation to rest. To take in the moment and capture, in my own way, the peace which is all around us."
~ Deborah Brenna, October 31, 2016
February 1, 2020, Healed by Grace Women's Conference was an incredible day, filled with beautiful faces and remarkable women of faith. A big thank you to the Carmelite Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Alhambra, California, for inviting me to come and speak. And a huge thank you to every single one of you ladies who came. Your presence made a difference in the story of our journey to healing.
For those of you who could not attend, both of my talks, The Child Jesus, and The Holy Face, can be found on the Sacred Heart Retreat House page on Podbean.com. You can find it under Healed by Grace.
Pencil drawing by my sister, Christina
Seeking places of healing and pilgrimage has long been apart of our Catholic identity. As a child, I visited the beautiful Santuario de Chimayo in northern New Mexico many times. I remember standing in the long lines of pilgrims, many who whispered and mumbled prayers beneath their breath. Candle light flicked on the adobe walls as I slowly made my way to the small hole in the church floor where I sank my hands into the cold dirt. I may not have fully understood just how much healing I needed, but I said my prayers and asked God to heal me, and the ones I loved, and even the whole world.
Now more than ever, is a perfect time to recall the great treasures of healing we have in our faith, and make pilgrimages to those places we may have forgotten. Even if we cannot travel physically to these churches, we can travel there in our hearts and in our prayers. We need God's healing. The world needs God's healing. And if there's anything that our history with him has taught us, its that God loves to heal us. But we must ask! We must come to him freely, and ask for what we need. After all, we have a wealth of prayers, novenas, and litanies that have filled our sacred spaces for centuries. Here is one of my favorites:
"Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided.
Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To you do I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen."