Day 19: Into the Depths
Editor’s Note: TOB is the abbreviation for Pope St. John Paul II’s book “Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body” Pauline Press ‘When strong temptations (no matter how ugly) come into your heart, never keep them inside, but reveal them to the father of your soul…’ St. Catherine of Siena
My rage flared and I smashed my hand against the car windshield to vent it. Not helpful. With bruised hand, still ignited by anger at my father, this dormant volcano erupted. Finally. My heart overflowed with fire over the father/son wound of mine and judging by its depths, generations of Comiskeys before me.
Months earlier, three years into marriage, I faced unexpected same-sex temptation that ‘invited’ me into depth therapy with a Christian clinician. On one hand, I knew my disordered feelings related to the gap between my father and I; although I played ‘Christian nice’ with the man, beneath the surface I reacted childishly, at times with hate. I wasn’t being true, and the divide in my manhood inclined me to ‘gay’ fantasyland.
Nothing new under the sun. Pascal insists that ‘the heart has reasons that reason cannot grasp.’ In Person and Act, Karol Wojtyla (a young philosopher, aka JP II) charts a vision of humanity that necessitates an understanding of the subconscious—'the complex depth at which the human being moves and is moved.’ Here he refers to the psycho-emotive part of personhood that includes an inner space beneath conscious experience. The subconscious may contain defenses against early wounds but these wounds, when accessed, can become a bridge that helps to mediate the unity of complicated parts of ourselves.
What I love about depth therapy is the patience of practitioners who read disintegrated sexual symptoms and invite the afflicted to go where they don’t want to go. I hate rage and its ugly chaotic possibilities; it makes me feel out-of-control and unchristian. My therapist built trust while gently nudging me to face what I must, the mother lode of molten emotion that mounted as I suppressed it for years.
Unknown depths, when surfaced, invite us to wholeness. We have a say in the matter—this is where will and reason come to play. I can break the windshield, or I can break and allow the rage to become grief over personal estrangement with father and my own masculinity. I can feel it and forgive from my heart (My dad was a fine detached guy with his own demons who intended good for his son.)
Pope St. JP II invites us to be formed and transformed by sorting out our own dynamics. We can allow what is unseen to be seen by us and integrated; in doing so, we ‘participate in our own formation.’ We become the unique persons we are, less fettered by symptoms of distress that have a source and a cure.
‘Jesus, rouse the gift we are. Help us to attend to the treasure you summon from the trash. Free us from our constant faultfinding and free us for vestiges of paradise in our memories and in our lives today. We refuse the liar who tries to rewrite Eden out of our histories. Unite us to the home of our original dignity.’
‘Jesus, have mercy on us as Your Church. We have abused weaker members, including children, and protected ourselves. We have violated the most vulnerable. In Your mercy, free us to superabound with justice. Grant us Kingdom discernment and courage to reform ourselves. May our repentance grant us Kingdom authority to strengthen the weak, discipline violators, and restore the violated.’