St Therese: Healing

Sr Margaret Kiely, Mercy Sister and Manager of SMA Nursing Care in Blackrock Road, shared on the 8th night of the SMA Novena in Blackrock Road, Cork. The following is an edited version of Sr Margaret’s presentation.

Tonight I hope to share a few thoughts on healing in the context of Story.

St Therese in her biography – The Story of a Soul – tells us about a very ordinary family with ordinary everyday problems.

She also tells us about the grief she experienced in her early childhood – grief for loss of her mother when she was four years old, grief for loss of her older sister Celine who had become her mother figure and who entered Carmel, grief on moving house and grief for loss of her health.

She also tells us how in her total surrender to God she experienced a miraculous cure. The Story of a Soul is a story of a simple life which included sickness, grief, faith, prayer, healing, joy, gratitude and what Therese calls – her Little Way.

It was intended only for her sisters but since her death it has spread to all corners of the globe and has helped millions of people.

In the next five minutes or so I will share a few thoughts on our Story.

Like Therese grief and loss is part of life for all of us especially as we get older and experience the ageing process – loss of hearing, poor sight, reduced mobility, heart disease or cancer to name but a few. 

Then there is the grief of letting go of family, so many of our young people lost to emigration. Retirement from work brings another form of grief and then there is the grief caused but the death of a spouse or family members.

All these are preparing us for the final letting go when we let go of life itself.

How we deal with our losses will make all the difference to our quality of life.   Some people can cope better than others. Men and women have different ways of coping – women tend to share more among themselves.

As a result of loss we may experience shock initially, denial, anger, loneliness, sadness, isolation and sometimes even depression. We can become stressed, anxious and powerless.  

I still remember the shock on being told I had breast cancer. Having recovered from the initial shock I found that I was easily angered – I was touchy and oversensitive.

After my first dose of chemotherapy, I went back to work later that day I went for a long cycle denying to myself the seriousness of my condition.

Through prayer and meditation and talking to friends I eventually admitted my powerlessness and began to share how I really felt. This helped me to come to terms with my cancer, to gain acceptance and a gradual recovery.

Some people cope by getting involved in groups such as Active Retired, Aromatherapy groups, Yoga, Prayer groups or 12 Step groups etc.

All these groups are a wonderful source of companionship and support especially for people who live alone.

In sharing our stories we are helping ourselves but we are also helping the other person. I believe we all have within ourselves the resources for recovery and sharing with others can help us to discover our own resources.

AA and other 12 steps are a great example of healing through Story.

Modern media is very aware of the effectiveness of the human story. In almost every chat show today we hear of people speaking openly on topics which were heretofore taboo.  

A personal story grabs our attention. We have a curiosity about other people’s lives. Their story gives us some insight into our own situation.

Some of us choose to keep our problems to ourselves and avoid sharing with family or friends. We put off facing up to a situation in the hope that it may go away. But the more we try to bury the pain the more pain it causes. The more we resist the more the pain persists.

To help us cope we may be tempted to get over-involved in work or to turn to less healthy forms of support such as alcohol or tranquillizers / sleeping tablets. These can be helpful in the short term but can create a dependency if used long term.

None of us like facing the pain of grief or suffering. Even Jesus had difficulty in facing up to his suffering and death. He cried out in agony “Father if it is possible let this chalice pass from me. Not my will but Thine be done.

In the Gospel too we read of people who were healed by Jesus going out and telling their story. There was the Leper who was cured of his leprosy and the Deaf man whose hearing was restored.  

In both cases Jesus told them to “tell nobody” but in their joy and gratitude they both went away “telling the story everywhere”. The Woman at the Well, having met Jesus, is another example of somebody who went out telling her story and drawing people to Jesus.

Jesus himself was the best story teller of all time. When asked a question by his disciples or by the Pharisees he answered by telling them a story. The sewer of the seed and the Prodigal son are just two examples.

When we experience healing or when we gain an acceptance of our situation we develop an attitude of peace, joy and gratitude. For myself having made my recovery from breast cancer I live, one day at a time, with an attitude of gratitude – gratitude for a second chance at life, an opportunity to make a new beginning.

The message of Jesus was spread by those who experienced healed and who went out to tell their stories. We too can spread the good news by sharing our story.


Short Reflection (Author unknown)

I asked God for strength that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for health that I might do great things;

I was given sickness that I might do better things.

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of many;

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I received nothing I asked for but everything I hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayer was answered.

I am, among all people most richly blessed.

Previous articleSt Therese: Forgiveness – the key to healing and happiness
Next articleRaphoe & SMA mourn the death of Fr Seamus Gallagher