After years of neglect by her drug-addicted mother, the social worker finally put eight-year-old Carol, into foster care. She was adopted by a loving family, but the damage had been done. Carol was wounded at a very deep level. Racked with low self-esteem and unable to love and trust others, she became an anxious and rebellious teen. Seeking love in all the wrong places, she gravitated towards others who were just as wounded. Finally, at the age of 16, she turned to her Catholic faith for help.
Professional counseling combined with healing prayer and strong support from her adoptive family helped Carol face her real problems. Praying the Rosary regularly provided the spiritual strength she needed to deal with the hurt and resentment caused by her birth mother’s inadequacy and rejection.
The mother wound
Carol’s problems were rooted in “the mother wound.” Each one of us come into the world needing unconditional acceptance and love. The natural place to expect to find that love is from our mother. In the ideal situation each child is accepted and treasured by a secure and happy mother for nine months before birth. Then each one is nurtured and nourished in the tender love of breastfeeding and infant care. Childhood should be a time when mother and child continue to bond in security, acceptance, and love. This natural, full, and abundant love then provides a secure and solid foundation on which the child can flourish.
Unfortunately this perfect mother-child relationship is often broken. Because of the mother’s own inadequacy, poor health, poverty, relationship problems, or psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs, the ability to provide good mothering suffers. Consequently the child is wounded, and the symptoms of this “mother wound” spiral outward into the child’s development and everyday life.
It is fairly easy to see the results of the “mother wound” in the cases of those who are deeply disturbed, but the fact of the matter is, even the best of mothers cannot fulfill all our love needs. This is because we are created to know and long for a love that is greater even than the wonderful love a good mother can provide.
As St. Augustine prayed, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee.” As another writer has put it, “Inside each one of us is a God-shaped space, and nothing will fill that space but the everlasting love of God.” To a greater or lesser extent, each of us experience a “mother wound” simply because our earthly mothers are unable to provide the eternal, God-shaped love our souls require.
Doctor Jesus and Nurse Mary
If we are wounded, then we need to be healed, and it is no mistake that one of Jesus’ most beloved ministries is that of healing. He heals the brokenhearted. He is the one who is able to fill up the God-shaped emptiness in our hearts, and he does this in some wonderfully simple ways.
The healing work of Christ is always linked to his forgiveness. We often think of forgiveness as simply being excused for the bad things we’ve done. However, true forgiveness is much deeper than that. Doctor Jesus doesn’t simply excuse us for the bad things we’ve done. He wants to do radical surgery and get down to the depths of our being where the bad things originate. All of the selfish things we do originate in that God-shaped emptiness in our lives.
All the selfish things we do and the good things we do not do are rooted in our desires, and our desires are rooted in our need for that God-shaped everlasting love. Do we love others in the wrong way? It’s a love problem. Do we love material things too much or in the wrong way? It’s a love problem. Do we get angry and fall into rage and fear? Rage and fear have their roots in a lack of love, for perfect love casts out fear. Doctor Jesus wants to heal all those wounds by pouring into our lives his perfect love.
One of the ways he does this is through the assistance of Nurse Mary. Mary, the Mother of God, is the marvelous agent through which God is able to fulfill the deepest needs in our lives, and the Rosary is the simple and practical tool through which this healing work is done.
There’s something about Mary
Why should God use Nurse Mary to heal our deepest wounds? Because of the way we’re wired.
We’re hardwired to expect the love we need to be provided by our mothers. The first awareness we have in life is of our mother, and we assume from our first experiences in the womb and in infancy that she is there to provide everything for us. Before long we realize that there are some things even the best mother cannot provide; God has made us to need him, and although our mother loves us, she cannot provide the everlasting love of God that we need.
Consequently we feel that our mother is to blame for our problems. It could be that she is, but it could also be that she isn’t. In a way it doesn’t matter, because we perceive the lack to be her fault. Either way God has provided a loving mother to heal our “mother wound,” and that mother is Mary.
There’s something beautifully supernatural and wonderful about Mary, and the graces she opens up to us are available to everyone through the simple prayers of the Rosary.
Praying the Rosary for inner healing
About 10 years ago I wrote a book that has transformed many lives. I had learned through my own prayer life that the prayers of Mary were powerful in their healing effect. The Rosary opened up new ways of connecting with Mother Mary, and I was able to share this marvelous plan in my book, Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing (Our Sunday Visitor).
The idea is simple: the mysteries of the Rosary parallel the stages of our human lives. For example the Annunciation connects with the moment of our conception. The Visitation is when Jesus was in Mary’s womb, and that connects with the nine months of our gestation. The Nativity connects with our birth. The Presentation in the Temple parallels our childhood while Finding Jesus in the Temple connects with adolescence. As we meditate on the perfect love experienced by Jesus and Mary, we bring into the prayers any traumas, difficulties, or lack of love we experienced at those stages of our life.
Just as Jesus experienced the perfect love of a perfect mother, as we pray the mysteries of the Rosary, we can connect with that same perfect mother and her perfect love. As we do, our own “mother wound” is gradually healed. The God-shaped space in our lives is filled, and the root causes of our insecurities, selfishness, stresses, and strains are resolved. To reach this resolution, we need to cast out into the deep.
Duc in altum
St. John Paul II used to echo the words of the Gospel when Jesus told the discouraged disciples in the fishing boat, “Duc in altum!— “Cast out into the deep!” Through the traditional prayer of the Rosary, we are empowered to plunge into the depths of our hearts and minds, and there find the full nets of healing.
The “mother wound” exists very deep in our lives because that relationship is at the very beginning of our existence. Because it is at the foundation of our lives, the “mother wound” is difficult to access. The wound lies below our conscious experience, and we are often unaware of it completely. The wound also lies below the level of words and language, so it is not easy to engage with it.
Repetitious prayer and meditation are the methods God has given to access the deepest part of our lives. Repetitious prayer occupies the linguistic channel of our mind, allowing the non-linguistic areas to be gently accessed. Meditation illuminates those areas through imagination and visualization. It is therefore through the simple recitation of the Rosary and meditation on the mysteries of the Gospel that Nurse Mary brings her mother’s love to touch us and administer Doctor Jesus’ healing.
The beauty of Marian devotions with the Rosary is that it is simple enough for any Catholic to use. The in-depth healing of the “mother wound” is completed as we pray the Rosary, even if we are not aware of what is happening. In this beautiful way God brings reconciliation, light, forgiveness, and healing to multitudes of his children.
No wonder, then, that so many popes, saints, and spiritual masters remind us over and over again to pray the Rosary, for there we will find great healing of body, mind, and spirit.