Broken Hearts

I think it was G. K. Chesterton who once quipped that there should be a ninth Beatitude and it should read: “Blessed are the broken-hearted, for they provide a crack by which God can enter and dwell within them.”  

With broken hearts, many parents have had to bury their child.  I don’t know a greater sadness than this.  In Kansas City, we have all attended far too many funerals of young people and wept with their parents and family members as the children were bid farewell.  It is a club that no parent wants to join—yet these club members are present to one another because only they can understand the depth of the grief of their brokenness. 

We sometimes say that The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) call us to be aligned with the attitude of Christ.  Like forgiveness or mercy, empathy for those who suffer loss is not just an act that we perform or an action that we offer, it is an attitude that we incorporate into our human experience.  Our actions and behaviors become habits and patterns that subsequently become part of who we are.  We want to embrace this attitude because it makes us more like Jesus. 

Some of us are drawn to the Beatitudes because we know that, at our worst or most vulnerable moments, the Good Lord wants to lift us up from that which puts us down.  Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount by proclaiming eight beatitudes or blessings.  In doing this, He didn’t praise religious giants or those that possess societal prestige or power but offered His grace and allegiance to those that suffer or humbly empathize with the hurting, forgotten, and marginalized members of society.  These powerless people are sometimes known as “anawim” (the faithful remnant that have little to give and much pain to bear).  For Jesus, the champions of faith aren’t those who claim victory over others’ faults or who remain untouched by difficult situations but those who’re poor in spirit, pure of heart, peacemakers…who get worn out and marred by life’s struggles yet somehow manage to maintain integrity, even siding with heaven when the world tells us it’s the losing side from an earthly perspective and that all we get for our pain is more pain.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be them: to get walked on, worked over, cussed out, or left behind; He knows what it’s like to be forsaken and abandoned, to bear a broken heart.  And so, He blesses those that allow themselves to be loved in their deepest brokenness because they experience a different kind of love that defies human comprehension.  As theologian Samuel Chadwick once said, “For Christ, the prayer that always prevails is the cry of the broken heart and travail of the stricken soul.”

Let us remember, pray for, and remain close to, those who bear the dark sadness of losing children and all who bear deep pain.  May they allow Christ to enter through the hole of their broken hearts and somehow, in that, help the rest of us to become a little more human, knowing that they are blessed and held tightly by Our Savior, who also holds their children for them until they are all reunited in heaven.

13 thoughts on “Broken Hearts

  1. Thanks Fr Don. It’s a terrible club we belong to, but thank God for the support of so many friends and family members. I pray that our Visitation Angels group will continue. We really don’t want any new members, but when they join us we will welcome them with open arms, support and love.

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  2. Father Don I have never made this walk without you and you are still carrying us on your shoulders. I am so sorry but thank you the walk is too much for us to do alone.

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  3. You always say it so well; that’s one of your unique gifts ❤️Thank you for writing about it, even though it’s uncomfortable. It’s much easier to look away & not talk about it bec it’s so incredibly hurtful & makes us question EVERYTHING!! Human nature is to be angry! But you are somehow able to remind us to draw closer to God & have faith in Him rather than turn away& blame. Thank you for always pointing us in the right direction 💙

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  4. Hello Fr. Farnan,

    I wanted to reach out an tell you how much your last message meant to our family. We are very much still grieving the loss of our son Aidan. He was 14 and died by suicide last May. The circumstances leading up to his death were complicated and involved bullying, primarily from adults, including Fr. Craig Maxim. We have struggled not only with grief over the loss of our son, but also with our diminished faith in the leadership of our church. We had shared our struggles with Fr. Craig with the Archbishop prior to our son’s death, and he not only did nothing, but mocked us for suggesting that clericalism was being practiced by Fr. Craig.

    We have fought hard to support our family, including our two younger children, after this devastating loss. My husband and I both work in Catholic schools and our children attend Catholic school. We believe in the work that we do and the mission of a faith-based education despite our struggles with the church. We know that the future of the church is in the young people, and it is our job to give them the foundation upon which they will build their life-long journey with Christ. We take this responsibility very seriously and wish that more leaders in the church would also focus on supporting the youth through inclusivity, gentle teaching, and striving to understand the challenges that young people face rather than forcing doctrine evangelism down their throats.

    Your writings have been a part of helping us “keep the faith,” and we wanted you to know that. We know there are many others like us who struggle with the church, but find hope from priests and other leaders in the church who strive to heal the broken-hearted rather than create division. We attended the funeral of Liesel Anderson at St. Teresa’s Academy last summer and saw how you helped a grieving family celebrate their daughter’s life and include both Catholic and non-Catholic elements as that is what they needed. What a beautiful way to love them through their grief. Meeting people where they are is a gift, one that seems hard to find in the church these days.

    We wish we could have experienced the same support when we were parishioners at St. Ann under Fr. Craig and my husband was the principal of the school. After Fr. Craig became pastor, my husband made the difficult decision to resign after seeing that priest was not willing to partner with him. Our entire family, including our son Aidan, faced backlash and fall out from the way Fr. Craig reacted. He incited division in the community, which resulted in hurtful gossip and lies about all of us, including Aidan. Our son was traumatized by this experience and often wondered why we were still Catholic. We are now fighting this same battle with our daughter who watched the damage her brother suffered though because of (in part) the actions of a priest. We are heartbroken about this and hope that as you wrote, this is crack in which God can enter all of our hearts. I share this to encourage the work that you do…it is helping those of us who have been hurt. We need our faith more than ever as we navigate our grief and try to find peace in a situation that is incomprehensible.

    We heard that you celebrated the funeral mass of you young man recently who was just 20. I believe you shared a poem as part of that mass. Would you be willing to share that poem with us?

    We hope you have a blessed Sunday. Thank you for your writing. We will pray for you and ask that you do the same for us.

    Sincerely,
    Ellen Riley

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  5. Fr.Don you say things so well. Believe me there’s no way the worst pain in the world is putting your own away. I carry it with me everyday. Thank you so much for sharing other people’s grief

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  6. Your thoughts stopped me in my “busy” track this morning. Reflecting on this real emotion called “brokenness” helped to put other worries into perspective. More than ever, I can visualize Jesus walking with the broken hearted on their journey to healing. This image alone may be the comfort someone needs to make it through a lonely dark time. Thank you, Fr. Don.

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  7. Inspired by this post and grateful for your thoughts . Your intentions are in our daily prayers. We know too many who have experienced loss.

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  8. Joe and I wish you a happy birthday weekend! Celebrate your family, your faith, your career as a priest , your gift as a writer , your new assignment and the lives you’ve touched . Thank you. Blessings🙏🏻

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