A few days ago I received a provoking e-mail from Johnnette Benkovic, founder of Living His Abundantly Ministries. (To find out more about her wonderful ministry click here.) The e-mail depicted the harrowing account of Fr. Phillip Scott a priest who was kidnapped in Peru. Fr. Scott, through the grace of Jesus was eventually released and has given talks around the world about his ordeal and the wonderful spiritual insights that he gained during his capture. Here is the copy of the e-mail that I recieved:
When a big group of armed gunmen kidnapped and almost murdered Fr. Philip Scott in Peru, he learned the truth of God's healing love.
"They cornered me, two cars full of men with high-powered rifles. I remember an AK47 there. I said, 'Take the truck,' they said 'No, we want you.' I said, 'Here are the keys.' They said, 'We want you.'
They hit the priest over the head with their guns, pulled a hood over his face, shoved him into one of the cars, and pushed his head down onto the lap of a man in the back seat. They sped off, and for two hours drove south on the Pan-American Highway.
"For the first few moments when you're kidnapped your mind is racing, you can't imagine. At first I was thinking, this can't be happening. And then I remembered this, and this is crucial for the healing: Fiat. Let it be done unto me.
"I said to the Lord, 'You have prepared me my whole life for this moment, and every Yes has prepared me to say Yes now, and I say it with my whole being: Fiat. Yes.' "The moment I said that and meant it, I was at peace."
Father Philip's head instantly cleared. He experienced a profound encounter with the Holy Trinity, his true family residing in his soul. "I was having a field day inside me," he recalled. "The intimacy was unreal." And most incredible of all, he was not afraid.
Of course, Father didn't die that day. God spared Him for His own very important purposes, purposes which become crystal clear in the two talks he gave at the Women of Grace National Conference recently held in Sacramento, California.
I don't have enough room here to give you his entire remarkable testimony. You need to hear him tell that story with your own ears.
But I can't resist sharing something funny: In the grip of these gunmen, Father Philip was fully resolved to be a martyr, to run from this life to the glories of eternity and the embrace of His loving Father God, "Papa", as he calls Him. Then suddenly and mysteriously he was spared. Heaven receded, and he plunged back to earth. Says Father Philip: "I was mad at the Lord for two days!" Only a holy man could say such a thing! It tickled me pink.
Now, you would think a man who is so ready to meet the Lord that he ends up disappointed to be left alive would be a man who was raised by loving parents, in a faith both taught and lived. A life filled with daily reminders of God's tenderness exemplified through a happy home life and loving parents.
Not so much. Father Philip was a poor, rebellious student. He was hungry for attention and sought it through tennis, parties, and girls. But he wasn't just a "bad kid." He was a hurting kid.
His father brutally beat him as a child
People abuse others for all kinds of reasons. One reason is repressed anger. That was the case with Father Philip. His own father, at the tender age of 8, living in the high mountains of the Andes in Peru, found his own father-Father Philip's grandfather-dead from alcohol abuse. Literally dead drunk. His father never spoke of it. But there was deep anger, which he unleashed on his son through physical abuse. Father describes it in his talk, called "Father Wound":
"One time he beat me so bad you would have thought five men got a hold of me and did a job on me," said Father. "I literally could not raise my feet as I walked out; I slid them. My father was a boxer. He did a lot of upper cuts to my face... Today I would have been taken out of the house and put in a foster home."
Such a story leads us to ask the questions: How does a boy raised with so much hurt, anger and lack of love from his earthly father become a priest ready to die for love of his heavenly Father? Can a person live a happy, fulfilled adult life after living through childhood trauma?
Father Philip says, Yes! You and your loved ones can overcome wounds from the past and find inner healing. Definitely! That's what this whole letter is about.
These are the questions so many people are asking in a world darkened by sin. Believe me; it's not just in the mountains of Peru. Alcohol abuse, child abuse, drug abuse, sexual abuse are everyday evils lurking in your own neighborhood, your own parish and sometimes in your own families. You or someone in your family might be suffering pain from a past wound. But there's hope.
You can know the hidden secret of inner healing
I want you to know that not only is healing possible, but it is the desire of God for each one of us. In Joel 2:25, God says He will restore what the locusts have eaten. And that is what He wants to do for you. That is why we chose "Healed for Holiness" to be the theme for our conference this year.
For if sin can go out like waves, damaging successive generations, as Father's story describes, how much more can the "healed and holy" bring a blessing to the world today and to our children and their children, and so on! God doesn't want you to ignore your hurt, stuff it down, lock it away. He wants to heal you. Love you. Transform you. He wants you to let Him in to your pain so that He might bring you out from it. 2 Corinthians 3:17, "Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." God wants to set you free from the wounds of your heart.
When you hear Father Philip's talks, you'll discover the secret to inner healing.
In one of his talks, Father Philip explains how he reconciled with his earthly father. You won't want to miss this story: an uncanny, grace-filled episode that only God could orchestrate. It's a story so incredible you'll find it hard to believe - but it's true!
No better time than now to share the power of healing
with your loved ones
As we enter the holy days of Advent and Christmas, the sights, sounds and smells of the season have a way of stirring up otherwise quiet memories. Good and bad, whether we are with our families physically or not, our memories are a part of every holiday season.
There is no better time than now to let God help transform those memories into experiences of His Fatherly care.
And you can share this with others, so easily. There is something very charming, and disarming, about Father Philip, who lives and works in Lima, Peru, with the religious order he founded, called "Family of Jesus, the Healer." This isn't your typical faith talk, with a lot of content for the head. Rather, it's an encounter with the irresistible love and tenderness of God, the Father of fathers.
Here's an example: One day, after he had been through some inner healing and counseling during his first year in the novitiate, Father Philip was walking into the Eucharistic chapel and seemed to hear God say in his heart, "Bring two handkerchiefs."
"I told him, 'Lord, I don't mind crying, but let's not make a scene' ... And I said to him, 'Why have you asked me to bring two handkerchiefs?' He said, 'My son, one is for you, and one is for me.' And I began to get heaven's perspective.
"God is very interested in you. There are details you don't even think are important, but for him, they are very important. He took me through memories and my father (whose name was Frank) was letting loose on me, and Jesus was pleading, "Frank, stop!" He was inconsolably crying...
"The way of the cross is the way to the Father's heart."
Healing of memories through prayer guided by the Holy Spirit is an important means of becoming "healed for holiness." There are other familiar means as well, which we explored at the September conference: The Eucharist, the motherly love of Mary, the Rosary.
I myself have experienced this kind of healing and hope in the major crises of my life-in college, when I was at the point of despair, crying out to know the existence of God, and to know if He loved me; the night I lay on the floor of my bedroom, sobbing at the news of the death of my son Simon, and clinging to my Scripture of Ephesians 1:3-4, like a lifeline; the day I sat in the doctor's office with my husband when we first learned of the brain cancer that would later take his life.
God does allow brokenness, the kind of suffering I've known, the kind of suffering you know. The mystery of the Cross is written into the life of every man, woman and child: The wounds of our heart don't repel our heavenly Father; they draw Him to us in mercy and love.
It is my prayer that like Fr. Scott we could all be healed by the grace and mercy of our Lord.