My latest article, There is No Saint of the Brokenhearted, is up on Catholic Stand today and pasted below.
In related exciting news, please join me at 7:15 AM (eastern) time tomorrow, 4/19, as I once again join John Harper on Relevant Radio's Morning Air program to discuss how and why there is no patron saint of broken hearts. You can listen online here.
Did you have a nice Easter? Are you praying the Divine Mercy novena? I spent mine at home, with family and friends, quietly and peacefully in the southern sunshine. Dogwoods were bursting, bumblebees were taking flight in the backyard and several bold, shimmering hummingbirds made an appearance at the feeder. It was strange to see sunshine and peace so abruptly at the end of Lent. I have spent the past few weeks - particularly Holy Week - meditating on some rather deep and heavy things, as a part of the Lenten Ignatian retreat, in keeping with the serious tone of Lent. I had been meditating on sin in the world; abandonment; broken relationships; and the last bitter week of Christ's life. Then suddenly on Sunday everything was new and all that came before was simply past.
I think this is what people - me included - struggle with when it comes to approaching Jesus for who and what He really is. He makes all things new. Not better or different or slightly improved, but brand new. What does this mean for our hearts, for our way of life, for the way we see the world? What do you do with pain that was left behind when you found Christ - but which still informs the way you see the world? Do you know what I mean?
Anyway, that must be why I wrote this article now, even though I've considered the topic for a long time. Spoiler alert: the reason why, at least in my opinion, that there is no patron saint of broken hearts (for whatever reason your heart is broken, not just limited to dashed romantic hopes) is because there is no saint capable of handling your pain and holding your heart together. There just isn't, because that's Jesus's job. As one person commented on the article, all saints have experienced their own form of heartbreak, yes, and perhaps to experience something deep and painful is how you get to holiness (now that is a whole other topic worthy of contemplation - can you grow without suffering? What would you guess is my answer to that?). But just because a saint who lived on earth suffered, that doesn't mean they are the true lover of your heart and One capable of healing you. You know who is.
Well, I suppose that is my prayer for now, the one I will breathe and live in for the next few days: that we all use our suffering for growth, and as we experience heartbreak - again, of whatever form that strikes at your heart - that, over time, we find meaning in it. Ask God to show you what He is teaching you, because chances are, He is. Remember that God takes away from you what is necessary to take away, just as He gives when it is right, even when to our very human eyes and minds it is senseless. And it's all right to sit in those feelings. But then, He desires us to move on, and you can.
Without further adieu:
There Is No Saint of the Broken Hearted
When times are tough, I — like many Catholics — turn to my friends, the saints. Whether you’re searching for a job, battling breast cancer, or asking for a safe journey, there’s usually a saint for every cause.
Look to Jesus
The answer is Jesus. I believe the Church has been infinitely wise in never appointing a saint to be our safeguard against a broken heart because, rather than look to an earthly guide, we are called to turn our sorrow over to Jesus’s heart.
Jesus understands our heartbreak. Think of how He wept at Lazarus’s death, the agony He experienced in the garden of Gethsemane, and His painful knowledge of a future betrayal by His own disciple. He spent the last few years of His life despised and misunderstood, dying a humiliating and agonizing death. Even now, I believe He looks on the world’s brokenness and feels grief for how much heartbreak we experience here on earth, and the ways His children turn their backs on Him.
Scripture tells us, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.” It is a critical component of our relationship with Christ that we learn to turn over our suffering to Him.
Approach God in Your Suffering
If you are in a place of mourning or sadness, there are a few ways to approach God in order to find solace and healing. One is to contemplate Christ’s suffering during His time here on Earth. For example, praying the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary – and not just praying, but visualizing, feeling, and experiencing those mysteries and spending some time with Jesus in His sorrow– will bring you closer to Him and give your own loss perspective.
Another way to seek peace is to have a prayerful conversation with Jesus about what you’re going through that’s hurting. Speak honestly and conversationally to Him as you would a friend. Talk about the root of your heartbreak, and ask for His help. You may ask Him to show you not just what can be learned from your situation and how to bear it, but to remind you of your blessings. Also, if you’re a little annoyed at Him for allowing this to happen, that’s okay, too, but let Him know that as you pray for perspective.
Most importantly, turn your suffering straight over to Jesus and His Sacred Heart, asking Him to help you carry your burden. Sometimes we forget that God does not intend us to carry all the weight of our problems on our own; He desires that we reach out and seek Him with a willing (even if broken) heart. There are multiple prayers to His Sacred Heart, and one of my favorites contains this phrase:
“To whom can I turn if not to You, Whose Heart is the source of all graces and merits? Where should I seek if not in the treasure which contains all the riches of Your kindness and mercy? Where should I knock if not at the door through which God gives Himself to us and through which we go to God? I have recourse to You, Heart of Jesus. In You I find consolation when afflicted, protection when persecuted, strength when burdened with trials, and light in doubt and darkness.”
As Saint Paul tells us, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts.” (Romans 5:5, emphasis added) There will never be a time when you cannot access God’s love and grace.
Remember His eternal promise to you: “I am with you always, until the end of time.” (Matthew 28:20)
Although Jesus is our best friend and the true lover of our hearts, we would be remiss to overlook one more powerful figure who understands suffering: His Mother, Mary.
Turn to the Blessed Mother whose own Immaculate Heart was pierced with the swords of sorrow. If there is any human who can understand your anguish it is her, and, as the Memorare reminds us, “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.” We can emulate the Holy Mother in her “yes” to God: Lord, help me to accept your will for me, even when the way is unclear.
When it comes to heartbreak, the Church has not abandoned us. While there may not be a designated patron saint of the brokenhearted, we have something much better: Jesus. In all of your sorrow, know that He is the ultimate source of love and healing, and is the one Person who will never break your heart.