Tag Archives: healing

Do Something Beautiful with Leah Darrow

I had the pleasure of sharing my story with Leah Darrow for her podcast. It was a very fun conversation where we also chat about Lord of the Rings, growing up in big families, having brothers who go out of their way to annoy us and A LOT more! LOL You can listen to it here: “Do Something Beautiful Podcast”

Enjoy!

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Filed under Catholicism, Forgiveness, General, Recovery, Reflections, Speaking

Speaking to Prisoners

Happy Advent friends!

I was invited to speak in November at a California State Prison at an event hosted by the program Victim & Offender – HOPE: Helping Others’ Pain through Empathy. It was my first time speaking to prisoners. I was pretty nervous, but I knew that many friends and family were praying for me and that brought me the peace and strength I needed. It turned out to be an incredibly powerful experience.

The day before I was to speak at the prison, I met with my friend Brian, who had been a guard at the prison for many years before retiring shortly after the event. He shared with me the reality of prison life and the types of brutal and heinous crimes that many of these men committed (without sharing specific details, of course!). He also told me that many of the prisoners were repeat offenders who will spend the rest of their lives in prison.

On the day of the event, I was accompanied to the prison by Brian and my boyfriend, Sebastian, which helped me feel very protected and safe. Brian introduced me before I spoke to the over 300 prisoners who were in attendance. It was the most humbling and moving introduction I’ve ever heard. I was practically in tears as I walked up to the microphone. Thankfully, I was able to pull myself together. I even made a comment about not being a fan of podiums, much like the other speaker Dionne who spoke before me, whose husband was a police officer killed in the line of duty. Anyway, my comment had all the guys laughing which was a good start.

I went on to describe the pain, physical and emotional, that I have suffered from being victimized twice, as well as the impact both incidences had on my daily life and the lives of my family and friends. I told them how both times my survival was miraculous. I saw many heads nodding excitedly when I said that I was only alive because of divine intervention.

I also spoke to them about the message of forgiveness I shared in court with the woman who shot me. I extended forgiveness to them, telling them that it came from me as a victim and from God. As I was saying this, I saw many men with tears in their eyes. I also saw pain and brokenness through the men’s body language. I told them that I believe each one of them can experience healing with God’s love, mercy, and grace, which would lead to peace and joy.

When I was finished speaking, every single one of the prisoners jumped to their feet clapping with great enthusiasm. Several of them were even wiping tears! I saw vulnerability and hope in the men standing before me, which brought me so much joy! It was the longest standing ovation I’ve ever received. I was surprised and humbled by it. After they sat down, the MC took over. He encouraged them to thank me once again, and I received yet another standing ovation from all 300 prisoners.

There were a few others from different outreach programs who spoke after me. And when the event ended, Dionne and I received two more standing ovations from the prisoners. I was (and still am) incredibly humbled by their reaction to my story and my offer of forgiveness and healing.

After the event, we took a picture with the men who are in the victim awareness program. As everyone was getting situated for the photo, one of the men thanked me for giving them their humanity and dignity back. His words moved me to tears. It was a beautiful moment, and I was able to see how far I’ve come with my own healing to be able to stand in front of them and offer the gift of forgiveness and hope.

It’s important for me not to get caught up in the power and romance, so to speak, of the night and forget that there are very good reasons why these men are in prison. But I also realize, as a victim, that it is also important to remember that no matter how grave their crimes they too are men who are hurting deeply who need healing and salvation. This doesn’t excuse their crimes; they should still suffer the consequences of their actions by being in prison, but it was powerful and healing for me to realize that Christ loves them, that He would die for them.

I am honored that God chose to use me in the lives of these men. I have already been asked to return and speak to more men at this prison.

Please let me know if you would be interested in praying for me when I return to the prison (or join my intercessors group, Mantle of Roses, that prays for me every time I speak) because I know that I cannot do this without the power of prayer! I also ask that you join me in continuing to pray for these men that they may experience Christ’s love, mercy and healing.

With the prisoners, the other speaker Dionne (she's standing next to me), Brian (on the left) and those who help run the program and other programs at the prison.

With the prisoners, the other speaker Dionne (she’s standing next to me on my left), Brian (is on the far left) and those who help run the program and other programs at the prison.

The certificate that the prisoners made and presented to me after I spoke.

The certificate that the prisoners made and presented to me after I spoke.

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Filed under Forgiveness, Speaking, Update

Painting of St. Philomena Unveiled!

Painting of St. Philomena unveiled at St. John Vianney Parish

By Susan Evangelista

Artist Mic Carlson was commissioned to paint this lovely painting of Saint Philomena. Saint Philomena is a saint who has received extraordinary honor in the Church from popes, bishops, saints, and mystics. Pope Gregory XVI referred to her as the “wonder-worker” of the nineteenth century. Bl. Pope Pius IX declared her the “Patroness of the Children of Mary.” St. John Vianney attributed all of his miracles to her, stating, “I have never asked for anything through the intercession of my Little Saint without having been answered.”

In 1802, excavators working in the ancient Catacombs of St. Priscilla in Rome discovered a tomb with three terra-cotta slabs reading PAXTE; CUMFI; LUMENA which means “Peace Be With You, Filumena.” The slabs were marked with a lily, arrows, an anchor and a palm, indicating virginity and martyrdom. Inside were the remains of a girl of about thirteen years of age, along with a vial of her dried blood which signified that this was indeed a Martyr who died for the love of Christ and Christianity.

The Relics were transferred to the Treasury of the Rare Collections of Christian Antiquity in the Vatican where they remained for three years. In 1805, a priest from Mugnano del Cardinale, Don Francesco De Lucia, traveling to Rome with his newly appointed Bishop, requested and eventually received the relics of this Martyr “Filumena” to enshrine in his village church in Mugnano del Cardinale, Av, Italy. To this day, miracles are numerous and brilliant.

Mic was given holy oil from St. Philomena’s Sanctuary in Mugnano, Italy and he mixed the holy oil with his oil paints used to paint her! Father Mike Alber cried as he unveiled Mic’s painting.

The wife of the man who commissioned Mic to paint this saint has been diagnosed with an incurable melanoma cancer on the inside of her body. After talking to his parish priest Fr. Mike Alber of St. John Vianney’s Church, the man decided to dedicate a painting to St. Philomena who has been known to heal tough causes. Since that day, his wife has amazingly been in somewhat of a remission…something that has not happened since she was diagnosed.

There was a private unveiling last evening, Wednesday, August 4th for the family that commissioned Mic…who wish to remain anonymous…followed by a mass and unveiling for the church. It was so touching.

There was a testimony by Rosario Rodriguez, a young lady who was shot a year ago in an armed robbery…the bullet just missed her heart by 1 cm..and after much time in surgery and many prayers to St. Philomena for intercession in her healing…she lives. She said St. Philomena, who is constantly by her side, helped intercede in saving and healing her.

Needless to say, it was an emotional, beautiful ceremony…St. John Vianney’s Church on Clyde Park in Grand Rapids, MI is the permanent home for Mic’s painting. I am so proud.

~Mass was beautiful and as for the painting of St. Philomena… she’s absolutely GORGEOUS!!!! Seriously stunning! It is truly her. Mic Carlson did an incredible job! ~Rosario Rodriguez

For more photo’s of the unveiling check out this photo gallery: http://gallery.me.com/chaylupita/100176

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Filed under Catholicism, Prayer, Reflections, St. Philomena, The Arts