Nov 27, 2011
As we enter the Advent season, when the Church invites us to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child, there are some who, even as they long to welcome Jesus, fear that He may not welcome them. They are those who go through life burdened with a sense of being stained—not by things they did, but by things that were done to them.
Their numbers are large enough to include someone on every pew, in every parish—an estimated 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men. They are adult victims of childhood sexual abuse, and, for most of them, their abuser was a relative or family friend—someone they risk seeing again if they choose to come home for the holidays.
Children who are sexually abused typically blame themselves—thinking they did something to provoke the abuse, or did not do enough to prevent it. But the truth is that we are not responsible for things that were done to us at an age when, vulnerable and trusting, we could easily be subjected to the will of adults or peers. If you feel unworthy of Advent joy because of what was done to you as a child, I invite you to seek out a little-known benefit of a well-known sacrament.
Many parishes during Advent offer extended hours for the faithful to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This great sacrament is, first and foremost, our opportunity to be forgiven for what we ourselves did or failed to do. Few people are aware, however, that it carries an additional benefit. When Christ, acting in and through the ministry of the priest, absolves us, restoring us to His most intimate friendship, He gives graces that help heal those wounds that were not caused by our own sins.