Sooz Jeson, Founder
The other day I attended a weekday morning Mass and was met with a pleasant surprise. It turned out to be the morning for the grade school children’s Mass. During Communion, the little ones, who have not yet received their first communion, walked up to the front arms crossed and walked back to their seat, arms still crossed, sharing a smile in response to the blessing Father Paul just gave them. Next, the older students received communion: no big smiles, but very reverent knowing they just received the body of Christ.
I suddenly remembered how years ago we had fasted after midnight if we were going to receive communion the next morning. I had felt eager and proud to make that sacrifice. In the 1950’s and 60’s we attended Mass every morning. Things were different back then, but I was not aware (no one was except the abusers and the victim). I remember being angry that only boys were allowed to be servers. Now, years later, I am glad I never was allowed. At that time, I wondered what was wrong with me that God wouldn’t want me, a girl, like His mother once was, to serve at such a special occasion, the Mass. Now, I feel the pain of so many boys and young men who suffered at the hands of someone who just consecrated the host and wine into the body and blood of Christ; leaving two victims, that child and our God. That sickens me still today.
I was not abused as a child by a priest. I was abused when I was a young adult struggling over many issues and contemplating suicide with the reasoning of a child. But on this day, 40 some years later, I found myself sitting in church and suddenly frightened for all these children around me. I think, it is almost April, Protect God’s Children awareness month. Are these children really safe; safe beyond April? Safe beyond their childhood years? I study them. Do I see in them hidden pain, the buried pain I once felt? I vividly remember my pain when I was in the sixth through eighth grades. My abuser then was not a priest but a family member. How I wish I had the strength to tell the nuns at school, for the Church was a place I felt safe. But years later, I learned the Church also harbored evil, evil thoughts in a priest who came to visit me and was there to counsel and speak for God. I believed he was there to explain why God did not want me to commit suicide, but his actions and words convinced me I did not want to live in this ugly world. I could not see or feel God in my world.
When I think of Prevent Child Abuse America, I think back to the 1950’s and 60’s. What if we, as young children, had not just learned the commandments telling us what we should not do but also had learned what should we do when we are the object of someone else’s sin? What really was adultery beyond our neighbor’s wife? What defined “good touch” and “bad touch”? Did someone else’s sin become our sin? What if we could not fight them off? Maybe if I had heard and learned all the unspoken words at that time I would have gone to our nuns when my family member abused me. Then maybe I never would have felt the need to call for a priest when I was convinced suicide was best for me. Maybe….
Well, I think my “maybe” concerning my past is only answerable with today’s programs like Prevent Child Abuse America. We need to do whatever is possible to teach our children about how God loves us and how He commands we treat others and others treat us. We are all made in God’s Image: the young child, boy or girl, the servers, the boy scouts, the girl scouts, all young adults, all vulnerable adults, those who are deaf or blind, those who are mentally or physically handicapped, those spiritual wounded, those elderly, those that suffer from….
For the full issue in which this article appears, click here.