When we start treatment to recover from an eating disorder, there are physicians who want to help us heal our body and perhaps our mind. But there are deeper wounds, that need to be handled by the Physician of the souls, Jesus. His medicine will be the Divine Mercy.
That’s why —together with St. Augustine and St. Therese— I recommend in this difficult times to read St. Faustina Kowalska’s Diary, in which she delves into this reality through her vital experience and the words that Jesus Himself revealed to her to make this immense grace public.
The Divine Mercy in our life
This saint is known as the apostle of the Divine Mercy, because that’s the devotion that Jesus commanded her to spread. It’s a very appropriate one in our situation:
- Our past needs mercy: we’ve done many things we repent of, we’ve hurt our loved ones, we’ve threatened our own lives… and we’ve acted against God, even if back then we didn’t realize. We need Him to give us the chance to start again, to hug us as prodigal sons and renew our heart completely.
- Our present needs mercy: we see our misery and lowliness, our inability to get out of this hole by ourselves, how we’re constantly falling, how the thoughts are too strong… We need that God, Who is Love and Almighty, takes pity on us and comes into our life to console us and give us His grace so that we can keep moving forward.
- Our future needs mercy: we’ve experienced our weakness and we can fall again at any moment. There will never come a time when we don’t need mercy anymore and we can live on our own. We can only trust God. Moreover, although we’re promised many wonders, we still see the future very black. We need to hand it over to merciful Jesus so we know that, whatever it is, it will be the best, because He’ll be there.
One of the parts with a richer meaning of this devotion is the Image of the Divine Mercy, based on one of St. Faustina’s visions (Diary, 47), and that’s been reproduced all over the world. Let’s stop in each of its elements:
In this image, Jesus appears with one hand raised as a gesture of blessing. He’s never going to lower it for us. Every time we go back to Him, even if we only see darkness in our soul and around us, He’ll be there, emerging from the shadows and willing to give us His blessing to keep going.
He places the other hand on His Heart, the source of that blessing and of His Mercy. It’s there where we must go to seek refuge when torments assault us. The peace we long for and can’t find inside us is there.
The pale ray
Two rays spring up from His Heart. “The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous” (299). It’s the water of Baptism and, later in our lives, every water of purification that the Lord pours out over us to take away as a torrent all those stones we accumulate in the heart and feel heavy, and to clean all that filth that get stuck in the corners of the soul.
Those things can crush us up to the point of making us unable to move forward, and it’s especially easy for them to multiply in moments like this, when we’re exposed to constant attacks from the evil one and when our falls and our intense fears can make us become discouraged. But the Lord has promised this: “I will sprinkle clean water over you to make you clean; from all your impurities and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (Ezekiel 36:25).
An eating disorder is an idol, as it’s well shown by the pro ana blogs when they talk about the “goddess ana”. It’s really a pseudo-religious experience, with its commandments (the obsessive rules), its ecstasies (states of euphoria), its saints (thinspirations), its ideal of perfection (extreme thinness)… and its “god”, whose name is just a metaphor, but hides an infernal reality. Our soul needs a total renewal.
Fortunately, Jesus is always willing to sprinkle it over us. We don’t have to drag our past, not even our 5-minutes-ago past: “Cleanse me with hyssop, that I may be pure; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:9). That way, we’ll be free to go on. (Note: an extraordinary moment to experience this is Confession).
The red ray
“The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls”. It’s the Blood that Jesus shed for us in the cross. Our pain and misery were nailed to that cross too, all this horrible experience the Lord knew we were going to go through. He has wanted to unite Himself to us and in that moment —that transcends History— He has gone with us through all we’ve gone through and are going through. That’s why we can offer up our suffering, because if we unite it to His, the Father receives it from His Son’s Hands and it becomes something of infinite value.
(I must admit this kind of reasoning used to be triggering to me, believing that then I had to cause myself more suffering in purpose. That’s a wrong thought; God’s nature is Love, Beauty, Goodness, Joy, Peace, Light. The previous reflection should only comfort us. Contact me if it doesn’t).
It’s also the Blood we receive in the Eucharist. Because our soul needs nourishment too! In recovery we learn that we have to eat to nourish our body. Maybe, first of all, to survive: repair our organs, get our mind to work right, etc. But, after, to go from surviving to living: have strength and energy to develop our potential to the max, to have dreams and chase them, to work hard and to have fun… If life changes completely with physical food, it will be even greater with spiritual food! Nourish your soul so it’s vigorous for the fight, and to live in the highest meaning of the word.
“Jesus, I trust in You”
On the bottom of the image there appears this inscriptions, that we can adopt as our top ejaculatory prayer in recovery, one to repeat every time we’re going to dare to do something that scares us and our mind screams we shouldn’t do; every time we think of quitting because nothing seems to make sense or the burden seems too heavy; every time we see one thing in the mirror and others try to convince us that it’s a different thing and we need to accept it even if we can’t understand it.
If we’ve offered up all of this to the Lord, if we’ve placed it in His Heart… there’s no better or more secure place where it could be. Trust that’s been entrusted to Him now and He’ll carry it out to a good end. As I always say, you don’t need to “feel” it totally. Perhaps deep down you don’t trust totally. But wanting to want is enough. Wanting to trust.
There’s even more. When we’re recovering from an eating disorder, there are two features that are fundamental: trust and obedience, towards God and towards those who, for us, represent Him in the world (the spiritual director, but also the doctors and the people who help us in our treatment). This is very important because for a while we won’t be able to trust ourselves at all, since then we’ll be obeying the illness. St. Faustina insists a lot throughout her Diary in this triple aspect. Let’s see some examples:
Trust in God:
“When I see that the burden is beyond my strength, I do not consider or analyze it or probe into it, but I run like a child to the Heart of Jesus and say only one word to Him: “You can do all things”. And then I keep silent, because I know that Jesus Himself will intervene in the matter, and as for me, instead of tormenting myself, I use that time to love Him” (1033).
Trust in the spiritual director:
“Be obedient to your director in everything; his word is My will. Be certain in the depths of your soul that it is I who am speaking through his lips, and I desire that you reveal the state of your soul to him with the same simplicity and candor as you have with Me. I say it again, My daughter: know that his word is My will for you” (979).
Trust in the doctors:
“Today the doctor decided that I am not to go to Mass, but only to Holy Communion. I wanted very much to assist as Mass, but my confessor, in agreement with the doctor, told me to obey. “It is God’s will, Sister, that you should get well, and you must not undertake mortifications of any kind. Be obedient, Sister, and God will reward you for it” … “My daughter, know that you give Me greater glory by a single act of obedience than by long prayers and mortifications. Oh, how good it is to live under obedience, to live conscious of the fact that everything I do is pleasing to God!” (894).
Divine Mercy is not a painkiller. The way of recovery is still going to be hard and, probably, (very) painful. But what Jesus surely will do if we seek refuge in His Heart and practice trust and obedience towards Him and His representatives on earth, is to really heal the soul and that way prepare us to have a fully happy life. Jesus, I trust in You!