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The Silence and the Ache

I broke my foot twenty-nine years ago.

Tonight, on my way to Adoration, I felt the wounded foot, exactly in the spot where I had broken it so many years ago.

It’s crazy how much it throbs tonight. Right where it was broken.

I had a cast. The bone mended. Years passed.

Tonight, before the Blessed Sacrament, I asked Our Lord again why I have struggled so this last year with the memories of child sexual molestation and rape as an adult.

Why do I feel anything at all? Shouldn’t it all just be a memory in a pile of memories?

Couldn’t I just leave it in the pile of memories and pick out a few that are better for my spirit? Happier. Far more normal? Less traumatic?

The Lord reminded me tonight that wounds ache when they want to ache. Even a foot with a bone broken long ago.

Whose fault is it that the bone hurts tonight?

It just does. And I regret wearing my Toms shoes, without the arch support.

Sometimes, you need a little help. Life is long, and nobody makes it through without a few old wounds and painful memories.

I don’t think I have ever told anyone that this old Adoration Chapel has the same architectural floorplan as the little Protestant country church where a young man once abused me. The second time he did it.



There was a stairwell in about the same room where we keep the candles and other supplies for Mass. It was the back entrance for the church of my childhood. I wouldn’t remember it at all, except for what happened that day.

He sat on the stairs and tried to convince me to go with him into the classroom. This time, he didn’t pull out a pocket knife and threaten me. He was nicer. Maybe it was because we were inside the church.

Nobody came. Everyone was at our house having fellowship and food. The parsonage where the preacher and his family lived–that was where the small congregation met for meals and celebrations.

Nobody knew I was missing, even when he pulled me into the classroom–the one that is in the same spot in this Adoration Chapel where Father dresses for Mass.

Same layout.

Oh, My Jesus, present in the Monstrance, why has all this come back and demanded my attention? Why does it ache?

Wounds are like that, He reminds me.

They help us turn to those who have fresh wounds and ache to help them through the night that unfolds this night.

No need for more understanding beyond that.

When PTSD tries to derail my day…

It is not the right time of the year to plant seeds.

I had two farming grandfathers. I know this. I have also lived in the Midwest most of my life. The farmers are getting ready to pull out the combines, not the plows or planters.

But I have found that planting seeds in potting soil and seeing the seeds germinate has a healing quality to it. Tonight, after we wrapped up our evening meal at Olive Garden, I told my husband I needed some more seeds.

That is code for I need a distraction.

I have no reason for PTSD to surface today. But, it does that sometimes.

We stopped by Rural King, and I scanned the low stock of seeds. Even the rack had a label on it that said, “Do not inventory.” Basically, there is no need to reorder this product until 2018.

Nobody wants seeds right now — except me.

John suggested jalapeños. What the heck. Jalapeños it is.

I have a counselor who is a specialist in sexual trauma and delayed onset PTSD. I see her every other week. She asks me frequently what I do for fun.

Sometimes, you don’t need something that is fun.

Sometimes, you just need something that is different. Out-of-step with everyone else. Something that grows and doesn’t know that bad stuff happens to children. Something that isn’t going to control you. It will just shrivel up if the soil isn’t right or it gets too much sun.

Sometimes, you just need to watch things that have a cycle. Something that grows for you. It gives. That is what it was created to do.

As night falls and it is almost time to go to bed, I wish I had more daylight–especially when I have a new packet of seeds.


It doesn’t matter very much that I won’t be eating them. It is just a positive action. Planting. It heals something that died, something I am trying to resurrect.

Seeds are good.

And sometimes, they grow and defy the odds–especially when they have a little pot indoors where they are protected and nourished.

I suppose that is how my counselor feels when I dig in my heels and determine to get better and stronger.

There is a difference between me and my plants. I am not growing for her.

I am growing for me.



Wounded, but put me in coach

This has been a rough year.

I was at the top of my game. Syndication going well. Published author. Travel writer. Catholic Liaison for Israel. Yes, Israel.

Traveling Catholic speaker. Keynotes and everything.

And wham. PTSD. Quit my job. I had stopped writing the year before–all but the blog. I still traveled to Israel, but on my own, a kind of personal and mostly quiet retreat.

The speaking engagements kept coming. And the Holy Spirit always showed up.

But in between, I was dry. No. That’s not quite right. I was broken. Hurt. Wounded.

I didn’t faint and collapse in the middle of the fifth inning, but it sure seemed like it. It seemed like they whisked me off the field and I found myself on the bench, disoriented, a little incoherent, but wanting to brush aside their arms and say, put me in. Come on. I’m okay. Just put me back in.

Only I wasn’t okay.

I wrote about this in my book. One day, I would be out of the Catholic hustle and bustle. God would call me to “higher elevations,” I wrote, “where the crowds don’t gather but the view is amazing.”

Only the view didn’t seem so amazing.

I just wanted to go back to what I knew. The familiar. And being busy made me feel like God liked me at least a little. He took joy in using me.

“Just sit there for a while. I’m taking you out of the game. Cheer on your teammates all you want. But there is no way you are going back out there for a while.”

That’s what it is like when you are a writer and you have absolutely nothing to write. You love the Eucharist, but you can’t seem to get yourself to be around people.

You go to Mass on Sunday and Adoration because there is nobody there but you and the Lord. The rest has become practically impossible.

You aren’t depressed.

At least you don’t think that’s it.

Only God knows. So He is telling you to sit there on that bench. It’s like you have the “Mysterious Malady” that some baseball players get. You suddenly can’t do all the things you once did. You don’t have the it-factor anymore.

Just fix me and put me back in. But that’s no good. That won’t work.

In the spiritual realm, God needs to spend some time on you, and you need to let Him do it. It isn’t that you are suddenly ill, you were a little screwed up the whole time. The Mysterious Malady is not so mysterious.

Once it gets quiet, once you are pulled out of the game for a bit, you begin to see the wounds. You remember the day a young man had a knife and sexually molested you. You realize it made you fear anyone who could overpower you.

You remember the nights your husband in the non-Sacramental marriage waited for you to fall asleep so he could take you without asking. You think of the night he did it on purpose because he knew you were in the middle of your cycle and you would get pregnant. He did it to control and manipulate fate – and you. You became angry when anyone did things behind your back that seemed to take advantage of you or sabotage your life in any way.

You have trust issues.

Yet you say, Jesus, I trust in You.

Let’s get to that. Let’s analyze it for a while.

And the only way to do that is to take away everything that keeps you busy — until you see.

Practice setting good boundaries on everyone you need to, except Jesus Christ. Learn that He can be trusted…even in the quiet. Even when writer’s block shows up for a whole year. Even when you aren’t sure about anything except Jesus and His Church.

You get back to your motel room, shut the door, and cry. Still wearing the team uniform, you stumble to the mirror.

I have a few wounds.

But the good news is that the coach is also the ultimate healer. He knows how to heal these wounds, and He also wants to put you back in more than you want to get back into the game.

You sit on a chair. Alone.

And then someone knocks on the door. The healer wants to come in. And you realize you desperately want that, too.

Can the Catholic Church Have the Best Response to Sexual Trauma

Not that Church. Not the one with all the scandal.

Yes, that Church.

She could have the best response to sexual trauma. The secular world is addressing it, even though rape, molestation and incest have found a way into every corner of the secular world.

Fatherhood is still good, even if some fathers have not been good.

Coaching is still laudable, even though some coaches have been disastrous.

Teaching is still a wonderful profession, in spite of the fact that some teachers have misused their positions of authority.

When each of these is at its best, it is quite beautiful.

So, while the secular counselors and coalitions have done a tremendous job of helping to heal the wounds of sexual trauma, the Church could (and should) be the home for the greatest healing of all.

What we have going for us.

  1. We believe in the power of a fiat. A yes. God, being omnipotent, didn’t demand anything of the Blessed Mother. While He could have, being her creator, He didn’t. He was the perfect gentleman. He asked for Mary’s permission. And she said yes. She gave her consent. A few years ago, the Department of Justice changed the law. Assault and rape are no longer defined solely by force. The legal definition now includes the issue of consent. One must be able to give a yes. Children aren’t old enough to be able to do that. Sleeping wives, exhausted by raising children, aren’t able to do that. A young person who has had too much to drink… not able to give consent. In most places, spouses and intimate partners must have freely-given consent. We call that Free Will. It must be respected. It cannot be coerced. Not even in marriage.
  2. We believe in the Theology of the Body. It all has to make sense. It has to be rooted in dialogue between husband and wife. Sexual intimacy requires the highest degree of respect. Let me be clear. It requires marital love.
  3. We believe in redemption and healing. Our whole faith is centered upon the Person of Jesus Christ. He came so that we might experience the ultimate healing. He came to heal us from Original Sin and liberate us from Personal Sin. We are taught a new way. A Way of the Cross. An offering up of ourselves for another. Embedded in the whole Gospel message is the teaching that no damage or trauma is so great that God’s love cannot overcome it. Obliterate it. We don’t believe in the possibility of transforming from a victim to a survivor. We believe in the reality of transforming from a victim to a victor. Through His stripes, we are healed. He can redeem anything. Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.

Freedom. Love. Healing.

These have become part of my journey. I am learning to set boundaries, that I possess a freedom to set boundaries and to firmly stand my ground. I am learning to love and sort through what love is and what love is not. How love acts, how love does not act. And I am learning how to heal. Up to 80% of those who have experienced sexual trauma have some form of PTSD. For some, it is a delayed-onset PTSD. Nightmares. Difficulty with relationships and boundaries. Addictions. Social anxiety. Generalized anxiety. Struggles in the workplace.

This brings me to the final reason why the Church has the potential to be the best response to sexual trauma.

4. We believe in Confession and spiritual direction. When these two come together, the soul experiences something miraculous. It is Easter morning kind of stuff. You see things more clearly than you have ever seen them before. You have strength to sweep away the hurt and those who have hurt you and receive the greatest love of the universe. You begin the amazing journey where every experience past, present and future is connected organically to the One who made you and has called you into His glorious Life. You are no longer feeling like you are being swallowed up by memories and hurts and horrific experiences and people who assert control and power and are masters at gaslighting and secrecy. You are able to walk into the Light and bring all of it with you. There, in the Light, the darkness flees.

5. We believe in new beginnings. You take baby steps at first. You keep going back to the Sacraments, especially Eucharist, Confession with spiritual direction and perhaps even Anointing of the Sick. You find that Truth has set you free, is setting you free, will set you free. What is Truth? Jesus Christ is Truth. And His Church has the best response to the wounds you carry.

Our wounds are offered up and placed in the Wounds of Christ, and talk about power! This power has overcome the world.

Get creative. Turn to the Stations of the Cross and make your own booklet. Include the fifteenth Station. (Or I will come to your group and share the Stations of the Cross that I developed for my own healing.) His Resurrection has made a way for your redemption. He redeems all things.

Go to Adoration. Write down what happened to you, the wounds you have, write them down and lay that paper on the Altar.

Light a candle, and burn the paper. Say this prayer:

Jesus, I give it to You. Now is the time. Change my wounds into scars that are healed and redeemed. Let me walk in Paschal Power. Let me know joy once more. Amen.

Denise Bossert is a nationally-recognized Catholic speaker, author, syndicated columnist and convert. She is a survivor/victor over sexual molestation as a child and rape in marriage. She is the mother of four children. One of her children was conceived in rape. That child was also a victim of sexual molestation. Use the contact form in the menu to reach Denise and invite her to speak about the Catholic faith and how true healing is there.


Space to Grow In

Free will can look a lot like teenage rebellion–

if the people who dislike your choices are manipulative or gossipy or judgmental or think your faith is some kind of cult.

Not kidding. Some people think that about the Catholic Faith.

You will get resistance. Breaking family and cultural mores can get you more consequences than backtalk did when you were twelve. There are times I would rather have a slap across the face for being a bit of a smart alec to my parent.

Or a fly swatter to the butt. Done and over. Stings for a moment and the sting is gone.

Or a lecture that I could hear and then walk down the hall to my room and shut the door.

So how do you know if you are who they say you are? How do you know much of anything when you decide to stop factoring in and even responding emotionally to the sanctions, both covert and overt?

You know that passage, lean not on your own understanding? Get a priest. A very good spiritual director.

And get it all out there – like you just threw up all over the place.

He is used to that.

And he is used to seeing the bigger picture. God’s perspective. If he gives you the green light to carve out space from those who make you feel crappy, then it is not rebellion, or angst, or vindictiveness. No matter what anyone else says (or whispers to another).

It is you just doing what you should have done a long time ago. Congratulations, you just embraced the gift of free will.

And if you frequent the confessional and seek spiritual direction, chances are pretty high that you are actually making a solid decision. Be willing to say, Get behind me satan.

It will still feel uncomfortable. You know how your old friends or family respond to your tentative attempts to extricate yourself from their frowny faces.

Rebellion is not bad. It just depends what you are rebelling against.

You are loved by God. He delights in you. He wants you whole. He wants you fully living the life of his divine grace.

Anything that threatens that beautiful gift needs to be told to stand down.

So now that you can choose to live any way you want, choose to live well. Choose the life God created for you.

Welcome home.

Here, you really do get to be you.




I Love You, Denise.

I haven’t written in a long time. Not truly. Not the deep, raw stuff that is my trademark.

For many weeks, I have thought about one phrase. One sentence that should be the ultimate pledge. The healing balm for the world.

I love you.

And yet, how often this phrase leaves one empty. Or worse, it leaves us shaking our heads and saying, “No. I don’t think that is so.”

I just read a book about St. Theresa of Calcutta. Again, the question of love presented itself.

If I can just figure out this phrase, what it really means, I think so much will be clear — or clearer.

It is easier to pinpoint what it is not than what it is. Until today. It is my father’s birthday. He is deceased, but the memory of his love is as clear as ever.

There was so much love in him that there was room for little else.

He loved. He liked being loved, but that was not his primary goal. I was his primary goal.

And everyone who encountered him could say the same thing. I was his primary goal. To show me how much he loved me.

You really do remember how someone made you feel, far more than what they said.

It is the essence of what drives us to see some people canonized. They made us feel…
God’s Presence.

They exuded Incarnational Love.

So many people have said the words to me in my 53 years. But I am learning to pay far more attention to how they make me feel.

This is the true test of love.

Never arrogant.
Never demanding its own agenda.
Practicing divine hospitality.
Keeping a guard on the tongue.
Not seeking to control.
Embracing another’s free will rather than orchestrating a manipulation that masquerades as mother, brother, sister, friends, husband.

And you begin to understand Our Lord’s words. Who are my mother and my brothers?
The one who does the will of the Father.

There is no guile in him.
No falseness.
No turning.

And the question of love and all its characteristics becomes a personal one.

Who and how must I love?

The littlest. The wounded. The forgotten. The ones Mother Theresa would have loved. And how must I love them? I must become an oblation.

A libation.

Incarnational Love made manifest through me.

He has permitted a wound within me that has turned my heart to the wounded ones. And I am learning to find them in the Wounds of Christ, where scars replace a festering wound. And all is made new.

A Secret From Mount Arbel

Only 9 days. She has waited for thousands of years. Nine days is all that remains.

A post shared by Denise Bossert (@denisebossert) on

Bookmark with Doug Keck

Wherein I meet Jim and Joy Pinto at EWTN

Wherein I meet Fr. Mark of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word

Fr. Mark of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word interviews Denise: