Sacred Places: Churches, Nature and Hints of Heaven

Kathy O’Connell, Founder *

I often long for a place of serenity, solitude, a sacred place of quietness to reflect on the happy memories and good times, the painful things in life, and the new ways today I can learn to heal from the past.

When I was a small child, that place was the church. There I would sit and talk to Jesus. Looking back at myself, so small, so spontaneous, just talking to Him. It was safe there. The church was a sacred place. It was a place of peace.

Then, the abuse occurred in the Church. The church was no longer safe. It was no longer a place of peace. Years passed. I stayed away from places with hurtful memories.

Surprising even myself, I was eventually drawn back and able to find peace again in my church. I regained the sense of a sacred, quiet place. It wasn’t an easy return. There was quite a bit of anxiety. It took patience and courage to regain enough trust simply to sit and quietly reflect in the same place where my faith had been shattered.

no, it wasn’t an easy process. Healing has been difficult and painful. However, by the grace of God, I can now return to the Church and sit in a church feeling peace. Sitting quietly in my church, I feel God’s presence within myself, and I feel strength and peace overflowing my heart. It’s very important for my ability to heal.

I can’t always find my way back to this quiet haven of peace. Churches are not open 24/7. I’m not always near a church in my daily activities. Or, sometimes I need something else, something with nature and air and space. I still have a desire in my heart for solitude and serenity, but my heart needs a different place.

Sometimes I go to the beautiful Healing Garden next to Holy Family Church (in Chicago, Illinois). Once in a while, I drive there for its beauty and serenity. I find peace in just being there. Caring people were thinking of me when they designed and built this spot in the middle of Chicago. It is a special visit whenever I go there.

Yet, that’s not somewhere I can always go either.

Maybe because healing from abuse is such a long process, I’ve gotten familiar with a lot of sacred places. There is great peace to be found in hearing running water, a fountain, a lake, splashes from a pool. There is comfort in resting near a well-lit fire, watching the light flicker or feeling its steady warmth. I find a stillness in these moments, where the peace, solitude, hope and prayer also bring me back into the holy sanctuary of a church where I’ve rested in safe quiet too.

Many different places can become our sacred spaces. Each of us has his or her own unique sense of the sacred and possible holy places. They may be churches or chapels, or nature or somewhere else. They all have a hint of heaven, so it’s worth noting them and visiting them and savoring them as the gift that they are for our healing.

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