“Prayers, works, joys and sufferings,” my mother always reminded us, invoking the Morning Offering, whenever we shared with her our works and sufferings. We were slow learners, the nine of us. Prayers were to our childhood as water to a fish; my mother seemed to draw her very breath from the Holy Spirit. Prayer cards, rosary beads, statues to our Blessed Mother, holy water; sacramentals were as common in our home as shared bedrooms and hand-me-downs.

We got it. Joys, too: the blessing of the faith-filled, generous, loving and fruitful marriage of our parents. Works and sufferings? Plenty of that, as well. But a mother of nine has to make do with what she can, and that often was just, “Prayers, works, joys and sufferings.” If even that was too much, a mere “Offer it up!” would have to suffice. But we learned by living, and from her example, that joy comes from a deep prayer life, hard work and patient suffering.

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Mary Lou Rosien, mother of seven and the author of The Joy-Filled Broken Heart, knows a lot about suffering. She knows, too, the question many ask, as she puts it in her introduction, “How can I find joy when I am in so much pain?” The Joy-Filled Broken Heart seeks to answer that question.

joy filled broken heart rosien

Peppering her booklet with one example after another of suffering, from her own life and from others, Rosien is reaching out with a message of empathy. This is such an important element of ministering to the downtrodden: not to make light of their suffering. Rosien explains that well-meaning friends risk confusing sufferers with quick-seeming “answers to what are much more difficult and painful questions.”

But Rosien knows that God uses suffering to draw us closer to Him, and that He wants us to experience true joy, not just in spite of but because of our suffering. But to do this, we have to be open to His plans.

To help discern God’s will in our suffering, she offers many approaches, including one helpful, three-step way she calls ACT: assess, confess and transcend. Each chapter ends with Questions for Reflection. My favorite was the last: “Can I imagine a plan God might have that could bring some good out of this current stressful or painful time in my life? How can I focus every day on trusting that plan and not my own?” That was something I needed to hear.

Everyone with an open-heart will find something worthwhile in this booklet. There are some flaws in The Joy-Filled Broken Heart. Rosien is not a polished writer; she mixes metaphors and resorts to telling over showing too often. I wondered why she didn’t reference Pope Francis’ The Joy of the Gospel, as well.

But this can be read in one sitting, and if you imagine you’re sharing a cup of tea with the author while she speaks from the heart, your spirit will be lifted, as if Mary Lou Rosien just reached out and gave you a much-needed hug.

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Copyright 2016 Kiernan O'Connor