In the secular world, Jean Heimann could write a book, “The three romances of Jean Heimann,” since she tells her story from the perspective of three main romantic interests in her life. No, Learning to Love with the Saints: a spiritual memoir is far from a romance novel. Jean wrote it as a thoughtful and exciting biography of her faith story and how the saints influenced her. Without these saints in her life, Jean would be one more author reminiscing about the beauty or horror of her love relationships as they unfolded, choice by choice.
With God and the saints in her life, she inspires me to find ways to stay close to our many heavenly friends and live the Theology of the Body. Her main influencers were Mary and Saint John Paul II, in whose words she heard the voice of her earthly father. She quotes St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Teresa of Avila, Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin, St. John the Evangelist, Blessed John Henry Newman, and St. Sharbel as her intercessors.
Her relationship with saints began with Mary. As Jean grew up, Mary was ever-present in her devout Catholic home where Mass, the sacraments and parochial school were a priority requiring sacrifice. After one engagement had fizzled, Jean married a young man with long hair who reminded her of Jesus but turned out to be an abusive drug addict and an unfaithful spouse who threatened her life when she filed for divorce.
Misguided about the teachings of the Church, she stayed away from Mass, believing that she could not receive the sacraments because she was divorced. She writes,
I was not a wife, a mother, a Catholic, but simply a psychologist and a workaholic. I yearned for intimacy, for true love and commitment, but didn’t trust my judgment. I was terrified of marriage.
Then came the 7-year relationship with romantic, intelligent Erik. He was divorced, the father of two children, anti-Catholic and an agnostic. Troubles came pouring in as a surgeon removed her ovaries and fallopian tubes due to endometriosis. Her sister Mary and then her mother were diagnosed with breast cancer. She described the Good Friday encounter that transformed her life when she went home to visit her parents.
On Good Friday that year, I watched my dad fall to his knees and hug the large cross, tenderly kissing the feet of Jesus. Then, in an instant, my mom was reaching out, bending low, nearly falling off her wheelchair to her knees, to embrace and reverently kiss the feet of the life-sized corpus. It was at that moment that I recognized where the void was in my life. Jesus had been missing! Only His love could fill that hole.
This was the turning point in my life, the decisive moment when I knew I would return to my faith. I realized how much I loved Jesus and how much I missed Him and I yearned to receive Him in the Eucharist. . . .it is only when our hearts are transformed by the love of Christ that we are able to follow after Him. My heart had melted that day, merging with His.
Prayer support makes all the difference
When she ended her engagement to Erik, he Immediately suffered heart failure. She ended up caring for him as his only friend for a year during his hospitalization and recuperation. But now she had her faith, and her friends in Cursillo, a charismatic prayer group as well as the saints supporting her in prayer. She was back home in the Church with the Holy Spirit burning within her.
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Jean met Bill, her third romance, at a charismatic conference. He was undeniably the answer to her prayers for a godly man. Their friendship led to a lifetime commitment to putting God first in their lives.
“I really sensed that we were on a par spiritually and fell in love with the beauty of God that emanated from his soul. I felt as if I had so much love inside of me and that it was meant to be shared with him for the rest of our lives.”
Jean credits the influence of John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in understanding and embracing the marriage relationship that is more beautiful than she ever dreamed was possible.
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Copyright 2016 Nancy Ward
About the Author
Nancy Ward authored Sharing Your Catholic Faith Story: Tools, Tips, and Testimonies (and the DVD) and contributed to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion. She loves to share her conversion story and give evangelization workshops and retreats equipping others to share their faith. She facilitates the DFW Catholic Writers, Catholic Writers Guild Nonfiction Critique Group, serves on their Board, and speaks at writers’ conferences. Learn more at JoyAlive.net and NancyHCWard.com.