AnnAliese Harry contemplates what happens when we pray for our enemies.
I am an empath, meaning that I pick up on emotions that others are feeling. By picking up on those emotions, it means I feel the emotions – there is a tightening of muscles which occur, shortness of breath at times, and an overall physical exhaustion that comes with sitting near, standing near, or interacting with someone who is angry, sad, anxious, overly excited, or feeling any other variety of emotions. Throughout life, empaths learn to handle all the little ways to combat the influx of emotions but many empaths tend to be introverts to allow themselves time to recuperate from being in “regular life” situations, soaking up all the various emotions that can be felt in the grocery store, the workplace, or anywhere else in public.
Today, after spending the last twenty-four hours reeling from the effects of a person throwing proverbial daggers in my direction for the better part of four days, I am exhausted … and, angry. I have reached the end of my emotional bank account with the situation and have several times voiced anger about the individual and the entire situation.
As I continue to try to reach a place of calm and quiet, and acceptance regarding the situation, I keep reminding myself that Satan loves to cause discord, and enjoys watching when I fall into temptation that would simply, and bluntly, be defined as wrath.
Wrath, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is defined by, “Strong vengeful anger or indignation.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) explains in paragraph 2302, “Anger is a desire for revenge … If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin.” Thankfully, I don’t think I fall into the mortal sin category, but it’s certainly a caution which should cause each of us a moment to pause and contemplate.
In surveying the tone of the United States and the world right now, I think many of us have some soul-searching to do. If we apply the secular definition of anger, it’s readily apparent that many people throughout the world feel strong, vengeful anger, or even indignation. Yet, it’s not something we are ready or willing to admit.
Yet, moving into CCC paragraph 2303, we find a clear and vivid reminder. Pointing to Matthew 5:44-45, the Catechism shares, “’But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.’” Often, we will hear priests encourage their congregation on Sundays to pray for our enemies, but often, that is a concept that most people don’t consider.
Who is our enemy?
Are we considering that our enemy is someone as simple as the person who makes us indignant in any given moment?
The ultimate enemy is Satan, who is prowling around this world, trying to create dysfunction and tear us all apart. He uses the anger that builds up to tear down the relationships with others. And our pride, which exorcists speak of as the devil’s favorite sin, keeps us from seeing our actions contributing to the situation. Our pride keeps us holding onto the anger and keeps us from moving toward peaceful unity.
Every single human on this earth has been made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). Even those who make us the angriest have been made in His likeness. Every single one of us have been created in His image. Furthermore, God knew each of us, and He knew our struggles, the difficulties and challenges we would face, and the way we would handle other people being placed in our paths (Jeremiah 1:5).
Ultimately, St. Josemaría Escrivá’s wisdom is rather fitting: “Don’t say that person annoys me; think, that person sanctifies me.” Through your response to the person, you have the opportunity to work on becoming a saint.
When we pray for our “enemies,” whether they are literal enemies, or simply the person that is aggravating or annoying us in the moment, we won’t necessarily see them change. Rather, we see our hearts soften toward that person. In a sense, we begin to be open to how God views them as a beloved child of His. We see them in the manner that God also sees us.
So as this Month of the Holy Rosary begins to wind to a close, I invite each of you to join me in praying a Rosary for whatever “enemies” you determine need prayer. You can pray for their intentions, even if you don’t know the intentions on their hearts, simply by asking God to accept the Rosary for the intentions for the person.
Or, you could devote the Rosary for a softening of your heart, and to request being able to see that person in the same light and manner that our Father in heaven sees that individual. You can ask for clarity during your Rosary to handle the situation that is aggravating you. You can ask that the Rosary be dedicated for a healing of your own heart, a softening of your own pride, and courage to always seek God in every situation – even if that situation initially causes you to tense up and see red.
As this world continues to rage with turmoil, each of us are given the opportunity to turn away from the building anger and resentment, and have the choice to turn toward the One Whose love offers us the most peace and calm. Simply reach out to the outstretched arms of Christ; envision yourself being handed the beads of peace offered to St. Dominic through the holy Rosary.
Armor up and pray …
Your soul, your mood, and your energy will be all the better for the time spent in prayer!
Copyright 2020 AnnAliese Harry
Image copyright 2020 AnnAliese Harry. All rights reserved.
About the Author
AnnAliese Harry is a proud Army wife to her husband Chris, and a mother to their young children. She has a BA in History, a Masters in Social Work, and has worked with disabled veterans, troubled teens, and in early childhood intervention therapy. AnnAliese volunteers with several military chapel communities and serves as a lector, EMHC, Adoration coordinator, and Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC) chapter president and vice president. She blogs about Catholicism, parenting, and military life at A Beautiful, Camouflaged Mess of A Life. Follow her on Twitter, on Instagram, or on Facebook.