When Jesus came to the ER

It may have been one of the loneliest moments in my life. I was alone in a small, bare triage room with only an examining table. An armed guard was posted outside the door. My clothes had been taken from me and I was wearing a flimsy gown that opened in the back. I was barefoot. I stayed like this for two and a half very long hours. I felt totally alone.

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I had just checked myself into the emergency room for depression. Through years of struggle and ups and downs, I had reached a low point. I did not feel capable of keeping myself safe so I turned to hospitalization. What I didn’t know was that in this moment of crisis, while I waited to be examined and for a room to open on the unit, that I would feel so utterly alone and abandoned.

The hospitalization ended up being quite helpful and I was able to get to a better space in my life with more stability. Months later, while I was on retreat, the memory of the small room returned to me in prayer. Through the eyes of prayer, this is what I saw:

I’m alone, sitting on the bare, cold floor. A security guard waits outside the room, keeping watch. Then the door opens and Jesus walks through. Jesus looks like a farmer woman. She’s wearing blue jean overalls and has black curly hair that overflows her tender face. She looks at me and smiles and suddenly, I don’t feel so alone. Jesus walks in the room and sits down on the floor behind me. She encircles me with her arms. I lean back and place my head on her heart. I am surrounded with love. All at once, we are in a beautiful field umbrellaed by a bright blue sky. Instead of a bare, tile floor we are sitting on the soft earth with our feet and hands digging into the dark, rich dirt. We stand up and she takes my hand. We are running in the field filled with stunning wild flowers. I feel free and happy. I know Jesus is with me.

That prayer helped to heal my memory. It also taught me an important lesson. I am never alone. Jesus is always with me. Especially in those moments when I feel most abandoned, there are times that I am most closely accompanied by the Living Christ. When life gets messy, Jesus shows up. This lesson has helped sustain me through other difficult moments and helped me be present to others when they are struggling. It has also taught me about love.


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Love is a letting go, a stripping of self, an abandon of control. I also firmly believe that love is the entire purpose of our lives. I see love as an endless stream of hot, fiery lava. In some place or time that lava flows without end. But here on Earth, love crusts over like lava does when it hits cold air. We spend our lives bumping into other people’s crusts. We spend our lives learning how to open up and to love more completely. That is why we are here.

Depression has taught me that through my darkest moments, I am not alone. Even though it is a struggle to always see it, I am deeply loved. Jesus is with me. My friends and family and sisters in community are with me. I still have something to give. I can hold the hand of someone else when they are in the darkness. I can be a small light for them. I can be the voice of love because through experience I know we all walk together.




Sister Sarah Hennessey is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She grew up in North Carolina as an active Quaker and became a Catholic in 2000. For her, Jesus’ Messy Business includes falling in love with Christ AND with the People of God! Her heart is on fire for the Hispanic community, poetry, singing and accompanying people through birth, death and the living that comes in between. She currently ministers as the perpetual adoration coordinator at St. Rose Convent, as a Mary of the Angels Chapel tour guide, and a volunteer at Franciscan Hospitality House.


Who is your family?

Guest blogger: Sister Sarah Hennessey

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family.  We remember Jesus did not zoom into human existence in a space pod or appear on a mountaintop shining in gold. He came in family.  Mary is more than her “yes.”  She lived the daily joys and sorrows of family.  Joseph is more than worker or protector.  He lived the loves and hurts of family.

When we put up our nativity scenes, while Joseph, Mary and Jesus are at the center they are not alone.  Shepherds, sheep, cows, children, kings, and angels, complete the scene.  This too is a moment of family.

Our bus broke down on my 50 hour ride to Guadalajara.  A large group of strangers, we were stranded by the roadside for hours.  I remembered my guitar was in the luggage and suddenly our bus driver was serenading us with ranchero tunes and our bilingual group of strangers became united in song.  A moment of family.

One of my friends was getting on the bus to work when she realized she had lost her money.  The bus driver kicked her off.  A homeless man who was standing on the street saw her strife and gave her enough money to get to work.  A moment of family.

Last year when our town was hit by a flood, without even a plea for volunteers, people of all ages showed up to fill sand bags.  I was so glad when the whole hockey team appeared.  One man pulled up in his pickup to receive some bags and said, “I don’t know how to thank you.  You are saving my house.”  A moment of family.

Last month I went to a bowling alley for a benefit for a two year old in our parish who is fighting cancer.  As I was buying my ticket I noticed the t-shirts being worn by the volunteers.  All the women wore shirts that said “Moms don’t let moms fight cancer alone.”  All the men wore shirts that said, “Dads don’t led dads fight cancer alone.”  A moment of family.

So on this feast day of the Holy Family, let Mary and Joseph and Jesus be your guide and remember all the times in your life that have become a moment of family.

Prayer to the Holy Family

Jesus, Mary and Joseph, like you we are members of the Father’s family. We pray that our family love may reflect his love on its openness to all people. May we forgive even when not forgiven, and be patient with others’ weaknesses.

Jesus, give us peace, unit and strength to meet the difficulties of daily living. May we use our family resources to improve the quality of life for ourselves and all people. Let us show joy in serving, for whatever we do for others, we do for you.

Mary, inspire us, that our love may be strong but not possessive. Let our willingness to give depend on the needs of others rather than on the cost of giving.

Joseph, help us to be attentive to the Father’s will. Let us be ready, as you were, to act whenever he calls us.