It is natural to dwell on our own suffering, but in the Fifteen St. Bridget Prayers, our attention is focused on the suffering of our Lord in his passion.
My Own Suffering
I used to be fairly unhappy in my marriage. My wife and I had some serious problems over the years.
I knew I was to blame for my share of these problems, but I did not think my problems were as serious as those of my wife. She was subject to spending sprees and a serious depression. I tried to be understanding, but I was subject to angry outbursts that masked my own serious undealt with depression.
Losing our 26-year-old depressed son Aaron in 2002 was horrible, but it helped me to realize I could no longer pretend I was just an angry person. I could not hide my depression from myself, my wife or anyone else. I had to admit that our son received some, if not most, of the genetic part of his depression from me and from my depression-ridden extended family. And that did not even include the behaviors I exhibited in his formative years which were depression related, such as spanking him angrily with a belt, blaming him for things certainly beyond his control and not sufficiently supporting his many positive behaviors and attributes.
After Aaron’s death, our problems mounted. I tried to be a better person, but this did not seem to help. My wife told me my changes were too little, too late.
Then, three years ago, I had an opportunity to care for my aged and sickly parents who lived six thousand miles away. I thought I would only stay for a few weeks and until my father was released from a mental health facility.
But my father also developed some serious physical disabilities while hospitalized, so I extended my stay. I rationalized that the separation from my wife might be the only way to save our marriage, hopefully by our learning how much we really needed one another.
My wife had meanwhile developed some serious health problems of her own. While she did not ask me to return home, I decided it would be best to be with her as she navigated her health issues. After six months apart, I decided it was make-it or break-it time, and I came home.
The Fifteen St. Bridget Prayers
I knew God wanted our marriage to continue. So, I decided to begin praying a year-long novena of the Fifteen St. Bridget Prayers. My prayer intention was for healing in our marriage. I had made this novena three previous times in my life, with great effect.
The fifteen prayers said for 365 days represented the total number of blows Our Lord received during His Passion, or 5480 wounds. Of course, this was revealed to St. Bridget in a private revelation, and is not considered to be Church doctrine.
As a result, I stopped my outbursts and gave control of my anger completely to God. I prayed to be able to continue these improvements in my life, and that my wife would change her spending habits and a few other things.
Saying the Fifteen St. Bridget Prayers, every single day was hard to do. Yet, at the end of the year-long novena something amazing occurred. My wife did change her spending habits, as well as the few other things that had troubled me. All of them, and all at once, within days of ending my novena!
I had changed, too. I was more even-tempered and thought I would soon finally rediscover my long-awaited happiness. But oddly, I became more depressed. I had become more aware of the sinfulness in my life and how I needed to continue, possibly for the rest of my life, to give myself to the Lord every moment of every day.
I have struggled with this disconcerting discovery over the last year, not feeling any better, but growing in my trust in the Lord. I am learning how to be happy by understanding that my moods can also be transformed by grace.
Thanks be to God!