Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Birthing of a book

Tender Mercies, A Book of Prayers for Healing and Coping

Many people have asked me, "Why and how did you ever write a book of prayers like this one?"

Several years ago I began some formal studies in pastoral psychology. In my undergraduate days, the only psychology I had was philosophical psychology which I did not find very practical. After working closely with some individuals who were volunteers, I discovered that I needed some further background to understand their behavior and my reactions to it. With the hope of helping both myself and the lay people with whom I worked, I enrolled in Boston College’s Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry. The IREPM as it was called provided many courses that dealt with psychological problems and pastoral concerns. Classes on grief and loss and troubled personalities coupled with weekend seminars offered remedies for caregivers, counselors and those who might be afflicted with mental difficulties.

As any student knows, there is hardly a class without some “paper” due. Ours were no exception. At one point rather than give a heady scientific response to clinical problems, I decided to compose some prayers for the “troubled personality.” Troubled personalities can be people suffering from mild stress to clinical depression. That is a really vast spectrum of people!

The first prayers were a Way of the Cross and a set of meditations on the 20 mysteries of the Rosary.
 A few “reality check” prayers were part of the initial paper. Of course, I was not advocating a boycott of psychologists or psychiatrists, or of medications which can relieve stress. Rather, I was directing people to the source of all peace and comfort, the God who created the human heart.

When I presented the original manuscript to our Pauline Books & Media publishing house editors, they saw a need for its contents. The editors asked me to enhance the contents by adding more prayers for specific needs, such as eating disorders, cutting, etc. In the meantime I had knee surgery which gave me the time to research and equip myself to write prayers that would make sense to persons who suffer from the various disorders.

When the book was edited and ready to print, it was read by two psychologists to check for any inaccuracies. I was in Toronto when the book was released. Here are some words from a mother whose young adult son was in a psychiatric ward when she gave him Tender Mercies:

Dear Sister Mary:
"My son V. was very eager for the book and was so pleasantly surprised that there were so many prayers that applied to him. He read some of them and said they helped him to gain some control. He said the voice in his head was very angry with the book. He found your dedication to him well directed at him. He also commented about your writing as "every sentence is meaningful, no marshmallow fillers".
[My son] V. took the book to his new friends, all tormented with their mental illness, and was happy to tell them about it. There are at least 6 people who talk about their God beliefs, share books, and comfort each other."

The case of Nina and her troubled son may be unusual, since many of the people who purchase Tender Mercies have no psychiatric problem. However all of us may find ourselves in stressful circumstances: a sudden illness, an unexpected expense, a loss, a sadness over the death of a loved one….As my psychology professor said: “We all walk a fine line. We don’t know what may push us over the edge.” In other words, we are all vulnerable, weak human beings.

The object of Tender Mercies is to connect you the reader with God, the source of all joy, our ultimate good. Even though real love is anything but “mushy”, it is also tender and constant. May you who read and pray with Tender Mercies be consoled and strengthened in your daily quest to draw closer to God, and to allow God to draw closer to you.

Tender Mercies is also available in French.

May this book be a source of blessing to all who read it.

Sister Mary Peter Martin, fsp

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