Help for the broken-hearted - Madonna Magazine

Help for the broken-hearted

Fr David Braithwaite SJ 25 November 2020

Trauma has been described as ‘the pain that remains’. Experts tell us that trauma is determined by our reaction to something, and not intrinsic to the event itself. Hence, this explains why not all events provoke the same traumatic reactions in all people. 

At the moment there seems no real explanation available as to why some people are crushed by terrible events and others seem more able to live on less scathed. People will talk of resilience but to this arm-chair psychologist that just seems to restate the problem – unless you can explain with some exactitude why some people are more resilient than others, all things being equal. 

Physical therapies

One of the world leaders in trauma studies is Dr Bessel van der Kolk, a former Harvard psychiatrist, who has argued for the efficacy of physical therapies to aid recovery for those afflicted by serious trauma disorders e.g. yoga, etc. 

This insight is based on his, and others’, clinical experience, that those beset by trauma are often disconnected from their own bodies as a result. 

There are other symptoms of trauma, of course, but this disconnection he identifies is a serious one. It is also one that has often gone unaddressed, due to our Western bias that denies the fundamental unity of body and mind. Cartesian dualism is not just bad philosophy; it turns out that it is bad medicine too.

In any case, what does all this have to do with the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network I hear you say? Well I think it can shed light on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that is a mainstay of our network and a deep resource for the broken-hearted. 

The heart is the seat of union of mind, body and soul in this spiritual tradition. Accessing the ‘heart to heart’ of our relationship to Christ is always healing and unitive. It is a non-dualist practice: my brain doesn’t pray, I do! And I am a dynamic unity of flesh and spirit as Paul tells us in Corinthians. 

Healing potential of prayer

I pray with and through my body which gives me a practice with which to understand and experience myself as a unitive being, and with that, a way into understanding the healing potential of prayer that arises from our wounded heart in direct relation to the wounded heart of Jesus. He silently seeks to place my wounds in his and heals our bruised being with the gentleness of the Divine Physician. 

In this way, the Sacred Heart is a devotion of healing for all pain, but most especially the pain that stubbornly refuses to leave. 


The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network (formerly the Apostleship of Prayer) is an international movement, helping Christians live out their desire to serve God with their whole lives and their whole selves.

Christians are invited to make a daily offering of themselves to the Lord and to pray for the Pope’s monthly intentions. This habit of prayer encourages a spirituality of solidarity with the Church and loving service to others. At the centre of this program is the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

Join the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network at