+A Healing Hearts, Hope Restored: Stories of Hope, Healing, and Restoration contribution by Brian Butler+
ABOUT THE AUTHOR, BRIAN BUTLER:
In his own words...
"My testimony says a lot about who I am and how I came to be as I am, a prisoner of by beliefs. I am a cradle Catholic, a husband of 37+ years, a father of two grown boys and to the best of my ability a faithful Catholic. I went to college in the late 70's early 80's where I earned a BS in BA but I was really meant to in the be in the trades. I have three professional licenses, one in auto mechanics, one as a Burner license tech and a Commercial Drivers license. I have felt called by God since I was eight years old and I thank Him everyday for His continuing call in my life. Every day in life is another chance to heal. Being at my Cursillo, a four day retreat, and later being on team for another have been watershed moments in my life. It was at the April 2019 Cursillo at Saint Basil's in Methuen Mass. that I delivered this testimony to 70 men. I'm told it was received well, I do not remember delivering it, it was transformative. I share it with you today because I pray someone might find hope in it. The words that broke through the hardness of my heart were "He knows you by name". I'll let you read through to hear that story in it's proper place."
March 6, 2019
Good Evening, My name is Brian, I was honored by the team to be asked to present the Piety talk tonight. Piety is the first leg of our Cursillo Tripod. The Tripod will grow in importance as the weekend unfolds, for now it’s enough for you to know that Piety is holiness. What follows is my story, from childhood innocence to loosing much of my faith to a personal response from Heaven.
Let’s begin with a short reading from Scripture and an opening prayer
Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 Vs. 1 & 2
There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
Father please look kindly on your people gathered today in our Cursillo. From every Walk in life we have come together to live and to learn. Thank you for continuing to call us. Let this be our time. Let this be our season, our appointed place, let us laugh and mourn; Scatter and embrace; seek and find.
Grant us our petitions Lord, in Jesus name, Amen.
Before I recognized God and let Him enter my life:
My name is Brian Butler, I was born in Arlington, moved to Danvers when I was six. I’ve lived in Peabody and North Reading, I currently come from Beverly where I live with my wife of 36 years. Karen and I have four children. Kevin, my oldest lives with Karen & I, James, the youngest is military and lives in San Juan Puerto Rico. My two middle children did not survive long enough to be born.
I was born in 1960, that make me 59 years old. A cradle Catholic the sixth child of my Catholic Mother Claire and Methodist Father Albert. Married in the Catholic Church my father promised to raise his children Catholic and he let my mother do it. We had a three-bedroom home on a dead end street, a back yard pool and a dog named Trepe. It was a reasonably happy childhood.
When I was eleven years old my father gathered his six children in the kitchen, sitting at the table he told us he was not going to be living with us any longer. My parents were divorcing, this was back when it was still a shameful thing. It was for the good of the children my mother said, when would it be time for my happiness my father said, the youngest of their six children blamed himself for the divorce. Mass became an option at our house and my mother was dating, this was something I was unprepared for.
A family in crisis is broken, a broken family lives in disarray, a family in disarray becomes a target of those who prey on children. When I was thirteen I was sexually assaulted by a teacher. The assaults went on for more than a year, I told my brother about it, he told me I was mistaken. Later in life I learned my brother had been also been a victim, his way of dealing was denial. Life was going to improve in High School because I would be leaving this teacher behind. On the first day of freshman year I learned that he had transferred to the high school. One of the department heads, Dr. Alphonse Tataronis, recognized what this man was and told him to choose, he could resign from teaching or be prosecuted. I still offer prayers for that Dr. Al and on occasion for the man who assaulted me. In just this past year I have come out about my abuse to my graduation class, I was not his only victim.
I’m now 14 years old and I’m becoming a recluse, I’ve retreated from my friends as my family life continued to fall apart. I’ve started drinking and have become a pot smoker. Waking up in the hospital after an accidental OD on prescription pills should have brought or triggered some help but a broken home often leads to advice from people who don’t know how to help. I still knew of God but I had no relationship with Him. In the middle of my freshman year I left Dr. David Allen’s class, went to the third floor bathroom and opened my wrist with a razor blade. Dr. Allen saved me. I remember waking up on the floor, he was praying over me, Jesus have mercy on him. That year I became a suicide survivor. It was pain that drove me to my attempt, isolation so profound that I let no one in. I smiled at the right times, nodded at the breaks in a conversation and made a lackluster effort at classes and grades but it was my pain and my perceived lack of a way out that overshadowed all my thoughts.
This was my life, A stolen Childhood, feelings of loss and shame, responsibility and despair, unworthy, un loveable despondent and suicidal.
I am living proof that God has a plan for us and will put the right people in our path at the proper time. I was seventeen the year I met Karen. I remember the moment I first saw her. She had just turned sixteen and was applying for a job where I worked at the McDonald’s. She changed my life, she saved me, she brought me a circle of friends. High school and college marched by, we dated for five and a half years. Karen married me when I was 23, we exchanged traditional vows, until death do you part-forsaking all others-good times and bad, she is still with me today, poor girl.
The years rolled by for Karen and I, we had friends, jobs and homes. Plagued by old memories I received years of therapy with Dr. Allen Kaplan, A Jewish Psychiatrist who helped me put pieces of my life in order. We were sorta Catholic, we made Mass on Christmas and Easter, where we put our dollar in the collection plate. We coasted in our faith. And then the whole world changed for me.
Returning to God’s plan for me:
In the seventh year of my marriage Kevin was Born, my oldest child. He was so long coming we thought something was wrong with us. Karen’s pregnancy had been beautiful and blessed. I’m now thirty and in the last nine months we have moved from a small condo to a small house. Kevin’s Baptism is the next day and I am a little panicked. It’s been many years since I’ve made Confession and I don’t feel I can bring my son to the Church when I am not right with Her. I walk the mile down to Saint Mary’s and sit in the line trying to discover the courage to admit my faults and sins to the priest. I go in, he hears me, and for the first time in 17 years I am absolved of my sins. I’m trying to make a life gone awry better, to understand. I ask Father Richard Johnson the most important question of my life. I ask Fr. Johnson “why, why would Jesus forgive, me”. His immediate reply, “because He loves you”. Jesus, loves me. How about that? 8:07
A new path is opening for me. Weekly Mass is now the norm, if my schedule allows I make daily. I’m reading the Gospels and all the Catholic self help books I can find, books like God’s not done with me yet and Are you there God. I find an internet radio program from San Diego called Catholic Answers live and it leads me to a one man Passion play by Radix. Radix changes forever the way I will look at Jesus’ sacrifice, I learned that when I sin it’s like I’m holding with my own hands the nails that are being driven into His hands and feet. I have even more trouble accepting that Jesus underwent, what he did for me. But I’m making great strides. One day at Mass I come to understand that even if I feel unworthy of the sacrifice of Jesus, He says that I am. If He says I am, then I must be. It’s really a miraculous revelation, that while I was still a sinner, Jesus died for me.
The Mass has become my place to solve problems. I bring parenting problems, marital problems, purity problems to the Mass. All my problems seem to find answers either in the readings or in the homily. Fr. Richard Beaulieau talks about how few men are in the seminary. Fr. Beaulieau admits he does not know “what the Holy Spirit is doing in the world, but he knows that the Holy Spirit knows”. Just like that Fr. B taught me to trust God, so many things fell into peace for me when I learned that simple thing, Trust God even when you’re lost, Trust God.
I’m thirty-two years old, still thickheaded as ever I’m searching for a way to accept what I know. God answers me by letting me suffer from sciatica for two years. Just a stupid thing really, a friendly thrown punch, a duck and I twitched my back at work. By the end of the day I’m a cripple and spend two weeks lying on the floor learning how to walk again. The next jolt of pain can come from reaching for coffee. I learn to deal with it but the precocious nature of sciatica is you don’t know what will cause the next debilitating shock that drops you to your knees. Two years I live like this and it is very trying. I read in one of my books that for those who are truly seeking Him, God welcomes a challenge. I ask for a sign. I believe what I have learned, what I have been taught. I believe but I have not accepted it yet. Are you really there God? Is all the Church has taught me true. Show me a sign, I’ve lived with this pain for two years and I’m tired, give me some relief from the pain and I will accept what I have come to believe. That was 26 years ago that I asked God for a sign. The day after I asked, I woke up cured and have been free ever since. God physically changed the world for me, for the first time. There will be three more times. God granted my prayers for my acceptance.
I’m thirty-two when Karen and I lose our second child. I’m thirty-three when we lose our third. I now have two children in Heaven.
I’m a month shy of my thirty-fifth birthday and I am about to enter the most prayerful season of my life but don’t I know about that yet. What I’m expecting is a 1995 ford ranger with the extended cab and a six cylinder, what I got was my son James. New Years Day 1995 Karen tells me she pregnant again. Our fourth child. It’s common wisdom to wait until three months have passed to announce a pregnancy, just in case something happens. Well we already know something about something happening, I go out and tell everyone I know. Along with the announcement is a prayer request, we’ve had trouble before please pray for us. In the fourth week of her pregnancy Karen’s at work when she begins to bleed. I pick her up, get her to the doctor and he puts Karen on progesterone. It’s a drug that encourages a woman’s body to maintain a pregnancy and he puts her on complete bedrest, and we have a four year old.
I’m now mom and dad, I grocery shop, cook dinner, do dishes. I clean the house and do laundry. I prepare meals for Karen to eat while I’m at work. I shuttle Kevin to and from my mother in laws house every day and I’ve begun to pray at least three hours a day. Lord, let me have this child. I go to bed with this prayer on my lips, I wake up and begin again. Easily I asked 10,000 times for the life of my child. In Luke Chapter 18 Jesus tells us to always pray because the Father who hears us knows how to give us good things. It’s late March, there’s snow on the ground but it’s not cold and I’m sitting on my back porch at three in the morning. I’ve just woken up and I’m beginning my prayer request again, Lord, let me have this child. I’ve just begun when I realize that I’m done asking. I go to my knees and I tell God “It’s in your hands now, I’m not going to ask anymore, you know what I want. I want you to know that whatever the outcome is I’ll be ok with it. Have my child or not I know what you want for me is what’s best for me, I’ll be ok either way. But, Lord, if I am allowed to ask? I would ask you for the life of my child”. At that moment of surrender I fell into peace and the next day Karen got out of bed. This is the second time God has changed the physical world for me, there will be two more times. God granted my prayers when I surrendered.
James’ due date was my fathers birthday, that day came and went uneventfully. Karen’s pregnancy had been an easy one for the last 6 months but James was getting big. The OBGYN said if he hadn’t come by the 5th of September Karen would be induced on the sixth. So come the 6th we got up at 5:00 and met the doctor at the hospital at 6:30. By 7:00 Karen’s hooked up to an IV and the drugs that will jump start her contractions is flowing. Being induced is a tough way to begin labor. Karen went from nothing at all to contractions every minute in the blink of an eye. I’ve called Sr. Grace Kenning, the Principal of St. Mary’s school in Beverly and she has the whole school praying for us. Four hours later Karen’s in full labor and has made no progress, no effacement and only 2 centimeters dilated. This could go on another ten hours. I call Sr. Grace again and I Start praying. They have Karen sitting in a chair now, I’m kneeling in front of her, she’s crying into my neck, I’m crying and praying. I’m praying to Mary, Mary mother of God help us. Mary, Mother of God, Help us. I’m on my knees asking for her to plead for me before God the Father, to bring my needs to her son. In my mind I’m told “turn around”. I turn on my knees, the room has gone dark and the only light seems to come from inside the room and there is a Presence there with us. I heard no words and I can’t describe what I saw but 40 minutes later James was born. I’m reminded of John’s Gospel chapter 2, the wedding feast at Cana where the bride & groom ran out of wine, Mary said to Jesus they are out of wine and He does not want to act, It’s not yet my time He replies but Mary simply tells the servants to do whatever He tells you to do. I brought my needs to Mary in prayer and supplication and she, through her Son Jesus came to our aid. This is the third time God has changed the physical world for me, there will be one more time. God answered my prayers when I approached Him in my need.
I’m fifty-five and I have answered a call, I’ve spent a year applying to the Seminary, my call was to the Permanent Diaconate. For many reasons I was not able to begin formation but the loss of such a beautiful dream has been hard. I’ve pulled back from everything in life turning back to my introvert self, I’m being miserable to everyone. I am blessed because I have breakfast Saturday mornings with a group of good faithful Christian men. One morning I explain to them that I don’t know where I’m going, I can’t seem to get past not being chosen to attend seminary. I tell them I need a retreat, what do you guys have. Tom Finn, who turns out to be my Cursillo Sponsor, says to me have you lived your Cursillo yet, I said what’s a Cursillo.
I’m fifty-five years old, Twenty years have passed since Mary Attended my son’s Birth. Twenty years since God last intervened in my life. It’s Friday April 3rd 2015 and this is the day that He decides to answer a prayer long held in the hollows of my heart. I have often asked to Be, to really Be who it was I born to be. My long held prayer was for God to, as it says in Psalm 51 vs 10, create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit with in me, and isn’t it curious that as I sat writing this on Tuesday march 12 that this should be the psalm at Mass on march 13th.
It’s the Friday of my Cursillo. The witness talks were taking a toll on me, stripping away all pretense I had and making me look at my life. At dinner time I was still sitting at my table, right over here, Saint Pope John Paul II table, David, one of the team members at my table is with me. Fear of the Lord, confusion, shame and worthless pride are all with me. David shows me a poster, in the bottom left hand corner are the words “He knows you by name” and my world crashes down around me. I’m ashamed not only of who I’ve been but who I am. I know Jesus loves me but I feel so far from worthy of that love. I tell David “I can’t be here” and I leave for the Chapel upstairs. On my knees in the chapel, tears in my eyes and this awful weight on my heart. Over and over I ask Him what do you want? David comes in, kneels next to me puts his left hand on my right shoulder and I can hear his whispered prayers for me. What do you want I ask again, and then I know, You want me to change. Yes, He replies and He answers my prayers for a clean heart. Right upstairs fifty feet from where we sit, I watch as God takes my heart out and sets it on the floor in front of me. I watch as black bile leaks out taking with it years of hate, anger, selfishness, pride, envy. Every dark emotion and inclination, right there for me to see. Then he picks it back up, fills it with light and puts it back. It was a moment to remember. I have failed to live up to that gift in the last four years, I have tarnished that beautiful gift of light but I’ll never forget how I felt when God answered my prayer. I opened myself and God Changed me for the world.
That was my Cursillo, I changed so that Jesus could work a miracle in me, for me. Since then I have been attending weekly reunions with a group of men, good men. We relive the lessons we have learned. I’ve found acceptance in this group. I found that we are stronger in community, stronger together.
I’ll close with a poem, one that runs through my mind many a day, It’s a work that reminds me to be grateful, to remember that God is in His Heaven and when I accept, when I surrender, when I approach Him in my need and when I open myself to Him He is there, a guiding, gentle loving hand forming and leading me.
'Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer Thought it scarcely worth his while To waste much time on the old violin, But held it up with a smile: "What am I bidden, good folks," he cried, "Who'll start the bidding for me?" "A dollar, a dollar"; then, "Two!" "Only two? Two dollars, and who'll make it three? Three dollars, once; three dollars, twice; Going for three----" But no, From the room, far back, a gray-haired man Came forward and picked up the bow; Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, And tightening the loose strings, He played a melody pure and sweet As a caroling angel sings. The music ceased, and the auctioneer, With a voice that was quiet and low, Said: "What am I bid for the old violin?" And he held it up with the bow. "A thousand dollars, and who'll make it two? Two thousand! And who'll make it three? Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, And going, and gone," said he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, "We do not quite understand What changed its worth." Swift came the reply: "The touch of a master's hand." And many a man with life out of tune, And battered and scarred with sin, Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd, Much like the old violin. A "mess of pottage," a glass of wine; A game--and he travels on. He is "going" once, and "going" twice, He's "going" and almost "gone." But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd Never can quite understand The worth of a soul and the change that's wrought By the touch of the Master's hand.
Let’s end with a song
Open the Eyes of my Heart Lord.
Open the eyes of my heart Lord, open the eyes of my heart,
I want to see you, I want to see you
To see you high and lifted up, shinning in the light of your glory,
Pour out you power and love, as we sing Holy Holy Holy.
On a Friday evening in the Fall I learned that I was not alone. The men who had come, like me to a certain place, had lived lives of suffering and like me they were learning they were not alone. Our teachers made it clear, Love brought them together. Love of One who is always faithful, Love for the least of us gathered there. They came to express the greatest gifts the world has ever known, Knowledge and Charity. We learned that although the world may not always have loved us, there is One who always has.
Please note, nothing has been changed from author's original statement. What has been shared here is exactly what he wrote.
Thank you, Brian, for allowing yourself to be so vulnerable in sharing your story and for allowing God's grace to work in your life. Thank you for sharing this beautifully touching, powerful, and heart-felt testimony! God bless you!