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The Litany of the Wounded Heart

  • GERRY KEN CRETE

The Litany of the Wounded Heart is for the person with an anxious-preoccupied style. Those with this style want approval and intimacy and often become dependent. They often worry and are prone to emotional outbursts.


LitaniesoftheHeart

The Litanies of the Heart and Attachment Theory

The Litanies of the Heart were informed, in part, by attachment theory, which is a psychological approach based on years of extensive research. This theory was first developed by John Bowlby who studied the relationship between adults and infants and identified their developmental and attachment patterns. Mary Ainsworth further developed this research and introduced the idea of a "secure base." She also identified various insecure attachment styles. Later research explored how these insecure attachment styles expressed themselves in adult relationships. Sue Johnson and Les Greenberg's emotionally focused therapy (EFT), for example, uses the principles of attachment theory in working with couples. The research of Daniel Brown and David Elliott was also influential in understanding how to repair and resolve attachment disturbances in adults.

The three original Litanies of the Heart were based on the three insecure attachment styles in attachment theory. The Litany of the Closed Heart is for the person with a dismissing-avoidant style. This type tends to be independent and has difficulty being vulnerable and sharing emotions. The Litany of the Wounded Heart is for the person with an anxious-preoccupied style. Those with this style want approval and intimacy and often become dependent. They often worry and are prone to emotional outbursts. The Litany of the Fearful Heart is for the fearful-avoidant style. Those of this type want close relationships but do not trust others. They also tend to believe they are not worthy of love. Although most people have a primary insecure attachment style, we all exhibit characteristics of all three styles at one time or another. As you pray the Litanies of the Heart, you may find that one is your preferred prayer, but you may benefit from the other two from time to time as well.

These healing litanies are rooted in a long tradition of Christian prayer, infused with established psychological science, and drawing upon my observations in working with clients and my own spiritual journey. The goal of all three Litanies of the Heart is to gently work through one's insecurities to enter a safe, loving, secure relationship with Jesus. He is the secure attachment figure par excellence.

Guidance for Praying the Litanies

You can pray the litanies on a bus, on a park bench, on a walk, on an airplane — anywhere! Jesus is happy to meet with us whenever and wherever we can make time for Him. But if you are able to be intentional about when and where you pray, here are a few suggestions that can help enhance the experience.

• Prepare a time and a place to pray.

• If you are praying with others, send them the prayers in advance or print out copies of the prayer for them to read aloud. [Printable PDF copies of the litanies are downloadable from the Souls and Hearts website, and you can stream audio versions as well.]

• Find a comfortable and private place to pray. Some of us have the luxury of a dedicated prayer space in our homes. For others, it might be a comfy chair in a corner or a spot outside under a favorite tree. It's nice to have a place away from the hustle and bustle of regular life. A church or an adoration chapel is also a great option.

• Set an icon, image, or prayer card of Jesus before you. Select an image that means something to you and helps you remember Jesus in a positive way.

• Light a candle or burn incense, or both. A candle represents the light of Christ. Incense is a sign that our prayers are ascending to Heaven. The scent can also be soothing.

• No matter what setting you have chosen, before you pray, spend a few moments taking a few deep breaths and gently inviting all your muscles to relax. This prepares your body to be receptive and relaxed.

As you are praying the litanies, you may have distracting thoughts. Sometimes the cares of the world intrude and your mind might wander. That is perfectly normal. If that happens, just notice that it happens and redirect your attention to the words of the litanies and the imagery they produce. If you are praying alone, you can even pause and repeat a line or a whole section, but it is also perfectly fine to continue from where you are when you notice the distraction.

Litanies have a repetitive component like waves of the sea. As we develop a deeper, more secure relationship with Christ, we may find meaning in revisiting the litanies many times as we allow the words of the prayers to flow into our souls.

I invite you to pray the first of the three litanies, the Litany of the Wounded Heart. In this powerful prayer, we bring all our negative thoughts and feelings to Christ, we see Him in relation to our woundedness, and we allow Him to hold us as we develop a more trusting relationship with Him.

Litany of the Wounded Heart

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Lord Jesus, You created me in love and for love. Bring me to a place of vulnerability within the safety of Your loving arms. Help me today by transforming my wounded heart into a heart that can love You, myself, and my neighbor as You intend.

Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its sufferings.
Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its doubts.
Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its hurts.
Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its fears.
Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its burdens.
Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its hope and all its lack of hope.
Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its joy and all its lack of joy.
Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its love and all its lack of love.
Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.

When I feel unseen, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel unheard, Lord, have mercy.
When I believe I'm not good enough, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel inferior, Lord, have mercy.
When I doubt my worth, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel devalued, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel exposed, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel humiliated, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel discouraged, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel lonely, Lord, have mercy.
When my feelings overwhelm me, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel I'm too much, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel unlovable, Lord, have mercy.
When I feel despair, Lord, have mercy.

Jesus, I know You love me in all my wounds; Lord, have mercy.
Jesus, consoler of my sorrow, open my heart.
Jesus, most tender, open my heart.
Jesus, my dignity, open my heart.
Jesus, my hope, open my heart.

Jesus, You created me in love; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You created me for love; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You created me to be loved; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You created my heart; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You see my heart; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You know my true heart; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You comfort my heart; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You treasure my heart; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You encourage my heart; hold me in Your arms.
Jesus, You created me as Your beloved; hold me in Your arms.

Jesus, soothe and comfort my weary heart; I trust in You.
Jesus, see my pain; I trust in You.
Jesus, dispel my despondency; I trust in You.
Jesus, hear my cries; I trust in You.
Jesus, draw close to me; I trust in You.
Jesus, calm my fears; I trust in You.
Jesus, help me see my true worth as a child of God; I trust in You.
Jesus, shine Your radiant light on me; I trust in You.
Jesus, hold me in Your loving arms; I trust in You.
Jesus, help me love with my whole heart; I trust in You.
Jesus, You created me to love and to be loved; I trust in You.
Jesus, I offer You my heart with all its love; I trust in You.

Lord, You are the healer of my soul and my heart. I ask that, through this prayer, You would transform me more and more into the likeness of Your precious and Sacred Heart. Let your kindness and compassion transform my heart and bring me always into the security of Your loving embrace.

Reflection Questions

1. Have you every shared a painful part of your story with someone you trust? What was that like, and how did you feel afterward? If you have not, what makes it hard for you to do so today? Is there someone in your life you can confide in—perhaps a friend, a pastor, a spiritual director, a coach, or a counselor?

2. Our burdens often include negative beliefs and painful emotions. Can you sense or visualize your burden as something you carry? If so, what does it feel or look like, and where do you carry it on your body?

3. How do you imagine that Jesus views your burden?

4. Alexandre carried shame for sins done to him. Reflect on times when you have felt shame for the ways others have unfairly treated you. Do you carry any burden of shame that is not properly your own? How would you like to release this burden? Examples might include bringing it to the Cross, releasing it into the air, or tossing it into the sea.

Read part one and part two.

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Acknowledgement

GerryKenCreteGerry Ken Crete, PhD. "The Litany of the Wounded Heart," Chapter 2 from Litanies of the Heart: Relieving Post-Traumatic Stress and Calming Anxiety Through Healing Our Parts. Sophia Institute Press (2023).

Reprinted with permission from Sophia Institute Press.

The Author

Copyright © 2023 Sophia Institute Press
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