'Just When I Needed Prayer the Most,
It Eluded Me.'
When Roman Catholic Sister Elizabeth Thoman, CHM, started chemotherapy for breast cancer in 2004, she expected many of its inconveniences and side effects. “I was prepared to lose my energy, my appetite, even my hair. But no one warned me about how hard it would be to pray.”
Pray with words, that is.
“Cancer treatment takes all the stuffing out of you. Words jumble together; you have no energy; concentration is impossible. Just when I needed prayer the most, it eluded me.”
An ‘a-ha’ moment
One day she opened a book of photographs of nature. “I felt my heart open and a rush of love came forth for the Creator of such beauty.” She realized then that words and prayer books are not the only path to prayer. Images can call us to prayer, too.
A long time religious feminist, Elizabeth also believes that women, especially, need alternative ways to pray that transcend the wordy left brain spiritual practices learned in Sunday school or catechism class
“I discovered myself that quiet gazing on an image of beauty that inspires wonder and touches the soul, can calm us of the stress and anxiety, the pain and near-despair that overwhelms us when we are physically ill or spiritually out of balance. Once relaxed, our hearts can speak in wordless awe and praise. Prayer from the heart is possible again.”
Inspired to create her own images, as her strength returned Elizabeth picked up an unused digital camera for the first time and went to her backyard garden. When friends saw the results, Healing Petals was born.
Power of images
Now clear of cancer, Elizabeth continues to be deeply committed to the power and potential of images to inspire prayer and reflection, especially among those who are sick, in prison or caught in emotional turmoil.
To assist the reflection process, she designed a small flyer, “A Path to Prayer When You are Ill,” with thoughtful questions to use individually or with others. Download your own copy here.
“But we don’t have to wait until we get cancer to discover how important it is, how healing it is to be in heart-to-heart conversation with the One who is God for you. We’re all in need of healing at many points in our lives. I hope Healing Petals can be a useful tool for you -- and those you love."