Saturday, January 13, 2007

Let's pray together now - the Lord wants us to do it.

You may never have seen it or not even know about it, but the Lakeshore General Hospital has an interfaith chapel that was inaugurated this past year 2006. Its benches hold 20 to 30 people and there is an altar. At the back there is a section for praying without shoes made especially for Muslims or for anyone wanting to pray without shoes.

Next week all over the world Christians will begin observing the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, while in Canada and other countries Christians will observe the week with two weekends bookending January 25, the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The Pastoral Services Team of the Lakeshore General Hospital has just sent out today to dozens of Religious leaders in the West Island and beyond an invitation to offer a prayer and worship service on one of the days from January 18 to 25 inclusive. Councils of churches worldwide have prepared the materials for prayer and worship gathering together Christians of all denominations throughout the week. Non-Christians are also welcome to attend these services, as it is in their interest that Christians become more united; as this will enhance peace among people and nations.

We've also invited these religious leaders to offer a prayer and worship service on one of the days during the week leading up to the World Day of the Sick on February 11, which would be on any of the days from February 3 to the 11. The purpose of this day - and we thought that a week would allow more people to participate and benefit the hospital population - is to affirm and raise the dignity of those who are sick, to commend those who care for and attend them, and to encourage their family and friends. Read Pope Benedict's message (another version) on the occasion of this 15th World Day of the Sick.

Naturally, people of all faiths and spiritual values are welcome to participate in these manifestations of solidarity, support, and prayer. As religious leaders respond to this invitation and offer to lead prayer and worship services on particular days and at specific times, we will draw up a calendar and begin to publicize it as soon as we can. You will find it on this blog as soon as it is ready.

With time we hope to better prepare such weeks and events, but since Fr. Michael Tauro and I are only part-time, we prefer to spend most of our time visiting patients. Exceptionally, I have spent two days setting up an email list of religious leaders and sending out our invitation to them. If you go to this link you will see that full time chaplains who have been at work for some time have prepared wonderful resources (more resources) to enhance our care for the sick and their care givers.

Feel free to let other people know about these events and to make use of this blog entry to help you pass on this information.

"He even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak"
(Mark 7: 31-37) is the theme of the 2007 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. An annual event, the Week of Prayer is a significant time during which churches around the world express their longing for and commitment to Christian unity. You will find this and other texts at the World Council of Churches website.

If it's been a while since you gathered with Christians of other denominations to pray, chat, share or collaborate on a common project, why not talk it up with friends and consider coming together to participate in a little prayer and worship service during one or both of these two weeks, for the benefit of the patients and their families at the hospital, as well as the medical and support staff and administration, not to mention all those who come in for ambulatory care.

Prayer for others is a powerful instrument for good because it is motivated by love and taps into the very heart of the Blessed Trinity, source of all life and being. Contact your pastor and ask whether they intend to participate or even offer to lead a prayer and worship service and maybe you can offer to help or assist them.

Whatever you are able and choose to do, may the blessing of Almighty God fill you and rest upon you and your families, Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit, now and always and forever and ever.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What is the difference between denial and shock?

This question arises from conversations I have recently had with folk both in the parish and at the hospital. I have had my own experience of both shock and denial, and you may be surprised by what you will read me write about them.

Denial - especially the kind related to illness and death, but other kinds too - is often if not usually spoken of as something negative that just cannot be avoided and that we should get out of as quickly as possible so we can get on to the good part, the healing, and move on. The fact is that in nature many things are as they are for a good or several good reasons.

Denial is somewhat related to shock, and it will be helpful to have a better appreciation of what denial is all about if we look at shock first. The shock I want to examine here is that physical state we go into that shuts down our feelings when there is trauma and the feelings are too overwhelming and could actually kill us. Shock allows us to go on for a while and as we go along in the process of the aftermath following our traumatic experience, we try as well as we can to carry on with life and as we do so begin to want to relate to others again, and we slowly begin looking at the experience, just fleeting glances at first.

Then, as we are able, our organism senses this and thaws out the tangle of emotions connected to the shock but only a little bit at a time, and so this emotional flood comes over us in waves, just to give us a taste or glimpse at first, then shuts down again. Something triggers these waves of emotions, we taste them more intensely and deeply each time, and they shut down again so we don't get damaged by the sheer power of them. This process accelerates and intensifies as our organism senses we're up to it. Faith in God, hope in his grace, and love lubricate this process incredibly.

Denial is like shock but different. Whereas shock shuts down our affectivity, denial shuts down our will, our willingness to look at, think about, admit, imagine, remember, visualize or even acknowledge the source of our pain, the traumatic event itself. The purpose is similar - our own protection and self preservation - and it enables us to go on functioning until we have enough energy, stamina, and vitality to begin looking at the awful truth.

When we consider then that both denial and shock, and other mechanisms like them, are really gifts from God, woven into the fabric of our being, to help us cope with the powerful events of life, then we can look at them and approach them with more reverence and appreciation for what they are designed to give us and allow us to do. Everything that is written or said about both of these by way of warnings applies to the danger of remaining in these states longer than we need to, as a kind of unhealthy appetite for the anesthetic effect, much in the same way one can develop a dependence or appetite for excessive alcohol or drugs.

There is great wisdom in the Jewish Scriptures that is applicable here:

"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. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace." Ecclesiastes (Qoheleth) 3:1-8.

“Were not our hearts burning within us as He talked to us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32

«Notre cœur n’était-il pas tout brûlant au-dedans de nous, quant Il nous parlait en chemin, quand Il nous ouvrait les Écritures?» Luc 24 :32

l’abbé / Fr. Gilles A. Surprenant

Monday, January 08, 2007

15th Day of Christmas - the Baptism of the Lord

What's that? Christmas is over, you say? All the lights are being put out, the decorations are for the most part gone, and other "commercial seasons" are beginning to clamour for our attention? Well, let them go fly a kite! They're not getting my attention, which I am carefully and jealously guarding for what and who really matters....

Since the time of the first Christians, they needed and loved to extend the festivals that grew around his passion, death, and resurrection, and subsequent ascension into heaven and sending of the Holy Spirit.... 50 days in fact! Even that wasn't enough, and they gave themselves another 40 days to prepare for that holiest of weeks between Passion/Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.

They did the same thing to properly remember, ponder, and celebrate the Lord's incarnation and birth, taking 30 to 40 days before Christmas - if we mark the time from the 33rd Sunday and the last Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Solemnity of Christ the King, which focus our attention of the "final things" and second coming of Christ in glory as judge of the nations - to get off the merrygoround of the world to give proper attention to the significance of the presence of God among us in the human flesh of Jesus of Nazareth.

The Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas" marked the high season of Christmas from the Day of the Nativity through New Year's Day marking the maternity of Mary, Mother of God (since Jesus although fully human was truly God, the divine Son of the Father, existing from all eternity with the Father) to the Solemnity of the Epiphany, the manifestation or the revelation of Jesus as Son of God and Saviour of humanity to the nations in the persons of the three Magi from the East.

The pressure from society at large and the secular culture to get on with the business of profit and pleasure is so great that only the devout and determined manage to maintain the ancient tradition of keeping festival of the Lord's birth not just for 12 but for 40 days, til February 2nd, the Presentation of the Lord, also known as Candlemas, when candles are used in procession to gather around the manger to acclaim, worship, and praise Jesus as the Light of the Nations.

Merry Christmas Season! Happy, Healthy, and Holy New Year 2007!!!! Fr. Gilles