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Pastoral Care Week

on October 23, 2012

Today I am reposting an entry I made for my hospice organization’s blog. This entry was based on a previous post I made on this blog, “Lessons in Healing Spiritual Pain: What Really Hurts,” which you can read in its entirety here.

During the week of October 21-27, we celebrate the work of chaplains and other spiritual care providers. This year, the theme of Pastoral Care Week is “Giving Voice.” Here is what is symbolized by the Giving Voice logo: “Giving voice is like a drop of rain that nurtures the earth, quenching thirst, and giving new birth to a voice that has been silenced. We listen to what is within, to the diversity of voices we hear, and assist in the weaving of voices in the teams we serve. The bird symbolizes new heights and new places to which our voices may soar.” (PastoralCareWeek.org)

When someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness, many questions find themselves bubbling to the surface: “Has my life mattered? Will I be remembered? Am I worthy of love and forgiveness? Have I done enough? Have I loved well? Will I find peace?” It is possible to conjecture that these questions have always been there, under the surface, to be dealt with at a later time or place. Spiritual pain can often be masked by roles or identities we wear, busy schedules, and prizes we collect along the way. When a terminal illness occurs, however, the masks are gradually stripped away as our usual distractions are no longer viable. What remains is our very core, the longings of our heart, and the essence of our soul.

Life threatening illnesses come uninvited, obtrusively into our lives. They are not warranted or deserved. But if we stop to listen, spiritual crises such as terminal illnesses can also be great teachers. They show us what is important to us and what needs to be healed in our spirits. They give us the opportunity to name needs formerly silenced, to offer and receive forgiveness formerly withheld, and to express gratitude and love formerly taken for granted.

Chaplains assist patients and families in giving voice to their concerns and expressions of meaning, and may also help families voice questions and concerns to God. Spiritual healing may occur even when physical cure is not possible. When patients and families feel heard they may find spiritual healing to be more powerful than they can express in words.

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