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The Message
Evansville, Indiana
May 13, 1988     The Message
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May 13, 1988
 

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................. .. r - 2 F-,th Today Suppk..e.t. The Memge, moa.,e of Evan.vm00 13.1988 From brokenness to wholeness By Jane Wolford Hughes NC News Service he grown-ups were suspended in a hush like actors who forgot their lines that day long ago when my grand- father was anointed. He died soon after the priest left and the grown- ups said it was good they hadn't waited to call him. I was 5 then, but I can still re- member the discussions which took place about the "last rites" and how my relatives didn't want to frighten Grandpa. I got the idea that what- ever the priest did in that bedroom opened the window to death. My mother explained that the priest prepared Papa to meet God. My young, literal mind imagined a formal introduction of God and Grandpa and I wondered whether or not they would shake hands. As I grew older other experiences with the sacrament of extreme unc- tion only added to the first impres- sion that the hour of death was the time for a last ditch effort to "clean up your act." Then the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council returned the sacrament to the scriptural con- cept of healing. Today it is-called the anointing of the sick and is a part of ministry to the sick. Five years ago, prior to a serious operation, I received the sacrament of the sick. I was not in danger of death, but fear crouched on the edge of nay consciousness. I did not speak of it because I didn't want my fear to infect those dearest to me. I smiled as I bustled about get- ting things in order. One day I thought, "You're a pretty good actress, but the Lord doesn't hand out Academy Awards. Don't be phony with him." I went to see my pastor. As he anointed my forehead and hands a sense of peace replaced the fear. I felt something of Christ's com- fort for the hopeless, the frightened and the lonely. I received a new perspective on my life with its fragility and strengths. After the operation, the chaplain brought several people to my room who were combating a similar fear. We talked and prayed together. Since then my empathy with those ill in body or spirit has become an active part of my ministry. I often think how much more health-giving the sacrament of the sick is today. Another person who discovered the healing power of the sacrament is a man named Bill. He had successful heart surgery, but his recuperation was a period of dark shadows. "I began to hate my body for its unceasing demand for rest-'and my preoccupation with its functioning," he said. "It was a struggle to talk to my family and friends and some- times I didn't bother." He also found it difficult to pray. tie felt as if "God had found anoth- er sanctuary. I was so filled with myself, there was no room for him." After a while, his son Tom sug- gested that he see the parish priest. Understanding Bill's depression, the priest explained that Bill's body was working itself back to health but his spirit was not. The priest suggested the sacrament of the sick. "The purpose of the sacrament is to restore the wholeness of the per- son," the priest said. Bill agreed and his family and closest friends came to pray with him and the priest. "It was like one of the children's baptisms -- a time of celebration and a consciousness of the relationship of our humanity with the passion, death and resur- rection of Christ," Bill said. Two years later, Bill helps the priest with others who are living through similar experiences and also at parish communal rites for the sick. "I'm proof that God mends all kinds of brokenness," Bill said. (Mrs. Hughes is a religious educa- tion consultant and a free-lance writer.) The sacraments' radical reach By Father John Castelot NC News Service C onflict was the order of the day in the Roman Empire in the first cen- tury, especially in the large urban centers. The whole economic system depended on the institution of slavery. But slaves hated their owners and slaveowners lived in constant fear of rebellion and violence. Different ethnic groups were at each others' throats. Mutual hatred and scorn divided Jews and gentiles. The battle of the sexes was inten- sified by social structures which kept women in a state of subser- vience to men. There were notable exceptions to those conditions, notable precisely because they were exceptions. The father ruled the family and obedience was expected from all. Even when men treated wives and children with love and considera- tion, it was understood clearly that the men held all the cards. It is only against this background of alienation that one can appreciate how truly revolutionary St. Paul's Christian manifesto must have sounded: "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:27-28). The sacramental life of the early Christians was, quite simply, their entire life. The sacraments were signs pointing to the reality of radically different attitudes and lifestyles. By definition, sacraments are signs. But a sign that indicates nothing just takes up space. The Christians' changed attitudes and lifestyles were rooted in a much deeper reality, the reality of what they had become as people. Baptism was an Incorporation in- to Christ in two senses: It brought about union with the risen Lord and it initiated one into the Chris- tlan community, Christ incarnate in history. As St. Paul phrases it, Christians are baptized into Christ, indicating the beginning of a new relationship, a vital, active relationship. And It has very practical results. The baptized clothed themselves with Christ and put on his attitudes and his outlook, not just as temporary apparel like evening wear for a party but as everyday work and play clothes. If all became "one person in Jesus Christ," then all the old tensions, divisions, conflicts ceased to be. Ethnic differences, sociological distinctions, even differences of gender made no practical difference. They were no longer the basis for domination or elitism. It must have been quite a spec- tacle to see all those antagonistic groups joined together in one vital, organic community, living together, loving and helping each other with both moral and material support. Non-Christians could only marvel. Moreover, all parties actually sat down and ate together. The Eucharist was the supreme sign, the effective sacrament of their oneness in Christ and with each other. In the ancient world, only people of the same social class ate together. For a Jew to eat with a gentile was unthinkable; a citizen would not dream of sitting at the same table with a slave, and even in worship women sat separate from men. Bringing everyone together was the remarkable power of the Chris- tian sacramental life. Paul put it this way: "Because the loaf of bread is one we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf" (1 Corinthians 10:17). (Father Castelot ts a professor of Scripture at St. John's Seminary, Plymouth, Mich.) Attitude adjusters By Katharine Bird NC News Service T he lad had difficult)* growing up. His parents were divorced when hc was about 6 and he moved to Australia with his mother. During his high school years he returned to the United States to live with his fatheo a suc- cessful attorney who is legality blind. The boy became his father's eyes at home, driving his father around and doing the shopping. In time, the teen-ager became resentful of his many responsibilities. But he felt it was inappropriate to rebel against his handicapped father. When he began to leave school at noon each day, his father insisted that he see clinical psychologist Dr. Victoria Dickerson. She is in private practice in Los Gatos, Calif. At the initial session the lad com- plained that "life was really ful," Ms. Dickerson said. He was bored . and depressed and uncaring. Ms. Dickerson was careful in responding to the 17-year-old. "I didn't tell him he was wrong and shouldn't be depressed," she said. Instead she tried to show the lad that she accepted him as he was a.nd respected his feelings. Later, she "gently confronted the boy's state of mind about the. world." She encouraged him io see that "life can be fun" and to take an interest in something outside himself. Gradually the lad's attitude altered. He became "more caring and availa- ble as a person to others," Ms. Dickerson said. He also developed a new passion, for fixing old cars and selling them for a dandy profit. Ms. Dickerson talks a lot about at- titudes and how they are shaped with clients and with graduate students at Santa Clara University, a private school run by the Jesuits. She often quotes from psycholo- gist Victor Franckl who was im- prisoned in a concentration camp during World War II. In "Man's Search for Meaning," Franckl points out that even when people_ are stripped of everything, they still have some control; they can control their attitude about their situation, Ms. Dickerson said. Attitudes are important, she arid- ed, because they affect how people see the world and how they relate with others. Attitudes affect how people develop their sense of self and their sense of self-esteem. Asked how faith affects people's attitudes, Ms. Dickerson said that in her experience as a psychologist, people with religious faith have a "necessary ingredient for understan- ding the world and themselves." Father Lawrence Mick talks about I I l Jr