Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Carolee Gifford

3/8/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

How a Catholic chaplain uses Jesus' encounter with the woman at Sychar to empower her patients -- and herself

"Why do you think Jesus went to her?"

Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman.

Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman.

Highlights

By Carolee Gifford

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

3/8/2012 (2 years ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

Keywords: mental illness, depression, God's love, chaplain, psychiatric treatment


The strains of the famous  song from "Lilies of the Field" filled my ears once more,     "AAAmen! AAAmen! AAAmen! Amen! Amen!" It ended almost every one of my spirituality groups. Hands clapped and voices were raised - a bit of joy. The group was over and my patients were slowly making their way back to their rooms.

My groups were a bit different than the rest of those offered.  Mine were totally voluntary. I rejected offers from well meaning mental health aides and nurses to coerce their charges into attending. You cannot force God's love on people.  They have to want to hear it, feel it. 

We began with a simple prayer, inviting God to our group.  A prayer that our hearts be open to receive his love, some scripture, a little reflection, personal intentions, the Our Father and then that wonderful "Amen."


That formula varied little - if I had a Jewish patient we'd use the Old Testament and skip the Our Father. 


Once again I had used one of my favorite scriptures, John 4:1-42 - the story of the Woman at the Well.  Theologians offer up sophisticated explanations of the very long reading. My message could not have been more simple, some might say crude. 


"Why do you think Jesus went to her?" I asked.  My patients shook their heads, almost all of them in sad, slow motion.  Sadness that was a result of  depression, psych meds, and a life of being ostracized by a society that doesn't understand mental illness.


"He could have strolled into that town and met with the president of the Sychar PTA," I continued.                   


"But no, he went to that woman.  The woman who had been around the block one too many times, a loose woman."


"Why?" I challenged. 


"To let us know that no matter what we've done, no matter who we've slept with, no matter how broken we are, Jesus will use us to spread his news!  The news that we're loved, that he knows our sins and still loves us."


That reading has been part of my scriptural toolkit for many years. It has resonated consistently.  The beautiful faces in front of me would smile and nod.  This was truth to them.


And to me.  I am that woman.  My friends and family know I want that reading, that affirming story, read at my funeral.


Just as my patients heard in that scripture, the hope that even in their weakness they are precious, I also have heard that acclamation.  I have sought to spread God's good news, even in my brokenness.


My life is full of mistakes made, sins committed.  Telling my patients of God's love for them just as they are - broken and less than perfect - demanded a personal response from me.  I also had to look at myself differently, not through the world's eyes, but God's.  I was his daughter and he loved me.


Amen!

   
. 

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for January 2015
General Intention:
That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.
Missionary Intention: That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.



Comments


More Marriage & Family

Heartwarming footage of selfless man risking his own life to save a stranded dog restores faith in humanity Watch

Image of Hearts stop as the fate of the dog and rescuer become unclear. Will they make it back up the bridge?

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Stranded on a small island on a Nisava River in Serbia, a helpless dog hides in dead bushes accepting his fate. A group of caring friends notice the dog, and set up a mission to rescue the abandoned dog. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "On my way home I met a few ... continue reading


Caught on tape: Hilarious standoff between father and toddler daughter goes viral Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Parenting a toddler can be quite a difficult task. They're stubborn, sassy and are developing a personality of their own. Gareth Roe, an Irish father, knows firsthand how complicated toddlers can be after experiencing a humorous argument with his 15-month-old daughter, ... continue reading


Undeniably cute rendition of classic children's song is sure to put a smile on your face Watch

Image of Josie sings an adorable song to her father.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In the midst of war, terror and disease, it's important to take the time to smile and remember that some of the world is good. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - An adorable toddler melts hearts with her spunky rendition of classic children's song "Old McDonald." ... continue reading


Mother of quadruplets tragically dies without ever seeing her four miracles Watch

Image of Erica Morales, 36-years-old, tragically passed away hours after giving birth to quadruplets.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Just hours after giving birth to quadruplets, Arizona mother, Erica Morales, died. "She never got to hold them, she never got to see them," cried Morales' cousin, Nicole Todman to Fox10. "It is so hard to know she fought so hard for her children. She will never get to ... continue reading


Archbishop of San Francisco warns of coming war on marriage Watch

Image of The Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, warned of a growing war on the

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

On January 16, the Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, warned of a growing war on the "essential meaning of marriage," as defining "a bond which unites a man and a woman to each other and to any children who come from their union." LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


One... two... three babies?! New mother gets shocking surprise in ultrasound Watch

Image of Boe, Mika and Hope love to cuddle. (Magic Moments SWNS.com)

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Imagine hoping for one child, and being told you're pregnant with triplets; this was the case for British mother of now four, Melanie Thornton. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Melanie had a happy life with just her 13-year-old daughter and husband. Her husband, ... continue reading


Do you know what your kids are putting online? Here are 30 text acronyms that your teen DOES NOT WANT YOU TO KNOW Watch

Image of Teens have an entire code for keeping parents clueless about their activities.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In this new age of easy, fast and discrete communication the English language has rapidly evolved in a way that may leave many older people at a loss. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Acronyms rule the digital airwaves, being all important in the world of ... continue reading


14 years later: Extreme and horrific child abuse victim, Lauren Kavanaugh, thrives Watch

Image of Lauren Kavanaugh, now 21-years-old, attends college and plans on becoming a counselor to help those going through similar situations as hers.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Routinely raped and tortured, Lauren Kavanaugh was forced to live in a 4ft by 9ft closet for five years of her life until she was rescued in 2001. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Now 21-years-old, Lauren lives the "normal" life of a college student aspiring to make ... continue reading


Should marriage be defined by the legal system? The Supreme Court may aim to change the textbook definition of marriage Watch

Image of The U.S. Supreme Court may decide on same-sex marriage, as early as June of this year.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What is the definitive definition of marriage? Is it only a union before God between men and women, or is it extended to same-sex couples as well? This is a question that may be legally decided by the Supreme Court, which is set to decide soon if it will take up ... continue reading


The Reality of Marriage: The Lifelong Union of One Man and One Woman Watch

Image of

By Deacon Frederick K. Bartels

Marriage is a unique reality. There is no possibility of redefining it, shaping it in a new and essentially different way, or altering its nature, since marriage is authored by God and woven into the fabric of human life. The reality of marriage is the permanent union ... continue reading


All Marriage & Family News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Hebrews 10:32-39
32 Remember the great challenge of the sufferings ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 37:3-4, 5-6, 23-24, 39-40
3 Put your trust in Yahweh and do right, make your ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 4:26-34
26 He also said, 'This is what the kingdom of God is ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for January 30th, 2015 Image

St. Aldegunais
January 30: Virgin and abess, also known as Adelgundis, Aldegonde, or ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter