Healing Humanity

One of my favourite websites is On Being and there are two programmes I'm posting today; one new and one old.  

The new one is on Rachel Naomi Preven, an author and Medical Director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program, and Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

Over the past 22 years, she has been advancing a powerfully subversive addition to the medical curriculum, a course called The Healer’s Art. The Healer's Art curriculum is taught in more than half of US Medical Schools and seven other countries. It is an attempt to "anchor a cultural shift in medicine."

You can read more about her work in this recent article in the New York Times here

What strikes me too is how some of Preven's work on the crisis in the healthcare system can be applied to a Catholic church ( and others !), which suffers from a similar malaise of burnout in clergy, and other problems that Pope Francis is well aware of and is trying to deal with, by healing and repairing the wounded "culture." of the church.

 Preven's work also links to the use of Balint groups in medicine and these in turn have similarities to Ignatian spirituality and ongoing spiritual formation, and are being used in some dioceses in the UK, in adult lay education, and for clergy/religious orders and religious formation/spiritual direction programmes, pastoral training/counselling, support programmes and retreats.

I find a parallel with the words Pope Francis used in his blockbuster interview "A Big Heart Open To God", here, when he said  “I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else."

Preven's words below apply not only to the problems facing physicians and those in the caring and healing professions but for any one trying to live a life of Gospel values...

“The greatest of all stresses does not come from a lack of sleep or time,” Remen observes. “It comes from believing deeply in one set of values and finding that you are trapped into living by another set.”

In this On Being programme called "Listening Generously," she talks about her own lifelong struggle with chronic illness and how it has shaped her practice of medicine. She talks about the art of listening to patients and other physicians, the difference between curing and healing, and how our losses help us to live.

Here's one extract I found powerful....  and there are plenty more gems to discover.

" I think perfection is the booby prize in life, actually. It's very isolating, very separating, and it's also impossible to achieve. So you're always struggling to become something you're not. But, you know, this is one of the great — it sounds funny. I was going to say the great joys of working with people on the edge of life. The view from the edge of life is so much clearer than the view that most of us have, that what seems to be important is much more simple and accessible for everybody, which is who you've touched on your way through life, who's touched you. What you're leaving behind you in the hearts and minds of other people is far more important than whatever wealth you may have accumulated."

I first heard of Christian Wiman back in February 2012 and posted on him here and again in July of this year here, and I find myself returning to his wonderful writing again in this month of October, when the bright light and sounds of summer have definitely gone and we move our way to the end of October and the month of November, a remembrance month for the deceased.

It's a time of year that has its very own spiritual signature, what with it being a month of all saints and all souls ! 

Every Riven Thing

God goes, belonging to every riven thing He's made
Sing his being simply by being
The thing it is:
Stone and tree and sky,
Man who sees and sings and wonders why
God goes. Belonging, to every riven thing He's made,
Means a storm of peace.
Think of the atoms inside the stone.
Think of the man who sits alone
Trying to will himself into the stillness where
God goes belonging. To every riven thing He's made
There is given one shade
Shaped exactly to the thing itself:
Under the tree a darker tree;
Under the man the only man to see
God goes belonging to every riven thing. He's made
The things that bring Him near,
Made the mind that makes Him go.
A part of what man knows,
Apart from what man knows,
God goes belonging to every riven thing He's made.
Christian Wiman 

You can listen to Christian Wiman reading his poem here.
The special PBS programme called
A Call to Doubt and Faith: Christian Wiman on Remembering God

As we enter into the last two weeks of a month that belongs to St Francis and his namesake Pope Francis too, now, I found these two songs which seem to fit well with the themes of this post.

Saint Francis walking on the water
All his lambs have gone to slaughter
All the creatures who receive his grace
You can see them all
In his haggard face

Saint Francis begging at your doorway
You want to let him in but what will the neighbours say
You know you can’t go on but you can’t give up
And he answers you
With his begging cup

Saint Francis sitting at your table
A cup of tea among the faithful
Behind a wall that’s made of little lies
Much to your surprise
You start to cry

By these wounds you will be whole again
By these signs you will know
You’ll feel a stirring in your soul again
‘Til sweet amnesia takes a hold

Saint Francis sleeping in the meadow
His halo is a raven’s shadow
He’s been sleeping for 800 years
In a potter’s field
Full of sparrow’s tears

And while we sleep and dream of heaven’s gates
Down here on earth
The old man waits

Yo Yo Ma and James Taylor
Hard Times Come Again No More

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