Monday, March 21, 2011

Finding healing through our own wounds

One of the most enlightened titles of spiritual books that I have come across is The Wounded Healer by the late Henri Nouwen. It is a book primarily to encourage ministers to not negate their wounds, but to identify them so that it forms a compassionate starting point for ministry.

But most of us who do minister to the wounded tend to not want to do this. It comes from a (misunderstood) standpoint where we as ministers or priests have all the answers, hold all the positions of security, and think that it is ours to lead all the time. To be sure, there is a very necessary role for the minister tending to the wounded of their flock to be a leader and to show direction. But it is certainly not a truism that the perfect minister is the one who has no inner wounds, and is perfect before he can help others find their footing in life.

Perhaps it is something in our misunderstood or under-understood male psychology that prefers not to identify our own individual weakness and wounds. “I’m fine” is a very common response to an injury that one encounters in the game called life. And falsely, many of us do think that it requires the stoic and perfected counselor or spiritual director to lead one from woundedness to wholeness. I say that it is false, because there are no perfect counselors.

The most common way to deal with our woundedness is to deny it is there. Many people can go through life in denial. Of course, the talk-show mentality has surfaced in the past decade or so, where the other end of the wounded spectrum is seen. What I am referring to is the phenomenon where people with a wounded past almost take delight in doing some form of public exposition of their wounded past in front of millions of television viewers, thinking that this will somehow set things right. Certainly, mixed in there somewhere can be detected the person’s proverbial desire of five minutes of fame, but a healing hardly results, ending up with greater wounds than one began with.

What is required by everyone - counselor, counselee, minister and leader, is the sacred handling of these wounds. When carefully handled and with the proper salve given through loving and prayerful and charitable friendships and support systems, the very wounds that one had tried to deny and escape from can in fact become the very platforms that makes one a credible co-sojourner in life.
It brings to mind a quotation often attributed to French philosopher Albert Camus - Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

The perfect minister is myth. I believe that that is a myth because even Our Lord Jesus, the healer of all healers needed to be wounded before the world was healed of its own wounds. What we do need is great humility to see this in ourselves, and to allow ourselves to see the world through our own wounds.


  1. Hi Fr Luke,
    Thank you, the quote by the French Philosopher Albert Camus is enlightening.If God walks with us as a friend,how much more we should walk with our brothers and sisters as true friends.I pray God will grant us this Grace.

  2. i love that quote and this one " The glory of God is the man fully alive" so why is the world so full of people who seek to crush the bruised reed.In psalm 19 all of creation effortlessly gives glory to God....why does man so often fail. - Cesca

  3. Dear Fr.Luke,
    That's an interesting point you made about Jesus (being wounded) at the end.

    I've always felt that Our Lord can empathise more fully with us in our daily struggles since He Himself was like us in all ways (except sin of course). He who is Love itself was tempted, too - and so we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus, just like any one of us, has walked a mile in our shoes.

  4. Dearest Fr Luke,

    I remembered reading an article in Catholic News many years (decades) ago, relating about a Catholic nun who was raped.She was quoted in the article saying she had forgiven those who harmed her and she understood why God had allowed this to happen to her - as she can now relate better to her community of abused women.

    This article was deeply etched in my memory,even after so many years. When I first read it, I simply cannot comprehend why and how she could find in her heart to see this as a blessing.

    It is only recent years when I myself took on the role as a teacher and counselor that I am able to have a glimpse of what the nun had embraced.

    Quoting you - "What we do need is great humility to see this in ourselves, and to allow ourselves to see the world through our own wounds."

    The good teacher is after all the one who demostrates, and not merely tells.

    Please allow me to share a prayer that had brought me much comfort whenever I am feeling wounded/broken and inadequate. I hope it can bring the same graces and peace to all.

    Prayer for Emotional Healing

    Loving Father, I come before you with faith in your promise that whatever I ask for in your name you will grant to me if it is for the good of my soul and in accordance to your Divine Will. I come trusting in your great love for me and believing that only you know what is best for me. I come to you now to ask you to enter my heart and heal all my wounded emotions. For you know me better than I know myself.

    Bring your healing love into every corner of my heart and release all the buried negative emotions inside that has not been resolved and continued to cause me pain and anguish. Remove all my unhealed hurts and painful memories that block the flow of your graces, robbing me of your peace, love and joy.

    Heal all feelings of sadness, loneliness, fear and anxiety. Heal all guilt, despair, feelings of betrayal and rejection.

    Heal all feelings of anger, hatred, resentment and bitterness. Bring your healing love to all my emotions that have caused me feelings of hopelessness, discouragement, helplessness and despair.

    Grant me the grace to forgive all those who caused these negative emotions and likewise to be forgiven by those to whom I have done the same harm.

    O Lord, give me a repentant heart, forgive me for my sins and failures, be merciful to me. Help me to realise the blessings that resulted from each painful experience and how this has led me closer to you.
    As you release form me all these painful emotions, fill all the empty spaces with your love, your peace, your joy and the powerful presence of your Holy Spirit.

    After I have been healed, may my life be a witness to your power and glory and may I reach out to others, too. All these I pray in Jesus’ name with Mary and all the angels and saints. Amen.

    Thank You Fr. Luke. God be with you always.