Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Pope Francis

Habemus Papam!  The new pope is Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, a 76 yr. old Jesuit from Argentina.  He is a quiet humble man who lived a simple life even as Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  Although he recieved the second largest number of votes when Pope Benedict was elected in 2005, he was only ranked 30 to 1 in the odds going into this conclave.  The Holy Spirit surprised us all with a lover of St. Francis who is not a Franciscan, but a Jesuit.  The first Jesuit pope.  The first American pope.  The first Pope Francis.  The new pope believes in working for justice and peace by changing the structures that cause oppression.  He is quoted as saying, "Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities." What a great choice! Deo gratia.      

A Franciscan Pope?

If the Cardinals are unable to decide between an Italian insider or an African with youth appeal, what about the American choices?  Wouldn't it be something to have an Irish American Franciscan named Patrick just in time for St. Patrick's Day?  Cardinal Sean Patrick O'Malley!  What a joy that would be to see!! 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cardinal Angelo Scola

Cardinal Scola is the papal contender most favored by the Italians, and the Italian Cardinals are in the majority.  This may be the last papal election in which the Italians do have a majority.  I think there is a high likelihood that an Italian will win this time although my own favorites are Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal O'Malley and Cardinal Turkson.  That said, I would be very surprised if an American wins this time around, but I do think the top contender from Africa, Cardinal Turkson stands a decent chance.  If the next Pope is going to be an Italian, then Cardinal Scola is a good choice.  Many say that he is well positioned to shake up the powerful Vatican bureaucracy and would be a reformer in favor of a complete overhaul of the Vatican bureaucracy.  Although he is 71, he has displayed a natural talent for connecting with the youth.  Last month he quoted a passage from Jack Kerouac asking his audience to think about whether they "we are going to get somewhere, or just going." He has the future in mind and an idea of what needs to change for that to happen. He has gained support by those who want to overhaul the Church so that it can be more in touch with important political issues of our times, more responsive to the people and more efficient and transparent in its management of resources.  We won't know who has the most support from the cardinals until they emerge from the conclave, Cardinal Scola was widely regarded as the front-runner when they were locked in for the vote.  

Cardinal Peter Turkson

Cardinal Turkson would be a good choice for Pope.  He is more centrist than many of the other choices and Africa is an area where the Catholic Church is growing right now.  He is young enough to understand the youth of the Church, to set a vision for the future and see it through.  The Church needs to call upon young leaders who have a mind and energy for the future.  Pope Benedict set a good example by retiring when it was time to do so and I hope the Cardinals who are voting will trust that the Holy Spirit has provided younger leaders to move the Church forward.  Cardinal Turkson said he had reflected on the enormous personal burden of becoming the leader of the Catholic Church. "It would certainly mean a lot if I had to be a pope," he said. "It would signal a lot of [personal] change. It is going to be a life-changing experience and I think that is what it has been for Benedict and those who have gone before us. The challenge will also be with the individual to want to make his mark, not trying to fit into anybody's shoes but finding his own shoes to wear."  I read this to mean that Cardinal Turkson would be his own man and a true leader.  He also said the Vatican needs to "restore and repair" an image that has been "badly compromised by recent scandals, and to relevantly address issues and the credibility of our own ministry and leadership. The Church, if you adopt the imagery of a boat, is going through quite a bit of a storm and it does not appear to be over yet," he said. He sees the challenges realistically and is ready to meet them with creativity, courage and innovation.  I would be advocating for Cardinal Turkson if I were in the conclave and I hope that he emerges as Pope. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Adopt a Cardinal

The Conclave is set to begin on March 12. Join hundreds of thousands of other Christians in praying for the College of Cardinals by adopting a cardinal online.  Visit ADOPT A CARDINAL.COM and have a particular cardinal assigned to you. Pray for your cardinal during the conclave, that he would be inspired by the Holy Spirit with wisdom, to elect the Pope that God has chosen to pastor his flock. I was assigned Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke.  He's the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signature.  I did know much about him except he seems to have a kindly face and he is the same age as my brother.  But from what I have learned about him since, I truly hope that he is not elected!  I do pray that the Holy Spirit will work through him to elect a truly good and holy man who will guide the Church with grace and wisdom.  I have added this intention to my daily prayers.  I am sure there is a Cardinal who could use your special prayers whether or not you find him to be a kindred spirit. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Personal Reflection on Unit II

The study of family systems and genograms in Unit II invited me to think more about my ancestry and members of my nuclear family who have contributed significantly to my values and sense of self. 

Accompanying the dying and their families, I have been especially mindful of my spiritual connection to my own birth mother and father, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins who are deceased.  The dynamics of my nuclear family and the genetic patterns evident in my family tree have helped me to understand family systems theory and apply it in pastoral ministry.

I am wondering now about cultural differences in the core spiritual dynamics of self-worth, reconciliation and guidance and whether there are preferences for one over the other in some cultures.  Are there gender differences and stereotypes at play in how people are cast in one dynamic or another?  

For example, reconciliation and forgiveness seem to have unique meanings in some Christian traditions.  Do they have unique meanings in some cultures that might be easily misunderstood by a chaplain of a different culture?  Self-worth and humility are also colored by spiritual beliefs.  I am thinking about how in my own Anglo culture, struggles with self-worth are not something we express easily, or that is expected of us because of our privileged status in society.   
What if culture and family dynamics are in conflict within one individual?  And what if the cultural dynamic and family dynamic are the same... is the overall effect of the dynamic intensified, more rigid and harder to transform?  

These are some of the important questions that arose in me during Unit II. They led to a revisiting of the question of personal vulnerabilities based on our cultural location. 

Self-Evaluation Unit II

I explored how people of different faiths view suffering, forgiveness and reconciliation and used the HOPE-based model for spiritual assessment.  That model leads to identification of one of three core dynamics based on expressed needs: self-worth, reconciliation or meaning.
When a loss of belonging or experiences of shame, guilt and self-blame were evident in a patient's story, I found that affirmation was appreciated and helpful. The virtue of humility has been a key for me in coming to believe in myself despite my own struggles with self-blame.  Because growth in true humility and developing a healthy sense of self have played such an important role of my own faith journey, I am especially attuned to people with self worth as a core spiritual dynamic.  When a patient is in need of affirmation, I intuitively use words and gestures to help them feel understood and valued.  Support for a patient who has this core need comes naturally to me.
I discovered that a sense of confusion and a rambling narrative is often a clue that a patient is struggling to make meaning and needs direction.  In ministering to a patient whose core dynamic is a need for meaning and direction, I began to look for the “fruits of the spirit” in their way of talking about various aspects of a situation or dilemma.  Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are signs that have helped me to discern what is of the spirit and what is ego-driven or illusion in my own life.  I am becoming more adept at encouraging patients to use this method themselves to make better choices and find the next best step to take in their own lives.  

When a patient is repeatedly blaming others and avoiding acceptance of personal responsibility, I know that the best pastoral response is to confront them with the truth, but I am concerned about not being too heavy-handed about this.  I believe it is more effective if the truth can be discovered from within rather than imposed by someone else.   I am working on developing a pastoral practice of helping patients to tell their own truth and access their own personal agency in order to forgive and move on.  If a patient is unable to do this for themselves, then I work on fostering a spirit of trust and openness so that I can tell them the truth as I see it with respect and compassion.  Sadly sometimes peoples eyes and ears are just closed to the truth they most need to hear.  This reminds me of Jesus saying, "Let those among you with ears to hear listen." 

Progress on Goals for Unit II

Accessing emotions in the midst of pain and sorrow and using emotions to communicate more effectively with peers and patients continues to be a main goal for me.  I am taking time spiritually to consider where my heart is and what is stirring within me throughout the day. 

The concepts we learned and employed in this unit all had to do with using the life events and cultural contexts of our family of origin.  We focused on using family systems theory to inform our pastoral practice.  The genogram exercise increased my gratitude for my spiritual family, my deceased ancestors, and my living family, and I feel a closer bond with all of them as a result.  I learned that the Karpman drama triangle can be a dangerous trap that produces anxiety and creates problems later on if it forms a template for future relationships.  It can be an effective tool for pastoral care of patients when entanglement in a family triangle is impeding the path to healing.   

I grew more adept at making life story connections and accessing my own emotions in the midst of providing pastoral care to patients. My supervisor and I both believe I made adequate progress in emotional awareness during this unit, but I know I will continue to work on that for the rest of my life because it is part of my New England inheritance to be reserved emotionally.  Experiences with transference and emotional boundaries in pastoral care during this unit have taught me to recognize and navigate those better. 

Spiritual companionship for elderly patients is an area where I have natural skill and I continue to develop skill in that area.  I am beginning to work more on compassionate care for the dying and their families and I'm glad that my next assignments will give me more experience in that.  I plan to continue to use the empowerment triangle and family systems theory to provide care for families, particularly in end of life decision-making and grief work.

I especially enjoyed the genogram project because sharing them created a deeper intimacy among us as a learning group and gave us a way of really seeing each others vulnerabilitiesIn the next two units I will be working in the Intensive Care, Trauma and Renal units, and partnering with the Palliative Care team to get more experience providing pastoral care for patients moving onto comfort care and their families. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

More About the Conclave

This image from the Pauline Faithways blog shows the gathering last Sunday at the AngelusThe image and story are by Sr. Margaret J. Obrovac, FSP. Being on the scene in Rome has its advantages, and her reports are well informed and well written.  As we await the conclave there is much speculation online and in the news about the most likely candidates. Stories in the press of priests and bishops embroiled in scandals cast a gloomy pall over the election.  Yet, there is room for hope that the next Pope will lead this Church into an era of peace and justice unlike any we have yet experienced.  A fuller background of conclaves and analysis of the current situation can be found on the Vatican correspondent John Allen's blog All Things CatholicMy previous post shows the odds on favorites among the most likely contenders. My personal favorite is the 64 year old President of the Pontifical Council for Peace and Justice, the Cardinal from Ghana, Peter Turkson.  Come Holy Spirit, be our guide, be our hope!