Speaking of religion: The wounded healer

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Are you a wounded healer? Henri Nouwen, a Catholic priest from Holland wrote over 40 books and hundreds of articles. In one of his books, The Wounded Healer, he says "The minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his time in his own heart and make that recognition the starting point of his service."

Nouwen lectured at Yale, Notre Dame and Harvard. He had one of largest classes in the history at Harvard. The last ten years of his life was spent at the L'Arche community for people with disabilities in Toronto, where he cared for Adam, a young man with severe disabilities. Adam in the end provided Henri emotional support. Nouwen died in 1996 at the age of 64.

The theme of "being wounded" has helped in my ministry as a Catholic priest. I was a medic in the Air Force. In 1968 I received orders for Vietnam. My mother was suffering from cancer, which allowed me to have those orders rescinded. I was assigned to MacDill Air Force Base near my family.

She died at the age of 56 of breast cancer that metastasized to the bone — a very painful experience. I was completing my Air Force commitment and intended to return to the FBI. One day a priest from the Congregation of Holy Cross visited the base and asked the chaplain if he knew anyone who may be interested in the seminary. Because I filled his mother's prescription at the base he knew me. At the time I was dating a young lady and told her I would be just visiting the seminary and be back soon. Well in the end I did stay and was ordained a Holy Cross priest in 1977.

Nouwen's writing continues to support and encourage me over the years, either working with high school and college students and parishioners — and especially when I worked with young men who were exploring seminary life. Many persons who I encountered shared their brokenness as they tried to make sense of their lives. The most rewarding times were when I journeyed with people who have lost a loved one. I can share the death of both of my parents and my friends.

If you are interested in finding out more about Henri Nouwen, search for the Henri Nouwen Society on YouTube and many videos will come up. You can also order books by him at the Bennington Bookstore or find some at the library.

Fr. Bob Wiseman, CSC. is the pastor of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales Church in Bennington and St. John the Baptist Church in North Bennington.

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