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Wounded and Healthy | Catholic Life

Wounded and Healthy

O night that guides my flight!
O night that was more loving htan the sun!
O night that would unite
the Lover and loved one,
beloved changed to Lover–unison!

Upon my blossoming breast–
I guarded it for only him, no less–
there he remained at rest,
I gave him my caress,
our love the fanning cedars’ breeze would bless.

The breeze blew from the tower,
my fingers now began to part his hair,
with his hand’s gentle power
he wounded my neck where
my senses, stricken, faded unaware.

I lost, forgot my being,
my face reclined upon my Lover there;
all ceased, my spirit freeing,
and leaving all my care
behind, forgotten, midst the lilies fair.

A few days ago I sat in the crypt church at the national shrine and read from Loren G. Smith’s translations of poems by Saint John of the Cross. I sat rather than knelt because if I knelt the physical pain would have prevented me from thinking. Pain calls my thoughts back to God, but when it becomes too much there are no thoughts at all.

So I sat, and I thought about John’s pain. What are we to think of this Lover who wounds? It is at once true and problematic. This Lover who both heals and wounds matches with reality, but at the same time there is such a danger of using religion to mask profound psychological problems.

Not long ago I spoke with a friend whose spiritual director sent her for psychiatric care. She was doing her best to work with the secular model for mental health, but pointed out to me that there seemed no right path since all of the Saints seem to have had psychiatric issues.

I agreed with her, but I tried to offer the “you’re doing the right thing in getting help, take care of yourself, indulge your body a bit more, don’t stress about serving others and finding God in all things so much” support of a healthy friend. I secretly wondered whether her spiritual director was simply sending her for psychiatric help because that is what he must do in any case at this point. Even if he thought that she was struggling with the problems of a Saint on earth he would have to see whether secular psychiatric help could remove the incessant desire to be like Christ in all things.

While I knew that my friend needed to find moderation, I wondered whether I was not, in some way, avoiding my God in my quest for “balance.” How is one supposed to both be healthy, and have God?

For now I choose less God and more health. I do not have a spiritual director to moderate my excess, and it is not fair to place such a burden on my husband. So I avoid extremes, even when that appears to mean looking my savior in the eye and saying “not yet.”

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3 Responses to “Wounded and Healthy”

  1. Kathleen 24. Jun, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Let me share a story. I knew a couple, both university professors, who did an exchange for a year–exchanging places with their peers across the pond, house, jobs, cars, the works. A.’s house was pristine and gorgeous (and childless), and the artsy visiting couple came in with kids who had no rules, no discipline, and no requirements. In other words, they trashed the house. Of course I was appalled when I heard the story, but the husband said, “Hey, those kids were given free rein to develop their artistry. If they turn out to be the next Rodin or Mozart, I’m not about to judge.”

    My response went something like *splutter splutter*. I said basically that genius or not, God created us to be healthy and happy, not spectacularly good at one thing to the exclusion of moderation. And I believe that goes for religion, too.

    • Rae 25. Jun, 2010 at 8:44 am #

      I’m a firm believer that “genius” of any type should be something that comes about despite the parents’ best efforts to give their child a healthy happy balanced upbringing! It is easy for me to know that that is best for others, but sometimes it just feels as though religion is something of an exception and I should work harder.

      Thank you.

  2. Kacie 25. Jun, 2010 at 10:31 am #

    Great post. I do think sometimes God uses our excesses, and can use in a big way those who psychiatrically are “weak” … he always turns things topsy turvy. But it does seem as though the original intent for creation was balance…

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