Sunday, August 19, 2012

Follow the leader ..

In a study (1966-1974) to determine the degree to which subjects were willing to inflict pain on another individual simply because they had been directed to do so by an authority figure, Stanley Milgram found that nearly two thirds complied completely.

Yep, that would be spot on, exactly spot on. Two thirds!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not only the patients need to be patient ..

A hospital chaplain needs to have thick skin, patience and a healthy sense of humour.

On my rounds one day I bumped into two men in their hospital gowns and bare feet chatting at the door of their ward. They were new admissions in for a few days of tests before possible heart surgery. I passed by in my 'blacks' and Roman collar and gave a cheery 'Good morning'. Instead of answering they looked me up and down with some disdain, computed that I was of no relevance to them, and continued chatting.

It was the same the next day though on the third one of them managed the tiniest 'G'day' from the corner of his mouth. On the fourth day they were both trapped in their adjoining beds with the "Nil By Mouth" sign dangling above their heads. They were not happy. I approached the first one and said 'Operation today?' 'Yeah, mate .. er .. Father.'

'Don't worry, these heart procedures are nothing these days. They're just routine. You'll be right,' and before he could answer, 'Where are you from?'

'Dubbo.' 'Oh, the good country. I love that sort of country, almost outback. Let me give you a blessing before your op.' What could he do but say 'Ok'?

So I put my hand on his head and prayed. His friend in the other bed didn't have the heart to refuse my offer of a blessing, most of his energy was going into the pre-op jitters.

Next day they were there in ICU - looking like two wounded rabbits. Each had a big vertical scar down the middle of his chest and each was clutching a towel folded up against the suture. They were not in a good mood and suffering considerably. I knew not to start joking around, gave them a quick blessing and left.

The next two days saw big improvements, there were no complications and the pain left their eyes. 'Can I give you a blessing this morning?' 'Sure thing, Father.'

The last time I saw them was back in the Coronary Care Unit. I was walking past their room to check the names on the board and they called out 'Hey, Father, you've forgotten the blessing!' 'No, I haven't, I was just getting the list from the board.' We talked for a good while that day. They knew they were going and would probably never see me again but we were almost friends. There was a warmth in that room, an understanding - I might even say, the Holy Spirit.

Church-weary ..

In his book A New Song For The Lord, Pope Benedict begins his second chapter with the following words:

To a large extent it is characteristic of the situation of faith and theology in Europe today that people are weary of the Church.

Weary of the Church - arresting, simple and so true. Every day I meet people in my work as hospital chaplain whose eyes glaze over when they see the priest. They are not interested in Church or the things or people of Church. They will say: Jesus yes, the Church no.

Pope Benedict sheds light on this modern phenomenon by first identifying it as a christological and not an ecclesiological problem. He maintains that what people are really saying is: Jesus yes, Christ no or Jesus yes, Son of God no

Modern man is hungry for Jesus but only for the man, not for the Son of God, or what the Church or the Gospels say about him.

His human side touches us; the profession that he is God's only-begotten Son merely seems to alienate him from us, to transpose him into the inaccessible, the unreal and to surrender him simultaneously to the management of ecclesiastical authority. Separating Jesus and Christ is at the same time separating Jesus and the Church: Christ is left to the Church since he seems to be her handiwork; in shoving Christ aside one hopes to win Jesus and with him a new form of freedom, of "redemption."

The Pope, of course, goes on to describe very exactly how things got to be like this and it's rather interesting. I'll come back to the topic another time.

Doggerel or duckerel .. ?

Sometimes on worms
my duck will snack
and juicy escargots
toss back
and even little frogs
go in
till it canardly
(23 Feb '08)