Saturday, August 6, 2016

Precious Gifts That Offer Hope and Healing

"Do not cast me aside in my old age; as my strength fails, do not forsake me." (Ps. 71:9)


       As America ages, there is a growing concern for and a challenge to the Episcopal Church of today:  How to nurture our elderly members and neighbors living with Alzheimer's disease/dementia.

       According to Sherwin Nuland, a professor of medicine, "'Eighty percent of Americans now die in hospitals.'" [1]  Many of those dying in hospitals are seniors who are living with Alzheimer's disease/dementia.  Within a given year, one in three seniors will die from Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. [2]  Nuland is concerned that many patients may or will experience an isolated death.  How are Episcopal congregations especially their clergy and lay ministers equipped to minister to their members who live with Alzheimer's disease/dementia are loved by God, their church, their clergy, and those they have worshipped with over the years?  Most importantly, how are they to know that they are not alone on this journey in life?

       As Episcopalians we need to continue our intercessory prayers in our worship and within the rituals of our sacraments and sacramental rites for those who find themselves on the margins of our society because of this disease.  Clergy within the Episcopal Church are the ministers of Holy Baptism sharing God's grace for a death to sin and a new life in Christ; likewise they minister the Holy Eucharist to sustain the community in this life in Christ.  They also may offer the sacramental rites of Reconciliation for renewal and wholeness, and Unction, the anointing of the sick, for strength in "spirit, mind, and body" for those who are living with Alzheimer's disease/dementia.[3]

       I believe the Church is a humble servant and as a humble servant, it is essential for clergy and lay ministers to communicate this message to the elderly who are in care facilities, the elderly who live alone, and to those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease/dementia:  You have been faithful to God, you have been faithful in coming to church, as well as being a witness to the community of believers.  Now, when you are no longer able to come to us within a church setting, we will faithfully come to you.  Clergy and lay ministers should explicitly reveal the words of Dame Cicely, "You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die in peace, but also to live until you die," [4] as they offer the sacraments and sacramental rites to the elderly and those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease/dementia; which will communicate to these individuals that they are not alone on this journey in life or in death.  By the grace of God and through our rituals, clergy and lay ministers are able to cultivate a moment in time that offers hope and healing for the elderly and for individuals living with Alzheimer's disease/dementia who find themselves in a "sea of pain," [5] suffering, and confusion.

       Last week, I was by the bedside of an elderly lady who was diagnosed with dementia.  We were aware of God's presence among us, as I watched the rhythm of her breathing while holding her hand.  I witnessed her own prayer to God through her weakness while receiving the sacramental rite of anointing.  In that precious moment, I realized she was ministering and comforting me by her peaceful countenance; resting in the presence of God's eternal love. 

[1] Ronald L. Grimes, Deeply into the Bone (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 226.


[3] Byron David Stuhlman, Occasions of Grace: An Historical and Theological Study of the Pastoral offices and Episcopal Services in the Book of Common Prayer (New York: Church Publishing, 1995), 221.

[4] Webb Brown, "Loss, Death, and Dying from a Hospice Perspective," in Injustice and the Care of Souls, ed. Kujawa-Holbrook and Montagno (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2009), 275.

[5] Pamela Baird, "The Role of Ritual at the End of Life," in Living with Grief Spirituality and End-Of-Life Care, ed. Kenneth J. Doka & Amy S. Tucci (Washington, D.C.: Hospice Foundation of America, 2004), 65. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Living Prayer

My Credo on Prayer:

I believe in the passion of prayer in which I try to live my whole life as a living prayer; for prayer "ought to animate us at every moment" [1] of our life.  I am taking beginning steps towards a prayerful journey in life.


       By the grace of God, I affirm my belief in prayer by what holy Scriptures says in the Letter of James, "the fervent prayer of a...person is very powerful." [2]  I believe in a holy and eternal God who desires to nurture a personal relationship with us through prayer. 

       I believe God calls every soul to seek intimacy with God as we open our soul to allow God's love to flow in.  It is written in the First Letter of John, "We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us.  God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him/{her}," (1 Jn 4:16).  Therefore, the fruition of God's love is manifested within our soul and each soul emulates God's love in and throughout his/her life as a living prayer; for it is only through prayer that we are able to be in a loving relationship with God.

       I believe in a Christocentric spirituality of detachment from self, by living life as a living prayer, as in the words of St. Paul to the Galatians, "yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me," (Gal 2:20).  To live a life of self-surrender, is to become detached from emotions and things that keeps us from placing the Kingdom of God first in our life.  St. John of the Cross said, "Anyone deeply in love instinctively wants to give everything to the beloved, and anything that is an obstacle to union with the loved one is gladly surrendered." [3]  I believe in emulating my life after the "kenosis" spirituality of "self-emptying," in order for my life to become a living prayer.

       I believe in the Triune God.  I believe that life is sacred for God's breath sustains all life.  I believe the Holy Spirit is the living breath within all and is our healer and comforter.  I believe the Holy Spirit draws us into prayer for a deeper relationship with God and who inspires us to do the will of God.  I believe through prayer the Holy Spirit will endow a person with "spiritual gifts."  In St. Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians, he identifies the gifts of the Holy Spirit as wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, prophecy, discernment, varieties of tongues, and interpretation of tongues, (1 Cor 12:4, 8-10).  I believe through prayer an individual is called by the Holy Spirit to live a life of prayer and to be a blessing and to offer healing to others.

[1]  Catechism of the Catholic Church (New York; Doubleday, 1995), (#2697), 711.

[2]  The New American Bible, World Catholic Press, 1987.

[3]  Thomas Dubay, Fire Within; St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and the Gospel-on Prayer (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1989), 147.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Healing of Our "Spirit, Mind, and Body"

       During the 11th century in the Ars Moriendi tradition, they believed that the sacrament of healing was essential for the spiritual and physical healing of each person.  Their healing ministry was grounded in the following belief, "For we are not wounded alone nor do we heal alone."{1}   For Episcopalians, our sacraments, sacramental rites, prayers, and "rituals provide connection"{2} with God, the Church, the community, and with ourselves.


        The Episcopal Church has been and continues to be a catalyst in the building of the Kingdom of God through our various ministries that sacredly has touched the "Other."  As Christians, we are called by God to live into our baptismal covenant in which we, "will...respect the dignity of every human being,"{3} by allowing ourselves to become aware of our need for God and mindful of our need for our interconnectedness with one another.  St. Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 12:26) that within the Body of Christ, "If one part suffers all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored, all the parts share its joy."

       Yet, each one of us can identify as being the "Other," for each one of us has a life story to share about our experience with the bondages of "racism, classism, and sexism."  According to Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, in the "Critical Race Theory," "Stories also serve a powerful additional function for minority communities...Stories can give them voice and reveal that others have similar experiences.  Stories can name a type of discrimination; once named, it can be combated."{4}  Without a person being able to see and identify discrimination towards the "Other," there really isn't any way to begin to dismantle it.  I believe, there is truth in the quote from Mr. Rogers that says, "Frankly, there isn't anyone you couldn't learn to love once you've heard their story."{5}  One of the most important functions of the church's ministry outreach is to allow people to share their stories and listen to other people share theirs.  This is manifested in the ministerial leadership of the clergy, lay-leaders, and the laity which continues to be a ministry of service, especially to the sick, the poor, and the marginalized.  They embody the prayer of St. Teresa of Avila, "You are the body of Christ, you are the hands of Christ, you are the feet of Christ;" by their going forth to love and to serve others, one soul at a time.

{1} Dean Sharpe, Sacred Art of Living & Dying Certification Program, UCR Extension Campus, La Quinta, CA. October 9, 2015.

{2} Pamela Baird, "The Role of Ritual at the End of Life," in Living with Grief Spiritual and End-Of-Life Care, ed. Kenneth J. Doka & Amy S. Tucci (Washington, D. C.: Hospice Foundation of America, 2004), 65.

{3} The Book of Common Prayer: and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, The Episcopal Church the Seabury Press, 1979, 305.

{4} Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory, second ed. (New York: New York University Press, 2012), 49.

{5} Fred Rogers, Life Lessons From Mr. Rogers-Quotes From Mr. Rogers, URL,