pastoral/spiritual care

The Life-Chaplain

I need to stop reading books about grief, death, suffering, and coping with natural disasters! I probably don’t need to explain myself, and most likely you read that first statement and easily agree, and maybe utter under your breath, “No joke!” At least one of my chaplain colleagues and manager would concur, since he has to endure my endless diatribe and chatter about why the book is so good and why having the speaker speak at our hospital will help so many clinicians, chaplains and clergy. 

Seriously, why would the “Life-Chaplain” need to be reading so many books related to spiritual pain, hurt, tragedy and suffering? After all, the Life-Chaplain is all about helping others live the abundant life. Now, that is the truth. 

I do kiddingly refer to myself as the Life-Chaplain and not the Death-Chaplain. I do that for several reasons. First, many in our hospital and society associate chaplains with death and dying. I guess it is a fair association on their part because chaplains are definitely called to patient deaths, emergency situations that involve death, and certainly natural disasters like Super-storm Sandy. Yet, even amidst the hurt and pain of physical death and natural disasters, someone has to point others to the Life and Light. That’s me and my work. This is no pie-in-the-sky greater than life denial of death work. No, this is work that recognizes the embodied souls of people and says there is hope and there is life. It may take some mourning, grief work and time but ultimately life can be found again. 

Secondly, I refer to myself as the Life-Chaplain because I really do want the physically infirm of our world to find health and wholeness. Wholeness is a very cool word in the Greek language. It is a word that means to “put back together.” That is the process of healing. Physicians help patients with broken bones, and chaplains help patients with broken hearts and souls. We are both in the process of helping and healing. We are helping people to put their life back together so that they can truly experience Life in all its fullness. 

Finally, let me ask you to name the “grandest” moments of life. For me, those moments would include the first birthdays of each of our four children, their graduations, catching really big fish, and enjoying Thanksgiving and holiday dinners with family and friends. That’s life. So, next time you meet a sports chaplain, hospital chaplain, or crisis ministry chaplain in the community, remember that most of us really want you to know Life in all its fullness. That’s my prayer for you. 

Lord God, help me to be a life-giver even as I think of my own mortality and the death of loved ones in past years. May you use me to be a caring presence to help myself and help others to move through spiritual pain and darkness so that true Life can be found again.  Amen. 

-- Chaplain George M. Rossi


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