I recently attended a retreat that focused on grace and the “wounded healer.” Throughout the time I had the opportunity to reflect on where I am on this life journey and what has happened, is happening, or will happen in the future. Immediately, I thought of Henri Nouwen’s book Wounded Healer and how the paradox of someone who is broken reveals the mystery of discovering how to heal.
The retreat led me to a deeper understanding of the interior life, God lives in me and has been broken, but he also wishes to heal and be healed. Nouwen writes, “The man who articulates the movements of his inner life, who can give names to his varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering. He is able to create space for Him who heart is greater than his, whose eyes see more than his, and whose hands can heal more than his.” He shows how naming the wounds we experience leads to the natural desire to open up to the grace of the Holy Spirit. Jesus invites us in to create that space. We see how he was an example of healing and woundedness in his ministry, being vulnerable and patient, sacrificing his life in love. We see it in his state of being God and Man, his inviting the twelve, his working miracles for the visibly and the spiritually sick, and even in his silence when he knew what was to come on the cross.
Working in ministry I find that aiding in the healing of others comes more easily than letting myself be healed. This theme showed me how difficult it is to expose weaknesses and be vulnerable. Sometimes the simple acknowledgement of a sin or experience is overbearing. In the retreat setting I opened myself up to engage with my wounds and seek guidance in understanding what I will need to heal. I also had to recognize that the healing might not be a quick process. Words from Helen Keller, who dealt with a physical wound of blindness, showed me the wound’s potential to foster strength and growth. She writes, “Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight.”
We all carry wounds. In some form we react to them, hide them, or learn to mend them. One of the prayer services that concluded the retreat involved reflection on the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. The leader spoke about how we do not hear about this sacrament in the way we do the number of joyful sacraments of First Communion, Confirmation, or Matrimony. In many ways it shows how even those who believe in the power of healing find it difficult to expose their wounds. Showing our wounds reveals a part of us that we are not proud of or afraid of knowing. How different would our world be if it seemed more acceptable to open up and to anoint each other in our physical and spiritual sicknesses! In so many ways it is a privilege to be a part of that sacramental healing, to listen and allow someone to share with you what he or she is going through, or to share something yourself.
When we engage with the grace that works in our lives and look at our wounds we see how the two converge. Grace is there to help comfort and guide us in the Holy Spirit. Acknowledging the work of grace and receiving its gifts help us to recognize how our wounds have the ability to make us stronger. Pope Francis spoke about embracing the wounds of Christ in others and how it transforms both them and us. “We need to touch Jesus' wounds, caress Jesus' wounds, bind them with tenderness; we must kiss Jesus' wounds, literally. Just think: what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas (the apostle): his life changed”. Our lives change when we encounter and embrace Jesus, others, and ourselves in our state of being wounded. Like the sacrament of healing, the visible act of carrying our woundedness and asking for healing leads us to love and receive better.
Sophie Jacobucci serves as a second-year Echo Apprentice in the Diocese of Manchester, NH.