The End is Near

Well, the end of CPE is near anyway. CPE is clinical pastoral education – basically chaplaincy in a hospital setting – and that’s been what I’ve been doing with my summer vacation. It’s been difficult and grueling at times, but always profound and holy. I’ve had times of sadness and grieving, but also times of joy and blessing.

Some highlights for me:

  • Realizing I can work in an emergency room without throwing up.
  • Coming to feel accepted by the high-intensity staff that work in the emergency room.
  • Realizing that I worked with such a good group of fellow students that I didn’t worry about referring my emergency room patients to them when they moved to other areas of the hospital, because I knew they would be well cared-for.
  • The time I learned what pastoral authority means — a ministry that is authoritative and authentic without being authoritarian — and feeling that that kind of ministry really fit for me.
  • Learning the importance of self-care, so that I can care for others. I’ll never forget the time I said to the ER staff, WHOPAGEDTHECHAPLAIN???!!! and realizing it was time I had lunch and sat down in a quiet place for a while!
  • The two times I got to bless marriages on their anniversaries, one at 58 years and the other at 65 years. The wife in the 65 year marriage died the day after her anniversary. That was such an awesome experience for me, and I felt like I was totally on holy ground with those families.
  • Staff chaplains who treated me and my fellow students as equals, and partnered with us in our ministry rather than looking down on us.
  • A supervisor, AS, who worked with me from my gifts instead of the traditional CPE model of tearing a person down to build him back up. I went a lot further with AS’s adult learning model.

There are many more things for which I am grateful, too numerous to count. Maybe I’ll share more of them in the weeks ahead as I continue to prayerfully unpack this summer’s intense experience of ministry.

But one thing is clear for me right now. Priestly ministry really fits for me, and pastoral care is a huge part of my vocational call. Words can’t express how grateful I am to have known that.

CPE: More info…

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy!
Our life, our sweetness, and our hope!
To thee do we cry, poor banished
children of Eve, to thee do we send
up our sighs, mourning and weeping
in this valley, of tears.
Turn, then, most gracious advocate,
thine eyes of mercy toward us; and
after this our exile show unto us the
blessed fruit of thy womb Jesus;
O clement, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God

That we may be made worthy of the
promises of Christ.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”
Rev. 10:11ab

What I have come to love about the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary is what it means for us. The Assumption marks the feast of Mary’s Assumption, body and soul, into heaven. The Church believes that Mary never saw death, because of her virginity and her participation in God’s plan of salvation through the conception, birth, death and resurrection of her son, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mary was a young girl with all the concerns of a young girl in that time and place. She was as yet unmarried, yet faithfully embraced God’s call, strange and unfathomable though it must have been to her. For me, her faith is incomprehensible. If I could have a tenth of it, my own faith would be increased immeasurably.

This humble girl, with great faith, was raised on this day to the heights of heaven that we can yet hope for. What the Assumption means for us is that as Mary has gone to exaltation before us, so we can hope for exaltation on that Great Day.

Because there are those among us too who have unplanned pregnancies. There are those among us whose children go in directions that put them in danger. There are those among us who have to watch a child die. But because Mary suffered these sorrows too, and yet was exalted, we can hope for the day when that which she was given and which we have been promised will surely be ours.

We are called to simply live our faith, not knowing where it will take us always, but always having faith that God will reward our efforts and raise us up from our fallenness.

We too can hope to be assumed into the great heavenly vision and rejoice when we hear that great voice say:

“Now have salvation and power come,
and the Kingdom of our God
and the authority of his Anointed One.”

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.