From: Father Eugene Hemrick
To: Participants of The National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood
My Christmas Wish for you and My Thanks to you --
In these trying times, may Christmas bless you with renewed courage and its fortifying strength.
Never have our times so cried out for courage as now. Today we face the threat of terrorism and the possibility of nuclear and biological warfare, which were unimaginable to preceding eras. Our ecological, economic, industrial and religious systems are being called into question with greater frequency, and no matter what our walk of life is, unrest more often than not outweighs peace and harmony.
What is this essence of the courage I speak of?
A recent visit to Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., for a routine procedure helped me to better answer this. After the procedure, I was sent to the recovery room for recuperation. While there, I people-watched. As one patient after another rolled in, the care they received was awesome. Often one or two nurses attended patients at their bedsides, asking if they needed a blanket to keep them warm, water to drink or a stronger painkiller. This concern for the patient was nonstop. "Is there anything else I can do for you?" was a repeated refrain.
Repeatedly I heard nurses say to patients, "You are doing fine, everything is going to be all right," and with that they would squeeze a hand or pat a patient on the shoulder. Not only that but my doctor, like a number of other doctors, came in after the procedure to comfort me.
The experience made me realize the profound depths to which spiritual care can go when nurses and doctors enter into the discomfort their patients feel, become truly present to them and exude a spirit of encouragement. It is this inspiring care more than his miraculous cures that epitomizes Christ's life and is at the heart of courage.
To cure in Latin means to care. When we see Christ's miracles through the lens of caring, they translate into a God who cared so much for us that he, like those nurses and doctors, entered into our life to be at our side.
When we reflect on this, we realize that care is what most gives us heart -- the courage and the strength -- to regroup and carry on. Fear, uncertainty and loneliness lose their power over us once they are fortified with heart.
Looking back on that recovery-room experience, I realize I was blessed to witness beautiful examples of caring nurses and doctors giving heart to their patients. By attending to their needs, entering into their discomfort and whispering words of encouragement, they epitomized the essence of courage which is to create heart.
May this Christmas be a time to appreciate the caring people in our lives who have given us heart and the strength this creates to carry on in difficult times.
May it be a time when we in turn care more dearly for others and exercise our healing powers.
May it be a time when we thank a caring God who came in swaddling cloths to be at our side and who forever is asking "What can I do for you?" and never ceasing to remind us to "fear not!"
Last but not least, may the heart of those of you who have participated in the National Institute for the Renewal of the Priesthood radiate ever so much more in 2003! I canít thank you enough for making this institute the success it is. Heaven only knows how much your support of it enabled many a would-be disheartened priest to carry on.