If you or a loved one has ever faced any medical issues that landed you in the hospital, you'll know what a trying time that can be. But one of the people who can bring spiritual comfort in that situation is a healthcare chaplain. Marianne Sailus has served as an interfaith health care chaplain for more than two decades, and she joined me recently on Christopher Closeup to discuss her work and her book Paschal Ponderings.
Marianne came to her career after enduring epilepsy for 26 years, then experiencing what she considers to be a miraculous cure by God on the operating table in 1994. She never had a seizure from that day on and chose to devote her life to helping other sick people. One of the first patients Marianne visited as a chaplain was a Christian. Since that was Marianne's personal faith - she is a Ukranian Byzantine Catholic with Roman Catholic roots - she felt comfortable with how it went and a little prideful as a result. The next day, she visited with a Hindu patient and admitted, "I choked." Marianne's response was, "Okay Lord, You're teaching me a lesson: humility is very important." The experience led her to start praying the Litany of Humility.
Since those early days, Marianne has been a comfort and guide to many, so she's learned what approach is best to take. Sometimes, there are no words that will help, so she practices a ministry of presence, of "being that person who's showing Christ’s love to the person by the touching of a hand, the humming of a hymn. . . . Other times, you need to share some words of encouragement, some words of faith."
One of the focuses in Marianne's book is the resurrection of Jesus. She says, "It's important to remind patients that they may be stuck in the Garden of Gethsemane, they may be stuck even on Calvary - or a family member may be that Mary or John beneath the cross at Calvary - but not to give up hope because in Christ there is resurrection and new life. And care and cure are two different things. Oftentimes people want cure, but sometimes God's purpose for them is care and to make sure that they are comfortable of body, mind, and soul. . . . When I'm with hospice patients . . . the patient knows the end is coming, the family knows the end is coming. But that they have people there . . . who are giving support in even what seems to be a hopeless situation is very helpful.
"Marianne's work is meant to wake people up in their spiritual lives. And one of the ways she advises others to do that is by calling on the Holy Spirit. She told me, "I believe the Holy Spirit should be a constant partner in our lives through calling down upon Him. In the Roman tradition, the main prayer to the Holy Spirit [is], 'Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of Your love,' et cetera. In the Eastern Church, we have, 'Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who are everywhere present and fill all things, Treasury of blessings and Giver of life: come and dwell within us, cleanse us of all stains and save souls, O Gracious One.' So to call on the Holy Spirit with that prayer from either tradition, once a day, I think is a very helpful thing - and to ask Him to guide every action, every word, every deed of every day of our lives."
This essay is a recent "Light One Candle" column written by Tony
Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers; it is one of a
series of weekly columns that deal with a variety of topics and current