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Pastoral Reflection

The Upper Room Daily Online Devotional
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Letter from Pope John Paul II to Priests (March 2002)
The Spurgeon Archive.
Lectio Divina

Chaplaincy: A Ministry of Healing

CHAPLAIN ANTON T. BOISEN (1876-1965)

Healing Through Relationship

Boisen referring to the efficacy of psychotherapy mentions that the relationship between clinician and patient is far more effective than the procedure or technique itself. Although, procedures and psychotherapy have their place in the healing process relationship is paramount.

"Psychotherapy is far less dependent upon technique that it is upon the personal relationship between physician and patient. Wherever the patient has come to trust the physician enough to unburden himself of his problems and wherever the physician is ready to listen with intelligent sympathy, good results are likely to follow regardless of the correctness of the physician's particular theories or procedures. (pp. 240).

"The techniques and methods of procedure are...of vanishing importance compared the qualities of heart and mind, the genuine interest in the patient and his problems, together with the balanced judgment and insight and tact necessary to win the patient’s confidence and establish the rapport which is the sine qua non of all effective psychotherapy work." (pp. 245).

Healing Through Listening

Boisen says that "ministers may learn to recognize the significance of things that are not said and to take note of the sudden pause, of the embarrassed smile, of the averted eyes, or the shift in position which, to those who have eyes to see, may speak as plainly as words." (pp. 242)

Ministers "should learn the need of beginning with the other fellow, of listening without condemning, of trying to understand his language, particularly that symbolic language which is intended to be understood only by those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. And seeing back of symptom and symbol to the real needs and the unspoken longings, the man understanding will be little concerned about creed or formula but will concern himself with the task of leading the sufferer in terms of his own formulations to discover for himself that solution of his problem which is socially acceptable and constructive." (pp. 243)

Ministers "may learn also the importance of leaving the patient free to tell his own story in his own way with only such questions and comments as are necessary to stimulate him and draw him out and guide him toward the more significant topics." (pp. 243)

Healing Through the Community of Faith

Boisen defines salvation as "the release from the sense of isolation and the restoration to fellowship with God which follows immediately upon the experience of forgiveness." (306). Boisen referring to the experience of salvation says that is a phenomenon that connects an individual to a community. He says "Throughout the Bible the salvation of the individual seems to be thought of in terms of membership in a group. In the Old Testament we find no thought of any survival of the individual after death. It is the race that survives, the race that is identified with the idea of Jehovah, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, its forefathers...The salvation offered in the New Testament is likewise in terms of membership in a group." (pp. 287)

"Salvation, both individual and social, is to be found by entering into that fellowship which has the capacity for universality." (pp. 293) Boisen sustain that for the Apostle Paul "salvation is not a matter of doing things. It is neither a matter of ethical correctness nor of service to one’s fellows. It is a matter of inner attitude and spirit, a living relationship with the fellowship which is united by its common loyalty to Jesus Christ and its common struggle for the better personal and social life." (pp. 294).

Boisen believes that "the problem of the world and that of the individual are closely related....Mental health is not an individual matter...No individual can live for himself alone. He lives for his race and he must be ready if need be to give his life and all that he has for its perpetuation and improvement...The idea of God, which is found at all times and among all races, is a symbol of this collective interest...To be isolated from this deeper self, which is represented by the idea of God, is spiritual death, just as real and just as inevitable as for a cell to be cut off from the organism to which it belongs." (pp. 289-290)

Boisen proposes that to understand individuals we need to study on depth the society in which the individual developed and live. We need to take in consideration "what kind of society he wants to create and perpetuate and be identified with." (pp. 290).

(Anton T. Boisen. Exploration of the Inner World. New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers Publisher. 1936).

 

Copyright © 1999 International Association of Christian Chaplains Inc. All rights reserved.