Chaplain's Corner + The Importance of Family in Healing
A recent report issued by the American Psychiatric Association pointed out the importance of family in healing.i Specifically cited were findings released by for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research of the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center regarding factors in healing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Chaplains and Pastoral Counselors of all religious traditions are in a unique position to aid in such treatment, as stated in the chaplain resource material: "chaplain's strengths have been in the offering of care to patients, families and staff, and in building an intuitive sense of the importance of the care they provide.”ii
Care to individuals in the context of their families is central to religious traditions. Speaking in the Buddhist tradition, the Dali Lama has said: “The ultimate source of peace in the family, the country, and the world is altruism.”iii The Bhagavad-Gita (68: 8-9) points out: “They are completely fulfilled by spiritual wisdom and Self-realization . . . . They are equally disposed to family, enemies, and friends, to those who support them and those who are hostile, to the good and the evil alike. Because they are impartial, they rise to great heights.”
The ancient Hebrew people certainly considered family a blessing. As king and psalmist David writes: “Behold, thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord. May the Lord bless thee out of Sion: and mayest thou see the good things of Jerusalem all the days of thy life. And mayest thou see thy children' s children, peace upon Israel.” (Ps 127: 4-6) From a contemporary Jewish perspective, Rabbi David Rosen tells us: “Indeed, the family was the focus of Jewish joy and light, warmth and compassion.”iv The Islamic view, likewise, is quite emphatic on the criticality of family and religion, one Islamic scholar writes: “No religion can be regarded as complete unless it has a well-defined code of family life…”v
Such focus on the importance of family is certainly central to Christian tradition. St. John Chrysostom, the great Father of the Eastern Church, likens marriage and family to the Godhead: “Shall I also tell you how marriage [and family] is a mystery of the Church? The Church was made from the side of Christ, and He united Himself to her in a spiritual intercourse . . . [quoting St. Paul (2Cor 11: 2)] “I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure virgin to her one husband””vi Saintly Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain would have us consider that family care and love must start with the parents. He tells us: “Parents must cultivate love for one another between the children, in this way preparing the groundwork [to strengthen the family].”vii It can be put this way: ‘all those stronger (be they other family members, friends or chaplains) can be enlisted to help the one in need.’
vi St. John Chrysostom. (2003). On marriage and family life. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
vii Elder Paisios of Mount Athos. (2012). Spiritual Counsels, V. 4: Family life. Thessaloniki, Greece: Holy Monastery Evangelist John the Theologian [p. 107].