Kamal Hourani is a first year student in the Religious Studies Program at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also a participant of our Digital Disciples Program.
The Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology, and Religion (OCAMPR) is an organization endorsed by the Assembly of Bishops that provides sustenance, dialogue, and growth for Orthodox Christians in professions that minister to the health of their fellow human beings. OCAMPR stresses the symbiotic relationship between incarnational, kenotic theology and healing of the person. This association hosted their annual conference from November 5-7 at Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. The conference theme was: “Caregivers as Confessors and Healers.”
To close their conference on November 7, OCAMPR had several sessions of Paper Presentations where professionals from around the country not able to give full-length talks during the conference could present brief papers on a subject of their interest.
Matushka Christina Veselak presented a paper called, “The Role of Active Repentance in a Life of Service.” Mat. Christina is the program director of the St. Ephraim Center, an Orthodox mental health and addiction treatment center in Colorado.
She referenced the verse from Psalm 50, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me,” and connected the line to our ability to serve others. In order to minister to someone for their healing, we ourselves must first be healed.
Our sins are like clogs in our heart that prevent us from pouring out ourselves for our neighbors. Being a fighter of addictions, Matushka Christina equated the passions to addictions. Addictions in the heart of a caregiver can lead to burnout, and burnout can lead to more addictions.
Both, however, spring from the fragility of our fallen nature. God, as the ultimate doctor and caregiver, heals our fallen nature and restores us to our former resiliency. God brings back security and strength into our lives when the world has broken us, but, unfortunately, we don’t always turn to God. We employ coping mechanisms to give us esteem, control, or toughness. Matushka Christina cited perfectionism as one dangerous coping mechanism. She called them idols, like the golden calf in the wilderness, which lead us away from our relationship with God.
If we can detach ourselves from our past habits and coping mechanisms, if we can turn back to God our healer, we can uproot the thorns of the passions in our hearts and radiate pure love for those placed under our care.
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