Dear Friends across the Globe
Greetings from Australia to you all.
Pierre asked if I would write the opening letter for this month’s Newsletter and I thought it would be a good practice for what lies ahead. I am taking the time to listen, reflect and meditate on how the Association can be of value to you each and support Airport Chaplaincy in your space especially as our industry starts the long and bumpy road to recovery from the devastating impact of this Pandemic.
My prayer is that you will be sustained and encouraged in your place as you minister to staff and passengers and bring emotional and spiritual care.
Recently as part of the induction process for the new organisation I work for I had to attend a training session on Grief and Loss. I was asked to lead the opening devotions and as I prepared I came across this heading on my daily devotions, “It Can’t Be Carried Alone”.
One of my favourite devotion writers is Father Richard Rohr. He always seems to speak into where I am and reminds me regularly of the need to slow down, to even stop and spend time alone with God. In this devotion he spoke about the fact that suffering and loss cannot be carried alone. I am thankful that in the heat of this pandemic the private Facebook page was created where we could come and share some of our concerns, struggles and pain and found support from chaplains in all sorts of circumstances. It was a reminder that we are not alone and can reach out to each other.
If it’s okay I would like to share the devotion and I pray that it will encourage you that you are not alone. I believe as Chaplains of all faiths we have carried a burden as people have been impacted by this pandemic and we have listened and supported, sometimes from afar.
Father Richard teaches that we are transformed by our suffering—not by bearing it apart and alone, but by recognizing our universal connectedness with each other and God:
I am no masochist, and I surely have no martyr complex, but I do believe that the only way out of deep sadness is to go with it and through it. Sometimes I wonder if this is what we priests mean when we lift up bread and wine at the Eucharist or communion and say, “Through him, and with him, and in him.” I wonder if the only way to spiritually hold suffering—and not let it destroy us—is to recognize that we cannot do it alone. When I try to heroically do it alone, I slip into distractions, denials, and pretending—and I do not learn suffering’s softening lessons. But when I can find a shared meaning for something, especially if it allows me to love God and others in the same action, God can get me through it. I begin to trust the ambiguous process of life.
When we carry our small suffering in solidarity with the one universal longing of all humanity, it helps keep us from self-pity or self-preoccupation. We know that we are all in this together, and it is just as hard for everybody else. Almost all people are carrying a great and secret hurt, even when they don’t know it. When we can make the shift to realize this, it softens the space around our overly defended hearts. It makes it hard to be cruel to anyone. Shared struggle somehow makes us one—in a way that easy comfort and entertainment never can.
Some mystics even go so far as to say that individual suffering doesn’t exist at all—and that there is only one suffering, it is all the same, and it is all the suffering of God. The image of Jesus on the cross somehow communicates that to the willing soul. A Crucified God is the dramatic symbol of the one suffering that God fully enters into with us—much more than just for us, as we were mostly trained to think.
If suffering, even unjust suffering (and all suffering is unjust on some level), is part of one Great Mystery, then I am willing—and even happy, sometimes—to carry my little portion. But I must trust that it is somehow helping someone or something, and that it matters in the great scheme of things. Etty Hillesum (1914–1943), a young Jewish woman who died at Auschwitz, truly believed her suffering was also the suffering of God. She even expressed a deep desire to “help God” carry some of it.  Such freedom and such generosity of spirit are almost unimaginable to me. Colossians 1:24 offers a similarly daring statement in the New Testament. What creates such larger-than-life people? Their altruism is hard to understand by almost any psychological definition of the human person. I believe such people have built their lives on the reality of union with God, Reality, or What Finally Is.
I pray for each of you today that you may know that you are not alone and there is someone who you can reach out to and share your burden, pain and suffering. I also want to say thank you to all those who reached out through email and Facebook in the recent loss of my mum. I was touched deeply and am so humbled to be a part of this Association.
Co Ordinating Chaplain
Holy days for February
1st Lunar New Year –Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist
2nd Presentation of Christ in the Temple- Christianity
15th Nirvana Day- Buddhist
16th Magha Puja Day- Buddhist
28th Mahra Shiva Ratri – Hindu