In light of faith: The church as field hospital for the wounded

(A series of columns focused on and written by millennials and young adults)

By Sister Alicia Torres
Catholic News Service

GUEST COLUMNIST TORRES

Sister Alicia Torres is a member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, and serves at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on Chicago’s West Side. She is a guest columnist for the Catholic News Service column “In Light of Faith.” (CNS photo/courtesy Loyola University Chicago)

“Can I keep you?” Casper whispers into Kat’s ear, and she ever so softly agrees. Somehow in that moment it didn’t matter that Kat was human and Casper was a ghost — an attraction crossed that very real divide. The most powerful messages of the movie “Casper” relate to love and belonging, giving and receiving … and even letting go.

These themes always captivate the human heart. People are searching for love and ways to give themselves away. At times they are even eager to say “yes” when they hear the proposal, “Can I keep you?”

Yet, a core struggle that is just as real lies deep within the human heart — do we know ourselves enough to truly give ourselves away? In my work with young people, I’ve seen this struggle at play.

Many young people are hurting inside — even deeply wounded. Whether it be from a difficult childhood, abuse or sins that haunt them, they are struggling and don’t know where to turn. These deep wounds can make discernment incredibly difficult because the wounds manifest in so many ways and drain energy.

I am not proposing that one must be “wound-free” to do God’s will, but what I am suggesting is that many young people struggle along the path because they don’t know what to do with the pain — some don’t even believe healing is possible.

This is exactly where the church must meet young people. Every time I speak to a group of teens or young adults and ask them if they’ve experienced suffering in their lives, hands always shoot up, heads nod. Particularly after speaking to young adults, I’m often surprised by how many women and men will come up to me, asking for advice to deal with their own specific wounds.

Pope Francis said that the church should be a field hospital. What does that mean? Have you ever seen a field hospital? Check out “We Were Soldiers” or “Gone with the Wind” to get an idea of how messy, earthy, acute and bold a field hospital really is. It is run by men and women who are both responsive and attentive — who can assess needs and make decisions, who know what they are able to provide, and where their limits are met.

What kind of resources does the church have in her field hospital? We have people — priests, consecrated men and women, and laity — who have hands to serve and hearts to love. We have the treasure of the sacraments — especially the Eucharist and reconciliation — that literally have the power to set people free. We have the spiritual gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel and fortitude.

Ultimately, we have Jesus Christ, who came to set us free.

Do we know Jesus? Can we testify to how Jesus has changed our lives? How, as a church, are we giving witness? Does that witness bear authenticity, does it draw people who are hurting to the One Person who can set them free?

In our church that is a field hospital we need brave soldiers who are willing to risk their reputations and even at times their lives to care for the wounded. We need men and women who are so convicted by what Jesus has done for them that they boldly and confidently invite others into a relationship with Jesus, who can set them free.

It is only through self-possession that one can make an authentic self-donation. Setting captives free … this indeed is what Jesus asks of his church right now. How can we help young people be free to say yes when they hear Jesus whisper deep in their hearts, “Can I keep you?”

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Sister Alicia Torres is a member of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, and serves at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on Chicago’s West Side.

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