THOUGHT IT STRANGE when looking at my bookcase. Grouped together are some of my favorite and essential books: the Graduale Romanum, Campion Missal, Lumen Christi Missal, and The Musical Shape of the Liturgy. But somehow, wedged right in the middle, as if to say, “Pay attention to me!” was Henri Nouwen’s 1972 classic, The Wounded Healer – Ministry in Contemporary Society. How did it get there?
Nouwen’s book recounts a story from the Talmud, summarizing:
“The Messiah, the story tells us, is sitting among the poor, binding his wounds, one at a time, waiting for the moment when he will be needed. So too it is with the minister…he is called to be the wounded healer, the one who must look after his own wounds but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others.
”Jesus has given this story a new fullness by making his own broken body the way to health, to liberation and new life. Thus like Jesus, he who proclaims liberation is called not only to care for his own wounds and the wounds of others, but also to make his wounds into a major source of his healing power.” (The Wounded Healer, pg. 84, Doubleday and Co.)
So, the general premise of Nouwen’s books is that through our wounds, through our brokenness and perhaps even human imperfection, we are capable of helping others heal. We must be mindful of this through our work in the Church, and as musicians, through liturgy.
ROFESSIONALLY, MANY CHURCH MUSICIANS face challenges which may include some “war stories.” But with the frailty of human life sadly on display all around us, these are nothing in comparison. There is much needed perspective on what is true suffering and what are the common travails of a life of service. But in a profession in which it is difficult—indeed often impossible—to separate our spiritual, personal, and professional lives, our personal wounds must be cared for so that we may be ready to serve when called upon. To take it a step further, it is often because of our wounds that we can better serve others, provided that we have learned from them.
Distance helps heal wounds. But so does forgiveness. When distance is not possible, forgiveness many times every day is necessary. Then what you have suffered leads to wisdom, perspective, and understanding, providing a rock upon which others may lean. While joy and suffering are natural parts of human existence, challenge and pain is necessary for growth. Adversity builds strength. As such, suffering may come as a seemingly strange, yet potent blessing.
From suffering flowers great beauty. Therefore, as servants of the liturgy, we have an obligation to foster beauty and prayer. Our work will always find ways to humble us, as it should. In this humility, we can also find the healing prayer that our brothers and sisters need.
In Jesus, the Unblemished Lamb, we find the ultimate sacrifice. In Him we find our healer and Savior. May our work in sacred music lead people to Christ, the Great Healer who bore for us His wounds.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins; upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.
— Isaiah 53: 4-5