We are living in a time of Pandemic which has affected us all and the topic of healing has never been more relevant. With healing comes hope and hope is always the mark of the Christian. How timely then is the book Holistic Healing A Christian Approach by Fr Pat Collins CM (Columba Press, €16.99) author of last year’s hugely popular Freedom from Evil Spirits. It is of interest to note that he wrote this book while cocooning earlier in the year.
Based in Dublin. Fr Collins is a speaker, retreat leader, and author of many books on spirituality. He himself is a healer and has witnessed many cures first hand and he provides the reader with fascinating examples of these. His book is addressed to those who are open in mind and heart to the possibility of divine healing. Salvation and healing are two sides of the same coin of grace. Tellingly, on the page before the Preface, there is, ‘A Prayer to Be Said before Reading This Book’.
The Healing Ministry of Jesus
In the twenty-five chapters which follow the author looks at healing from many different angles and each chapter can be read as a separate entity. I particularly enjoyed Chapter Eleven, ‘The Father Wound and False Images of God’. The Father’s love letter on page 95 is a moving and comforting piece. When you are broken-hearted, I am close to you (Ps 34:18); as a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart (Isa 40:11).
In his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict said ‘Christianity is a therapeutic religion, a religion of healing.’ Pope Francis famously referred to the Church as a field hospital after battle. Their words reflect the ministry of Jesus who referred people to his physical healing whenever they expressed doubts about his being the Messiah. Nearly one-fifth of the Gospel accounts are devoted to Jesus’ healing ministry, including the circumstances, the methods used and the effects on the patients and those who were onlookers.
The Jews believed that illness was the penalty of sin so as a sign that the curse of sin had indeed been lifted, Jesus removed its penalty by healing the sick and driving out evil spirits. Jesus himself was God’s healing word; God’s healing touch. As he healed the eyes of the body he would also open the eyes of the soul. He would heal both body and soul. He would heal totally, or not at all. It would be of little benefit if the blind man who had been healed then proceeded down the road full of hatred for his brother! Than could not be called healing in any true sense of that word. Jesus came to lead us back from alienation, from death, from sickness, into friendship, to life, and to health.
As a result of the Covid Pandemic, many people have become aware of their need for inner healing. True to its title, Holistic Healing suggests that it takes 3 interrelated forms, spiritual, emotional, and physical. Most of the book focuses on psychological healing. As a result, it deals with issues such as anxiety, depression, hurting memories, self-esteem and lack of same, inter-generational difficulties, the father and mother wound, etc. Not only does it describe the origins of problems like these, but it also suggests ways and means by which they can be healed. Once a person is healed inwardly it will often have knock-on beneficial effects on their physical health.
Then and Now
For 700 years in England and France, people believed that a king could heal in virtue of his anointed role. The climax of the royal coronation ceremony at Westminster is the act of anointing the monarch. By sanctifying the royal body, the act of anointing has often been believed to confer this healing power. From the time of Edward the Confessor in the eleventh century, it was held that Kings and Queens of England could, by touch alone, cure the skin disease scrofula.
Although healing was an integral part of the life of the early church, for a number of reasons it declined as the centuries went by. Even the sacrament of the anointing of the sick became known as extreme unction because it was seen as a spiritual preparation for death rather than as a sacrament of healing. It was the Advent of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in 1967 which restored the gift of healing in the Church in a new way.
As noted earlier the universal Pandemic has ushered in a time of reflection and reassessment when many people are re-examining such things as their values, beliefs, and priorities. Whereas many of our contemporaries ask “Why does God send this suffering?” the disciples of Jesus should ask, “For what does God send this suffering?”
Fr Collins’ book is thought-provoking and wide-ranging. Some people may be uncomfortable with the whole notion but even the most skeptical will find much to reflect on in these pages.
Written By Marie – Therese Cryan