Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Gift of Healing

Alice came this afternoon and asked me to heal her. She is a volunteer catechist in our parish and also one of the leaders of the Basic Ecclesial Community in a nearby barrio. She told me that she had been diagnosed with cancer in the ovaries and which has metastasized to the nearby organs. It is terminal (stage 4) - she was told. She doesn't want to be operated on, nor is she willing to submit to chemotherapy. She has accepted the possibility that she could die soon but she is still hoping for healing. That's why she came to me. So we started with an hour's session this afternoon and we will be meeting twice a week - until she gets well or die. The chance for a cure for those in the terminal stage is slim.

Besides praying over her, I tried to find out what has been happening to her through the years and what was causing her a lot of stress. I taught Alice a meditation technique that she can do twice a day. I also taught her the proper way of breathing. We also discussed physical exercise (walking) she needs to do and following a diet of vegetables, fruits, fish. I told her to avoid sugary and fatty food.

In dealing with cancer patients, there are three dimensions of healing that we should look at - physical (body), psychological (mind), and spiritual (soul). All these are connected and they influence each other. That is why healing must be holistic. The problem with standard cancer treatment is that it focuses only on the physical dimension and relies solely on drugs (chemotherapy), surgery and radiation theraphy. No wonder doctors are often frustrated because very few survive. Most cancer patients can extend their life to a few months or a couple of years. Nowadays, being diagnosed with cancer is like being handed the death sentence.

Instead of looking at a particular part of the body or an organ that is affected by cancer, it may be helpful to understand the person as whole - the joyful and sorrowful mystery of her life, the frustrations, anger, grief, alienation, shattered dreams, failed relationship, etc. It is important to know here story. The body is affected by the state of the mind and the soul. The physical disease could be a symptom for the need for inner healing. The healing of the mind and soul may lead to the healing of the body. But even if it does not lead to physical recovery, the inner healing itself can already be considered as an achievement. Death will no longer be seen as a defeat.

One of the interesting findings in studies conducted among patients is that stress caused by sense of loss, anger, guilt and anxiety can lower the body's defense system and contribute to the growth of cancerous tumors.

The healing of cancer patients can no longer be left just to medical practitioners - the doctors, nurses and drug companies. Psychologists, priests, spiritual healers and other practitioners of alternative medicine should also be involved.

During the early years of my priestly ministry I really did not believe in this kind of healing. I thought that this was the business of those in the medical profession. But there were times when I administered the sacrament of the anointing of the sick and prayed over patients that were seriously ill and given up by doctors. Many of them got well. So I adopted an open mind and began studying holistic/spiritual healing. I learned different methods of healing (pranic, reiki, etc.). When I was studying in Berkeley and in Rome, I became more involved in healing ministry. I have healed many people with all kind of diseases - including cancer. My friends jokingly said that I have a double doctorate - a doctor in theology and a quack doctor. But since I returned to the Philippines, I have not done a lot of healing because of my busy schedule - teaching, pastoral work, peace advocacy, conducting seminars, etc.

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