Papal preacher: Christians are ‘wounded healers,’ meant to help others

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the papal household, gives a Lenten meditation to Pope Francis, members of the Roman Curia and Vatican employees in the Paul VI Audience Hall at the Vatican March 8, 2024. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service

[Vatican City – CNS] — Jesus frees Christians from all fear because not only is he the Good Shepherd who protects his flock, but also because he has “conquered the world” and death, the papal preacher said.

People today “acutely sense their vulnerability in a violent world gone mad. What will become of the future of our planet if, despite the cries of alarm from the pope and the more responsible people in society, we continue, unbridled, to consume and pollute?” Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa told Pope Francis and members of the Roman Curia during a Lenten meditation in the Paul VI Audience Hall March 8.

Reflecting on Jesus’ words from St. John’s Gospel — “I am the good shepherd” — Cardinal Cantalamessa said that Jesus, like a good shepherd, knows his sheep who also know him, and he lays down his life for them.

A priest is like a shepherd for his parishioners, but with respect to Jesus, the supreme shepherd, a priest is also just another one of his beloved sheep, the cardinal said.

He said Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist and psychoanalyst, defined the psychiatrist as “a wounded healer,” who must know “one’s own psychological wounds in order to heal those of others and that knowing the wounds of others helps to heal one’s own.”

This insight also applies to spiritual wounds, Cardinal Cantalamessa said. “The shepherd of the church is also a ‘wounded healer,’ someone ailing who must help others heal.”

The fundamental disease “we need to cure ourselves of in order to cure others,” he said, is fear.

Jesus says repeatedly, “Do not be afraid,” he said, and there are similar words from the Psalms with “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.'”

“Do not be afraid,” he said, is not “an empty, powerless” phrase but “is effective, almost sacramental.”

Christianity encourages those who work to alleviate people’s fears and neuroses in the field of psychology and mental health, he said, but the Gospel adds something that no science can give.

The liberation of all fear, he said, is through Christ, who told his disciples, “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

Jesus laid down his life for his sheep and “by his wounds we have been healed,” Cardinal Cantalamessa said.

“Jesus is the true ‘wounded healer,’ of whom the psychologist spoke, the wounded one who heals wounds. He made fears and anxieties opportunities for growth in humanity and in understanding others,” he said.

“We — shepherds or the ordinary faithful — must likewise be wounded healers, poor ailing people healing others,” he said.


© OSV News / Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. 2024 – from CNS Vatican bureau, used with permission