COLUMBIA — The 2004 South Carolina Charismatic Conference was a lesson in healing, a relevant topic in today’s hurting world.
Jesuit Father Matthew Linn, the guest speaker, helped the people who came to St. John Neumann Church Oct. 29-31 heal through four general sessions, a workshop, confession and a healing service. Father Linn is the author of 18 books and a member of the Association of Christian Therapists. He shared his wealth of knowledge from training spiritual directors, guiding retreats on healing and working through personal trials.
His first talk, “Healing through Gratitude,” challenged people to be grateful, to try and see Jesus in every circumstance, even though it is easier to see what is wrong.
He learned this lesson with his mother, who had Alz-heimer’s disease. He was worried because with each day she seemed to get worse. But during this despairing time, he had to go to the hospital as the Jesuit superior and determine whether or not to remove life support from a fellow priest, who was completely brain dead with only machines keeping him alive.
“After that, when I saw my mother sitting in the waiting room, I realized how much life was in my mother, how many gifts she has to offer,” Father Linn said. “She can walk; she can talk; she still can hug me and pray rosaries. The more grateful I am the more I know that Jesus is with me and that is what heals, and then I am at peace. I am open.”
Father Linn said that he has been “stuck” on a particular Scripture passage for two years that is connected to gratitude: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess 5:16).
“That’s what I really want to do: Rejoice all the time, pray all the time, give thanks all the time, and look for God’s will all the time,” he said. “When you are truly grateful, all the rest happens.”
He suggested that, before going to sleep, look at the day, and pray, “Lord, as I look at the day with you what I am grateful for?” Falling asleep with that memory of loving or being loved can heal the unconscious.
“Joy doesn’t come from having things, but knowing that God is with me,” Father Linn said.
The next two talks addressed the need to forgive God and forgive others. Much of the problem with anger towards God, according to the priest, is that people have a very small image of God, instead of seeing the true image of a loving God in their midst.
He advises people to first acknowledge their feelings. He believes that anger is not a sin in itself; sin is what a person does with the anger.
“Anger helps me claim the hurt and face it. I can only forgive what I face. The rest is swallowed and eats away at us like a cancer,” he said.
The final session was about forgiving oneself. Father Linn said that the world does not want to acknowledge sin, most of all the sins of omission, when people sit back and do nothing when God needs the help of everyone.
“I pray for myself, that I can always bring forth gifts of people and not be part of pushing people’s gifts away,” the speaker said.
The priest has seen a decline in the number of people going to confession but growing numbers of people attending support groups. Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous have incorporated confession in their healing experience and Catholics need to rediscover this important sacrament too.
“A confession that does not heal us is a confession that is simply going through the motions,” said Father Linn. “If we do not hate the sin, nothing changes. If we do not believe that God forgives us, nothing changes. When I hate the sin, but love the sinner, I get healed.”
Father Linn doesn’t want people to become discouraged by their sins, but to realize that beneath sin is the desire to love. When a person turns away from sin, the greater purpose becomes visible. For example, beneath anger is a desire for justice.
The conference ended with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Baker. In his homily he spoke of Zacchaeus, a tax collector who was drawn to Jesus and who was changed after his encounter with Christ.
Speaking about the saints of the church, the bishop said, “Let us stop at nothing less than what they have done. Though we may be small in spiritual stature at the present moment that should not keep us from climbing the spiritual trees of life to see Jesus anew and let him seek hospitality in our spiritual home.”
Deanie Tourville, parishioner from Our Lady of the Hills Church in Columbia, enjoyed the conference and spoke of the movement.
“In Charismatic Renewal, we’re taught not to underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit, but to have an expectant faith,” she said. “This weekend, as we focused with Father Matthew Linn on healing — spiritual, emotional and physical — it was apparent that our community had come expecting to receive God’s healing power.”
Susan Ibarra, a parishioner traveling from St. Mary Magdalene in Simpsonville, said that this conference was her first one and that she enjoyed the talks.
“Father Linn speaks to the person through the intimacy of Jesus,” she said. “By bringing healing and love, he brings us to the real Jesus, the Jesus that lives within us.”