We hear a lot this time of year about giving thanks. And rightly so! Most people agree that being thankful – or more specifically, being grateful – is a very good thing. But did you know that there are also spiritual and mental benefits to having an attitude of gratitude?
As I look around each day, I see vastly that life is filled with paradox. The more connected we get through technology, the more isolated we feel. The more you fail at something, the more likely you are to (eventually) succeed. The more that we learn, the more we realize how very little we actually know. And in order to fully live, we must experience a sense of death of the self. Something that has set in over these last few weeks is that, in order to reach peace we must surrender to God’s will.
Here at Franciscan we have an intervention program for students caught drinking under age. The student is mandated to meet with a “Mentor” for four sessions. The mentor is a Counseling student such as myself, whose job is to assess where the student is at as far as alcohol abuse goes. Depending on what they find, they may spend those four sessions any number of ways. If the student has a problem with alcohol, then it can be addressed. If not, then I find myself in a much more pastoral role.
“From August 2002 to June 2003, I lived and walked among the faceless people of the streets. I say ‘faceless’ because when you are homeless, the rest of the world does its very best to look past you” (The Word Among Us, November 2014, p.56). This article got my attention as I was leaving from an hour of adoration in the Blessed Sacrament. It felt like Jesus was speaking right at me and challenging me to put my faith into action. Is that me, Lord?
Throughout this semester, I have done a lot of reflecting on what I have to offer my clients as a counselor. Before this semester, I did not think that I had a lot to offer my clients in terms of life experience and a story. After all, as a cradle Catholic graduate student who comes from a white upper-middle class family how can I relate to people who are new in the faith or who come from different socioeconomic, educational, and cultural backgrounds?
“God I look to you, I won’t be overwhelmed, give me vision to see things like you do. God I look to you, you’re where my help comes from, give me wisdom, you know just what to do” (Jenn Johnson).
With six papers due before Thanksgiving, and three exams in 24 hours soon after, I have to admit I’m a bit overwhelmed and burned out from this semester.
For anyone going into Catholic pastoral counseling, a strong understanding of Catholic Social Teaching is important. The teachings of the Catholic Church shed wonderful light on the dignity of the human person and man’s relationship with other people and the world around him as God intended it to be.
Before coming to Franciscan, I thought I had a fairly well formed faith and saw the world through those eyes of faith. I came from a strong parish, a strong youth group, and many strong friends. It appeared I had it all. There was one thing about my faith that over the years has been challenged, formed and tested. The one way in which I feel it has changed the most has been in not seeing the world in such a black and white manner.
As this semester has been flying by, I am reminded again and again of the importance of having a deep spiritual life to even entertain the idea of being a pastoral counselor. Other than my own personal desire to grow closer to God, there’s also the desire to do so for my clients so that I can help them in their spiritual life. One way that I can deepen my spiritual life is to learn more about virtues and focus on different virtues that I may be struggling with.
As this semester continues, I have learned more about the unique opportunities and techniques associated with pastoral counseling. Based on what I have learned so far, I can see that the uniqueness of Pastoral counseling provides many advantages as well as certain limitations that should be considered by anyone who wants to be a pastoral counselor. One of the main advantages of pastoral counseling that I see is the ability to more directly incorporate our Catholic faith into therapy.