Entry #11: The LIFE of Pi “vs” Chaplain's!
Updated: Nov 6
The journey to enlightenment for pastoral care providers can look like something like the movie, “The Life of Pi.” Hospital Chaplain's go on a journey of self-discovery through clinical pastoral care education that pierces one to the very core in order to tap into the pure motivations of one’s heart for servitude. The 2012 movie, “The Life of Pi,” had some interesting parallels and/or comparisons to that of the chaplain’s calling. Our service connections and how we are taught to dig deep into the inner parts of ones lives in order to find that place and willingness to embrace the practice of interfaith for the cause of reaching hurting and suffering people of all faiths. May this, “Diary of the Hospital Chaplain blog journey enlighten you to what hospital chaplains really do in pastoral/spiritual care ministry.
As a boy in the movie, Pi always seemed too have to explain his name to his classmates. This is also true for the chaplain; many don’t really actually understand the importance of what we do and why we do it until you need us. What many don’t understand is our process of brokenness that we go through to get the privilege to serve others through their life’s traumas. We prepare to be able to reach one in the intimate sufferings of pain, sickness, disease, death, dying, and grief with the hope of providing one with some form of comforting, peaceful gift of God’s presence. Which sometime can take place without a single word ever being spoken in that moment. We never know when we receive the chaplains call what we will be encountering during that visit. Yet we try to prepare, understand multiple faith traditions so that we can at least provide a connection to the individuals that we serve.
Pi was raised Hindu; Hinduism has an estimated 33 gods/devas within their faith tradition. In Hindu religion there are four main denominations, the four denominations all have different roles of spiritual service (https://www.hindusinfo.com, 2020). Yet in the movie this young man received Christ as a Hindu. He also grew in his spirituality and grew up following and practicing three different faith traditions at once. Pi was a Hindu, Christian, Muslim, and had also mastered Jewish teaching of which he later taught courses as an adult. This was a sample of his spiritual journey to enlightenment. Chaplains also go through a similar process of academic and clinical spiritual enlightenment of learning about other faith traditions as an attempt to bridge the gap of understanding with the hopes of not offending and being able to reach and provide comfort at the core of the soul of that person of which we are called to serve. We work hard at trying to understand, and let go of our own personal bias, judgements, and spiritual convictions from our own personal faith traditions. Although, it can be somewhat of a difficult challenge to be willing to open up your own faith traditions, cultural beliefs, understandings, and convictions so that you can learn and understand how to better understand and spiritually serve other. Yet we do it!
Onetime I had an in-depth two-hour patient visit with a Caucasian, Jewish female in her late 50’s that led us into a mutual discussion of one another’s faith traditions and practices. I had reviewed the consult sheet for her information. I knew her diagnoses and that she was Jewish before I entered her room. With that information, in prayerful preparation I knew that if I was given the opportunity to use biblical scripture that it wouldn’t come from the new testament of the Bible. So, I was prepared to enter her room. I greeted her and introduced myself. She invited me in, we lightly chatted for a few moments about why she called for a chaplain and what she needed. I can’t even tell you how we got to the subject of scripture, but we did.
She started sharing a story about a contractor that was Christian that did some work on her home. Now this had nothing to do with her illness and why she was in the hospital, yet it was what was on her mind. She told me about what happened between her and the Christian contractor and their differences in bible understanding. She even asked me about my understanding of her Jewish faith tradition. So, I began to tell her a bit that I understood and knew not to use new testament scriptures if I was going to use a scripture during our visit. When I made that statement, she smiled at me and asked me to pull up a chair and take a seat. I did just as she asked. And then she started to share. She began to tell me about her Jewish culture.
She said that if I had given her a new testament scripture, she would have been polite, but she would have ended our visit. Now think about that for a moment. A simple act of spiritual care of attempting to provide a comforting word could have possibly been a spiritual mistake in this visit. I could have offended her without even know it. I began to tell her about how I learned about the Jewish culture through my Christian church. I told her that our church supported and was trained by an organization called, “Jews for Jesus.” She smiled and had heard of them. This was our connecting bridge of dialogue that birthed a fantastic time of conversation. She shared numerous nuggets of Jewish teachings with me. In turn I shared my Christian understanding of her faith tradition. As we were coming to a close of our two-hour conversation, I asked her could I pray for her. I pulled out my Jews prayer book that I normally carry. I showed it to her and she gave me such a sweet smile on her face and said yes.
I started out reading the prayer from the book and then the Lord inspired me to continue without the book. She took my hand while I was praying for her and I squeezed her hand as she placed her hand in mine. I closed the prayer and she thanked me and said other Jewish people would also embrace me because of the way I approached her with some Jewish understanding. This is what we do, we want to provide a safe space for one to share their heart felt needs during a health crisis or scare no matter what it is or what the patient wants to talk about. We are there to provide comfort and support. In this blog today it demonstrates the need to learn and embrace an understanding of other faith traditions other that your own. She shared with me what she wanted to talk about.
Please note: We never talked about her sickness and why she was in the hospital. This often happens many times, when I have conducted patient visits. We talk about what’s important to the patient. They are our guide of enlightenment, also. We follow their lead in providing them with spiritual care. I’ll say that again, we are trained to discern and follow the patients lead for spiritual care or not. An act of love goes beyond boundaries. What are you willing to do to love another in your area of service? Chaplain’s do that by going through Clinical Pastoral Care Education training. It breaks us, so that we will healthily tap into the inner core of our spiritual being to serve others from a place of compassion, empathy, and love for humanity. That is what chaplain’s do, we each one reach one!
Here’s a sneak preview, “This is my STORY!” for Until next time.
For the sake of the Chaplain’s healing Call!
Chaplain Jacqueline M. Pressey, Ed.D.
"Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your
work with becoming extraordinary, through pursuing EXCELLENCE!"