My favorite way to recharge my spiritual batteries is to watch the PBS program, Religion and Ethics on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately, my Utah station, KUED, chooses to air it at 6:30 AM, so it requires early rising to catch the show. KBYU no longer carries the program—they forfeited my minuscule donation when they cancelled it a few years ago. Since I lack the technology and skill to access a podcast at a later hour, I pull myself from bed early on Sunday mornings to watch people of various denominations living the values of their religion—something I find more uplifting than theology.
Yesterday the program featured a segment on the Washington Jesuit Academy, a Catholic middle school for low-income, African-American or Hispanic boys. Students attend free of charge 12 hours a day, 11 months a year. Classes are small and academic standards are high. About 80% of the boys who graduate go on to high school and then college—an astonishing number considering the fact that three-fourths of them are from single-parent families and one in five has a parent in prison. Most of the boys are not Roman Catholic.
Religion is part of the curriculum with the emphasis on values rather than theology. “We do this not to create Catholics, but because we are Catholics. It’s the social-justice teachings of the church that drive us,” a counselor said. What a great motto for any religion.
The second segment of yesterday’s program featured Buddhist hospital chaplains. Most large hospitals have Christian and Jewish chaplains on their staff. Buddhist chaplains are less common, and their method of helping the sick differs from those of the more common American denominations. Rather than discussing theology and moral issues or administering religious sacraments or rites, Buddhist chaplains focus on alleviating suffering by helping the patient deal with the present moment. They don’t tell patients that things will be better soon. They focus on this moment—accepting pain instead of fighting it, breathing, slowing down the breathing, allowing the body to relax.
I’m never comfortable visiting with a seriously ill persons—I try to avoid the topic of their illness—pretend it doesn’t exist. Maybe I need to adopt the Buddhist philosophy when visiting—accepting the person’s pain and focusing on their present situation.
Thank you, R&E for these insights.