FULL TEXT: Cardinal Tagle on family as ‘home for the wounded heart’

Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle

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FULL TEXT: Cardinal Tagle on family as ‘home for the wounded heart’
‘The wounds may come from the family, but it is also the family that becomes the source of comfort and healing,’ Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle says at the World Meeting of Families

In a much-applauded keynote speech at the World Meeting of Families in the United States, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle described the family as “a home for the wounded heart.”

“The wounds may come from the family, but it is also the family that becomes the source of comfort and healing,” Tagle said in his speech on Thursday, September 24.

The World Meeting of Families is one of the biggest events in the Catholic Church, and has been held 8 times since it began in 1994. It was held in Manila in 2003.

Below is the full text of Tagle’s keynote speech as transcribed by Rappler. 

Good afternoon to everyone. I bring you warm greetings from the Philippines and from Asia. At the outset, I would like to thank the organizers of the World Meeting of Families, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Archbishop Chaput, and the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Paglia, all of you dear friends who come from different parts of the world to celebrate the mystery, the life, and the mission of the family. 

My task this afternoon is to reflect with you on the family, a home for the wounded heart. I will try my best.

First, I would like to invite you to consider the different types of wounds that we experience and encounter.

Then, we will turn to Jesus, the Wounded One, whose preaching of the Kingdom of God included the ministry of healing.

Then we turn to the Church, the Body of Christ, definitely made up of wounded men and women, yet called to share in the redemptive mission of her Lord and her Head, Jesus Christ.

And finally, I would offer a few tips on how we, as wounded people, could be agents of healing in our homes, and in the wider home of the Church. 

And since it is the World Meeting of Families, I brought my own family here. My parents are here, my brother, and my cousins. 

Wounded hearts, wounded persons 

So let us start with some consideration about wounded hearts. Of course the heart here is not just an organ within the body. When we talk about wounded hearts, we’re talking about wounded persons. All people are wounded. I guess no one here in this assembly could claim, “I have never been wounded.” All of us have been wounded, and continue to experience wounds in our hearts. 

There are different types of wounds. Some, physical. Some, spiritual. Some, emotional. Some, relational. Some, financial. And there are different causes and different consequences. But whatever the nature might be of a personal wound, it always affects the family and, consequently, a person’s social relationships. 

All wounds hurt. But wounds are more painful and hurtful when we see our family members suffering. When somebody inflicts a wound on our family member, we are also wounded. They become our own wounds. But most hurtful are the wounds inflicted on someone by his or her own family members. The sacredness of the family is wounded by that.

When brothers and sisters fight over money. When relatives fight over a piece of property, and they say, “We are fighting for a principle!” What type of principle is that, when a piece of land is more important than your brother or sister? But the world calls that “principle.” 

But this is the mystery of it all. Even when homes are hurt by wounds, it is also the home that is the privileged place for comforting and healing wounded hearts. The wounds may come from the family, but it is also the family that becomes the source of comfort and healing. (READ: When a girl tells Cardinal Tagle: ‘You’re fake!’ and Tagle: In Philippines, love can separate families)

The wounds that affect our families today are many, immense, and deep. I don’t have time to analyze each one. But just to give you some examples:

  • financial constraints, unemployment, destitution
  • lack of access to basic human needs
  • lack of education
  • economic and political policies that do not support the families
  • of course failed relationships, infidelity, sickness, disabilities
  • social, cultural, even religious exclusion or discrimination
  • human trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, abuse of women, prostitution, new forms of human slavery
  • wars, ethnic conflicts
  • climatic calamities
  • forced migration, displacement of peoples

All of these bring wounds to human persons and to families. And from your specific contexts, your countries, your regions, maybe you can add to the list that I have just presented. (READ: Tagle on refugees: Don’t play blind, deaf, mute)

Open your eyes. Listen to the cries of the wounded. See the wounds, and see the causes of those wounds. 

Wounds ‘lead to alienation’

Wounds make persons, families, and communities vulnerable to manipulation, bitterness, despair, exploitation, and even vulnerable to evil, to sin. Some people fall into crime, criminality. They start thinking of evil deeds because of deep wounds. Interior division, the division within me; and the external division, conflicts – they all lead to alienation.

“I don’t know who I am anymore. I don’t know whether I am accepted by my family. I do not know whether I belong to society. I am an alien. I do not belong. I don’t have a home.” 

This is usually the experience of wounded people – alienation, homelessness. You may have a big, big beautiful house, and still be homeless. For what is a home? A home is not measured by how many acres you have, on which the building called a house sits. No. A home is the gift of a loving presence. 

I remember in my youth a beautiful song. It says, “A chair is still a chair, even when there’s no one sitting there. But a chair is not a house, and a house is not a home when there’s no one there to hold you tight, and no one there you can kiss good night.” 

That’s not the end of the song. It continues: “A room is still a room even when there’s nothing there but gloom. But a room is not a house, and a house is not a home, when the two of us are far apart, and one of us has a broken heart.

Let me finish. (Laughter) I get wounded, too. (Laughter) Now and then, I call your name and suddenly your face appears, but it’s just a crazy game when it ends. It ends in tears. Then the plea: “Darling, have a heart. Don’t let one mistake keep us apart. I’m not meant to live alone. Turn this house into a home. When I climb the stairs and turn the key, oh please, be there, still in love with me.” 

That’s a home. Not a house but a home. A loving presence. The gift of a loving presence. Which leads us now to Jesus Christ, the ministry of Jesus.

‘Humility of the healer’

A certain author, Luciano Sandrin, notes that integral to the mission of Jesus, which is the proclamation of the reign of God, the Kingdom of God, was the healing of the sick, the wounded. The proclamation of the Kingdom of God, the dawning of the Kingdom of God, was very often accompanied by signs and wonders, especially those of healing. 

In Matthew 9: 45, Jesus continued his tour of all the towns and villages. He taught in their synagogues, he proclaimed the good news of God’s reign, and he cured every sickness and disease, and Jesus instructed the 12 to do the same.

In Matthew 10: 7-8, Jesus says: “As you go, make this announcement: The reign of God is at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal the lepers, and expel demons.” 

The Good News of the reign of God is manifested in healing as caring, assisting people, accompanying them, reconstituting relationships, bringing back a girl to life and restoring her to her family. When God rules, when God reigns, persons are saved, honored, and served with care. Where God rules, wounds are attended to. 

You see this in the synoptics, you see this in the Gospel of St John. There seems to be a pattern in Jesus’ mission of proclaming the Kingdom, accompanied by healing. There is compassion. Jesus is moved with compassion. Then, Jesus cares. Included in the caring of Jesus is his anger toward the evil that befalls a person, and then the attention with which he cares for the person. 

Then comes faith. Usually the healed person manifests faith in Jesus. But in the end, Jesus would tell them to keep quiet. The humility of Jesus. The humility of the Healer. The Healer will not go around saying: “Hey, hey! Ha! You see that man? He used to be lame! He is able to walk now because of me! Praise me!” 

No! The healer comes to proclaim the Kingdom of God, not himself or herself. 

The proclamation of oneself is the way of the kingdom of this world. That’s why the kingdoms of this world, operating on ambition, power, self-recognition – they inflict wounds. But Jesus’ Kingdom is always a humble, serving Kingdom. That’s why it heals, by caring, by compassion, and by love. 

Healing ‘even your wounded enemy’

Some Fathers of the Church say that in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus was really talking about himself. Someone attentive to those left dying on the roads – that is Jesus. He was really talking about himself. And we can agree – yes, he is the Good Samaritan. Every person wounded, even if a stranger, even if an enemy, I will love and care for. 

Remember, in the parable was a Samaritan, which at that time was considered an enemy of the Jews. But if you want to heal, ha! The test is, are you willing to heal even your wounded enemy? Nobody claps. (Laughter, then applause) I caught you there! 

But Jesus stops and heals even those who planned to persecute him. 

Remember how in John 13, he washed the feet of his disciples, including those who had planned to betray him. You heal even your enemies. (Applause) Why? Why? That is the way of the Kingdom of God – very different from the ways of the kingdoms of this world. 

We all know the parables of mercy. In Luke 15, 3 parables, all about lost objects or persons – the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. All of them, getting lost. But the three prables ended with rejoicing, with feasting. Why? Because the lost, now found, is coming home.

When you look at the first parable, the lost sheep. The lost sheep probably was sick or wounded. And from a purely pragmatic, economic reason, the shepherd should not leave unattended the 99 healthy sheep to search for the one who is wounded, sick, and lost. That wounded sheep is really a liability. 

But why? Why would the shepherd look for that sheep? Why will the woman look for one coin? And why will the father welcome, with such extravagance, the lost son? For only one reason – the sheep, the wounded and lost, is my own. It is mine. And if it cannot come home, I will carry it home. 

The elder brother castigated the father: “This son of yours, this son of yours! You belong together!” But the father said, “Your brother.” The father wants the home to be made whole. And it would not be whole if the wounded brother would not be accepted. No other reason – you are mine, and my home will not be complete without you. You cannot come home? I will carry you home.

Healing by being wounded

This is how Jesus presents the kingdom of love and mercy. But Jesus does not only heal the symptoms of our wounds. He does not save us from our vulnerability and woundedness. He saves us in our wounds and vulnerability. He entered our woundedness. He became like us except sin. 

In his Incarnation, he embraced a wounded world. He experienced being hunted down by an ambitious politician. He experienced being a refugee in Egypt. He experienced being lost as a teenager. He experienced being branded as crazy. He experienced not having a home. He experienced the taunt, the ridicule, even of religious leaders. He experienced betrayal of a friend. He experienced the humiliating death on the cross, given only to criminals. And he was buried in a borrowed tomb. 

Jesus heals by being wounded. 

And according to the Letter of the Hebrews, he was perfected, he was made perfect, as a compassionate high priest, as a compassionate brother, because he was tempted in every way that we are, except sinning. He knows our wounds. And he transformed our wounds into the triumph of love. That’s why even the resurrected Christ had the marks of wounds. 

The wounds will not disappear. In fact, it is the wounded one that saves. So my dear brothers and sisters, since all of us are wounded, no one should be able to say, “I have no gift of healing.” No. Our wounds will make us, if we want them to be, avenues of understanding, compassion, solidarity, and love. 

Are we still together? (Crowd: Yes!) I now go to my third point. I’m halfway through. 

So from wounds and homes to Jesus, the wounded one, who continues praying to the Father, as our high priest, seated at the right hand of the Father, bearing the marks of his wounds and our wounds, in his resurrected life. Beautiful to behold. Don’t think that in the resurrection, our wounds, the scars, will disappear. No. Even if they are scars, if they are scars of life, of compassion, of solidarity, wow, they are beautiful scars, for the risen one possesses those marks of his loving concern for all of us.

Church: Home for wounded hearts

Now that leads to the Church, the home for the wounded hearts. By Church, we mean the Body of Christ, that is present in every local congregation, like the parish, like the diocese, like your religious order or society of apostolic life, and most especially, the family, the home, the domestic church, the church in the family. 

Being the Body of Christ, the Church shares in Jesus’ mission of proclaiming the reign of God through healing, through solidarity, through compassion. Saint Paul says, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 12: “If one member suffers, all the members suffer with it. If one member is honored, all the members share its joy.”

The Church of wounded members becomes a Church of solidarity and compassion, in union with each other. Not only in glory but most especially in wounds. 

Dear parents, when your child, your son or daughter will graduate with honors, I always hear this, the remark of parent, as he or she witnesses the event, with tears in his or her eyes, he will say: “Oh, my son! My daughter!”

But when the child does not pass the course, and is required to repeat the course, one parent will address his or her spouse, and say: “Hey, your son! Your son must repeat the course!” How come when it is about honor, it’s “my” child. When it is a disaster, it is “your” child. 

We are one Church, one home, one family. The Church must embody the redemptive mission of God. 

Joseph Hartzler, using the insights of the great Canadian theologian Bernard Lonergan says, “Nowadays, the redemptive mission of the Church must be manifested in the Church becoming disciples of authentic persons, capable of self-sacrificing love.” For it is this type of community that will prevent alienation, loneliness, and further woundedness. Self-sacrificing love. 

The Second Vatican Council, in Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, says that the Church is the sacrament, the sign and instrument, of the intimate union between God and humanity, and of human beings among themselves. That’s at the core of the Church – intimate union, communion, love, and not alienation. So at the very core of the Church’s identity is its mission – you are not there to alienate further. You are there to heal, to unite, and to reconcile. 

A beautiful image in the Bible of a Church that heals, even when it is wounded, is that small band of friends of a paralytic in Mark 2. You know those 4 friends, who did everything that they could? But when it was impossible to bring their friend close to Jesus because of the crowd, what did they do? They went up the roof. They opened up the roof to lower their friend to Jesus. That’s a family. That’s a parish. That’s a diocese. That’s the Church. No one gives up! I won’t give up! (Applause) We won’t give up leading people to the healing touch of Jesus. 

In the words of Maria Cataldo Cunniff, the Church opens doors to Jesus, and sometimes roofs in order to bring people to Jesus. 

‘All healing comes from God’

Let me now go to the last portion. Some paths that we could take so that we could promote Jesus’ redemptive mission, inaugurating the reign of God, within the Church as a home for the wounded. 

First, we must realize that all healing comes from God. It is the initiative of God. 

Secondly, healing is situated best in a community, the family, the parish, the school, the band of friends – without forgetting the involvement of the wounded person. He or she must also be courageous in taking the path toward healing, conversion. Let us not forget the liturgical, sacramental aspects – baptism, Eucharist, sacraments of forgiveness, reconciliation, the anointing of the sick, the ethical dimension. 

Joseph Kelly proposes some practices based on the image of the Church as a field hospital – an image which is dear to Pope Francis. I see some people taking down notes. Please do. There is an exam after this talk. (Laughter)

Joseph Kelly said, if we are serious about healing in a field hospital setting, first, we must keep in touch with Jesus, the chief physician. We should be humble. We cannot heal simply by our human efforts, even our psychological counseling skills. We all turn to Jesus. 

Secondly, let us recognize our own wounds. Facing our own wounds will enable us to be compassionate and understanding to the wounded.

Third, we should not be afraid of the dark. When you deal with wounds, oh my! Wounds are never clean. They could be bloody and raw. We should be ready to enter that dark world. 

Fourth, we must accept that the Church is a field hospital. We should be ready to respond in emergency cases. We should be prompt with creative solutions. We should be agile and flexible. 

Fifth, we should be infuse the field hospital with hope. We cannot be healers if we look desperate. I don’t know how those glum looking people could even generate trust and healing. Smile please. (Laughter)

Sixth, often, when we try to heal or help Jesus heal, we have no choice but to be quiet, silent. No words, no solutions. We just provide a loving presence. Discernment is essential.

Two stories 

My dear brothers and sisters, my timer here says I have 7 minutes to go. I will spend the last 7 minutes telling you stories, for that’s what Asians are. We live by stories. 

I told this story a few days ago in La Salle University. I usually attend the summer camp for young people in the diocese. And one summer camp devoted to finding one’s purpose in life – “vocation” actually, one’s purpose in life – I gave a keynote address like this, but very short.

After that, I opened the floor to questions, and the first question that I got from a young person was, “Bishop, will you sing for us?” Quite unrelated to the topic, so I said: “Let us go back to the topic. Ask questions about the topic.” And they asked questions, and then came another boy. He said, “Now, bishop, will you sing for us?” 

So I said: “You did not tell me that I would sing! So let me start a song that all of us would sing.” Which I did. Afterwards, the young people came in good Filipino fashion, and asked for a blessing. Some had selfies. Some asked for autographs.

Some asked me to sign their shirts. “Here, bishop, please sign here! Please sign here!” One young girl said: “Here, here! Sign here!” (Points to his chest) I said: “No! No! No! Turn around! Turn around!” (Laughter) 

But I was thinking, what do they think of me? Am I singer? Am I celebrity? What am I? Do I project as a bishop or what? 

The answer came a year later, in a similar youth camp. One boy approached me and said, “Last year, I had my shirt signed by you, bishop.” I said, “Oh, yes, I remember.” He said, “I have not washed the shirt.” (Laughter) But, he says: “Every night, I fold it, I put it under my pillow. I have not seen my father in years. He is working abroad. He has not been home. But with that shirt, and your signature, I know I have a home. I know I have a father.” (Applause)

Gracias. Muchas gracias. Tante grazie.

Let me close with this moving story, which I will read from an account submitted by a girl, a refugee girl: “I was born in the jungle. I was lucky, my mother told me, lucky that I was born when so many around me died. I come from Burma, where thousands have perished in the war between Burmese troops and opposition groups. I was born in the jungle because my parents fled their home to avoid the fighting. 

“When I was in primary school, I had to leave my home village, and from that time on, I would move from village to village to attend school. Until 1992, I visited my parents and brothers and sisters about a year, but I have not seen them since, as I have been unable to return home, following the closure by Burmese troops of all roads along the Thai-Burma border. 

“So I must live by myself, stand alone without my parents. I have relatives who live around here, but I know I cannot get my parents’ love and care whenever I want. I cannot talk to them whenever I want. When they are sick, I cannot visit and look after them. I realized how much I missed my parents when I was sick. Life as a refugee is so difficult. I badly needed my parents to be with me right there by my bed. But I could not have them. 

“I burst into tears. It was so hard for me. I was unable to see my parents because of the war. Then I realized, I was not the only one crying. And I felt consoled. I know there are thousands of people who are suffering like me. When will there be peace in Burma? When will the war be over? When will the ethnic issues be solved?

“After years of moving from place to place, I finally settled in the Karenni refugee camps. I was asked to teach at the camp’s schools. Before long, however, I was selected for an internship in the Philippines. During my time away, I learned more about human rights, and I am now working with the Jesuit Refugee Services in the field of education. 

“We are busy supporting Karenni schools in a number of ways. I am happy, and can use my education to assist my people in these difficult times. I was not the only one crying.”

That’s home for the wounded heart. Thank you very much. 

– Rappler.com

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