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Waiting for God: From Trauma to Healing
by John O’Brien OFM


Reviewed by
Dominic Meehan

 

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In Waiting for God: From Trauma to Healing, John O’Brien OFM, leaves us in no doubt about the true meaning and seriousness of such words as trauma, affliction, suffering and loneliness. With fleeting reference to his own trauma and suffering through abuse and sickness, he tells us that trauma is the pain that never goes away and outlines the intention of this book: an attempt to be with the person in pain. The book is a relatively short volume but as can be expected from the subject matter is in fact quite dense. The bibliography is extensive and its use very thorough. The author mentions such diverse work as the rock opera Quadrophenia by The Who (to show the importance of self knowledge and acceptance), songs by Supertramp to the works of Samuel Beckett. There are numerous references to the work of Hans Urs Von Balthasar and of course scripture. To try and sum up: the essence, or essential theme of this work is the link between the trauma experienced by human beings and the suffering and pain undergone by Jesus during the Passion and in particular the descent into hell: ‘There is a healing effect of seeing Jesus share our pain and asking him to bring light into our darkness’. O’Brien references the life and suffering of Adrienne Von Speyr and her sharing in the experience of Jesus’ descent on Holy Saturday. The importance of prayer and the grace received, the part played by the Holy Spirit as Interpreter and Mary’s fiat all form important parts of this book.

 O’Brien stresses the importance of witness which involves silence and listening, something very difficult in our busy lives: ‘there is a cost of listening – it means giving of oneself’ he tells us, without witnessing to another’s pain or having our own acknowledged, there can be no healing, which is ‘to know the love of God’. ‘The ultimate witness is the lonely Jesus in Hell… Only the wounded healer heals’.

 

O’Brien speaks about those who lose hope; music, art and writing create a sacred space for those suffering as they are great ways of expressing loneliness. O’Brien has a great fondness for things literary and artistic, from the modern to the classic and his use is relative, clever and very imaginative. The life and suffering of Beckett is touched upon and works such as Murphy and Waiting for Godot are used extensively in the latter section of the book. He tells how the play Godot was staged by inmates in the notorious San Quentin prison and how every night in Sarajevo during the war, only one act of the play was staged (due to the hunger and exhaustion of the actors); the effect it had on those suffering was immense.

 

The concluding section of the book ‘The Beginning of a Healing Journey’ tells us there is hope and stresses the importance of prayer. Prayer can be difficult but if we can manage it ‘we learn to internalise (the pain) and thus begin a journey of healing’. Prayer and the Spirit allow us to see that we are children of God and the innate dignity which comes with that knowledge.

 

Templemore, Co. Tipperary                             DOMINIC MEEHAN

 

 

 

THE FURROW

 

Waiting for God: From Trauma to Healing. John O’Brien OFM.

CreateSpace. Pp. 74. Price: USD13.00

 

In Waiting for God: From Trauma to Healing, John O’Brien OFM, leaves us in no doubt about the true meaning and seriousness of such words as trauma, affliction, suffering and loneliness. With fleeting reference to his own trauma and suffering through abuse and sickness, he tells us that trauma is the pain that never goes away and outlines the intention of this book: an attempt to be with the person in pain. The book is a relatively short volume but as can be expected from the subject matter is in fact quite dense. The bibliography is extensive and its use very thorough. The author mentions such diverse work as the rock opera Quadrophenia by The Who (to show the importance of self knowledge and acceptance), songs by Supertramp to the works of Samuel Beckett. There are numerous references to the work of Hans Urs Von Balthasar and of course scripture. To try and sum up: the essence, or essential theme of this work is the link between the trauma experienced by human beings and the suffering and pain undergone by Jesus during the Passion and in particular the descent into hell: ‘There is a healing effect of seeing Jesus share our pain and asking him to bring light into our darkness’. O’Brien references the life and suffering of Adrienne Von Speyr and her sharing in the experience of Jesus’ descent on Holy Saturday. The importance of prayer and the grace received, the part played by the Holy Spirit as Interpreter and Mary’s fiat all form important parts of this book.

 

O’Brien stresses the importance of witness which involves silence and listening, something very difficult in our busy lives: ‘there is a cost of listening – it means giving of oneself’ he tells us, without witnessing to another’s pain or having our own acknowledged, there can be no healing, which is ‘to know the love of God’. ‘The ultimate witness is the lonely Jesus in Hell… Only the wounded healer heals’.

 

O’Brien speaks about those who lose hope; music, art and writing create a sacred space for those suffering as they are great ways of expressing loneliness. O’Brien has a great fondness for things literary and artistic, from the modern to the classic and his use is relative, clever and very imaginative. The life and suffering of Beckett is touched upon and works such as Murphy and Waiting for Godot are used extensively in the latter section of the book. He tells how the play Godot was staged by inmates in the notorious San Quentin prison and how every night in Sarajevo during the war, only one act of the play was staged (due to the hunger and exhaustion of the actors); the effect it had on those suffering was immense.

 

The concluding section of the book ‘The Beginning of a Healing Journey’ tells us there is hope and stresses the importance of prayer. Prayer can be difficult but if we can manage it ‘we learn to internalise (the pain) and thus begin a journey of healing’. Prayer and the Spirit allow us to see that we are children of God and the innate dignity which comes with that knowledge.

 

Templemore, Co. Tipperary                             DOMINIC MEEHAN