By David Lewellen
Take time for yourselves and don’t be afraid to say no, Vanessa White told NACC members in her high-energy plenary speech.
Pacing around the stage and using the altar for effect, White, an assistant professor of spirituality and ministry at Catholic Theological Union, told the gathering about the various holes she has fallen into in her life — some far more often than once. “I’m concerned about the un-health of ministers,” she said. “We have perpetuated unhealthy ways of being role models who work 24-7 saying yes to everything.” Once, she said, she felt drained and decided to add something restorative to her schedule — “so I did high-school retreats” — which drew a guffaw from the audience.
But in truth, she was just crowding more things in, including teaching others about spirituality and health when she had little of either. “All of us have holes that we fall into,” she said. “I fall into the hole of saying yes. Of starting tomorrow.”
“A lot of us are able to talk a good talk,” White said. “Hello? We know what others should be doing, but we’re not doing it ourselves.” She herself had no spiritual director for five years, she said, adding “As long as you hide your illness, you cannot be cured.” Thinking about the second great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself, she asked, “How do we love ourselves? Loving myself? I thought that was selfish. But if you do not love yourself, how you love others? And God will be out of balance.”
Papers rustled and pens clicked as White put up a slide of five practices for busy chaplains: Honor the body, take sabbaticals, enjoy life, cultivate an attitude of gratitude, and pray.
“If you do not love yourself, how you love others? And God will be out of balance.”