By MARY MARSHALL
ROCK HILL — “The Simple Care for A Hopeful Heart” was the theme of the 22nd annual Cardinal Newman Lecture held at The Oratory Center for Spirituality last Saturday.
The day’s presenter was Robert Wicks, Ph.D. He is a professor in Graduate Programs in Pastoral Counseling at Loyola College in Maryland. For the academic year 2001-2002, he is a visiting scholar at Stritch Medical College in Chicago.
Speaking to 175 people gathered at The Oratory, Wicks stressed that Lent is a time to give, asking nothing in return. We do this through prayer, fasting, and letting go of things.
Referring to Matthew chapter 22, which asks, “What is the greatest commandment?” Wicks pointed out that this was not an unusual question for people to ask at this time. Rabbi’s often asked this, but Jesus gave it a twist. We must love God with our whole heart, mind and soul, but, he added, we must love our neighbor as ourself.
“What we share with people should be our faith as we share freedom and love,” said Wicks. “We form a triangle of compassion: self-care, knowledge and prayer. What is our availability to ourselves, God, and others? Compassion is a sense of presence. Just listening is dramatic. We are to give expecting nothing in return. It doesn’t matter if we succeed or are appreciated.
“True ordinariness is tangible holiness,” said Wicks. “When we become like a small child amazing things can happen. Look at children; they are so innocent. We have to have a sense of ordinariness, freeing our energy from self-defense. If we really trust that we are made in the image and likeness of God, why are we spending so much time on self-defense? We need to offer our openness to people.”
Wicks stressed that we need to have presence, solidarity, and be a person without guile, a listening person showing respect and openness.
He gave the following example for examining oneself. “I found myself in the basement, shadows surrounding me. I saw so much of what I was like. I began going up the stairs to take measures to be more compassionate. The first door I reached was locked, and I realized I was in the sub-basement seeing the hurt I had caused others and was not aware of. I got up. A new wave hit me. People I just met — I didn’t realize what they thought of me. It brought me into the now. I had no place to run such as nostalgia or dreams. All of a sudden it made me appreciate all the little wonderful things people had done for me.”
Wicks stressed that we don’t realize how much small gestures mean to family and friends. Simplicity is the key.
He continued, “Simplicity of compassion does not mean it’s easy. There is so much hurt and fragility amongst us. You don’t know what people have been through. Sometimes people are suffering from a broken heart not an angry heart. Be honest about what you’re thinking and believing. The trade of being compassionate is truly overwhelming, but we must continue to be compassionate. Even in darkness, we can be a light when we are compassionate. It’s how we stand in darkness that makes a difference. Our faith grows when we are making a difference. A prayerful attitude can find new life in Christ.”
Wicks spoke at the noon Mass, saying, “Lent is an opportunity to really focus on seeing things in a different perspective. Take time to read the Scriptures — pray over Scripture. We need to rededicate ourselves to God through fasting, almsgiving and opening ourselves up to God through prayer. If you want to save and redeem your life, save and redeem your day, be in the now with God and Scripture.”
Wicks received his doctorate in psychology from Hehnemann Medical College. He is a graduate of both Fairfield and St. John’s universities. He has taught in universities and professional schools of psychology, medicine, social work, theology and nursing.
Wicks major areas of expertise are the prevention of secondary stress disorders and the integration of psychology and spirituality. In his clinical practice, he focuses on working with psychotherapists, physicians, nurses, educators, relief workers and people in full-time ministry.
Wicks has published 40 books. He is general editor of Illumination Books and a member of the editorial board of Human Development. His books include the Comprehensive Clinical Handbook of Pastoral Counseling, the two volume Handbook of Spirituality for Ministers, his best-selling work Touching the Holy, Sharing Wisdom, Everyday Simplicity and Snow Falling on Snow.