The Importance Of “Story” In Chaplaincy

Why is Story So Important in the Work of a Chaplain?

“Story” is the life journey of patients and pastoral care providers

Introduction: The Wounded Storyteller

Arthur W. Frank

Professor of Sociology at the University of Calgary 

Seriously ill people are wounded not just in body but in voice. They must be allowed to become storytellers in order to recover the voices that illness and its treatment often take away…

Serious illness is a loss of the “destination and map” that had previously guided the ill person’s life. Ill people must learn “to think differently.” They learn by hearing themselves tell their stories, absorbing others’ reactions, and experiencing their stories being shared. Communicating their story is an effort toward thinking differently. Ill people need to tell their stories in order to construct new maps and new perceptions of their relationships to the world. Through the story they tell, a new map and destination are taking shape.

The World of Hospice Spiritual Care

Dr. Douglas Sullivan

[Chaplains] must let go of the need to always be the teachers and rather become the students.

Ministry of presence provides spiritual care by listening to patients without trying to explain away their spiritual pain or package it in tidy bundles of religious dogma to make them more comfortable. Chaplains are not there to take away or explain, or even to understand, but simply to ‘watch’ with our patients.

Seneca of Ancient Rome

4 BC – AD 65

Roman Philosopher & Poet

As he lay dying, Seneca of ancient Rome asked,

“Who is there in all the world who listens to us? Here I am, this is me in my nakedness, with my wounds, my secret grief, my despair, my betrayal, my pain which I can’t express, my terror, my abandonment. Oh, listen to me for a day, an hour, a moment, lest I expire in my terrible wilderness, my lonely silence. Oh God, is there no one to listen?”