Healing of Memories - Celestino Ezemadubom - ebook

The past has gone, but the human memory still makes it present. Remembering delightful moments of the past is a thing of joy. The problem lies with the memory of past hurts. This could either be what others have made us suffer or the pains we have inflicted on others. It could either be some severe mistakes we have made in the past or some opportunities we have lost which today keep on weighing us down. In any of these cases, there is one common problem as regards past hurts: they give rise to a wounded memory, and such memory keeps a person a prisoner in the past. The person is caged in the past although living in the present. It makes one live a life of continuous regrets. It forces the person to carry pieces of loads of past hurts suffered or inflicted or mistakes made, and such loads weigh one down on a daily basis. Such heavy loads affect the physical, psychological and spiritual life of the individual involved. In such a situation one is suffering twice: the actual pain experienced/inflicted and the continuous recollection and suffering of it in the memory which affects the whole person.Here, one is free to read only some part of the first chapter that deals with the multidimensional understanding of the term 'healing'. From chapter two onwards, the actual process of 'Healing of Memories' begins. Going through this process, makes one experience a type of freedom and happiness one has never experienced in life. 

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“Healing of Memories": The Secret of true freedom and a Happy Life

(A Personal Decision to Liberate Oneself from the Prison of Past Hurts)

don Celestino Ezemadubom

In memory of

Socrates the Greek Philosopher who died for his belief in justice and the good of humanity

Pope John Paul II who through his Pontificate laid down the legacy of healing of memories through mutual forgiveness


To God who keeps us in being, be the glory for His abundant graces on us. I remain ever grateful to Our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary for her intercession for me. I am highly indebted to my Local Ordinary - Most Rev. P. Ezeokafor for his assistance to me all these years. My appreciation goes to Most Rev. JB. Okoye, the auxiliary bishop of Awka for his encouragement to me throughout my studies. My immense gratitude goes to the bishop of the Archdiocese of Modena-Nonantola – Msgr. Erio Castellucci for his goodness to me. I am immensely grateful to my moderator, Professor Michael Fuss for his painstaking and fatherly guide in the process of this research. I cannot thank enough Professor Teresa Francesca Rossi who is the second reader of this research for all her goodness to me.

My unalloyed gratitude goes to Rabbi Jack Bemporad whose friendly and fatherly encouragement is beyond telling. My profound appreciation goes to Professor Bruce Williams whose lecture influenced me in carrying out this research. I remain ever grateful to Professor James Puglisi not only for his academic input moreover, for his immense help to me. I am deeply thankful to AnnaMaria for her great assistance to me. I remain indebted to the Russell Berrie Foundation (especially Angelica Berrie the Chairperson) for sponsoring part of my academic programme in doing the research work. I give immense thanks to Donata, Maura and Mauro for their help.

I remain grateful in a distinct way to Fr. Sebastian Anokwulu for his goodness to me. To all my priest friends especially Don Gianni Gilli – the parish priest of San Giovanni Battista Baggiovara e Don Franco Borsari – the parish priest of Beata Vergine Mediatrice Madonnina and many others, I am profoundly grateful. I appreciate the help rendered to me by Dr Ogwuegbu who read through the research work. My gratitude goes to Mr Reginald Ihebom and Mr Gilber Idahosa for their support. I thank the members of St. Barnabas African Catholic Community Modena, for their real assistance to me very immensely. I say a lot of thanks to the parishioners of San Giovanni Battista Baggiovara and the parishioners of Beata Vergine Mediatrice Madonnina, Modena.

I remain ever grateful to my family - my mother, my brothers, my sisters-in-law, my nephews and nieces for their constant encouragement to me. To my late father - Bartholomew Ezemadubom and my late friend and classmate Eugene Ojobor may the Lord grant eternal rest, Amen.

EZEMADUBOM Celestine Chidiebere


The past has gone, but the human memory still makes it present. Remembering delightful moments of the past is a thing of joy. The problem lies with the memory of past hurts. This could either be what others have made us suffer or the pains we have inflicted on others. It could either be some severe mistakes we have made in the past or some opportunities we have lost which today keep on weighing us down. In any of these cases, there is one common problem as regards past hurts: they give rise to a wounded memory, and such memory keeps a person a prisoner in the past. The person is caged in the past although living in the present. It makes one live a life of continuous regrets. It forces the person to carry pieces of loads of past hurts suffered or inflicted or mistakes made, and such loads weigh one down on a daily basis. Such heavy loads affect the physical, psychological and spiritual life of the individual involved. In such a situation one is suffering twice: the actual pain experienced/inflicted and the continuous recollection and suffering of it in the memory which affects the whole person.

Some instances of past events that can give rise to a wounded memory abound. Betrayal from loved ones or close allies could give rise to such hurts. The pain suffered from one's wife or husband in the case of a broken marriage is a typical example. It could arise from past unresolved issues between friends who no longer go together. A problem from a place of work where one is treated unjustly without deserving it is not excluded from this. The wounded memory could be a group memory, for instance, the memory of the schism between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. It could also be the national memory of a country after an unjust invasion and war. Some common factors about a wounded memory include; 1. It makes one be on oneself – that is, it imprisons one; 2. It makes it difficult for one to relate comfortably to others since one sees oneself always as a victim. 3. One always refers to that event which is called the "Frozen Moment". 4. It weighs one down physically, psychologically and spiritually if the memory remains unhealed. 5. It changes one's life towards the negative because of the constant presence of regrets of the past hurt suffered. All these could be for a group or an individual. Thus, healing of memory has to do with personal memory and social memory as we shall see later. Because of the harmful effects of wounded memory, the process of healing of memory is highly inevitable for all those who are today under the yoke of pains of past hurts.

Healing of memories is a process by which an individual or a group decides to liberate itself from the slavery of past wounds or the pains of the past. It could be the pains we have caused others, or the pains others have made us suffer. It could also be the pains we are passing through in the present due to our past mistakes or past opportunities missed. Healing of memories is a process that lasts almost for life. An essential instrument in this process is forgiveness, mutual forgiveness or the ability to forgive oneself and forgive one another. To undertake the process of healing of memories is one of the best experiences that a victim or an offender can take in his or her life. At the initial stage, it becomes challenging because the victim finds it uneasy to forgive the person who has done him or her some harm. At that moment, it is undoubtedly a bitter experience, but as we shall see in the analysis of the discussion, as soon as the victim finds the courage to forgive his or her offender, he experiences a liberty, serenity and tranquillity he or she has not come across in his or her life. At that moment, every bitterness encountered at the initial stage gives room to a sweetness that has no comparison.

However, it is noted that ‘healing of memories’ is only an aspect of ‘healing’ which is a broader concept. One may not treat the healing of memories without first of all having a little knowledge of the term ‘healing’. For this reason, this work which is divided into four chapters treats the concept of healing in the first chapter. We shall analyse the ‘healing' following in three perspectives: biblical interpretation; the development of the concept in ecumenical dialogues; and the general way of understanding the term. Chapter two has to do with the concept of the healing of memories. It begins by explaining what the memory is. It could be a personal or social memory. The chapter studies a little about the historical development of the concept of the healing of memories. It goes into the actual concept of the healing of memories. What do we mean by the healing of memories? What is the difference between a wounded memory and a healed memory?

To talk about the healing of memories implies the issue of forgiveness. For this reason, chapter three deals with the place of forgiveness in the process of healing of memories. It begins by presenting the concept of forgiveness in the Bible. From here, the chapter goes into interpreting the concept of forgiveness. For instance, does forgiveness imply remembering the past or forgetting it? Does forgiveness go against the norms of justice? What is mutual forgiveness?

The last chapter dwells on the essential characteristics of the process of healing of memories as concerns individuals or groups. It also presents the three phases of the process of the healing of memories. Finally comes the conclusion.


Analysis of the Concept of ‘Healing’

1.0. Introduction

Healing is a... universal phenomenon testified to by every people at any time in all places around the globe, and which has taken on peculiar momentum in the 20th century. It cannot be confined to isolated regions or particular religions or specific societies or cultures...The longing for healing has been as much a universal human desire...It is a pan-religious phenomenon; it exists in all the religions we know of...The topic of healing is not new to the Christian Church nor has it been irrelevant to her.1

Healing is both a universal phenomenon and a natural one. It is part of the history of life in general and of humanity in particular. It is a vital sign of life itself.2 The term ‘healing’ is a vast phenomenon which involves a lot of issues. It could be seen from different perspectives depending on the point of view of the researcher. The concern of this chapter is to explore the concept of healing within the recent ecumenical reflections. In other words, what does the term ‘healing’ stand for in these ecumenical reflections? For instance, does it simply mean as often expressed “‘miraculous’ recovery of strength after a time of weakness and disease by the individual”?3 Going through ecumenical reflections, the concept of healing involves more issues than physical cure. From the Tübingen consultations in 1964, through the World Council of Churches’ document “Healing and Wholeness. The Church’s Role in Health” in 1990, to the World Council of Church’s document “Come Holy Spirit, heal and reconcile” in 2005,4 Different aspects of the concept of healing have been reflected upon.5 However, it is one thing to discuss the concept of healing from different perspectives, and it is another to make sure that the discussions are not merely a question of passing resolutions. According to John S. Pobee:

As we address health and healing from the perspective of religion, it must be our care and concern not only to pass resolutions but more importantly to discern what is appropriate or right for this time... and to read the signs of the times. This means responding to the challenges of the day... and responding to the specific needs of the time.6

Meanwhile, the discussion on healing has its basis in the Bible. It may be necessary to have some understanding of the general biblical view of the concept.

1.1. Biblical Understanding of ‘Healing’

Treating the concept of healing here from the biblical perspective does not imply a biblical exegesis of the term. That is beyond the scope of this work. The biblical understanding of the concept of healing serves as a point of departure for the ecumenical discussions on the same term.

The concept of healing is present both in the Old and New Testaments. Availability of physicians in the Old Testament literature is evident and such physicians were valuable (Exodus 21: 19; Isaiah 1: 6; 38; 21). Though these physicians brought about healing remedies, healing was more achieved by prophets (especially Elijah in 1 Kings 17: 17-24; Elisha in 2 Kings4: 8-37) more than the healers. Notwithstanding the fact that prophets brought about healing, the general understanding among the Jews was that it was Yahweh who heals. This is the fundamental maxim in Exodus. 15: 26 "I am the Lord, your healer." This is also reflected in Psalm 103: 3.7 It could be said that healing as we see it from above is more of a recovery from physical illness but does not exclude other dimensions of the concept.

In the New Testament, the incarnation of God in Christ is an affirmation of God's healing power. It is not a healing power which takes us away from this world in anticipation of the world to come. It is instead a healing power which takes place "in the midst of this world and all its pain, brokenness and fragmentation and that healing encompasses all of the human existence."8 This indicates that the healing brought by Christ is more of a revelation of God's presence than a pointer to the final salvation at eschatology. Thus, this healing does not take us away from this world, but happens here and now, amidst the brokenness of the world. Not only that Christ's incarnation is a manifestation of God's healing power, but the gospels also make it known that Jesus had come to heal. His healing ministry showed that he was unique in his healing approach. For instance, everyone who came to him for healing received healing either immediately or afterwards. Through his healing ministry, he initiated and revealed the character of the kingdom of God.9 In Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God was no longer an anticipation of the kingdom in eschatology, but it was already at hand (Matthew 4: 17; Luke 11: 20).10

The healings accomplished by Jesus made people understand that a new era had come and that age was filled with hope to replace the old period shrouded with fear. Those healings exhibited an authority that belongs only to God. In this way, the healings not only revealed God's kingdom but also offered a unique route to God. This route will bring about a complete transformation of life and the provision of eternal life.11 The healing ministry of Christ also has some elements of the "end of time" (eschaton). Through his healing, he pointed to the end of time when there will be the fullness of life, an end to suffering and death as God has promised and announced by the prophets. Jesus did not heal all the sick people of his time. This is so because the kingdom of God already present, is as well expected. The kingdom is here but not fully here. The kingdom of God is revealed but not in its fullness. Its fullness will be revealed at the end of time.12

Because this kingdom has come, but it is still expected, suffering and pain continue in the world between the time of Easter and the end of history. Amidst this distress, the Spirit gives strength to the Church to continue in her mission of healing and reconciliation. The same Spirit enables believers to cope with continuing suffering and illness in the light of Christ's redemption.13 The ability to cope with suffering in the light of Christ's victory as in the case of St. Paul is part of healing. They deal with such suffering in the present with the hope of the final time when there will be no more suffering. From this perspective, the healings accomplished by Christ represent not only a revelation of God's kingdom here and now but also a "journey into the perfection of a final hope...this perfection is not always fully realised in the present (Romans 8: 22)."14 In another development, another significant characteristic of Christ's healing ministry is that it was integral:

In the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus of Nazareth was a healer, exorcist, teacher, prophet, guide, and inspirator. He offered freedom from sin, evil, suffering, illness, sickness, brokenness, hatred and disunity (Luke 4: 16ff; Matthew 11: 2-6). Hallmarks of the healings of Jesus Christ were his sensitivity to the needs of people, especially the vulnerable, the fact that he was "touched" and responded by healing (Luke 8: 42b- 48), his willingness to listen and openness to change (Mark 7: 24b-30), his unwillingness to accept delay in alleviation of suffering (Luke 13: 10-13) and his authority over traditions and evil spirits. Jesus healings always brought about a complete restoration of body and mind unlike what we normally experience in healings.15

This presentation of the diversified nature of the healing ministry of Christ ought to be a guide to the various Church denominations today in their healing ministry programs. The healing mission of the Church ought to be a multidimensional one.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the healings achieved by the Apostles were a replica of those accomplished by Jesus. By their healings, the Apostles showed the presence and person of Jesus in their midst. This manifests a continuation of Jesus ministry. Jesus healed and revealed the kingdom of God. The Apostles healed in the name of Jesus and also revealed the presence of the kingdom of God.16 In St. Paul, the concept of healing had a slight change. He talks more of spiritual wellbeing of believers than of signs and wonders and physical health. St. Paul emphasised, "wholeness in the relationship of believers with God and each other, while he viewed issues of health in the context of a life to come that would provide physical restoration for all believers."17 The concept of healing in ecumenical discussions has a history. This history will throw light to the different understandings of the concept which will be seen later.

1.2. Historical Development of the Concept of Healing in Ecumenical Discussions

The Tübingen I consultation18 in 1964 organised by the German Institute for Medical Mission is one of the most significant developments in the ecumenical discussion of the concept of healing.19 This Tübingen I consultation owed much to the Breklum Mission through its history of healing mission. One of the missionaries of the Breklum Mission Martin Scheel who worked in India was invited in 1957 to join the German Institute for Medical Mission in Tübingen. He became the first director of the above Institute and under his leadership, I and II Tübingen20 Consultations were organised. These consultations mapped out some of the most fundamental issues that occupied the international debate on health, faith, and healing for many years.21 The conclusion arrived at these consultations provided answers to many questions that came up in the area of the Church's healing mission. The consultations helped towards a better understanding of the Church's ministry of healing including a rethink of the conditions of medical missions. Tübingen I and II were instrumental in the creation of the Christian Medical Commission (CMC) of the World Council of Churches in Geneva in 1978.22 One of the salient conclusions arrived at the first consultation is the Christian concept of the healing ministry. Concerning this, the consultation made it clear that the Christian Church has a specific task in the area of healing. Thus,

the Church cannot surrender its responsibility in the field of healing to other agencies," and healing was conceptualised as "a sign of the breaking of human life of the power of the kingdom of God, and of the dethroning of the power of evil.23

However, some scholars24 argue that such statements above need qualification. A close look at Tübingen I consultation indicates that it concerned itself more with health care and physical cure as part of healing and an aspect of the Church's healing mission. This could be because of the director of the consultation Martin Scheel who was a theologian and medical doctor. The application of the term healing in this consultation is with a special reference to health care, in such a way that it could be said that the term ‘healing' here may be synonymous with ‘cure'. The argument that the Church has a specific task in healing is a known fact beginning from the time of Jesus and the early Church. However, that the Church cannot surrender the responsibility of healing to other organisations needs a qualification in the light of the principle of subsidiarity when it comes to health care. What is the actual part to be played by the Church? Does the Church carry out its function by the maintenance of hospitals and clinics or through the work of Christians in secular institutions of health or by combining the two? Tübingen I seemed not to have clarified which one of the three options is the Church's part. The Church communities may complement government services in the area of healthcare especially when government lags behind in its commitments. However, for the Church to take up the responsibility of the health care on the national level might be a misunderstanding of the Church's mission in the area of healing.25

Another issue that needs a close look concerning Tübingen I is the definition of healing as the ‘beginning of the kingdom of God and dethroning of the powers of evil'. This definition has some implications that may tend towards exclusivism. If as it was seen above that the term ‘healing' here refers more to physical cure, then this definition according to some scholars sounds triumphalistic. It might also lead to a discrimination of some people. The sick who were not cured might feel that they are not part of God's kingdom of grace. It can also be said that it confines healing to only a relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, the relevance of healing in other non-Christian religions and institutions were not taken into considerations.26 The theologian Ulrich Bach pointed out that seeing healing as a dethroning of evil could lead to a dangerous position of associating disease with evil powers or with God's punishment. He suggested that people should not understand sickness as an absence of God or health as a precondition for salvation.27 Because of all these, Bach correctly observed that,

several themes used at the Tübingen Consultation I such as “health” and “healing” were insufficiently defined, and that these vague definitions led to some misunderstandings in the later use of the consultation’s documents.28

For instance, it was not clear whether Tübingen I was talking about ‘healing of the sick' or ‘cure of the sick'. The two are not the same. The distinction between healing and cure is essential in the understanding of the concept of healing. As well, the knowledge of healing from its multidimensional perspective is vital to having a clear understanding of the concept of healing. For instance, from its multidimensional view, healing can be seen as a dethroning of evil when it comes to correcting oppressive and unjust systems and worldviews. Such is an aspect of healing, and it is a revelation of the kingdom of God - the kingdom of justice. In this sense, "healing represents the defeat of the transparent evil powers that contradict the original good intention of God for all humanity."29 Due to some lack of clarity in some of the themes defined in Tübingen I consultation, there came another consultation called Tübingen II in 1967.

Tübingen II was convened to make “clarification and precise elaboration of the theological statements that had been worked out in the first consultation.”30 A British physician and theologian Robert Lambourne had a reasonable influence during the preparation and the holding of the consultation. He is the author of the book, Community, Church, and Healing. In his book, he emphasised the connection between the sick person and the community as regards healing. With this insight, this consultation concerned itself with some theological issues which helped to throw more light on the relevance of healing communities. With Tübingen I and II a full door of opportunity for future discussions on healing, health, and ministry in ecumenical movement was thrown open.31

The discussion on health and healing continued from the Fourth to the Fifth Plenary Assemblies of the World Council of Churches in Uppsala in 1968 and Nairobi in 1975. The Christian Medical Commission, in its first meeting in September 1968 in Geneva came up with the following resolutions:

1. to help the Churches in their search for a Christian understanding of health and healing; 2. to promote innovative approaches to health care; 3. to encourage Church-related health care programs to collaborate with each other.32

From the Fifth Plenary Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Nairobi to the Sixth in Vancouver (1975-1983), the group's central committee gave a fresh mandate to the Christian Medical Commission to continue the search towards a better understanding of the themes - health and healing. Following this mandate, a commission to carry out a study on health, healing and wholeness was inaugurated to provide reflections on the Christian understanding of life, death, suffering, and health. A field study rather than an academic discussion was carried out by the commission in several regions of the WCC. This field study began in 1979 and ended in 1988. Within this period, studies were carried out in various parts of the world mainly the developing regions, coming out with different findings on health and healing.33

In the Caribbean, in Central and South America, it was discovered that structural injustice was a significant hindrance to health. Therefore, healing in these zones implies more of addressing the issues of injustice and oppressive systems. From the African continent, the importance of African spirituality and the traditional healing practices that emerge from such spirituality was emphasised as a crucial factor to healing in Africa. However, it could be said that the concept of healing in its multidimensional perspective may not be meaningful to Africans if the negative worldviews and neo-colonial oppressive principles that keep African continent impoverished are not addressed and corrected. These are the causes of sickness and suffering in Africa. In Asia and Pacific regions, the study highlighted the pluralist, multi-faith reality coupled with the traditional medicines that are emerging from such environment. In the Philippines, structural injustice was also underscored as an impediment to health and healing. In all the regions, a common discovery was the close relationship between healing and salvation.34

In the Northern countries, the research presented another perspective of healing. In these countries, it was discovered that health was impeded by the lack of community spirit. The title of the European report runs thus, "Who lives, Who dies, Who cares?”35 An interim report on the study of health, healing, and wholeness was presented in 1981 to the central committee of the WCC sitting at Dresden.36 At the same time when the Christian Medical Mission was doing its field study, the German Institute for Medical Mission organised another study aimed at having a clearer view of the Christian mission of healing. This study lasted from 1976 to 1981 comprising of theologians and physicians from various countries who met regularly. The results of these proceedings were published in the book, The Quest for Health and Wholeness. This book presents the outline of the whole history of Christian ministry of healing from early Christianity to the time of its publication.37

The issue of healing continued from Vancouver to Canberra between 1983 and 1991. From Vancouver assembly came up the theme- "justice, peace, and integrity of creation." This already presents healing in its multidimensional perspective. The delegates at the Vancouver assembly were concerned about the devastation of nature. Therefore, nature needs to be healed. This implies healing from its ecological point of view. Within this period, the final results of the study on the document Health, Healing and Wholeness were made available to the WCC central committee in Moscow in 1989. The report challenged member Church communities to re-affirm their involvement in healing ministry by making policy statements on health care and healing in general.38

The document “Healing and Wholeness – The Church’s Role in Health,”