by Fr. Pat McNulty.
"Did you read it?" My therapist was referring to the latest pop book in the field of psychology, I’m OK—You’re OK, which he thought would be good for me to read. This was in 1969, and that book had just been written by Thomas A. Harris.
Dr. Harris’ had adopted the process which shifted the attention of therapy from the id, ego, and super-ego of Freud to three states of the ego, namely, Parent, Adult, and Child.
"Yes, I read it."
"And what did you think?"
"Well, it didn’t answer my question."
"Which was: when some people hear, ‘rise an’ shine’ in the morning, they rise and shine. Me? I crawl and weep. And, as a psychologist, you keep telling me that this is some kind of disorder. But if I’m OK and you’re OK , then why is that not OK?"
Well, the problem of having great difficulty getting up in the morning was not my biggest emotional problem back in 1969 when it was considered almost a scandal for a priest to be in need of therapy.
But the answer to this problem turned out to be quite pivotal for me. And even though therapy helped me get ready for the answer, it could not provide me with the answer. That I had to learn through faith.
In 1969, as I remember it, psychology did not look kindly on such things as faith, which sounded a bit like I’m OK but you’re not OK, to me.
By the time I was born, "rise-an’-shine" had already been a military phrase for at least a hundred years. The meaning was simple: get out of that bunk ‘n get those boots shined, now!
Rise ‘n shine! It was even the wake-up call in our summer youth camp which was religious though non-denominational and had nothing to do with the military.
Strange how we had forgotten that for centuries Christians had already used that phrase to proclaim the Resurrection: "He is as truly risen as the rising sun, O Christian. Rise and Shine with him!"
I had forgotten that tradition. But somewhere along the liturgical way, probably after the major renewal of the Easter Vigil service, the first part of that ancient Christian cry came alive for me again.
I began to recall that each new day is actually a new experience of the Resurrection of Christ and thus of our own resurrection to come, as well.
Gradually, getting up in the morning became my soul’s personal witness to the rest of me, body and psyche, that I really do believe in the Resurrection.
No matter how I felt or how badly I wanted to roll over and never get out of bed again, to get up was a way of saying, "I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen!" Since I cannot not believe that, then I had no choice: "Rise, Patrick! Get up!"
But the second part, the "shine" part, was a bit more difficult for me. I had learned how to rise from my bed as a grace-full proclamation of my belief in the Resurrection, but to shine implied a kind of joy, an excitement or at least a task to look forward to.
And you don’t have to look at me twice of a morning to see that I am not, by nature, a person who "shines" when I get up to start another day.
Once again, it was our best Christian spirituality that came to my rescue. The answer to my shine-less dilemma was very simple.
Though my behavioural change of mind flowed from good therapy, my response went far beyond it. For beyond that harsh campy, "rise an’ shine" lies one of the most astounding of all Christian ministries.
It is fleshed out in our lives through the Eucharist, given its power through the Death of Jesus and proclaimed to the world through the Resurrection.
For we Christians believe that because of our intimate baptismal union with Christ, we can take any event of any day and recreate it.
Whether it is bathing someone who is sick or washing the dishes, whether it’s our struggle to get up in the morning or our very last breath ever, we can exchange it for someone else: in Christ we can do for them what they perhaps cannot or will not do for themselves.
Yes, we can even get up "as if we were them" because of our union together in Christ. And then our getting up actually affects them.
When we get up for them, as them, suddenly their darkness can be lifted, their burden lightened, their hope re-enkindled though perhaps we are left in the dark with the same old burdens and hopelessness for a time every morning.
But they are freed. And that is our joy because, regardless of our human state in the morning, we know that we are safe in Christ whereas perhaps they are not.
And we will never know, until the last day, how many people we have "saved" from despair, hopelessness and perhaps even suicide by simply "getting up in Christ" for them, as them, every morning. Because, in Christ, it really is that simple.
Well, talk about "shine!" Talk about a joy, an excitement or at least a task to look forward to every morning! Rise and shine? You bet! And I don’t even have to be freed of my own morning "sickness." In Christ it becomes the very instrument of life for myself and others.
How I wish I had known that those many years ago when my therapist and I last met!
If he should ever read this article, let me say: "Thanks, Les. You helped me a lot. And don’t worry about that insurmountable problem you have with God and religion: I have borne the darkness and pain for you, as you, these many years so that it did not overcome you. That’s the difference between therapy and love.
"Oh, in case you haven’t figured it out yet: ‘I’m not OK, you’re not OK, and that’s OK.’ As a matter of fact, that’s the secret of the whole thing. Happy Easter, Les."
P.S. No, you can’t use that for the title of your autobiography because I’m gonna use it for mine.
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