Part Three:  Healing through supportive relationships
Last year, I received a phone call from the hospital. A nurse asked me to come and console the parents whose baby just died in the emergency room. Given the information received on the phone, I expected to find an infant or even a toddler. Imagine then my surprise when I arrived and learned that the “baby” was a six-year-old little boy. It seems that Troy had died from complications due to the flu. How does one comfort parents after they just lost their only child? What words could I offer in such an inexplicable situation that would dry the tears of the grieving grandparents who were also huddled in the emergency room? It was a devastating loss.
Before entering the cubicle where the family was waiting for me. I asked the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name, to speak through me and for me. I am confident in hindsight that God did speak for me because words flowed from my mouth which I would never have considered saying beforehand.  By using me as a vehicle of grace, our Lord gave solace to the family, for which I remain to this day very grateful.
After Troy’s funeral and burial, I suspected that his dad, Tim, was drinking excessively. At first, I dismissed this behavior as Tim’s way of coping with the loss of his son. But shortly after, his wife, Jessica, called me and told me how Tim was hiding bottles of whiskey all over the house. In addition, he was becoming verbally abusive to her and emotionally vacant. I confronted Tim in person about his drinking and he admitted that life was out of control and he needed help. So I arranged for Tim to meet Joe, a parishioner who has been in Alcoholics Anonymous for many years. When they met, the man offered to take Tim to a meeting of AA that afternoon. He soon became Tim’s sponsor, and so began the long sojourn of Tim back toward sobriety.  You see, God not only heals through medicine, the Scriptures, the sacraments of reconciliation, Eucharist and anointing of the sick, he also heals us through the supportive relationships in our lives, in this case, a sponsor and Alcoholics Anonymous.
We, believers, are not immune from having problems.  We come before the Lord with all kinds of baggage:  anxiety, depression, marital issues, sexual dysfunction, addictions to alcohol, illicit drugs, pornography, some of us are even battling eating disorders. With each of these, one thing becomes painfully clear, healing is not something we can do by ourselves, it is a communal endeavor.
Supportive relationships come in all sizes and formats, whether it is that good friend or attending meetings of a support group, a 12-step program or even a faith-sharing group like a small-church community. A supportive relationship is life-giving, and healing may manifest itself through a conversation with a good friend who, listening attentively, displays compassion and is honest with us.
I still keep in touch with Tim and Jessica. In fact, Tim just received a chip at his AA meeting for being sober for one year. And I pray for Troy every evening before I fall asleep. Responding to Troy’s family in the aforementioned crisis was difficult. After 30 years in the priesthood, presiding over a child’s funeral never gets easier.  How do I manage? I call on Jesus, he is “the Doctor,” who is always in!
Father Comandini is the advisor to The Catholic Spirit.