As a priest, the Rev. Dr. Francis A. Chiaramonte, sees God as the source of all energy. As a psychotherapist, he has seen humans distort that energy in every way imaginable.
Because he is both a priest and a psychotherapist, the Rev. Chiara-monte brought an unusual perspective to the Salt Lake Ministerial Association spring conference this week. The conference topic was, "Ministry, Medicine and the Mind."The Rev. Chiaramonte was joined by Victor Kassel, a physician specializing in geriatrics, on staff at Holy Cross Hospital; Donald Price, a Salt Lake marriage and family therapist specializing in multiple personality disorders; and Beth Hughes, a local marriage and family therapist who deals with problems ranging from depression to conflict resolution.
During the two-day conference the four speakers talked about the spiritual dimensions of healing and ways in which clergy, physicians and therapists can work as a healing team.
The Rev. Chiaramonte is the director of the Ecclesia Center in Erie, Pa. The Ecclesia is a place for the clergy to go when they need healing - whether they are troubled by severe dysfunctions such as alcoholism, or are exhausted or confused and seeking spiritual renewal.
"We insist everyone on the staff at Ecclesia spend two hours a day in prayer," said the Rev. Chiaramonte. "And we have a very full schedule, so this means we must get up very early. We spend an hour in private prayer and then an hour in communal prayer - because after all we live in community."
The Rev. Chiaramonte and the other speakers agree that to help another person the clergy, doctor and therapist should be healed themselves. And how do you know when you are well? The Rev. Chiaramonte puts complicated theological and psychology theories into a simple analogy:
Authentic acts of humanity spring from a desire, or a sense of wonder, that is God-given. They are like the actions of a baby reaching out to the mobile in the crib - with no teaching, no prompting, no coercion.
On the other hand, he said, self-serving actions, the actions of people in need of healing, are always "too." Too, as in too much. "Not assertive, but aggressive. Not workers, but workaholics," he said.
When those in the healing professions are acting from the spirit of God within, there is not a problem with turf battles. There are no discussions about "whose patient this is," he said.