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Carrying Heavy Burdens: A Lenten Reflection from Episcopal Hospital Chaplaincy

By the Rev. Canon James C. Ransom

Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Some Episcopal patients at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) come carrying heavy burdens, and are weary because they have been harboring their burdens for many years. A Vietnam War veteran, who had been an acolyte, active in his parish’s youth group, and thinking about ordained ministry before being drafted, came to DHMC with a serious illness. This medical crisis put him in mind of his wartime experiences. When I visited him as the Episcopal Chaplain, he sent his family out of the room, asking to to speak confidentially with me. “I have never told anyone what I am about to tell you,” he said. “I have kept my thoughts and deeds secret for fifty years, but being here has convinced me that I should share my story with you.” As his tragic tale unfolded, I could see his burdened soul being freed, but Jesus’ words, “Come to me” brought tears to his eyes. “I have been hiding from God for a long time,” he said. As a Chaplain, I know that Jesus was yearning for fifty years to free this patient of his burden, and now, through the agency of the Episcopal Chaplain’s ministry in Jesus’ Name, it was finally happening.

One day on my visits as Episcopal Chaplain, I met a woman at her aged father’s bedside in tears. Her father’s condition now required her to become her father’s caregiver. This new situation put her in mind of an incident years before in which she had neglected to give care when it was needed with tragic results. She asked me to meet her in the Hospital Chapel to hear her confession. When absolution was given, she said, “God has set me free to care for my father without fear that I might fail again.”

Are you carrying heavy burdens? The holy season of Lent invites you and me to lay our burdens down and hear Jesus say,  “Come to me…and I will give you rest.”

The Episcopal Hospital Chaplaincy is a partnership ministry of the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire and Vermont. It is supported entirely by the gifts of parishes, clergy, and individuals who support EHC’s mission to provide the pastoral ministry of the Episcopal Church to Episcopal patients at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center. Gifts may be sent to:  Episcopal Hospital Chaplaincy, 9 West Wheelock Street, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755. Contact the Chaplain, the Rev. Cn. James C. Ransom at ransom.james.c@gmail.com, and if you become a patient at DHMC, please register as an Episcopalian.

Examples of the Chaplain’s ministry experiences have been altered to protect the privacy and identity of those involved.

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