By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


We often hear the headlined word when it comes to physical recovery from injury or trauma or cardiac arrest. There is also the common use of "recovery" to refer to healing from some sort of substance abuse addiction. Moving further along the continuum of uses of the same term, there is also an even more emotional, psychological, spiritual aspect, as when we recover from great grief or shock, disappointment or disillusionment, humiliation or injustice. All the aspects along this continuum of usage are relevant, obviously, to our very vulnerable human condition.

In Tolkein's Return of the King, we read the following words by Aragorn who finally emerges as the prophesied king whose hands heal, as Aragorn makes his way among the wounded attempting recovery after the great battle in the "houses of healing." He comes to one of the hobbits who was severely wounded and sickened after daring to slay the very, very powerful Black Rider and Lord of the Nazgul (the Nazgul are the terrible flying monsters sent into battle by Sauron, the Dark Lord). Here is Aragorn, the healing King, speaking when he comes to the wounded hobbit in the houses of healing:

'Do not be afraid,' said Aragorn. 'I came in time, and I have called him back. He is weary now, and grieved, and he has taken a hurt like the Lady Eowyn [she is the one who actually killed the flying Nazgul monster in the previous battle], daring to smite that deadly thing [the hobbit killed the Black Rider of the flying Nazgul monster]. But these evils can be amended, so strong and gay a spirit is in him. His grief he will not forget; but it will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom.'

Tolkien, The Return of the King, Ch. VIII (pp. 850-51 in the most recent one-volume Lord of the Rings edition from Houghton-Mifflin publishers; bold emphasis added).

Notice the words highlighted in the quotation as annotated below.

1. "Daring to smite that deadly thing": When we dare to face great evil, rather than ignoring it or running from it, we will suffer some serious wounds. We do it anyway.

2. "These evils can be amended, so strong and gay [joyous] a spirit is in him": Do not underestimate the powers of resistance and recovery of a healthy human soul.

3. "It will not darken his heart, it will teach him wisdom": Out of severe wounds, comes wisdom that cannot shatter the heart of the truly healthy soul.

How do we get that healthy soul in the face of such great shocks in life? Some have a good dose of it from a fortunate upbringing. Yet, whether or not you had the good fortune of such a good upbringing, all of us need some steady, extra doses of power to truly resist, overcome, and abundantly conquer the evils we inevitably face in life.

Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV here and below): 28 "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Philippians 4:3: I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Romans 8:37 (emphasis added): No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

[In the original Greek in Romans 8:37 above, we "hypernikomen"--you know that "hyper" means to an excessive degree; you also can easily surmise that "nike" (as in the famous name brand) refers to victory or conquest. Hence, we "hypernike," to coin a new term: we "hyper-conquer." Thanks to a priest friend for pointing this out to me.]