Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
Dorothy Day, the 20th century founder of the Catholic Worker movement and a Benedictine oblate, was very much committed to those who were “outcasts” and on the fringes of society. She loved the widow and the orphan. She was passionate about the corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry, sheltering those without homes, providing clothes for the naked. She was always trying to see Christ in “the poor lost ones, the abandoned ones, the sick, the crazed, the solitary human beings whom Christ so loved, in whom I see, with a terrible anguish, the body of this death.”
The fundamental experience of the Orphan is abandonment, feeling like an exile, and longing for an experience of being at home. The Orphan archetype in each of us is activated by all the experiences in which the child in us feels abandoned, betrayed, victimized, neglected, or disillusioned. We are all orphaned in one way or another simply because we are raised by parents with their own wounds and somewhere along the way they have orphaned us – we each have an inner orphan.
While our first instinct may be to run when our inner feelings of need and loneliness arise, the central task of the Orphan is to feel this pain of unmothered child. Ideally we do this hard work from a place of strength and feeling good rather than waiting until we feel awful. We are invited to face our experiences of pain and disillusionment. The Orphan calls us to wake up, let go of our illusions, and face painful realities. We all have losses and catastrophes, we all carry grief that has gone unmourned, that has been pushed away.
The Orphan can also help to crack open our intuition and empathy. Those who suffer much in conscious ways are often able to offer that as gift back to the community. The Orphan also invites us into an interdependence with others as we realize that we are all wounded in some way.
We live in a world rife with abandonment. What a gift we offer when we do not turn away this part of ourselves but welcome her or him to the inner door with open arms.
Join me tomorrow as I discuss the archetype of the Orphan in our free live video seminar. You can register here>>
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
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