An Interview with Father Matthew Linn
Matthew Linn works with his brother and sister-in-law, Dennis and Sheila, as a team to focus on spiritual, emotional, and physical wholeness. Matt, in partnership with Dennis and Sheila, has taught the process of healing in over 50 countries and in many universities and hospitals. With the coauthoring of eighteen + books, his experiences, and gifts of healing, Matt shares himself with all of us. But more than that, he points to and helps us to receive the love of God who heals us all. Matt lives in a Jesuit community in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Janine: Father Matt, could you tell me what brought you into the healing ministry?
Father Matt: It started when I was working with the Sioux out in South Dakota. This is in a culture where there is 95% alcoholism, and ten times the suicide average. There were so many people that were just getting beaten down and depressed and suicidal. Every year I would have to bury some my own students. They had been drinking and were getting into fights and killing each other. What would help them to get on their feet and out from under this alcoholism?
The more I looked at it the more I realized that it is just a cycle. They were drinking to cover pain from their own hurts. So it was a question, how do you get people free from hurts? And I began to realize that it doesn’t depend so much on the hurts, it’s what you do with it.
For instance, there’s Pearl Walking Eagle whose husband had been killed/murdered. Her son was murdered, and she’d had three of her other children to die. She lost her whole family. And yet Pearl Walking Eagle was one of the most loving people out there. While she didn’t have her family, she was able to forgive the people that had taken their lives. This woman was a person who made everybody her family. She was helping others have a real community. Yet there were other people out there who had one little thing happen and they would just go off the deep end. It wasn’t so much what happened, it was more what you did with what happened.
I then worked in a psychiatric clinic. As I heard people with depression I began to wonder more and more. I asked when the depression would start and the stories would be “Well, it started when I lost my husband, or it started when I was transferred, etc.” They all had stories of hurts, losses. I would help them work through the loss, the grieving. And they’d be fine. The depression was a psychological thing, rather than a biochemical. So, OK, those are the steps. You help them to grieve and you help them through the losses in their life, to get their anger out.
Anyway, at the same time, weekends, I began giving retreats. I asked people when they felt closest to God and they would give stories like this, one would say “Well, when my husband died, I had to depend on Jesus to be real, to help me. I didn’t even know how to write a check… and I would pray and an idea would come…”
Or, another person would say that he was an eighth grade teacher forced to teach kindergarten which he did not know how to teach. He said, “Each day I would just ask God what to do and who to be with and I’d do it and bit by bit things turned around.”
It was the same hurts that turned one group to suicide and depression and another group into ones that experienced God. As I heard their stories, the group that was depressed, they clung to resentment. They just couldn’t get past it. “I’m a mess, poor me, I am never going to be the person I’m meant to be, etc.” But the people who had religious experiences, they clung to God. They were able to forgive. Somehow they had found that whole process of forgiveness. They had let go and it became a gift for them. So that’s what I started doing. I just started working with, “How do you help people to forgive”? That’s the process. When you let go of it, it starts to “gift” you.
What I started to realize was that grace builds on nature. It works with nature. Sometimes it skips, but, most of the time it works through the natural process. And if you could help people pray and let God be with them right where they were, with their hurts, their anger, their depression, their “bargains,” then you could start to have progress again.
I started to use the model of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross who worked with all these dying people. She said that a person will move through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and to acceptance if they had someone who would hold their hand and really love them. Because if you could let yourself be loved right where you are with your fear, with your anger, with your depression with your guilt, it starts to turn around. You have love there rather than just indignation.
So I started to do the same thing at these 30 day retreats, “Can you just let God be with you today during that time, loving you with all your anger at this time, with whatever you are feeling”? Then people would start to be free from their hurts. It’s just like prayer could do for people like before was being done in therapy like Kubler-Ross. If people could be with a loving God then they could be free. They could start to have God touch them.
It’s simple. It’s pain plus love. If we can heal whatever the pain and let yourself be loved by God and by others, you start to take that life right into where you are and the process goes on. It wasn’t so much an enigma that you pray and pray and pray and hope for healing.
It is respecting the natural processes that God has given us. We all have natural processes. If you get cut, there’s a whole natural process for healing the hurt. You just have to be “with it.” First of all there’s a lot of bleeding and the wound is washed out. and then after a while, there’s the platelets that break down and then the clotting of blood ( otherwise you’ll run out of blood, you know?) Then you have a scab forming…skin cells forming…God knows there’s that whole process built in. it’s wonderful! All you have to do is go along with the process. If you try to rush it and take that scab off before it’s ready to come off then you’re back to step number 1 with the bleeding again…
The same thing is with hurts. Like the process of grieving is built right into us. If we can let ourselves be in that process of grieving and be connecting with a God who loves us and others who loves us. Then you start to have that emotional hurt be healed. That’s kind of a synopsis and there’s ten million other steps that was part of the journey. Mostly it’s just looking at how God heals people.
Janine: That’s wonderful! Thank you for sharing that. I know that you can’t name everything, but in thinking of your experiences in healing, what do you consider to be the most important or from which you have received the greatest benefit?
Father Matt: The thing that is most important is right here at a retreat. Whenever I give a retreat, I give the retreat for myself. So whatever I’m going through, I am benefiting from it even if nobody gets anything out of it. I don’t think it’s so much an earth-shaking experience or whatever. It’s more like it has to happen on a daily basis. Every time I get on a retreat I ask, “Lord what do you want to do with me? Where do I need the healing?” So when I am giving the retreat, that’s the question I ask others. I take time between the talks to do the same thing.
So, it is ordinary retreats, ordinary days. It doesn’t have to be special times of healing. I feel that what has healed me the most is just at night, a very simple thing. Going to bed. Looking at my day and asking, What am I grateful for? What am I not so grateful for? Whatever I’m not so grateful for, letting God’s love touch me right there for that for that’s the part that needs healing…
And then just falling asleep, thanking God and resting in God’s love. Gratitude… so that all through the night I am just resting in God’s love. That just bathes all the unconscious and touches everything.
Probably the most important thing for me is falling asleep, grateful, and just letting God heal you for those 8 hours or 7 (or sometimes 4) every night. That’s more important than having to have this event or that event. You don’t have to go to 50 countries, or have special things happen to you or go to special places. It is just a simple way of letting the unconscious be healed. You don’t have to be in special places to do this.You just have to let God love you.
© 2002 EcuMiniNet Online! Janine C. Hagan. All Rights Reserved.
*** 14 years later Matt is still giving retreats and writing. We are blessed with the gifts that he brings to our hearts and lives.