Understanding Our Church

A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith

Car accident, emergency room trip can force us to focus on blessings

Published: August 20, 2022

By Deacon Mike Cumnock
St. Mary of the Springs Church

I write this while recuperating from a serious motor vehicle accident. I spent many years doing psychotherapy as a Gestalt therapist. Some of the principles of Gestalt psychology propose that human needs are experienced as gestalts (whole things) instead of parts.

Our needs become more intense in the perceptual foreground until the need/issue is addressed, after which they can recede into the background. Humans tend to draw conclusions without complete facts, because we have a need to complete partial pictures and make them whole.

Issues in our foreground stand out crying to be addressed. When I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, prayers are foreground and enjoy my full attention. Distractions, like someone calling my name, a need to go to the bathroom or the dog barking, cause my attention to be automatically redirected — hopefully temporally.

Humans tend to draw conclusions without complete facts, because we have a need to complete partial pictures and make them whole.

As Catholics, we strive to live in two kingdoms — earthly and heavenly. Jesus came as an innocent human infant to bring the heavenly to earth. We struggle as Christians to be good citizens of both. When I attend Mass, eucharistic adoration and pray, the heavenly kingdom is foreground.

I also try to live the Rule of St. Benedict as best I can, which affects my perception. However, most of the time living in the earthly realm is my foreground with my spiritual life always present in the background. Several weeks ago, Sarah and I had a wonderful evening with our parish priest, another deacon and his wife and two seminarians visiting for the summer.

On our way home, a woman in a large truck came out of a restaurant parking lot and “t-boned” us, totaling our car. We had a bouquet of basil given to us by the other couple. As we were being loaded in the ambulance, Sarah asked about the basil, which went to the hospital with us.

The CHI St. Vincent staff noted that few people bring their own flowers. We were told if it were not for the seatbelts and airbags one or both of us may not have survived. We were both in pain, without a car or house keys.

Gathering my thoughts and mapping out a plan, I called a woman from our parish who agreed to be on standby to transport one or both of us from the hospital. By midnight, we were home and greeted by our dog who was very glad to see us.

As I prayed the Liturgy, it was infused with thoughts that in spite of everything we were blessed. Blessed to be alive; blessed to be a citizen of an earthly kingdom where ambulances and quality medical care are readily available; blessed to live where we could openly live our faith; and especially blessed to be a member of a parish that feels like “family” for those of us who don’t have biological family living close by.

I consciously work to be a good citizen of the earthly kingdom doing my fair share. However, the heavenly kingdom has been foreground much more often these last few weeks. I take seriously my call to be a citizen of God’s kingdom, my true home.

As the famous philosopher Joe Lewis said, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die!” I struggle to be continually formed in the image of Jesus, united in prayer with God in the Holy Trinity and allow myself to be led by the Holy Spirit.

We were made forcefully aware of the precarious balancing act life is. James 4:14 reminds us: “You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow. You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears.”

Deacon Mike Cumnock serves St. Mary Church in Hot Springs.

Understanding Our Church