“I was … ill and you cared for me.” (Mt 25:36)
One of the Corporal Works of Mercy is to comfort the sick. The sick are ever with us. This provides for us almost unlimited opportunities to put our Christian Religion into practice, especially, in this Year of Mercy.
As a person, who worked many years, either in hospitals or nursing homes, and even provided home nursing care, I know that the sick people suffer much, both physically and mentally. Physically, because of their pain and their inability to get around. Mentally, because of separation from loved ones, loneliness, rejection by relatives for their sickness and loss of independence and lack of participating as they used to. I saw that the sick, especially the elderly, desire to hear a kind word, a listening ear, the touch of a hand, a hug, and real eye contact, which are great healers of the human spirit.
Visiting the housebound elderly and the chronically or terminally ill bring us close real human lives for which there seems to be so little hope. Such people often live in squalor, and the stench of sickness or the wince from pain. They desire a mere presence, a friendship, and a listening ear. These mean, often, much more to them than we can imagine!
Visiting the sick can be challenging for us who are healthy, and yet the great gift we receive by visiting them is the new compassion that is carved out in our hearts as we listen to those who are frail or even dying.
Now, living in our Motherhouse, I see many ways to comfort the sick.
At fist I try to find time to talk with our Sisters, offer conversation, especially with those who are sad and suffer from pain or loneliness. I read the Sisters unable to do it. I take a Sister, unable to walk, for a walk by wheelchair. When they have an appointment I take them to doctors, or when they are getting worse, to the hospital. If they are in the hospital or nursing home, I am happy to visit them and bring them consolation by my presence and words, and by Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. There is an opportunity to talk with other sick people and learn about their afflictions and sufferings. They are happy to see and talk with a religious person. This is a gift-giving occasion for them who are hospitalized or, later on, housebound. I know many sick people and some of them are housebound. These all are my friends. They are still in my prayer.
Another way to comfort the sick is: I help out by getting a list from someone unable to shop and offer to buy things for them.
If I cannot visit my sick friends, I try to keep in touch with cards or email. I know that we all love to get mail or email. I keep in touch, also, with phone calls. To hear each other gives us courage to go further.
A very important but invisible thing to help the sick, is prayer. Every morning and every night I offer my prayers to God for the suffering and dying and ask for the light of the Holy Spirit to know how best to serve their needs. May God comfort those who are sick, lonely and dying.
I remember the words from the Book of Sirach: “Do not shrink from visiting a sick person, because for such deeds you will be loved” (Sir 7:35). I am aware the words of Jesus: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Mt 25:40)
Sr. Viannea, SDR