Tag Archives: sick

Speaking words of encouragement

The Lord has given me the tongue of a disciple
to speak a work of encouragement to the downcast.
Isaiah 50:4

Yesterday I visited the elderly and sick in two villages. What a blessing for me.

It is part of the ministry of the deacon to care for widows, orphans, and the ill. I don’t do as much visiting the homebound as I could, partly because one of the major ministries of our communion ministers is to visit the sick in their communities. I do work with them in their continuing formation but I try not to replace their ministry to the sick.

This Holy Week we have about fifty parishioners in mission to most of our villages, visiting homes and praying with the people there. I’ve come across some who are invigorated by the experience of sharing the Gospel in a simple way with people.

I have also worked with the communion ministers so that we can get communion to the elderly, the sick, and the home-bound during Holy Week. But there were a few villages that were left out – and so I arranged visits in two villages.

So often these visits are a time of grace for me – as I enter the lives of the elderly, the sick, and the poor. Yesterday was such a time of grace.

In the first village I visited a woman about 70 years old who can’t walk to church and so I was glad to share a time of conversation and prayer as well as Communion. She was very up-beat, despite her weakness and aches and pains. Later, in another part of the village, about ten minutes in car from her house, I visited a ninety-two year old man who lives with his evangelical wife and often walks to church. He was much less talkative than the woman, probably partly because he is hard of hearing, but it was a gift to share Communion with him.

Both of these lived in poor houses with dirt floors. But there I found Jesus (and did not merely bring Him there in Communion).

I later went to another village where a young catechist took me around. The four women I visited were all very talkative.

I had visited the first woman a few weeks and go and she was bed-bound at that time. This time she was walking about. We sat down in the kitchen while her daughters and grand-daughters were busy mixing dough to bake bread.

In several places I made a special effort to speak to those who were caring for the elderly, encouraging them and letting them know that their work can be very hard but it is very important. As I speak with them I often tell them how important it was for me to care for my Dad at home in the last years of his life. I feel it is very important to give them “a word that will rouse them.”

This morning, while reading the third Servant Song of Isaiah (50: 4-9), I thought of how visiting the sick and ill has opened up for me a part of myself that I have not really appreciated. I am continually amazed how God’s compassion and God’s words of encouragement pass through me. This has become an important part of my life here and is one of the graces of being a deacon.

Where I got back to Plan Grande I went to the church to put the remaining hosts into the tabernacle. As I walked into the church I was moved by the light falling on the statue of El Nazareno, Jesus carrying his cross, before the altar.

DSCN2785 (1)

This helped make sense of my few hours visiting the elderly and the sick.

 

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Eucharist celebrated, adored, and lived

The Eucharist is to be celebrated, adored, and lived.

This week I took part in the retreat for the clergy of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán. I am not yet a member of the clergy but took part as a candidate fort eh permanent diaconate.

Each day began with Mass at 7:00 am, with conferences by the retreat preacher, Father Antonio Rivero, LC. At 4:30 each day we had exposition and adoration of the Eucharist until dinner at 6:00 pm.

Father Antonio spoke of this as a day that began with the Eucharist celebrated and that ended (expect for dinner and night prayer) with the Eucharist adored.

Padre German and I didn’t stay at the retreat center outside of Santa Rosa de Copán because there were not enough rooms for all the priests. So at night we returned to Dulce Nombre where I slept the first three nights.

One night Padre German went to visit Ernesto, an old man who is dying. I had accompanied him a few weeks ago.

We stood around Ernesto’s bed with a son and a daughter-in-law. Another son and daughter-in-law arrived a bit later.

Ernesto was generally unresponsive, though they told us that he had been responsive the day before. He also was not eating.

After a few prayers, Padre administered the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. Then we prayed some more and left.

This was the Eucharist lived. Although Ernesto could not receive the Eucharist, here Christ was present.

This experience at Ernesto’s bedside reminded me of my experience with my father, caring for him as he was dying. I also marveled at the care the family was giving him.

I was also reminded that in this year of mercy we are called to practice more fervently the works of mercy, including visiting the sick.

I also found myself challenged. If I am to be ordained a deacon, I need to be present more to the sick and dying, for Christ is present there as well as on the altar.

And so the challenge is to live the Eucharist which we celebrate and adore – living the presence of Christ in the church and in the marginal spaces of this world

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FOLLOW UP:

Ernesto died a day or two ago. May he rest in peace in God’s loving presence.

Care for the sick

The more you pray, the more I refuse to listen
for your hands are full of blood!
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Seek justice: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea and defend the widow.
Isaiah 1: 15-17

 Saint Camillus de Lellis, the patron of nurses and the sick,  died 400 years ago, on July 14, 1614.

He was an unlikely candidate for sainthood. As a soldier he was known for his brawling and his gambling. At one point, several hagiographers remark, he even “lost the shirt off his back.”

He suffered from an ulcerous wound on his leg and spent time in a hospital in Rome where he eventually found work. But he was dismissed for unruly behavior.

After gambling left him penniless, he tried to enter the Capuchins but he was turned away at the recurrence of the ulcerous wound and returned to the hospital.

His administrative capabilities were recognized and he found a place in the administration. Yet he found the condition of the hospital and the “care” provided to be woeful inadequate.

Camillus eventually founded a religious congregation of men that cared for the physical and spiritual needs of the sick. In addition to the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, they vow “perpetual physical and spiritual assistance to the sick, especially those with the plague.”

Camillus saw the face of Christ in the poor and even received mystical experiences of the crucified Christ, but he said

I don’t like this talk about mystical union… do good and help the poor…since we’ll have plenty of time to contemplate God in heaven.

As I read this, I recalled today’s reading from Isaiah 1: 10-17, where the prophet castigates the people for lavish worship services while they ignore lives of love of God and care for the poor.

Care for the sick and the poor is not easy. I have deep regard for nurses, doctors, and other hospital nurses who see their work as a ministry to the suffering.

Would that we would be more like St. Camillus and really care for the poor. As Pope Francis said yesterday to members of the congregations of St. Camillus:

To you who have gathered here in St Peter’s Square, as well as to health professionals serving in your hospitals and nursing homes, I wish that you grow more and more in the charism of charity, fueled by daily contact with the sick.

May we all grow in the charism of charity, fueled by daily contact with the poor, the sick, and those at the margins of society.