I invite you to read the message from Pope Francis for "World Day of the Sick."
I invite you to read this paragraph in particular, and then ask yourself how well we did this important ministry over the last two years. Take special note of the very last sentence: "The ministry of consolation is a task for every baptized person, mindful of the word of Jesus: 'I was sick and you visited me.'" (Mt 25:36)
5.Pastoral mercy: presence and proximity
In the past thirty years, pastoral health care has also seen its indispensable service increasingly recognized. If the worst discrimination suffered by the poor – including the sick, who are poor in health – is the lack of spiritual attention, we cannot fail to offer them God’s closeness, his blessing and his word, as well as the celebration of the sacraments and the opportunity for a journey of growth and maturation in faith. In this regard, I would like to remind everyone that closeness to the sick and their pastoral care is not only the task of certain specifically designated ministers; visiting the sick is an invitation that Christ addresses to all his disciples. How many sick and elderly people are living at home and waiting for a visit! The ministry of consolation is a task for every baptized person, mindful of the word of Jesus: “I was sick and you visited me” (Mt25:36).
FAMILY MEMBERS WERE NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO ACCOMPANY THEIR LOVED ONES INTO THE HOSPITAL OR VISIT THEM IN A NURSING HOME. Even as a member of the clergy, I have been denied access to visit the sick, INCLUDING CATHOLIC INSTITUTIONS. The celebration of the sacraments was frequently denied, because even priests could not gain access at times. Let's be honest. We failed to offer the sick and dying God's closeness.
I will probably go to my grave asking these types of questions:
Does the ministry of consolation only apply when the government allows us to do so?
This line comes from the second paragraph under section three of Pope Francis' message.
"Even when healing is not possible, care can always be given. It is always possible to console, it is always possible to make people sense a closeness that is more interested in the person than in his or her pathology."
My heart breaks when I think about how many people said good-bye to a dying loved one via a virtual call. There was very little closeness except for a caring nurse or aid who held the electronic device as people said good-bye. Wow!
On this 30th World Day of the Sick, may we each find strength and courage from the many miracles at Lourdes. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!