Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 2, 2009
Compassionate actions sooth sick children's aches, pain
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
In early February, Pope Benedict observed the World Day for the Sick. In his message, the pope gave special attention to children. He said, “This year we direct our attention particularly to children, the most weak and defenceless creatures and, among these, sick and suffering children.”
The pontiff spoke about children with “disabling diseases” and those “injured in body and soul as a consequence of conflicts and war, and other victims of the senseless hatred of adults.”
He remembered street children who are denied the warmth and nurture of a family and those children whose innocence has been violated.
CRY OF PAIN
“From all of these children arises a silent cry of pain that calls out to the conscience of men and believers.”
All people of good will — especially followers of Jesus Christ are called to intervene. The pope noted that families of sick children also experience intense emotional and spiritual suffering. They need care from the Christian community.
Parishes provide ideal communities to express the love of Christ. Parishioners can be vehicles for love and inclusion of sick children and their families. Christ’s followers know they not only serve sick and needy people, but they serve Christ too. Jesus told us that when we show kindness to one of the least in our midst we do it to him (Matthew 25.34-36).
Consciences are pierced when people learn about suffering children. The sight of a hurting child is a heart-wrenching experience.
Our humanity demands that we respond. But no sooner is our conscience pricked then we are overwhelmed at the magnitude of suffering experienced by the world’s children.
We can be tempted to throw up our hands and give up.
RESIST BEING OVERWHELMED
But this is precisely the response we must not have. We are not personally able to respond to every sick, disabled or hurting child in the world. That is an unreasonable expectation that Satan uses to overwhelm our compassion and to discourage any response.
The reasonable response to suffering begins closest to home. We can respond to suffering families on our street or in our neighbourhood. We can befriend them and invite them into the warmth of our parishes.
The Good Samaritan did not respond to every “half-dead” man, he responded to the one lying in front of him. We are called first to respond with charity to suffering in front of us.
This is shoe-leather evangelism. It can be done by ensuring a parish nurse is available to help in the care of sick or disabled children living at home. A parish nurse would be a welcome service to the community.
RESPITE CARE FOR PARENTS
Parishes can train volunteers to offer respite care for the parents of disabled children. This would give exhausted parents a much-needed break from caregiving.
Another recommendation: Ensure parishes are barrier free.
These are practical ways of introducing hurting people not only to loving parish communities, but to the love of Jesus Christ.
I have spoken across North America about disability issues. Often after a talk, somebody who has a disabled child approaches me.
They feel alone in their journey. Many people feel disenfranchised from their churches and even from faith in God. Unattended grief and suffering can fester for years and wither people’s souls.
To be fair to my Catholic brothers and sisters, most of the people who approached me were from other faith traditions with underdeveloped theologies of disability and sickness. But some families of disabled children were Catholics.
This puzzled me.
Through the sacraments, the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Jesus Christ to the Church. Christ is the universal sacrament of salvation.
The Catechism teaches “The Church, like Christ, is like a sacrament a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men” (no. 775).
A sacramental life can heal that which festers. Like an antidote to the poison of suffering, grief and isolation, which can be dark companions for families with a disabled or sick child, the sacraments bring consolation. The sacraments are a soothing, restorative salve on a festering wound.
A FAITHFUL FRIEND
In my own disability journey, the Catholic Church has been a faithful friend even before I was Catholic. The Church stood up for my dignity and value in the face of a hostile world. Even before I converted to Catholicism, I always felt welcomed and protected by the Church.
This can be true for other hurting people too. It all begins with your smile or handshake.
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