MOSAIC Fall 2015 - Page 31

LIVING IN THE LIGHT Spirituality for the Lay Person Hidden Heroism of the Family Dr. Patricia Cooney Hathaway T his past summer, while visiting Rome, my husband, Tom, and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Wednesday general audience of Pope Francis. The theme of his address to the thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square was the focus of this issue of the Mosaic—the family. In particular, the pope’s message was about the hidden heroism of families caring for the sick. Let me share with you a few of his thoughts about this unheralded, challenging aspect of family life. “Illness is an issue that affects everyone,” Pope Francis stated. “When someone in our family is sick, we feel it even more deeply. It is harder for a mother or a father to see their child fall ill than to be sick themselves. And often it is the family that must take the lead in caring for one another.” These thoughts resonated with my own experience. How often I have heard parents say how they wish they could carry the burden of a sickness of one of their children—Crohn’s disease, a bipolar disorder, cancer, depression, etc. Parents do not suffer the illness, but they do suffer for the suffering of their children. I remember my father’s admonition when my brothers and sisters argued, as children often do, “Blood is thicker than water! Be kind to each other because if you are ever in need, it is your family who will be there for you.” The Holy Father also spoke about the many times we read in the Gospels where Jesus healed people. “The Lord never passed people by,” he reminded us, “but was always close to them. And Jesus put healing first—healing We watched as he met with a number of took priority over the Law, even as imporfamilies who were at the audience to have tant and holy a law as the Sabbath rest.” him bless their sick ones. Not only did the The pope further pointed out, “Later Jesus pope bless each sick member of a family, sent his disciples to do the same works he but he took time to speak with each of himself had accomplished, giving them the the caretakers, encouraging, hugging, and power to heal—that is, the ability to be close blessing them. to the sick, and to care for them to the end.” The pope closed his reflections by acI found this last sentence to be particuknowledging that serious, debilitating injularly insightful for us today. Many people ries and illnesses stress not only the patient think of Jesus healing only physical ailbut also the family carements. But Pope Francis givers. It changes life as seems to infer that just “Just being close to we know it. being close to the sick the sick brings about “Without compasand caring for them to a certain kind of sion and sympathy for the end bring about a others,” Pope Francis certain kind of inner inner healing.” warned, “we risk behealing all their own. Just recently, a woman who had cared for coming ‘anesthetized’ and unable to deal with our own suffering.” He praised the her husband in their home for more than a care and compassion family members have year, after he had suffered a massive stroke, told me that when she finally had to place for those who are sick. “These things are heroic—they are the him in a nursing home, a member of the heroism of the family!” staff told her how impressed he was that she came to see him every day. Often, he said, family members drop the sick one off, Dr. Patricia Cooney Hathaway is professor of and staff members never see them again. spirituality and systematic theology at Sacred Pope Francis put his words into action. Heart. 29