POPE FRANCIS’ PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR JANUARY 2015 – THE “WISDOM OF THE HEART” IN CARING FOR THE SICK

I am a bit under the weather today with the start of a cold, due without a doubt, to being out for some time yesterday in freezing temps and a strong wind, weather conditions that hit Rome over the weekend (as you can see in this ANSA story: http://bit.ly/1D439RE)

In case you have wondered about the expression “under the weather,” here is what I found online (one of several explanations but all were generally similar): To be under the weather is to be unwell. This comes again from a maritime source. In the old days, when a sailor was unwell, he was sent down below to help his recovery, under the deck and away from the weather.

Just two news items today – Pope Francis’prayer intentions for January 2015 and his Message for the World Day of the Sick. There is a wonderful paragraph that he dedicates to caregivers and I cite that entirely (the 5th Para in my summary).

The December 30 papal tweet: Today people are suffering from poverty, but also from lack of love.

POPE FRANCIS’ PRAYER INTENTIONS FOR JANUARY 2015

The Holy Father’s general prayer intention is: “That those from diverse religious traditions and all people of good will may work together for peace.”

His missionary intention is: “That in this year dedicated to consecrated life, religious men and women may rediscover the joy of following Christ and strive to serve the poor with zeal.”

THE “WISDOM OF THE HEART” IN CARING FOR THE SICK

The Vatican today published Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of the Sick, established by St. John Paul, that is traditionally celebrated on February 11, 2015. The theme for this 23rd World Day is “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame,” taken from Job 29: 15.

The Pope starts by saying he “turns to all of you who are burdened by illness and are united in various ways to the flesh of the suffering Christ, as well as to you, professionals and volunteers in the field of health care.” He adds that he wants to consider the theme from the perspective of “sapientia cordis” – the wisdom of the heart.

Francis writes that “this ‘wisdom’ is no theoretical, abstract knowledge, the product of reasoning.  Rather, it is, as Saint James describes it in his Letter, “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (3:17).  It is a way of seeing things infused by the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of those who are sensitive to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and who can see in them the image of God.”

“Wisdom of the heart,” writes the Pope, “means serving our brothers and sisters.  Job’s words: ‘I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame’, point to the service which this just man … offered to those in need.” The Pope called this “moral grandeur.”

“Today too,” continues the papal Message for the World Day of the Sick, “how many Christians show, not by their words but by lives rooted in a genuine faith, that they are ‘eyes to the blind’ and ‘feet to the lame’!  They are close to the sick in need of constant care and help in washing, dressing and eating.  This service, especially when it is protracted, can become tiring and burdensome.  It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude.  And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is!  In those difficult moments we can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, and we become a special means of support for the Church’s mission.

The Holy Father also says “Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters.  Time spent with the sick is holy time.  It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who ‘came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’.”

And then Pope Francis issues a warning.

After noting how our sick brothers and sisters, “thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted,” he writes: “How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases that so insist on the importance of ‘quality of life’ that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!

The Pope goes on to say, “Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others,” we forget the Lord’s words: “You did it unto me’ (Mt 25:40).

He underscored, “the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters’ as one of the two great commandments that ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift.”.

The Pope explains further that “Wisdom of the heart means showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters while not judging them.  Charity takes time.  Time to care for the sick and time to visit them.  Time to be at their side like Job’s friends: ‘And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great’. .. Job’s experience of suffering finds its genuine response only in the cross of Jesus, the supreme act of God’s solidarity with us, completely free and abounding in mercy.”

“Even when illness, loneliness and inability make it hard for us to reach out to others, notes Francis, “the experience of suffering can become a privileged means of transmitting grace and a source for gaining and growing in sapientia cordis.” When people accept in faith “the mystery of suffering and pain,” they can “themselves become living witnesses of a faith capable of embracing suffering, even without being able to understand its full meaning.”