The Physician

Physician1At some point in our lives, you and I have likely been called to wipe a nose, change a diaper, hug and sooth, or apply ointment in order to help a child calm down in the midst of their distress. Or was it to calm US down?

Additionally, we probably have been asked to wipe a nose, change a diaper, embrace and massage or apply ointment to bring a little comfort to a friend, spouse, partner or parent. Or was it to comfort US?

When we are at our best as people, often we find our hearts moved while witnessing someone in need, someone who needs US. God has blessed us with gifts we did not realize are in our possession.  While caring for others, we purposely lose sight of our own needs—amazing what we are capable of when this happens!

There is such inner joy in charging ourselves to discern ways to bring comfort to someone who may have greater challenges than expected. Innately our hearts call out for us to extend a helping hand: a hand up, a hand of friendship, a hand of blessing, a healing hand.

Then there are days when WE may struggle with something as simple as the light of dawn or as complex as how to go on living another day. We struggle with the pressures of family, work, career, finances or relationships. Any meaning in our lives is not unclear, it is just not anywhere in sight. Why are we even here? We find that our own hearts are calling out for someone to extend us a helping hand: a hand up, a hand of friendship, a hand of blessing, a healing hand. We may wonder if God loves us, if anyone loves us.

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we are called upon to VISIT THE SICK. The Pope asks us to open our hearts and minds to those around us and extend a helping hand. Some interpret this to mean allow the healers in our midst, our pilgrim physicians, to apply the ointment, the balm of kindness as well as the massage, and the caress of the hand of God to comfort US on the journey, those next to us and those on the margins. But what about the things we do in our lives on a daily or weekly basis, often without even thinking twice? one of us is, in fact, encompasses the pilgrim physician in our personal, daily care of family and friends. Within our church, parish ministries visit the sick in our hospitals, our nursing homes and our homebound. This calling, however, can extend beyond just visiting the sick. We are grateful for those of the St. Brigid Needlework Group and St. Joseph’s Women who pray and craft knitted and sewn gifts of comfort to those who are ill. These ministries welcome any who wish to share these talents.

Wherever we are in life, chances are this call to mercy is already instilled within our lifestyle. We are giving and receiving the helping hand.


The Faces of Ash Wednesday

IMG_0544All my life Lent has begun with ashes: black, gritty, and dusty. Throughout these many Lents, I have found myself raising my face to have the ashes applied to my forehead in what often struck me as in the style of an artist, “painted” on in a rather free-form, slightly canted cross.

Often my lashes caught what fell from my forehead, some even falling to my face and clothes. The prayers of “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” or “You are dust and to dust you will return” were sometimes spoken with a quick dismissal as I received the ashes because of the many others participating in the same ritual, or, more frequently, sincerely offered as an expression of solidarity with the minister of the sacramental (an expression of the Church complimentary to a ceremony resembling the sign of the cross, sacraments, etc. ) as they looked me in the eye.

It’s that sincere expression of solidarity that I find myself contemplating, reflecting on as yet another forty-day vigil of the Church’s “springtime” (Lent) calls to heart. I am being led to the upturned faces. Faces so varied in age, complexion, contour, expression, and countless other qualities we may ascribe to them.

IMG_0331 I see faces tilted upward, trusting in the love of God who made us and trusting in the person offering the ashes as we allow ourselves to be touched in blessing. I see faces of fellow pilgrims on the journey. I see faces that perhaps “speak” of love, laughter, pain, loneliness, abandonment, ecstasy, prayer, longing, contentment, terror, peace, forgiveness, mercy, healing and hope. They are all amazing and transforming reflections of God!

In this Jubilee Year of Mercy I have found myself taking extra time lately to reverently consider faces. I see those of the homeless, the refugee, the outcast and the stranger. I see the faces of those grieving the loss of a murdered family member, a child caught in the crossfire of hatred and abuse, the anguish of the battered spouse and the victims of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those who simply did not get the “breaks” I did.

I must ask myself as I look at these faces, what “sacramental” am I offering to them? What am I doing to show mercy, to encounter kindness, to see the face of God in all of them? Am I offering a sincere expression of solidarity with these fellow pilgrims? Can I look them in the eye or do I turn away?

I pray that the ashes on my forehead, those caught in my lashes and those on my clothes remind me that I am from and of this earth. I am, in the end, one with the aforementioned. I am called to walk hand in hand with those who need me. I pray that God blesses me this Lent with the right heart to show mercy to those on the margins. ash wed

May the cross of ashes on our foreheads this Lent open hearts to the most vulnerable in our lives as we help them carry the cross in their life. May we offer them the solidarity of a fellow human being since we are all created and blest by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.