Christ in the Nursing Home

“I shall never forget an old woman coming to see me one day, to ask if she could be admitted to the local house run by the Little Sisters [of the Poor]. I was surprised, knowing how well run the institution was where she was already living. What more could she want? ‘To have someone love me,’ was her straight-forward answer.”

Gabriel-Marie Cardinal Garrone

It is not obvious to many, but one of the places that I believe is quite sacred in our communities today is the nursing home. I rarely visit a nursing home that I am not touched or moved by something. I often find myself looking at my own life in a different light.

One of the things that one sees is a profound manifestation of poverty. The residents don’t have many things; mostly a few photos, a ball cap from their favorite sports team, and perhaps a few other tokens of their lives. The poverty is also in their physical and mental condition. There is weakness and vulnerability. The poverty is often also experienced in a lack of human contact. For many there is great loneliness in nursing homes.

Another thing is the many amazing people who work in nursing homes. This requires a special person in my way of thinking. Now, there are certainly people who do not excel there too. But I have in mind those who possess tremendous kindness and patience. They genuinely care for the person they are serving. Every nursing home has the potential to be an intersection of great vulnerability and need with great compassion and care.

It is not surprising that the Little Sisters of the Poor take this on as their apostolate, for Christ is in every nursing home. He manifests himself in the resident and in the one who cares for the resident.
Because our society often assigns value only to the strong, the smart, the beautiful, nursing homes stand as a sign of contradiction. One could argue that it is the one place where all the manifestations of the corporal works of mercy can be realized (cf. Mt 25:31-40).

So, if in your living the Christian life you are stuck; perhaps wallowing in self-pity or problems too much, find out who in the parish is in a nursing home, and drop by for a visit to alleviate their loneliness. You will find that you will be changed too, for Christ is in the nursing home.

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  • Mary Jane McDoe

    Thanks so very much, Bishop Johnston, for your kind words of understanding, regarding the feelings of the elderly, as well as the importance of the ministry of those who care for them in nursing homes.
    Another area we might need your good words on is that of people who have been devout, faith-filled Christians, for all of their lives, who, later in life, find their faith in the reality of Heaven to be a bit diminished. Like the poor “Doubting Thomas,” we long to have more faith! Can you help us?
    You might say that we should look to the words of Our Lord Jesus, all throughout sacred scripture, and how He promises us, endlessly, eternal life with Him in Heaven. Yes, we believe in His words, and yet, all of our fears do not go away. We are ashamed to tell anyone about our fears, as others look to us for reassurance in matters of faith. We long for words of comfort and reassurance. .

  • Karen Cotton

    These words are so true! I am very familiar with our care center in Oregon MO & yes the patients are well cared for by many caring & kind people!

Monday
November 20, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph