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Mary, help of the sick

7 Jun

 

Fr James Hanvey, SJ

There are many icons of Catholicism. Apart from the crucifix, the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes might qualify as one of the most common. It can be seen in Churches or in homes and whether it takes the form of high accomplished art or just the plastic statue bottle that holds the Lourdes water that thousands of pilgrims bring home with them, the image and the reality to which it points remains constant. Lourdes is the great place of pilgrimage for the sick. Over the centuries Mary, the Mother of God, has acquired many beautiful titles that celebrate her continuing place in the unfolding of our redemption and in the community of faith, but in Lourdes we can see that she is ‘mother of the Kingdom’. It is there, most vividly and practically, that the beatitudes can be experienced, for Lourdes is about a reversal – here the sick, whatever the manner of their illness or physical condition, ability or social standing, all have first place. Here, too, you can see the healthy – of every age and nation – practically employed in care. Lourdes is an experience of an unembarrassed Catholicism and an unapologetic faith.

February 11th is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes; it is also the day which the Catholic Church has marked as the World Day for the Sick. It is especially dedicated to people who are incurably sick or terminally ill. Although the whole Church is asked to make it a special day of prayer for the sick, it will be celebrated in Seoul with a series of liturgical events and conferences. Such days deepen our consciousness of a daily reality which is not just physical but spiritual and social. As always in the Church, liturgy and prayer lead to action and sustains it. It is a call to transform and transcend those structures and attitudes that block our human solidarity and deprive people of basic needs. The World Day for the Sick reminds us that so much sickness is preventable through basic hygiene and clean water. So much sickness and suffering is preventable if medicine is made affordable and available. In the case of terminal illness, we are asked to extend the great well of practical compassion and care, so evident at the waters of Lourdes, to all in society. In our own country and through the world so many die alone or without adequate palliative care, not because we do not have the economic means to prevent it, but because we do not have the vision to see them. How we die is as important as how we live and how we care for a person in the final stage of life is a measure of how we value every person in their vigour and productivity.

The World Day for the Sick is a moment when we experience the fact that sickness, even terminal illness, does not cut us off from the community. It also reminds us that illness is never just a physical event, it is unavoidability spiritual even when we don’t believe. Within it hovers the reality of our own frailty and mortality, our value and purpose. We realise that ultimately we are not autonomous and in control but dependent and in need – as the Zulu saying has it, ‘people are people through people’. Even more than in its physical dimension, sickness is a counter-cultural moment of terror. But within it comes this other reality, that there are those, maybe even those we do not know, on whom we have no special claim, who care for us. They will spend their time and energy in seeking our good and care enough to want what is right and just for us. Sickness crosses all our boundaries and opens up a world of unexpected gift. This world surrounds us even in our moment of dying, and whether we are conscious of it or not, keeps a vigil for us. All our life is lived in this communion. It does not come just from our common humanity but from the Love in whose image we are made.

This communion means that sickness, even if it leads to death, is never useless. In such moments Christian faith is not some ‘opiate’ for those who have not the stoic’s strength. Faith does not pretend that illness is other than it is, nor does it celebrate suffering. It just tries to let it become a moment of encounter. At this point faith must let itself become mystical.

Christianity does not ask that we should be heroic and self-determining when faced with suffering or death, only that we should trust and step out into the mystery of Christ – it is a moment when our life is given a Eucharistic form: “Through Him, with Him and in Him, the unity of the Holy Spirit, All Glory and Honour is Yours, Almighty Father.” Through such and offering in faith, a life can catch, hold, and reflect the redemptive light for us all.

The state of societies can be measured in many ways, but it may be in our care of the sick and the dying that we have the one of the best indications of our social health. The feast of our Lady of Lourdes and the World Day of the Sick may point us towards the sources of healing that we all need.

 

Prayer to Mary, Health of the Sick

 

O Virgin Mary, «Health of the sick»,

you who accompanied Jesus on the way to Calvary

and remained near the cross on which your Son died,

participating intimately in his suffering,

take our suffering and unite them with His,

so that the seeds sown during the Jubilee

continue to produce abundant fruits in the coming years.

 

Most tender Mother, we turn to you with confidence.

Obtain from your Son the strength to return soon,

completely restored, to our duties,

so that we be useful to our neighbour through our work.

Meanwhile stay with us at the moment of trial

and help us to repeat everyday with you our yes,

sure that God will bring out from every evil a greater goodness.

 

Immaculate Virgin, may the fruits of the Jubilee Year

be for us and for our dear ones

a pledge of renewed vigour in Christian life,

so that in the contemplation of the Face of the Risen Christ

we will find the abundance of the mercy of God

and the joy of a more complete union with the brethren,

the beginning of the joy without end in heaven. Amen.

 

Pope John Paul II

Happiness, Happiness….a practical take on psychology and wellbeing

18 May

Jim McManus

Jim McManus is a Chartered Psychologist, Chartered Scientist and Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He is Editor of Catholics in Healthcare blog

Happiness has been a concern of psychology and public policy since Seligman’s work at least, and the development of new orientations in psychology studying not human problems, but human thriving is just one of the remarkable signs that psychology as a field of science is flourishing. It’s an exciting time to be a psychologist as we see applications of psychology range from long term illness to organizational innovation, child development and human happiness.

The field of psychology has recently seen the emergence of sub-fields like Community Psychology, Positive Psychology and other specialisms, working on human strengths and human flourishing…so seeking strengthen, not problematize, ordinary lives.

The advent of scientifically sound research on this has given impetus to policy developments at national and international level that what we need to do as health systems and communities is help people thrive. With this comes the well-researched insight that population mental wellbeing and resilience is important. This has seen expressions in the last few years (all with good evidence base) ranging from the 5 ways to wellbeing (New Economics Foundation) to the recent Government Strategy no health without mental health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists no health without public mental health.

Doing this practically can often seem to be easier said than done, but there have been a number of practical initiatives run in local areas seeking to put these concepts into practice. Positive Psychology is taking off, and the accredited mental health first aid movement is just one example of how people can turn these insights into a series of programmes. Catholics have a series of demonstration projects and initiatives on mental health, wellbeing and dementia in the Catholic Mental Health Project

But now comes a timely and sensible intervention for faith communities. John Bingham, writing in the news and religion section of today’s Daily Telegraph, tells the story of how Livability, the disability charity with a Christian ethos, is busy rolling out a “happiness” course in parishes and churches across the Country.

Bingham’s piece says “The so-called “Happiness Course” combines basic principles of secular popular psychology with ideas such as forgiveness and gratitude, promoted for centuries by Christianity. It is based on the principle that applying simple Biblical ideas such as “counting your blessings” or forgiving enemies could actively improve people’s psychological well-being.”

In fact, this is not secular popular psychology. This course has links to well researched psychological insight. What is different about positive psychology and the psychology of happiness is that there has been a significant impetus to popularize it while, for the most part, keeping faith with the underlying science.

Positive Psychology,  some of whose  insights the Livability course seems to derive from, is defined by the  Positive Psychology Center at the prestigious University of Pennsylvania as “the  scientific study of the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.”

The interesting thing is that Livability are synthesising faith concepts about what makes a healthy and happy life with sound scientific psychology, and finding not only that there is no conflict but that they work well together.

This too has a practical value well-grounded in research. Studies of organizational culture and take-up of health messages show that when people can relate scientifically sound messages to their own belief systems, there is more likelihood the messages will be seen to be salient and the messages will not only be taken up but sustained.

The Livability course is a neat innovation in the field of practical or pastoral theology, and an equally neat innovation in the field of public mental health.

We need to see more of this.

Some useful links

http://www.livability.org.uk/

http://www.ppc.sas.upenn.edu/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/10064228/Archbishops-daughter-spearheads-drive-to-teach-happiness-in-churches.html

http://www.mentalhealthproject.co.uk/

http://positivepsychology.org.uk/

Catholic Handbook for Visiting the Sick 2013

11 May

Apart from the fact that we are still using phrases like “the sick” in 2013, there hasn’t been a great deal of material published for liturgical and prayer use with sick people in recent months

VS13

This version, made for a US context but with some valuable UK content, is designed as a resource for lay Ministers “especially especially Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.

 You can find more about this handbook on the Liturgy Training Publication website here.

Quick Prayers for Healthcare Workers

11 May

You can find any number of prayers online. But resources for people who are pressed for time are not always easy. Here are my top resources

Sacred Space – daily prayer online

http://www.sacredspace.ie/

A Healthcare Worker’s Prayer

Lord, I thank You for those who try to make others well
and care for those in suffering and pain.
Give them wisdom in caring.
For all they have done,
grant them the reward You promised
those attending the sick:
“Come, blessed of my Father,
here is the kingdom made ready for you.”

Amen.

A Healthcare Worker’s Prayer

God, I dedicate my life today to the care of those who come my way.

Give to my heart, compassion and understanding. Give to my hands skill and tenderness. Give to my ears the ability to listen.

Give to my lips words of comfort and compassion. Give to my heart strength for this selfless service that I will give hope to all those I am called to serve.

Amen.

A Healthcare Worker’s Prayer for wisdom

Great is the wisdom of the Lord!
God Almighty, Your Wisdom includes
An understanding of what is fair, What is logical, what is true,
What is right and what is lasting. It mirrors Your pure intellect!
I entreat You to grant me such Wisdom, That my labours may reflect Your insight,

My judgement decide the best care for those I meet today in my work.
Your Wisdom inspire me to do the best for patients, their loved ones and my colleagues,
Displaying complexity and multiplicity, but always compassion, love and respect for them.
Your Wisdom is an eternity ahead of us, but may your love be evident in how I do my best today
May Your wisdom flourish forever, Your spirit guide me, and Your love of us inspire me.

Amen

A Prayer for Our Healthcare Workers

From the Mayor of Fort Lauderdale http://www.ftlpray.org/prayer-mar-14-2013/

God, I thank You for our healthcare workers who try so hard to dedicate their time and career to heal and make others well. Those who have a heart to care for those in suffering and pain. I ask that You would give them wisdom in caring and attending to others, that they can bear to see the suffering and not take it to heart. For all they have done, God, please grant them the reward You promised for those attending the sick: ”Come, blessed of my Father, here is the kingdom made ready for you.”

In Your Son’s Name, I pray,

Amen.