A Year with the Saints – 21 November

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To visit and relieve the sick cannot fail to be a thing very pleasing to God, since He has so greatly commended it. But to do it with the greatest ease and merit, we must regard the sufferer not simply as a man, but as Christ Himself, Who testifies that He receives in His Own person all such service.

Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi showed wonderful charity towards all the sick. She visited them every day, and in severe cases many times a day, remaining as long as necessary and serving them in all their needs, for which she provided herself, or through the Superioress or others in charge. By first tasting it herself, she sometimes encouraged them to take food. She bathed them, arranged their beds and swept their rooms, performing the humblest offices of her own accord. She read spiritual books to them, exhorted them to patience, or gave them consolation, and did everything with so much affection and cheerfulness that she was of the greatest assistance. This charity was universal, free from self-interest, prompted solely by the love of God, regarding the sick now as temples of the Holy Ghost, now as sisters of the Angels, and herself always as serving God alone. When medicine was to be given at inconvenient hours, she offered to help the infirmarian. When any required unusual care, she took the whole charge of serving them. She did this in the case of a blind consumptive, of a leper, and of one who had a frightful ulcer, to which she more than once applied her lips. She waited on them all with as much attention as if she had been their servant, bathing them, washing their clothes, and performing all other services through the whole course of their illness, which, in the case of the consumptive, lasted for a year. When the sick were near their end she remained with them all night, without lying down, sometimes staying beside them for fifteen days and nights in succession, now praying for them, now encouraging them with so much feeling and charity that she gave them the greatest comfort. And so all the dying wished to have her present at their passage from this world.

Saint John Berchmans bestowed similar care upon the sick, in whatever house he was living. He visited them many times a day and consoled them with spiritual conversation. In summer, he brought them cool water from the fountain at the hottest part of the day to moisten their lips and hands. However numerous they might be, he went to see them all every day, and spent most time with those who required the most aid, or received the fewest visits. From the rooms where he found many gathered he quickly hastened, to go to those who were alone. He always told some anecdote of the Blessed Virgin to the sick lay-brothers, who watched eagerly for the hour of his visit, and if anything had hindered him they asked the Father in charge to send him later, so much were they consoled by his presence. When he was not able to visit any brother, he did not fail to inquire of the infirmarian in regard to him.

Saint Felix the Capuchin showed no less pity for the sick of his Order. At his return to the convent, when he had been out to solicit alms, he went around distributing among them any little delicacies and refreshments he had obtained, consoling them at the same time with amiable words, and showing his readiness to render them whatever service they required.

Many, too, even persons of high rank, have had a vocation for visiting and serving hospitals. Saint Stephen, King of Hungary, went to them by night, alone and in disguise.

Saint Louis, King of France, served the inmates on his knees: and with uncovered head, looking upon them as members . . . of Christ and united with Him upon the Cross. And so with many others.

When Saint John Gualberto was Abbot, he was so rigorous in regard to the observance of the Rule that he had no mercy on the sick, but desired them to keep it like the well. But this was not pleasing to the Lord, so He permitted him to fall grievously ill, and learn from his own experience how to compassionate sufferers.

MLA Citation