“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.
+Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr.
Catholic Key, May 5, 2017 issue