World Day of the Sick 2018
The Gospels recount many examples of Jesus as a healer, and for two millennia the Church has continued his ministry of love, compassion and healing to those who are ill, infirm, disabled and vulnerable. For example, the Book of Acts tells how people brought the sick to the Apostles (5:15) and according to tradition, Saint Luke was himself a physician. Later, when an epidemic struck Rome in the early third century, historians recorded the story of how Christians remained with the afflicted to feed them, wash them, clothe them and pray with them.
Indeed, it can be argued that institutionalized health care arose for the most part within and around the Church. For instance, Saint Basil the Great in the fourth century built a network of hospitals and hospices in what is today Turkey. In the mid-seventh century, the landmark charity hospital Hôtel-Dieu was founded by Saint Landry, Bishop of Paris, providing medical care, food and shelter to the sick and poor of that city for well over a thousand years.
This ministry of bringing Christ’s healing to the sick continues to the present day, and it “is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the center of the healing process,” as Pope Francis affirms in his Message for today’s World Day of the Sick 2018. Here in our own community, this happens through numerous Catholic health care providers serving hundreds of thousands of people each year: Catholic Charities operates primary care medical and dental clinics, the Sanctuaries for Life pregnancy support program, Behavioral Health Services, Anchor Counseling mental health care and the emergency response Child and Adolescent Mobile Psychiatric Service. Loving nursing care is provided at the Jeanne Jugan Residence, the Carroll Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, the Sacred Heart Home, and the Gift of Peace House. In addition, Providence, Holy Cross and MedStar Georgetown hospitals provide world-class in-patient, emergency and specialty care, while The Catholic University of America, Trinity Washington University and Georgetown University are each forming the next generation of Catholic caregivers. Then there is a legion of Catholic doctors, nurses and technicians now in private practice, including many who volunteer their services as part of the Catholic Charities Health Care Network.
In a society that may not fully appreciate the indispensable presence and positive impact of Catholic health care, today’s World Day of the Sick is a prime opportunity to remember and share with others all the good accomplished in this ministry. At the same time, I hope you join me in a well-deserved “thank you” to all of those who have made their own the extraordinary legacy of making present in our world the love, compassion and caring of Christ the Healer.