Pope Francis has reminded hospital staff and administrators that “the sick person is not a number”, urging them to favour “closeness” and “warmth” with patients over the merely “economic-financial… systems” of healthcare.
Full text of the address of His Holiness Pope Francis to members of the GVM Care & Research Foundation
Saturday, 1 February 2020
Dear brothers and sisters,
I address my cordial welcome to you, representatives of the Gruppo Villa Maria: doctors, nurses, administrative staff and managers. I thank the President for his words. I have listened to the presentation of the aims and intentions that inspire the life of your Group, which has been active for forty years in the health sector and at the service of people’s health. I congratulate you on the dynamism that has led you to extend your activity, in addition to Italy, to other countries, always at the service of human life marked by disease. I encourage you to persevere with dedication in the works you have undertaken, and I hope that your structures, places of suffering but also of hope and human and spiritual experience, may be increasingly marked by solidarity and care for the ailing person.
Technological evolution and changes of a social, economic and political nature have changed the fabric on which the life of hospitals and health care structures rests. Hence the need for a new culture, especially in the technical and moral preparation of health workers at all levels.
From this perspective, what the Villa Maria Group has done so far to meet the needs of patients and their families, who are sometimes forced to migrate to specialized centres far from their own home, is important. The commitment to broadening the range of action with the acquisition or creation of new facilities and the expansion of infrastructure, shows the will to ensure the necessary equipment and comfort for the sick and their recovery.
It is to be hoped that the places of care will increasingly become houses of welcome and comfort, where the sick person will find friendship, understanding, kindness and charity. In short, where they find humanity.
The sick person is not a number: he or she is a person who needs humanity.
In this regard, it is necessary to inspire collaboration among all, to meet the needs of the sick with a spirit of service and an attitude of generosity and sensitivity.
This is not easy, because the sick person is sick, and loses patience and so is often “out of sorts”. It is not easy, but it must be done. In order to achieve these objectives, it is necessary not to allow oneself to be absorbed by “systems” that aim only at the economic-financial component, but rather to implement a style of closeness to the person, in order to be able to assist him with human warmth in the face of the anxieties that can overcome him in the most critical moments of the illness.
In this way it contributes concretely to humanizing medicine, and the hospital and healthcare environment.
I said a word, proximity: we must not forget it. Proximity too – let us say – is the method that God used to save us.
Already to the Jewish people he said: “Tell me, what people have their gods so close, as close as I am to you?”.
The God of proximity became close in Jesus Christ: one of us. Proximity is the key to humanity and Christianity.
Those who recognize themselves in the Christian faith are called to serve in the spirit of the words of Jesus: “As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mt 25: 40). Here lies the evangelical foundation of service to others. Thus the sick and suffering become, for those who have faith, living signs of the presence of Christ, the Son of God, Who came to cure and heal, taking upon himself our frailty, our weakness.
Taking care of the brother who suffers means, in this sense, making room for the Lord.
From the places of healing and pain also comes a message for the life of all; a great lesson that no other professorship can impart. The man who suffers, in fact, understands more the need and value of the divine gift of redemption and faith, and also helps those close to him to appreciate and seek this gift.
And it is precisely to the sick and the patients in your structures that I would like to express my closeness, my closeness, which I beg you to pass on to them. I join them in their expectation of healing, spiritually sharing in their trials and hoping that it will soon be over, so that everyone can return home to their family as soon as possible. For them I invoke from the Lord the gifts of patience and trust, together with great strength of endurance, to be always docile to God’s will, trusting in His paternal and provident goodness.
To all of you, dear friends, I reiterate my appreciation for your service to the sick, your service of humanity. Thank you, thank you for this! I entrust your work to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary Salus infirmorum, and I bless you all from my heart. Please do not forget to pray for me. I need this too.
Pope encourages religious not to lose hope: “Learn how to live in order to serve”
Meanwhile, on Saturday evening Pope Francis encouraged the world’s men and women religious not to lose hope, and to “learn how to live in order to serve”.
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
24th World Day for Consecrated Life
Eucharistic concelebration with the members of the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life
Full text of the homily of Pope Francis:
Saturday, 1 February 2020
“My eyes have seen your salvation” (Lk 2:30). These are the words of Simeon, whom the Gospel presents as a simple man: “righteous and devout”, says the text (v. 25). But among all at the temple that day, he alone saw Jesus as the Saviour.
What did he see? A child: a small, vulnerable, simple child. But in him he saw salvation, for the Holy Spirit allowed him to recognize in that tender newborn “the Lord’s Christ” (v. 26).
Taking him in his arms, he sensed by faith that in him God was bringing his promises to fulfilment. And that he, Simeon, could now go in peace: he had seen the grace that was worth more than life (cf. Ps 63:4), and there was nothing further to wait for.
You too, dear consecrated brothers and sisters, you are simple men and women who caught sight of the treasure worth more than any worldly good. And so you left behind precious things, such as possessions, such as making a family for yourselves. Why did you do this?
Because you fell in love with Jesus, you saw everything in him, and enraptured by his gaze, you left the rest behind. Religious life is this vision.
It means seeing what really matters in life. It means welcoming the Lord’s gift with open arms, as Simeon did. This is what the eyes of consecrated men and women behold: the grace of God poured into their hands. The consecrated person is one who every day looks at himself or herself and says: “Everything is gift, all is grace”. Dear brothers and sisters, we did not deserve religious life; it is a gift of love that we have received.
My eyes have seen your salvation. These are the words we repeat each evening at Night Prayer. With them, we bring our day to an end, saying: “Lord, my salvation comes from you, my hands are not empty, but are full of your grace”.
Knowing how to see grace is the starting point.
Looking back, rereading one’s own history and seeing there God’s faithful gift: not only in life’s grand moments, but also in our fragility and weakness, in our insignificance.
The tempter, the devil focuses on our “poverty”, our empty hands: “In all these years you haven’t got any better, you haven’t achieved what you could have, they haven’t let you do what you were meant to do, you haven’t always been faithful, you are not capable…” and so on.
Each of us knows this story and these words very well. We see this is true in part, and so we go back to thoughts and feelings that disorient us. Thus we risk losing our bearings, the gratuitous love of God.
For God loves us always, and gives himself to us, even in our poverty.
Saint Jerome offered much to the Lord and the Lord asked for more. He said to the Lord: “But Lord, I have given you everything, everything, what else is lacking?” “Your sins, your poverty, offer me your poverty”. When we keep our gaze fixed on him, we open ourselves to his forgiveness that renews us, and we are reassured by his faithfulness. We can ask ourselves today: “To whom do I turn my gaze: to the Lord, or to myself?” Whoever experiences God’s grace above all else can discover the antidote to distrust and to looking at things in a worldly way.
There is a temptation that looms over religious life: seeing things in a worldly way.
This entails no longer seeing God’s grace as the driving force in life, then going off in search of something to substitute for it: a bit of fame, a consoling affection, finally getting to do what I want. But when a consecrated life no longer revolves around God’s grace, it turns in upon itself. It loses its passion, it grows slack, becomes stagnant. And we know what happens then: we start to demand our own space, our own rights, we let ourselves get dragged into gossip and slander, we take offence at every small thing that does not go our way, and we pour forth litanies of lamentation – lamentation, “Father Lamentation”, “Sister Lamentation” – about our brothers, our sisters, our communities, the Church, society.
We no longer see the Lord in everything, but only the dynamics of the world, and our hearts grow numb. Then we become creatures of habit, pragmatic, while inside us sadness and distrust grow, that turn into resignation.
This is what a worldly gaze leads to. The Great Saint Teresa once said to the sisters: “woe to the sister who repeats these words, ‘they have treated me unjustly’, woe to her!”
To have the right kind of view on life, we ask to be able to perceive God’s grace for us, like Simeon. The Gospel says three times that he was intimately familiar with the Holy Spirit, who was upon him, inspired him, roused him (cf. v. 25-27). He was intimately familiar with the Holy Spirit, with the love of God.
If consecrated life remains steadfast in love for the Lord, it perceives beauty.
It sees that poverty is not some colossal effort, but rather a higher freedom that God gives to us and others as real wealth. It sees that chastity is not austere sterility, but the way to love without possessing. It sees that obedience is not a discipline, but is victory over our own chaos, in the way of Jesus.
In one of the regions affected by earthquake in Italy – speaking of poverty and community life – there was a Benedictine monastery that was destroyed and another monastery that invited the Sisters to come and stay with them. But they were only there for a short while: they were not happy, they were thinking about their monastery, about the people there. In the end, they decided to go back to their monastery, which is now two caravans. Instead of staying in this big, comfortable monastery; they were like flies there, all of them together, but happy in their poverty. This happened just last year. It is a beautiful thing!
My eyes have seen your salvation. Simeon sees Jesus as small, humble, the one who has come to serve, not to be served, and defines himself as servant. Indeed he says: “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace” (v. 29).
Those who see things as Jesus does, learn how to live in order to serve.
They do not wait for others to take the initiative, but themselves go out in search of their neighbour, as did Simeon who sought out Jesus in the temple.
Where is one’s neighbour to be found in the consecrated life? This is the question: Where is one’s neighbour to be found? First of all in one’s own community. The grace must be sought to know how to seek out Jesus in the brothers and sisters we have been given. And that is precisely where we can begin to put charity into practice: in the place where you live, by welcoming brothers and sisters in their poverty, as Simeon welcomed Jesus meek and poor.
Today, so many see in other people only hindrances and complications. We need to have a gaze that seeks out our neighbour, that brings those who are far-off closer.
Men and women religious, who live to imitate Jesus, are called to bring their own gaze into the world, a gaze of compassion, a gaze that goes in search of those far-off; a gaze that does not condemn, but encourages, frees, consoles; a gaze of compassion. That repeated phrase in the Gospel, which, speaking about Jesus, says: “He had compassion”. This is the stooping down of Jesus towards each one of us.
My eyes have seen your salvation. The eyes of Simeon saw salvation because they were expecting it (cf. v. 25). They were eyes that were waiting, full of hope. They were looking for the light and then saw the light of the nations (cf. v. 32). They were aged eyes, but burning with hope.
The gaze of consecrated men and women can only be one of hope. Knowing how to hope.
Looking around, it is easy to lose hope: things that don’t work, the decline in vocations… There is always the temptation to have a worldly gaze, one devoid of hope. But let us look to the Gospel and see Simeon and Anna: they were elderly, alone, yet they had not lost hope, because they remained in communion with the Lord. Anna “did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (v. 37).
Here is the secret: never to alienate oneself from the Lord, who is the source of hope. We become blind if we do not look to the Lord every day, if we do not adore him. To adore the Lord.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God for the gift of the consecrated life and ask of him a new way of looking, that knows how to see grace, how to look for one’s neighbour, how to hope. Then our eyes too will see salvation.