Not long ago, I was talking with a fellow parishioner after Mass about care for her elderly mother. With a completely straight face, this nice lady told me, “We had to put Mother in a nursing home, you know, because we travel so much.”
I stood there in stunned silence. The first thought that came to my mind was, “So your travel is more important than your Mom?” but I didn’t say that. I guess my friend could sense my uneasiness because she quickly interjected the caveat, “But we take her Mass on Sundays whenever we’re in town.”
Maybe my unwillingness to confront another Catholic woman about the decisions she is making in her life was a sin of omission on my part.
It’s been said that the Year of Faith should help Catholics to “know our Faith, live our Faith and spread our Faith.” With that in mind, let’s see what our Faith, specifically as referenced in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, has to say about the situation with my friend.
Paragraph 1728 tells us,
“The Beatitudes confront us with decisive choices concerning earthly goods; they purify our hearts in order to teach us to love God above all things.”
In this case, loving “God above all things” translates into “honoring my mother before honoring my desire to travel.” While we pay lip service to the care of our elderly relatives in a Christian context, the reality is we often tend to think of them as much more of a “burden” than children, who have sadly been categorized by our culture in that way since the inception of the Pill.
Mother Teresa was fond of reminding us, “It’s not love until it hurts.” That saying strikes modernity as masochistic. In looking at any Crucifix, it should strike Catholics as the truth.
Paragraph 2186 tells us,
“Those Christians who have leisure should be mindful of their brethren who have the same needs and the same rights, yet cannot rest from work because of poverty and misery. Sunday is traditionally consecrated by Christian piety to good works and humble service of the sick, the infirm, and the elderly. Christians will also sanctify Sunday by devoting time and care to their families and relatives, often difficult to do on other days of the week.”
This would include taking our parents to Mass on Sundays when they become unable to drive themselves. At the least, our duty would entail bringing Jesus to them in the Eucharist if they’re unable to attend Mass at all.
Which brings us to reflect more on the seldom-used word ‘duty’. What does that mean to us as Catholics?
Paragraph 1932 tells us,
“The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”
Actively serving others means that our lives won’t be the same. It means we opt to put people above things, parents above travel, service above convenience. It’s a simple way of living but the simple is only obvious to the pure of heart.
We will never be pure of heart if we follow the norms of the nihilistic culture we live in today.
Since the Year of Faith invites us to know, live and share our Faith, let’s begin by implementing our Faith in our own homes and families. Let’s conciously choose to love God first in the often “distressing disguise” of those with whom we live.
Copyright © 2012, Glenna Bradshaw