Continuing our occasional look at the Corporal Works of Mercy in this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, we come now to the work of Visiting the Sick. This is something you can do most easily and naturally with those you know who are sick, infirm or elderly. You do not have to be witty, nor entertaining, nor even interesting. The sick, the homebound, those in nursing homes and facilities, just enjoy company. Touch is very important. Be sure to shake hands and if appropriate, give a hug. Just your presence and your smile are enough. Any small talk you can add is a bonus. Visits to the sick may not take much effort, but they are very worthwhile.
I try to not visit immediately after surgery. Give the patient a day or two to recover from anesthesia and the medical procedure, and they will get more out of your visit. And again, all you have to do is show up.
We also are blessed here at St. Austin Parish with a core of Eucharistic Ministers that take the Blessed Sacrament to 3 hospitals and 2 nursing homes that St. Austin covers, as well as to our homebound parishioners. This is a great help to the priests, and those who do this ministry find it very rewarding. If you would be interested in this ministry then please contact Fr. Dick Sparks.
Sometimes it is not possible to go visit in person. A phone call or a note card expressing your wishes for health and wholeness can also be a boost to the sick person. It does not take a large investment in time or money but can pay very big dividends. Don’t put it off until the person has healed or passed on. It is important to do it promptly.
The next Corporal Work of Mercy, Visit the Imprisoned (sometimes listed as “Ransom the Captive”) is similar to the last work. You would think in a country that has more people locked up than any other country, with the world’s highest rate of imprisonment, it would be easy to do this. But it is not so easy today to visit those in prison. Having visited a couple of times to the Travis County Correctional Center in Del Valle, it is a bureaucratic hassle. However, you can still practice this important work through a program sponsored by the Dominican Fathers called “Postcards to Death Row Inmates.” The name pretty much explains it. Each week a Dominican priest in North Carolina lists the names of several NC death row inmates. You can see it at http://www.preacherexchange.com/latest.htm. First Impressions is primarily a tool for preachers, but the death row inmates are also listed on there. I don’t know of anything like this for Texas death row inmates. If someone does, please let me know. Perhaps tcadp.org might have something like this. And you can always pray for the imprisoned.
It is also important to understand why we lock up so many people in the U.S. and the inhuman use of solitary confinement, and then to urge your elected officials to address these problems, and for you to vote accordingly. That is what the Lord calls us to do.
The part of “Ransoming Captives” goes back to the days when the Mediterranean was full of pirates. Moorish pirates captured Christians and sold them into slavery. Ransoming the captive meant buying some Christian’s freedom from slavery. Today we don’t have that problem, but you can still practice this work. Human trafficking is a huge problem in the world today. You can help stop this nefarious trade in human beings by first of all becoming informed. Check out www.dhs.gov/blue-campaign. Several congregations of Catholic women religious have become active in combating human trafficking, especially of women and girls for the sex trade. You can read an article on this at http://www.cruxnow.com/life/2014/09/19/women-religious-fight-human-trafficking. It is important to learn the signs of a possible case of modern slavery, and if you see something to say something.
In all these ways (and many more) you can put into concrete action the corporal works of mercy.