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Family and Illness

Catechesis by Pope Francis on the Family
General Audience, Wednesday 10 June 2015 - in Arabic, Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
We continue the catecheses on the family, and in this catechesis I would like to touch upon a condition common to all families, namely, illness. It is an experience of our own fragility, which we experience most of all at home, beginning in childhood, and then especially in the aches and pains of old age. Within the realm of family bonds, the illness of our loved ones is endured with an “excess” of suffering and anguish. It is love that makes us feel this “excess”. So often for a father or a mother, it is more difficult to bear a son or daughter’s the pain than one’s own. The family, we can say, has always been the nearest “hospital”. Still today, in so many parts of the world, a hospital is for the privileged few, and is often far away. It is the mother, the father, brothers, sisters and grandparents who guarantee care and help one to heal.

In the Gospels, many pages tell of Jesus’ encounters with the sick and of his commitment to healing them. He presents himself publicly as one who fights against illness and who has come to heal mankind of every evil: evils of the spirit and evils of the body. The Gospel scene just referenced from the Gospel according to Mark is truly moving. It says: “That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons” (1:32). When I think of today’s great cities, I wonder where are the doors to which the sick are brought hoping to be healed! Jesus never held back from their care. He never passed by, never turned his face away. When a father or mother, or even just friends brought a sick person for him to touch and heal, he never let time be an issue; healing came before the law, even one as sacred as resting on the Sabbath (cf. Mk 3:1-6). The doctors of the law reproached Jesus because he healed on the Sabbath, he did good on the Sabbath. But the love of Jesus was in giving health, doing good: this always takes priority!

Jesus sends his disciples to perform the same work and gives them the power to heal, in other words, to draw close to the sick and to heal their deepest wounds (cf. Mt 10:1). We must keep in mind what he says to the disciples in the episode of the man blind from birth (Jn 9:1-5). The disciples — with the blind man there in front of them! — argue about who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind, causing his blindness. The Lord says clearly: neither him nor his parents; he is so in order that the works of God be made manifest in him. And He heals him. This is the glory of God! This is the Church’s task! To help the sick, not to get lost in gossip, always help, comfort, relieve, be close to the sick; this is the task.

The Church invites constant prayer for her own loved ones stricken with suffering. There must never be a lack of prayer for the sick. But rather, we must pray more, both personally and as a community. Let us consider the Gospel episode of the Canaanite woman (cf. Mt 15:21-28). She is a pagan woman. She is not of the People of Israel, but a pagan who implores Jesus to heal her daughter. To test her faith, Jesus at first responds harshly: “I cannot, I must think first of the sheep of Israel”. The woman does not give up — when a mother asks for help for her infant, she never gives up; we all know that mothers fight for their children — and she replies: “even dogs are given something when their masters have eaten”, as if to say: “At least treat me like a dog!” Thus Jesus says to her: “woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire” (v. 28).

In the face of illness, even in families, difficulties arise due to human weakness. But in general, times of illness enable family bonds to grow stronger. I think about how important it is to teach children, starting from childhood, about solidarity in times of illness. An education which protects against sensitivity for human illness withers the heart. It allows young people to be “anaesthetized” against the suffering of others, incapable of facing suffering and of living the experience of limitation. How often do we see a man or woman arrive at work with a weary face, with a tired countenance and, when we ask them “What happened?”, they answer: “I only slept two hours because we are taking turns at home to be close to our boy, our girl, our sick one, our grandfather, our grandmother”. And the day of work goes on. These are heroic deeds, the heroism of families! That hidden heroism carried out with tenderness and courage when someone at home is sick.

The weakness and suffering of our dearest and most cherished loved ones can be, for our children and grandchildren, a school of life — it’s important to teach the children, the grandchildren to understand this closeness in illness at home — and they become so when times of illness are accompanied by prayer and the affectionate and thoughtful closeness of relatives. The Christian community really knows that the family, in the trial of illness, should not be left on its own. We must say ‘thank you’ to the Lord for those beautiful experiences of ecclesial fraternity that help families get through the difficult moments of pain and suffering. This Christian closeness, from family to family, is a real treasure for the parish; a treasure of wisdom, which helps families in the difficult moments to understand the Kingdom of God better than many discourses! They are God’s caresses."

"Je suis heureux d’accueillir les pèlerins de langue française. Je salue particulièrement les prêtres du diocèse de Saint-Denis, avec l’Évêque Mgr Pascal Delannoy. Je vous invite à demeurer proches des malades de vos familles et à prier pour toutes les personnes qui souffrent. Que Dieu vous bénisse !

[Sono lieto di accogliere i pellegrini di lingua francese. Saluto particolarmente i sacerdoti della Diocesi di Saint-Denis, con il Vescovo Mons. Pascal Delannoy. Vi invito ad essere vicini agli ammalati delle vostre famiglie ed a pregare per tutte le persone che soffrono. Che Dio vi benedica!]

I greet the English speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, including those from Scotland, New Zealand, China and the United States of America. I pray especially for all your family members and friends who are ill; may God strengthen and sustain them. Upon you and your loved ones, I invoke the Lord Jesus’ blessings of peace and joy. May God bless you all!

[Saluto i pellegrini di lingua inglese presenti all’Udienza oggi, specialmente quelli provenienti da Scozia, Nuova Zelanda, Cina e Stati Uniti. In particolare, prego per i malati tra i vostri familiari e amici; che il Signore li rafforzi e li sostenga. Su tutti voi e sui vostri cari invoco le benedizioni di pace e di gioia nel Signore Gesù. Dio vi benedica!]

Von Herzen grüße ich die Pilger aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Insbesondere heiße ich das Katholische Männerwerk aus dem Erzbistum Freiburg und die verschiedenen Schulgruppen willkommen, vor allem die blinden Schülerinnen und Schüler der Carl-Strehl-Schule in Marburg. Eure Wallfahrt zu den Gräbern der Apostel und die Begegnung mit dem Papst mögen euch im Glauben und im Einsatz für die Kirche stärken. Der Herr begleite euch stets mit seinem Segen.

[Con affetto saluto i pellegrini provenienti da Germania, Austria e Svizzera. Porgo un particolare benvenuto all’Associazione Uomini cattolici dell’Arcidiocesi di Friburgo e ai vari gruppi scolastici, soprattutto agli allievi non vedenti della Carl-Strehl-Schule di Marburgo. Il vostro pellegrinaggio alle tombe degli Apostoli e l’incontro con il Papa vi confermino nella fede e nell’impegno per la Chiesa. Il Signore vi accompagni sempre con la Sua benedizione.]

Saludo a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular a los grupos provenientes de España, República Dominicana, Argentina, México y otros países latinoamericanos. Pidamos al Señor para que con su gracia la enfermedad sea una ocasión de fortalecimiento de los vínculos familiares; y que las familias puedan vivir los momentos difíciles del dolor y del sufrimiento sostenidas por la cercanía y la oración de la comunidad cristiana. Muchas gracias.

[Saluto i pellegrini di lingua spagnola, in particolare i gruppi provenienti da Spagna, Repubblica Dominicana, Argentina, Messico e altri Paesi latinoamericani. Chiediamo al Signore che con la sua grazia la malattia sia un’occasione di rafforzamento dei vincoli familiari; e che le famiglie possano vivere i momenti difficili del dolore e della sofferenza sostenute dalla vicinanza e della preghiera della comunità cristiana. Molte grazie.]

Queridos peregrinos de língua portuguesa, sede bem-vindos! De coração vos saúdo a todos, em particular a «Fazenda Esperança» e os grupos paroquiais do Brasil, encorajando-vos a ser por todo o lado testemunhas de esperança e caridade. E, se alguma vez a vida fizer desencadear turbulências espirituais na vossa alma, ide procurar refúgio sob o manto da Virgem Mãe de Deus; somente lá encontrareis paz. Sobre vós, vossas famílias e paróquias desça a Bênção do Senhor.

[Carissimi pellegrini di lingua portoghese, benvenuti! Di cuore vi saluto tutti, in particolare la «Fazenda da Esperança» e i gruppi parrocchiali del Brasile, incoraggiandovi ad essere dovunque testimoni di speranza e carità. E, se talvolta la vita fa scatenare turbolenze spirituali nella vostra anima, andate a cercare rifugio sotto il manto della Vergine Madre di Dio; soltanto là troverete pace. Su di voi e sulle vostre famiglie e parrocchie scenda la Benedizione del Signore.]

أُرحّبُ بالحجّاجِ الناطقينَ باللغةِ العربية، وخاصةً بالقادمينَ من الشّرق الأوسط. أيّها الإخوةُ والأخواتُ الأعزّاء، لنطلب بإيمان حيّ من الروحِ القدُس أن يمنحنا النعمة لنفهم قيمة مرافقة شخص مريض ولنتذكّر أنّه بإمكان خبرة المرض والألم أن تصبح مكانًا مميّزًا لنقل النعمة ومصدرًا لاكتساب حكمة القلب وتعزيزها! ليبارككُم الربّ!

[Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua araba, in particolare a quelli provenienti dal Medio Oriente! Cari fratelli e sorelle, chiediamo con viva fede allo Spirito Santo che ci doni la grazia di comprendere il valore dell’accompagnamento di una persona malata e ricordiamoci che l’esperienza della malattia e del dolore può diventare luogo privilegiato della trasmissione della grazia e fonte per acquisire e rafforzare la sapienza del cuore! Il Signore vi benedica!]

Serdecznie pozdrawiam polskich pielgrzymów. Drodzy bracia i siostry, dziś w sposób szczególny proszę was, abyście wspierali modlitwą i konkretnymi gestami duchowej i materialnej pomocy rodziny, które muszą zmierzyć się z chorobą kochanej osoby, zwłaszcza rodziców, którzy walczą o zdrowie swego dziecka. Niech towarzyszy im zawsze nasza serdeczna bliskość i życzliwość, jako znak Bożego błogosławieństwa. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus.

[Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini polacchi. Cari fratelli e sorelle, oggi in modo particolare vi chiedo di sostenere con la preghiera e con le opere concrete di aiuto spirituale e materiale le famiglie che devono confrontarsi con la malattia di una persona cara, soprattutto i genitori che lottano per la salute del loro bambino. Siano accompagnati sempre dalla nostra cordiale vicinanza e benevolenza, come segno della benedizione di Dio. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!]

* * *

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai fedeli di lingua italiana. In particolare, saluto l’Ordine dei Frati Servi di Maria e i Salesiani dell’Opera San José de Nazaré in Angola, invitandoli a mostrare a tutti il volto misericordioso del Padre, nella fedeltà ai rispettivi carismi. Saluto i militari del Corpo Forestale dello Stato, ringraziandoli per il gradito dono destinato alle opere di carità del Papa; la società Groma; i fedeli di Recanati e i profughi cristiani del Ghana e della Nigeria, ospiti della Cooperativa Auxilium di Potenza. A tutti auguro che la visita alle Tombe degli Apostoli dia nuovo slancio alla fede e alla solidarietà specialmente verso i più bisognosi.

Il mio pensiero va ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli. Sabato prossimo celebreremo la memoria del Cuore Immacolato di Maria. Esso vi faccia comprendere, cari giovani, l’importanza dell’amore puro; sia il vostro sostegno, cari ammalati, nei momenti di grande difficoltà; e sostenga voi, cari sposi novelli, nel vostro cammino coniugale."

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