… in ministering to the sick
‘This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.’ In these simple words the Jesuit priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, while stationed in Liverpool, wrote about his visits and sick calls to a dying, physically diminished blacksmith, Felix Randal.
I have had the same feeling taking Communion to Elizabeth regularly for about two years before she died. She was bedridden and had to be helped out of depression and fear of death. We chatted often about her girlhood in Wales and how she had brought up two sons and a daughter. One of them, the youngest, lived in the apartment and cared for her, along with other carers. I met them all as regular visitors and got to know them as a family. After Elizabeth died we prepared the funeral Mass together. One thing she told them was about my singing hymns to her from time to time after I had anointed her and given her Communion.
I felt the Lord very close in this ministry, living out Hopkins’ insight. In the bond that grew up between us I experienced the close natural connection between love of God and love of neighbour at the heart of my Jesuit vocation.