It is a privilege and a joy for me to be able to offer Mass with you and for you at the end of this Day of Prayer and Reflection being held at the Cardiff Vale and University Health Trust. Fr. Peter Davies, has kept me informed of the arrangements for this day and the outstanding work being carried out by doctors, nurses and all the other staff in sustaining the healing ministry of the hospital in these difficult times. You will know that the chaplains, too, are working hard offering spiritual care and support both to patients and staff. I know how grateful you are all for their ministry as I am too.
The readings and prayers we have chosen for this Mass are those used in the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick. The words of St. James are so powerful. “Is anyone sick among you? Let him call on the elders of the Church who will lay their hands on him, anointing him with oil and pray for him”. (James 5:14) “Lay their hands on him”. Touch is one of the most profound and significant human gesture, not least when a person is sick and vulnerable. Holding someone’s hand to comfort them. Wiping their forehead when they are distressed.Washing them,giving medication or an injection, washing them in order to refresh them. All intimate actions speaking so much louder than words. Healing hands are an essential part of your life and work. You do not need me to tell you how much they mean so much to the patients in your care.
But in these days of the corona virus, and because of the personal protection which is so necessary, barriers and distance have come between us all and make our lives more complicated and demanding. You, too, have to carry out your work with these extra layers of protection which make your task more complex to say the least. Even touch can bring it’s own dangers to patients and carers alike. How painful it is for families distanced from their loved one, especially at the time of death. The hospital chaplains, too, administering the Last Rites in ways inconceivable just a few months ago. And equally important in their care for the bereaved and the funerals they conduct. These extraordinary and challenging experiences make your dedication and work and, yes, your ministry even more precious. Caring for others whilst caring for your own health and well being too.
Every year, Pope Francis holds a World Day of Prayer for the Sick. He writes an important letter to accompany it which is worthy to reflect upon. This year, in speaking of the sick he says:
“In experiencing illness, people not only feel threatened physically, but also emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. The body,mind and spirit are all affected when someone is sick.For this reason,in addition to therapy and support,they need care and attention. In a word, they need love. At the side of every sick person there is also a family which itself suffers and is in need of comfort and support”.
The Pope also writes to healthcare workers and says:
“A key role in this effort to offer rest and renewal to those who are sick, is played by healthcare workers: physicians,nurses,medical and administrative professional,assistants and volunteers. Thanks to their expertise, they can help patients feel the presence of Christ who cares and consoles the sick and heals every hurt. Yet they are men and women with their own frailties and even illnesses. They show how true it is that “once Christ’s comfort and rest is received, we are called in turn to become rest and comfort for our brothers and sisters with a docile and humble attitude in imitation of the Teacher”.
Let the great 16th century mystic St. Theresa of Avila have the final word:
Christ has no body now but yours.
No hands, no feet on earth, but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
With compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which
He blesses all the world.
Yours are the hands, yours the feet,
Yours are the eyes.
You are his body.
Christ has no body now on earth