Tag Archives: health care

Little Sisters of the Poor

For the last 7 days I have been with some of the Little Sisters of the Poor on retreat at their place in Flemington, NJ. We’ve been reflecting, for the most part, on the scripture readings from the lectionary for these days in the easter season, and I put some of my reflections down in previous blogs.

The Little Sisters of the Poor are currently engaged in a dispute on health care with the United States government and the case is before the Supreme Court. Here’s a website explaining their stand. They’re not an advocacy group; they take care of the elderly poor in residences in this country and throughout the world. Holy women, they’re doers, not talkers.

I didn’t mention the case in my talks these days; they were days of prayer and reflection. But the easter readings from the Acts of the Apostles do seem to offer them a template for this experience. As the teacher of the law Gamaliel said about the Jewish-Christians arranged before the Sanhedrin,, “If it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” Acts 5, 39

Another lesson we learn from the Acts of the Apostles is that the mystery of the passion and resurrection is always present in our lives and the journey we make together as a community. No matter how dark it seems, God brings us to life and light. That’s the way the Kingdom of God comes.

The Little Sisters know a lot about caring for the elderly, especially the elderly poor, something our government may not know much about, if truth be told. Instead of prosecuting them for breaking a law, wouldn’t it be better to get their advice how to treat the frail elderly? Care for an aging population is a growing challenge for our society.

The Little Sisters know something about it.

Learning like children, part 2

Sometimes you hear that religious formation is nice, but other things are too. It’s  more important that kids take ballet lessons or learn to play soccer. There’s not time for everything.

Think about that. What’s one of the most important issues of our day? I think health care might be one of them. Where do children learn about health care, an issue that will affect them all their lives?

From parents? In a social studies class in school? From a talk show on the radio or television?

I think our own religious tradition has a lot to say on this matter. Look at Jesus. The gospel says clearly that he reached out to those in need, and taught his followers to do the same. It was one of the most important lessons he taught. He cured the sick and sent them home again. The gospels we hear every Sunday tell stories again and again of his concern for those in need.

We don’t have to go back to the times of the bible, however, to see his teaching.  Look at the strong tradition our church in this country has in health care. There are over 2,000 Catholic health systems, facilities and related organizations in the United States now.  Almost 13% of the hospitals in the United States are sponsored by the Catholic Church.

It was especially for the needs of the poor that so many of them were begun. Think of great Catholic figures who founded these hospitals and charitable works. Mother Cabrini, for example, an Italian immigrant woman who came to this country in 1889 and by the time of her death in 1917 had founded 67 institutions for the poor, among them a number of hospitals.

They say that when she went to visit a bishop looking for money in one of the many cities where she wanted to founded a hospital,  the bishop said to her, “Mother, what am I going to tell the bankers.” She said to him, “You talk to the bankers, I’ll talk to God.”

I think our children should learn about health care from Jesus Christ, from Mother Cabrini, from Mother Teresa rather than from some loud-mouth on the radio. They need to learn about this more than they do ballet or soccer.

Health Care and “Expressive Individualism”

Charles Taylor says that “expressive individualism” is the predominant trait of our time. Taylor doesn’t consider the trait without merits, I think, but when it takes over it causes havoc. That’s when it becomes “I gotta be me,” and everybody in the world has to know about it and listen to me.

I watched a meeting on CSpan recently on health care from Dartmouth, MA. Congressman Barney Frank, not known to shy away from a fight, was fielding questions from a contentious crowd.

“On what planet do you spend most of your time?” Frank responded to a woman who called the new government  health initiatives a “Nazi plan.”

“Expressive individualism” at its worst. No one seemed to be there to listen or learn; they were there to make their own point–loudly. So we should worry about the future of health care in this country.

St. Bernard, in a homily on Mary, said, “It was God’s will that Mary be meek and humble of heart, since Jesus was to become the outstanding example of these virtues, so necessary for the health of humanity.”

Humility necessary for the health of humanity?

Listening and learning are certainly part of it, and isn’t that what we all must do today? I like the sites of the Catholic Health Association http://www.chausa.org/ and the US Catholic Bishops at http://www.usccb.org/healthcare/

Our church has been at health care for a long time, and is a major provider of health care in this country.

Be good to listen and learn from her.

Telling the Truth in Dangerous Places

The two places recalled in today’s Mass readings are dangerous places for telling the truth. The three young men in Babylon tell the truth in the hearing of a king who wants all to bow down to him. They remain loyal to their God and they are thrown into a fiery furnace, but God keeps them unharmed.

Jesus speaks the truth in the temple in Jerusalem. His message is inflammatory, according to the temple leaders. They would rather he be silent or go somewhere else, preferably back to some little village in Galilee. But he speaks his truth and tells them they are not children of Abraham, but people looking after their own interests. Their dialogue as recorded in John’s gospel still crackles with controversy.

Jesus will be sent to death, but God will raise him up.

From what we know about the Jewish temple at that time it does seem like a place where you had to watch what you said. Though the Romans kept Judea on a loose leash, they didn’t like rebellions. Their representatives in the area were not the best  administrators then–Pontius Pilate really wasn’t good at managing Herod or his Jewish subjects. Historians say he was incompetent.

In the late 60’s some young Jewish leaders attached to the temple would massacre a detachment of Roman soldiers and bring Titus and his legions into Judea to level the temple and Jerusalem itself.

The temple was a volatile place; the temple area today still is. Martin Goodman’s book, Rome and Jerusalem, tells the story of the sad tale of Jerusalem’s destruction and the events that led up to it.

But we still have to speak the truth at dangerous times and places. Yes, even today. Not everyplace or everybody wants to hear it. Don’t mention things like the need for addressing the inequalities that exist in our world in some places.  How can we make sure people everywhere have enough to eat and drink and a place to live? How can we respect human life, from birth to death? How can we deal with the climate change? How can we live together as a human family in our world?

You can’t speak about issues like this in some places, even some of our churches. But if Jesus offers an example, we should.