I am increasingly grateful for the gift of growing up in a family of unconditional love, faith and care. God was ever present in our family and this legacy remains so today. The spiritual nourishment we encountered has journeyed with us as a family. As a mental health nurse, I have had the privilege of caring for others, being truly present with someone during their most vulnerable moments is a powerful gift. Caring is by no means unique to the caring professions, it can be witnessed every day in homes and workplaces by family, friends and neighbours. We each have a responsibility to care for one another, particularly in these challenging times.
The Frontline of physical and psychological care is happening today and every day in living rooms and kitchens. Pope Francis described caring as a ‘golden rule of our nature as human beings…taking care of those who are sick, of those who are in need, of those who are cast aside: this is a human, and also Christian, wealth’. Material things appear to have lost some focus in the midst of the current Pandemic, looking beyond ourselves, we must focus on the other and our responsibility as a collective community to care for those we do not know as well as those most loved in our lives.
With caring comes responsibility, this can feel like a burden to some whose caring role is challenging and demanding. The well- known expression ‘you cannot pour from an empty cup’ aptly describes the need for those who care to attend to their own needs too. This can be done in quiet reflection with God, pausing in his presence daily can serve to replenish our love and compassion for others and for ourselves.
Pope Francis at a recent audience noticed a mother cuddling and breastfeeding her crying baby. He recalled thinking how beautiful the image was as ‘that is what God does with us, like that mother, who with such tenderness tried to rock the baby, to feed the baby.’ Reflect how it feels to be held, to know comfort, to feel safe, to experience love.
Fr Paul Farren in his book ‘Vulnerable and Free’ reflects on Jesus’ passion and death being his greatest moment of vulnerability. We inherently try to mask our vulnerability and weakness. It is at these times we are most in need of God, who can provide the strength we need, if we afford him the time and space through our daily prayer. The image of sheltering in the loving arms of God brings comfort. His arms embracing you, lifting you, supporting you and protecting you. When we are being held by God, we are then free to reach out to care for others, safe in the knowledge we are anchored by God and his love for us.
Part of my morning prayer before work, I recite,
‘As I enter this workplace, I bring your presence with me.
I speak your peace, your grace, your mercy and your perfect order in my work.
Give me a fresh supply of strength to do my job.
Anoint my projects, ideas and energy,
so that even the smallest accomplishment may bring you glory’.
In our daily lives, most especially during this Pandemic, we need to truly listen out for the vulnerability of others and play our part collectively to care for those most in need. Many people are feeling overwhelmed at this time, by caring in some small way, they may feel the same loving arms of God that are wrapped around you.
Isobel Mc Dowell works as a Nurse Manager in a Community Mental Health Team for Older People in the Western Health and Social Care Trust, Derry.