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Rev. Fr. Combey writes: Post Covid-19 Ecclesiology: musings from the perspectives of pastoral care and sacramental pastoral care (I)
The trend should shift from increasing consumption of goods and services to the increasing consummation of love for those brothers and sisters who are sick and battling with COVID-19. Pope Francis was right in saying that “The pain, uncertainty and fear, and the realization of our own limitations, brought on by the pandemic have only made it all the more urgent that we rethink our styles of life, relationships, the organization of our societies and, above all, the meaning of our existence.” (Fratelli Tutti, 33) Members of the Church should be consumed with visiting the sick and especially encouraging their brothers and sisters who are with COVID-19. The emergence of the Second Vatican Council requires that the laity should be involved in the pastoral work especially of the sick.
In A Ritual For Laypersons: Rites for Holy Communion and the Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying n.70, “The sick should be encouraged to pray when they are alone or with their families, friends, or those who care for them.” The Rite here does not specifically say who should encourage the sick but what follows immediately gives a hint that the laity are the ones that should do the encouragement here.
The Rite drawing its inspiration from those powerful words of Jesus Christ “I was sick, and you visited me” (Mt.25:36) asks the laity to do likewise by visiting and encouraging their brothers and sisters who are sick especially of COVID-19. The Rite immediately after encouraging the sick persons to pray gives a huge and divine task to the minister: “The minister should encourage the sick person to offer his or her sufferings in union with Christ and to join in prayer for the Church and the world.
Some examples of particular intentions which may be suggested to the sick person are: for peace in the world; for a deepening of the life of the Spirit in the local Church; for the pope and the bishops; for people suffering in a particular disaster.” (A Ritual For Laypersons: Rites for Holy Communion and the Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying n.71). Post COVID-19 ecclesiology should encourage both the pastors of souls, the laity and especially those who have contracted the virus to be more opened to a pastoral care that is more oriented towards prayer and personally identifying themselves to the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
The laity in this era of the pandemic have a role to play pastorally and not necessarily hanging everything on the neck priest as the only pastoral actor in the Church.
In fact, the pandemic has taught us lessons as a Church and the world because there are a lot that we do not as a Church put in place in case of novelties like the emergence of this novel virus.
But we can do our best now in order that the Church can pastorally care for those who are sick and are living with COVID-19. Pope Francis did well during and in the wake of the pandemic and took his time to encourage and pray for the world against the pandemic.
But there is one thing that the pope never lost sight of. He says that “the experience of sickness makes us realize our own vulnerability and our innate need of others. It makes us feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God.
When we are ill, fear and even bewilderment can grip our minds and hearts; we find ourselves powerless, since our health does not depend on our abilities or life’s incessant worries (Mt 6:27), Message of His Holiness Pope Francis For The XXIX World Day of the Sick 2021, n.2) We should realize that every pastoral care is oriented towards God because He is the Supreme Pastor who created us and gave us His spirit.
The lessons drawn from this pandemic should rather make us always look up to God and extend a pastoral care to our brothers and sisters living with the virus.
As the pope said we are a global community and that one person’s problems are the problems of all.
The Church is a family or community of believers and the problem of one member is a problem of all. Reminiscing the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together.” (1 Cor.12:26) let us be conscious of how we treat and care for those who are sick and especially those who have contracted COVID-19.
Authored by Rev. Fr. Michael Selasi Combey