LONDON, FEB. 21, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The archbishop of Westminster says helping families to care for their elderly members simply makes sense.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols affirmed this Saturday at the archdiocesan annual Mass for the Sick.
“It seems to me that, even in economic terms, the supports offered to families who work hard to care for their beloved parents in times of great need, are the last things which should be cut,” he said. “Indeed it makes more sense to help families to care for their elderly wherever possible.”
The 65-year-old prelate noted that “vulnerability and dependance” is an experience that “marks every human life. The fact that we are not God means that, sooner or later, every single one of us has to come to terms with what we cannot do. For many this experience comes most unmistakably and inescapably with illness and old age. In those circumstances we know that we are helpless, in need of the care of others.”
“This means that caring for the sick and the elderly is of particular importance,” he affirmed.
Throughout his homily, the archbishop cited Benedict XVI’s reflections during the papal trip to the United Kingdom last September.
The Pope noted, for example, that advances in medicine have brought about increased longevity, saying “it is important to recognize the presence of growing numbers of older people as a blessing for society.”
“[C]are for the elderly should be considered not so much an act of generosity as the repayment of a debt of gratitude,” the Holy Father said.
Archbishop Nichols said the Pontiff’s perspective “stands in contrast to some apparent prevailing attitudes in our society.”
He cited a recent report on neglect of elderly in hospitals, as well as possible budget cuts that could fall on the shoulders of the elderly.
Archbishop Nichols also spoke of the spiritual care of the sick.
He reminded that when “we forget that we are spiritual beings and live, day by day, as if God does not exist, we build on shaky foundations.”
Again citing the Holy Father, the archbishop asserted that “the sick and the elderly have a great deal to teach us.”
He added: “The dignity of every patient is rooted, in the end, in the meaning of the Sign of the Cross: that every person’s mind, heart and strength is and always have been blessed by God. I thank God for the witness given by so many, in Lourdes and elsewhere, to this truth: that every person is loved by God, from conception to natural death, and is worthy of our respectful care and love.”
Finally, the archbishop reflected on the difficulty of accepting God’s will when sickness arrives.
“Each day this is to be our prayer, in health and in sickness, in joy and in sorrow,” he said. “As long as we are striving to live as the Lord teaches us, then no matter what circumstances may bring, no matter what illness or incapacity may be thrust upon us, we are invited to say these words: ‘Thy will be done.'”