“How I would wish that we Christians could be as close to the sick as Jesus was, in silence, with a caress, with prayer.”
~ Pope Francis
I never get a flu shot. I also never get the flu. So when I was asked to do hospital Communion visits and I found out the post would require a flu shot, it was almost a deal breaker. Sure enough the day after my shot, I was sick in bed and I wondered if it was worth it. After recovering, it was time to shadow a more experienced minister. In the week leading up to my observation, I thought about canceling. I’ve got four kids. I’m on airplanes constantly. Do I really need more, self-inflicted exposure to germs of all kind? I met Kathryn after Mass. A 6-year veteran, she was delightful and delighted to have some help. As she pulled out the two-page list of more than 50 names, she commented that it was a busy day and graciously acknowledged that when I was self-sufficient, it would go faster because we could split the visits. With smiles and nods, on the inside I thought, “well there goes my Saturday.” From maternity to ICU, the step-down unit to oncology, we journeyed. In every room, St. Kathryn checked in with the nurse, kept her warm smile, prayed by name for the person, and shared the Lord, guaranteeing that another minister would be there again tomorrow. From the young to the old, the hopeful to the despairing, the devout to the distant, they were grateful for her presence. Those whose loved one was sleeping or with the doctor, made us promise we would return. In one particularly difficult room, Kathryn asked the nurse if perhaps today wasn’t the best day. Without skipping a beat the nurse replied, “I think Jesus is exactly what he needs.”
As Kathryn put on her protective gear, I watched and prayed with them outside the room. I realized how her ministry spoke to the truth of who we are. Every single day someone goes to that hospital, goes in to the lives of perfect strangers who are in difficult, uncomfortable, awkward, even life-threatening situations, to bring them the Eucharist. On one hand it seems absolutely absurd – why would we do that? Logistically, it’s a nightmare. Despite lots of mandatory training, it’s just ripe for liability from the HIPAA to the highly contagious. And yet, almost nothing could stop Kathryn from sharing Jesus, and almost nothing would stop them from receiving. As a disciple, do I revel in the “ridiculousness” of Christianity? Like Kathryn, do I lead with Jesus as the primary medicine to what ails me or those I lead? How far do I get before the practicalities prevent me from proclamation of the Good News? Perhaps this experience was for my own healing. So yes, the flu shot was worth it.