The Call to Serve the Lord: Giving Care to an Ailing Parent

Sunday thought July 28, 2019: Last Sunday’s Gospel story of Martha reveals something of Luke’s depth in presenting human psychology.  The irritation of the “dutiful daughter” Martha mirrors our own when we are filled to the brim with responsibilities.  In this vein, Pope Francis cautions us of “Martha-ism” or excessive industriousness.  Those who overly immerse themselves in work inevitably neglect “the better part” of sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to His word.  “Rest” is also a necessary duty when one’s work or mission is completed.  We have to spend some time with family and loved ones and respect the holidays as opportunities for spiritual and physical replenishment.  As the Book of Ecclesiastes says, “There is a time for everything under the sun.” – Fr. Gil A. Alinsangan, SSP

From another homily delivered by an SVD priest during today’s Sunday TV Mass, I learned about 4 Elements of Prayer:

*Being persistent
*Being disposed to the Will of God, which means to:
Trust in the Lord
Have faith in God’s Love and Mercy
*Being sincere
*Being transformed

The Call to Serve the Lord: Giving Care to an Ailing Parent

Listening to the priest’s Sunday homily today on the 4 elements of prayer as well as reflecting on the other priest’s thoughts on being too much of a “Martha,” I was struck by the coincidence in my present situation.

For just earlier in the wee hours of the night during my shift in watching over my sick, bedridden but recuperating Dad, I was thinking of the difficulty and challenges of being a caregiver especially for someone suddenly entrusted into this situation.

Comes a time for many of us when we are indeed called to put our lives on hold. Like when we have to care for our aging or sick parents.

When we were infants, they spent sleepless nights for us: feeding, cleaning up, bathing/dressing us up,  giving our medicines, comforting us whenever we cried or felt sick —

Now the wheels are turned! The call for me to serve the Lord at this time comes in the form of giving care for my ailing, elderly father. And these are the things I am now doing for him.

For the past several weeks since my Dad had a stroke, I have been staying with him and my sister, on alternate weeks, to help care for him.

And these thoughts from these two priests moved me to ponder about my current daily life, and how these insights can help family caregivers in general.

REFLECTION

First, we must offer our daily life — as an Act of Prayer.  That each chore or task or errand is our prayer of offering or sacrifice to God.

I understand for secular or lay people, it isn’t what we are used to do. For most, daily tasks and demands of work, home, and studies are apart from prayer/praying.

For example, even though I have already been practicing this as much as I can, I still forget. Many times I go about my day doing what I need to accomplish routinely, hurriedly or mindlessly.

Not as a loving offer of praise and gratitude as it should be.

More importantly, each task we need to do must be in obedience to the Lord. It helps to look at our situation — whatever it may be — as the soil in which God has planted us to grow in faith.

Looking at our daily life as an act of prayer encourages us to fulfill each task or chore the best we can and with joy in our heart.

This is important for caregivers, and for us Christians in general because such attitude is our best weapon to keep negative emotions — for example, irritability or impatience — at bay. Especially when you have to take on a big, heavy responsibility such as taking care of a sick or elderly parent.

And this is where the temptation of being too much of a “Martha”– or what Pope Francis refers to as “Martha-ism” or excessive industriousness” distracts us from fulfilling the duties of being a caregiver with love, compassion, and joy.

For instance, if you are a caregiver to an elderly or ailing family member, you may feel all responsibilities of taking care of your loved one are heaped upon your shoulders. So while you may accept the situation wholeheartedly, at some point, you may feel drained especially if you tend to do things all by yourself, without asking for help or taking time out to rest.

WARNING

If you do not watch out, little strains soon come creeping up on you until you can no longer carry the weight of your present situation with equanimity and grace. When this happens, the quality of your care and interrelating with your needy loved one may suffer. Every little mistake or appeal for help becomes irritating and burdensome. This can happen to the best of us, even though we love our parents so much.

Besides, the devil is always on the prowl for souls to ruin. And the more we try to be good, the wilier he gets looking for our weak spots.

Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.” — 1Peter 5:8

GUIDELINE for CARE-GIVING

Thus, it will be for our spiritual good and emotional well-being to understand deeply the 4 elements of prayer to use as guideline in answering the call of God – how, when, and where – He wills.

That means, we are to live every moment and carry out each task  as family caregiver as our Prayer. We need to be:

  • Persistent in praying for His blessings and guidance
  • Open/disposed to God’s Will, and this requires our complete trust and faith in His Love and Mercy
  • Sincere in obeying God and in interrelating with those around us, especially those needing most our care — our aging, ailing parents, in this case
  • Transformed — that is, we seek to grow more loving, more compassionate sons and daughters, not only being dutiful towards our parents

“So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:6-7

Caring with Compassion and Joy                    Photo by Isaac Mehegan on Unsplash