Suffering and illness belong to the condition of man, a fragile,
limited creature, marked by original sin from birth on. In Christ,
who died and rose again, however, humanity discovers a new
dimension to its suffering: instead of a failure, it reveals itself to
be the occasion for offering witness to faith and love....
Illness and suffering no doubt remain a limit and a trial for the
human mind. In the light of Christ's Cross, however, they become
a privileged moment for growth in faith and a precious instrument
to contribute, in union with Jesus the Redeemer, to implementing
the divine project of salvation. [#4]
-- Blessed Pope John Paul II, in his message for the fifth World Day
of the Sick in 1997.
Why me? Why this?
A serious illness or sudden accident interrupts the normal routine of our daily lives in many ways. Almost always, a serious illness or sudden accident makes us wonder Why me? ... Why this? ... What happens now?
Many of these questions deal with really important issues about life and death which we don’t think about until something serious happens. Then, suddenly, we are reminded that life is fragile; we are all vulnerable; and our lives can change dramatically in a split-second. It is perfectly normal to think: This isn’t fair. ... I don’t deserve this. ... I’m not sure I can cope with this. It is fairly common to feel angry, and to begin looking for someone to blame--the doctors, family members, ourselves, even God.
Although you have many other things to worry about right now, don’t ignore these questions and the feelings which come with them. Your physical health may depend on your emotional and spiritual well-being.
Where is God?
Some of the questions which arise at a time like this are questions of a spiritual nature; they may be disturbing to you, whether you consider yourself a religious person or not.
If you are a person of faith who prays regularly and is active in your church, you may feel confused or betrayed. Where was God when this happened? How could God allow this to happen? Why is God punishing me? These are honest questions people of faith think about at times like this.
The truth is, God is as close as ever--perhaps even closer, because God has a special concern for the vulnerable and those in need. And, we do not believe, as some ancient societies did, that God punishes individual persons with sickness or accidents. Illness and accidents may be the consequences of poor or sinful human choices, are they not always the result of the particular behavior of an individual person. The fact is, accidents happen; people get sick; and we will all eventually die because this is an imperfect and unfinished world, marred by natural limitations and human sinfulness.
When Christians are baptized, we are baptized into Christ's death and resurrection. This is what we call "the Paschal Mystery." Each of us, and the whole of creation, is passing from one form of life, through death, to a new form of life, just as Jesus did. We experience this mystery in many ways during our lives, and finally, in the end, when we die and are reborn into eternal life.
For this reason, our faith isn’t a guarantee that bad things won’t happen; it is our conviction that all will turn out well, no matter what happens. And, although we often pray so God will “fix” what’s wrong right now, every prayer is an expression of our trust in God who is already at work making all things right. This process of redemption takes time, for a God who has eternity to finish the task.
Reconnecting to Church
If you are a person who has been inactive or alienated from the Church, this might be a good time to think about your relationship to the faith community.
There are many reasons why people stop participating in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church; sometimes being sick or hospitalized puts these concerns, fears or doubts into a new perspective.
You should know that inactive Catholics are still members of the Church, unless they have formally and publicly renounced their membership. Most can resume participating in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church whenever they wish to do so. In the absence of a canonical impediment such as an invalid marriage, they may celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and begin receiving Holy Communion on a regular basis at any time.
Some Catholics are unable or unwilling to fully understand, accept or follow all of the Church’s teachings. Barring issues of a very serious nature, that fact should not ordinarily prevent you from participating as fully as possible in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Church.
If you have questions about your faith or your relationship to the Church, now might be a good time to visit with an understanding pastor, confessor or spiritual director.
• Click here for more information for inactive Catholics.
• • •
How can we help?
The Catholic parishes in Waterloo welcome the opportunity to encourage and support you during this important time.
While you are hospitalized...
• One of our pastors or a member of our pastoral staff would be happy to visit you to pray with you or to discuss any concerns you have about your faith or your relationship to the Church.
• If you wish, we can arrange for you to celebrate the Sacrament of Penance and Confession or the Sacrament of Anointing.
• Members of our parishes visit the hospital regularly and can bring you Holy Communion on a regular basis.
To contact us ask a family member, a member of the hospital’s spiritual care team, or a nurse to contact one of the parishes, or call the Director of Adult formation at 319-234-9912.
• Click here for a directory of Waterloo parishes.
When you leave the hospital...
• If you are homebound or move to a care facility, we can arrange to have a member of the parish staff visit with you about your spiritual needs and to have Holy Communion brought to your home.
• If you have been away from the Church for a period of time and wish to resume active participation, we would be happy to visit with you about any questions or concerns you have concerning your past, present or future relationship to the Church.
To make these arrangements, contact a local parish or call the Director of Adult Formation at 319-234-9912.
• Click here for a directory of Waterloo parishes.
If you are the victim of sexual abuse by a priest or other Church employee, contact the Archdiocese of Dubuque’s Office of Child Protection at 800-876-3546 or contact a professional Victim Assistance Coordinator who is under contract to provide services to the Archdiocese.
• Click here for more information for victims of sexual abuse.
• • •
Resources for Catholics Who Are
Sick or Hospitalized
You may find these articles a source of comfort and encouragement when you are sick or hospitalized:
Prayers of the Sick
Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Exhortation on the Christian
Meaning of Suffering
Pope John Paul II's Letter to the Elderly
Anointing of the Sick--A Sacrament with Many Graces.
The Body of Christ is the Best Medicine for Body and Soul.
Celebrating the Mystery of Our Faith.
Does It Pay to Pray for Healing?
Eight Inspiring Quotes for the Sick.
Eight Ways to Find Hope When Life Hurts.
The Paschal Mystery--God's Wonderful Plan.
Pope John Paul II and Suffering
Praying for a Miracle--and Unanswered Prayers.
Senior Moments--The Spiritual Side of Getting Older.
The Spirituality of Pain [audio].
Ten Most Healing Bible Verses.
They Cried to the Lord--Prayers of Lamentation.
What's God Got to Do With It?--Keeping Faith in Time of Suffering.
When Prayers for Healing Aren't Answered
• Comfort for the Sick and Dying. David L. Greenstock. Sophia
Institute Press. 978-0918477965
• Healing the Soul--Finding Peace and Consolation when Life Hurts.
Eddie Ensley. Twenty-Third Publications. 176pp. 978-1585959211.
• I Place My Trust in You--Prayers in Time of Suffering. Sr. Joyce
Rupp. Creative Communications for the Parish.
• In God's Embrace--Prayers for Health and Healing. Sandra DeGidio
OSM. Twenty-Third Publications. 64pp. 978-1627850186.
• Pocket Prayers for Times of Trouble. Tim Johnston. Twenty-Third
Publications. 80pp. 978-1627850308.
• When God Is Silent--Finding Spiritual Peace Amid the Storms of
Life. Luis Martinez. Sophia Institute Press. 9781622822201.