March 15, July 15, November 14
Chapter 36: On the Sick
Before all things and above all things,
care must be taken of the sick,
so that they will be served as if they were Christ in person;
for He Himself said, “I was sick, and you visited Me” (Matt 25:36),
and, “What you did for one of these least ones, you did for Me”
But let the sick on their part consider
that they are being served for the honor of God,
and let them not annoy their sisters who are serving them
by their unnecessary demands.
Yet they should be patiently borne with,
because from such as these is gained a more abundant reward.
Therefore the Abbess shall take the greatest care
that they suffer no neglect.
For these sick let there be assigned a special room
and an attendant who is God-fearing, diligent and solicitous.
Let the use of baths be afforded the sick
as often as may be expedient;
but to the healthy, and especially to the young,
let them be granted more rarely.
let the use of meat be granted to the sick who are very weak,
for the restoration of their strength;
but when they are convalescent,
let all abstain from meat as usual.
The Abbess shall take the greatest care
that the sick be not neglected by the cellarers or the attendants;
for she also is responsible for what is done wrongly by her disciples.
Do you love the tenderness demonstrated here? The loving concern? I also love the mutuality: caregivers are to give care but the receivers are not to make nuisances of themselves but even if they do, they are to be loved and cared for. With this passage, we also see the origins of hospitals.
What a contrast this is to today. Benedictine religious have the comfort of knowing they will be cared for when needed. How many of the ill of the world are just ignored or forgotten? Even in our churches, people who can’t come to services tell me they feel forgotten and overlooked. And yet Jesus commanded us to care for the sick and provide for those unable at the moment to provide for themselves.