RB 36 falls within a section of The Rule that concerns itself with meals [RB 35-42]. Though the chapter deals primarily with the relationship between the sick one and the server, Benedict sets the tone of this very practical instruction with the first two verses: Care of the sick must rank above and before all else, so that they may truly be served as Christ, for he said: ‘I was sick and you visited me (Matt. 25:36),’ and, ‘What you did for one of these least sisters you did for me (Matt. 25:40).’ As with his emphasis on “good zeal” in our dealings with one another and the primacy of hospitality to strangers, Saint Benedict clearly understands that the sick one is a unique incarnation of the Christ. (See, I really did go to my classes in Rome!)
When I visit our Infirmary at the monastery, it’s easy to find Christ in my sisters. Though their days of active service have come to an end, they have become the spiritual power-house of the community. They give me good example in the way they accept the many sufferings of aging and gratefully receive the kindnesses of the staff and sisters who care for them. Anyone who works in healthcare or hospice can tell you more than I about the presence of Christ among the sick and dying. It is real presence in the most sacramental sense of the word.
Since most blogs are “all about me,” I’ll tell you where these musings are coming from. I took a “sick day” yesterday. I can hardly believe it myself, but it’s true. I was all dressed and ready to go to work. I joined my sisters for Morning Prayer and even croaked out the canticle. But, Sister Andrea took one look at me and suggested that I needed to go to bed and just be sick. What a concept - actually skip work for a day and do NOTHING! I’m pretty good when it comes to taking care of others, but Benedict would give me a big, fat “F” for being the one served in sickness.
One of the many gifts of community, for me, is the mirror I never had before. Yes, Sister Andrea could see that I looked like a piece of bruised fruit, but, more importantly, she could see my inner self. She knows I love work and have a super-sized notion of responsibility. She knows I am less able to give myself permission to stop and be the unproductive member of the household. Her loving glance and wise words enabled me to have a “Mary day” – to be still at the Lord’s feet and know His rest. The Rule is an ancient document but alive and well in our lives. For its common-sense, gospel-girded, “people-come-first” attitude, I am truly grateful.
Blessings and love to you all…
- Sister Vicki