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The Basics of Catholic Caregiving

Principles of Catholic Caregiving

--Love and respect: Whether you're caring for an aging parent or other older family member, a spouse, a child with special needs or a friend, the bond between you and your loved one is like no other. You probably realize that this relationship — though seldom ideal and never perfect — remains a tremendously important part of your life.

You're now being given the opportunity — the challenge — to "honor" your mother and father, to love your spouse, to care for your child or friend in a new, different and more demanding way.

--Caregiving is pro-life: The "culture of life" includes providing care for a loved one who is sick, elderly, disabled or frail.

A cornerstone of respect for human life is compassionate care for the most vulnerable among us at all the stages of life, from the moment of conception until natural death.

--The spirituality of caregiving: Caring for a loved one is a vocation, a calling from God. It's a mission and a role a caregiver accepts in the name of love and it is Love itself who accompanies both the caregiver and the care-receiver on this journey.

An awareness of the presence of God, fostered by a turning to both formal and informal prayer, helps you offer loving and compassionate care.

The Spirituality of Caregiving and Your

Caregiving may be a new role for you.

It might have happened suddenly: your loved one had a stroke, was in an accident, or was discharged from the hospital still needing extensive care.

Or it might have been gradual: he or she, over time, has come to depend on you more and more.

No matter how you arrived at this point, no matter what your particular responsibilities and concerns have become, you may find it helpful to realize – or to consider once again – that there is a spiritual component to caregiving. To pause for a moment and make the conscious decision to be your loved one's caregiver. To accept this role. To acknowledge this God-given vocation.

God has asked you, just as Jesus asked St. John, to take care of someone he loves. More than an assignment, it's a calling. Truly, a vocation.

Like St. John at the foot of the cross, you now have the opportunity to answer yes to God's invitation to care for one of his beloved sons or daughters.

Our faith tell us, and our loving God assures us, you're not alone in this often challenging and overwhelming – and at times even frightening – mission. The One who asked you remains with you, day and night.

More than merely by your side, he alone can be in your mind, your heart and your soul, ready to offer you comfort, support and strength to handle the daily challenges of caregiving. All you need to do is ask.

But amid the hectic day-in and day-out tasks of caring for a loved one, sometimes it takes effort, it takes a conscious and deliberate decision, to stop – if only for a moment – and become more aware of the presence of God.

To better see how he never abandons you. How – no matter what time it is, no matter where you are, no matter the circumstances – he is there.

The love you offer to your aging parent, spouse, family member or friend is always accompanied by God's infinite love for that person . . . and for you.

Our Scriptural Model
for Receiving and Giving Care:

John 19:26-27

Our Lady in Need

At the foot of the cross, Mary is "Our Lady in Need." A widow who is losing her only child, she has no one primarily responsible for taking care of her in her later years. From the cross, so close to death, Our Lord asks St. John the apostle to meet that need. And he asks his mother to accept John's help.

In every parish, there are those who – because of poor health, a chronic condition, or the frailty of age – are in need.

Today Our Lord asks others to be caregivers. And he asks those needing help to accept it.

 St. John the Caregiver

How did John come to receive the assignment of taking care of Jesus' mother? He was there.

Of all the apostles, only John walked the road to Calvary and stood beside Mary at the foot of the cross.

Then, and now, a caregiver is someone who is there. It's someone who is present in the sense of concern and service even when he or she can't be physically present.

Now asked by Jesus to take care of Our Lord's beloved brother or sister, the imitator of St. John the Caregiver says yes.

 The Faithful Followers of Christ

The Gospel of John tells us that, in addition to Our Lady and St. John, other disciples were there, too.

Within a family, within a parish, within a diocese, there are men and women who are not the person needing care, who are not the primary caregivers, but who are called to be of service to both. How, and to what degree, varies. Within this group are family members, friends, volunteers and professionals.

And, no matter our particular role, all of us are called to offer prayerful support.