J. Spirituality of Care

I began writing this section as a small insight into my reflections on the Spirituality of Care, but it grew into a short discourse as I tried to expound on more concepts. But isn’t this what the Incarnation of God as Man on Christmas really is, that is, to come down to our level of humanity and elevate us to divinity?

I am a commissioned Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion. In addition to ministering in the church, I have ministered to the homebound, the hospitalized, and the prisoners. I am blessed to now be able to care for my Mom and again kiss her good morning and good night. I am cleaning the rump that cushioned me, the breasts that I sucked, and the birth canal that brought me to this world. Mostly, she needs partial assistance with meals, geriatric hygiene, health monitoring, and medication administration. It is a significant commitment requiring a coordinated, structured schedule between us for me to be productive with my own work.

Intimate Sharing

When I was going through eight eye surgeries over the course of ten years, Mom medicated my eyes and looked after my needs. There were many times when I could not read. I had her read to me the Liturgy of the Hours Lauds (morning) and Vespers (evening) prayers daily.

Now in caring for her, I include her in the Liturgy of the Hours Compline (bedtime prayers). Rather than counsel, I draw her to the Holy Spirit who gives her counsel. For those who are new to the Liturgy of the Hours, which along with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are the official prayers* of the Roman Catholic Church that draws from the Psalms that Jesus Christ Himself prayed, the Compline is a good introduction without requiring a Breviary to follow. (*The Holy Rosary is a devotional prayer.)

Out of all the Hours, the compline has the most familiar prayers, is short, and is a good step up from the formulaic bedtime prayer. There is the Examination of Conscience and Confiteor as the common penitential rite. This is where the Holy Spirit comes in to open our minds and hearts then proceeds to the Psalmody that with the hymn prepares us for the teaching in the Reading. I sing my composition on St Teresa’s poem, Nada te Turbe which is linked here, a most appropriate song for bedtime.

Original text:
Nada te turbe;
Nada te espante.
Todo se pasa;
Dios no se muda.
La paciencia todo lo alcanza;
Quién a Dios tiene nada le falta.
¡Solo Dios basta!

Let nothing disturb you;
Let nothing frighten you.
All things are passing;
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things;
He who has God finds he lacks nothing.
God alone suffices!

There are many great and profound teachings in the 7-night cycle of the Compline Readings. I especially like Ephesians 4:26-27.

BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.

Ephesians 4:26-27. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible (NASB) (p. 2978). The Lockman Foundation. Kindle Edition.

The ever-familiar Doxology (Glory Be) is recited to punctuate the many parts of the liturgy. The Responsory and Gospel Canticle are the same nightly. And the Hail Holy Queen is all familiar. Even without having to read from a breviary, one can participate by listening and then reciting familiar prayers. Even when starting to doze off, one is awakened by familiar prayers and can recite them.

St Teresa writes that … the nature of mental prayer isn’t determined by whether or not the mouth is closed. If while speaking I thoroughly understand and know that I am speaking with God and I have greater awareness of this than I do of the words I’m saying, mental and vocal prayer are joined.

St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa of Avila The Way of Perfection: Study Edition (Chap. 22, p. 150). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

Now with regard to vocal prayer you already know that His Majesty teaches that it be recited in solitude. This is what he always did when he prayed, and not out of any need of his own but for our instruction. It has already been mentioned that one cannot speak simultaneously to God and to the world; this would amount to nothing more than reciting the prayer while listening to what is being said elsewhere or to letting the mind wander and making no effort to control it.

St. Teresa of Avila. St. Teresa of Avila The Way of Perfection: Study Edition (Chap. 24, p. 162). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

We cannot also become ritualistic. As St John of the Cross writes: These people attribute so much efficacy to methods of carrying out their devotions and prayers and so trust in them that they believe that if one point is missing or certain limits have been exceeded their prayer will be profitless and go unanswered. As a result, they put more trust in these methods than they do in the living prayer, not without great disrespect and offense toward God. For example, they demand that the Mass be said with a certain number of candles, no more nor less; or that it be celebrated at a particular hour, no sooner nor later; or that it be said after a certain day, not before; or that the prayers and stations be a particular number and kind and that they be recited at certain times and with certain ceremonies, and neither before nor after, nor in any other way; and that the person performing the ceremonies have certain endowments and characteristics. And they are of the opinion that nothing will be accomplished if one of these points is lacking.

St. John of the Cross. The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross (includes The Ascent of Mount Carmel, The Dark Night, The Spiritual Canticle, The Living Flame of Love, Letters, and The Minor Works) [Revised Edition] (p. 397). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition, Ascent Bk. 3, Chap. 43, par. 2.

This is the reason for prayer, … the purpose of this spiritual marriage: the birth always of good works, good works.

St Teresa of Avila, St Teresa. The Interior Castle Study Edition (Bk. 7, Chap. 4, par. 6, p. 433). ICS Publications. Kindle Edition.

It is not the quantity of the prayer, but the quality of the prayer that matters. It is not in how many rosaries we can recite in a day, but how deep our connection is with the Lord. It is through that connection that our spirituality and humanity grow as our response to the incarnation, of the coming of God as Man on Christmas, and elevating humankind to His divinity in the Resurrection. We may be members of various religious guilds or societies but if we don’t show love to our fellow humans, that is simply piety. True spirituality can only manifest itself in true humanity that is full of love for our fellow humans.

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

1 John 3:16. Holy Bible: New American Standard Bible (NASB) (p. 3095). The Lockman Foundation. Kindle Edition.

For mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.

St Teresa of Avila: The Book of Her Life, ch. 8, 5.

I had a video call with my best friend who I haven’t seen in a while since COVID-19. Although we were not connected physically but virtually across the ocean, we were connected deep inside emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Our planned hour of sharing lasted for two and a half hours of in-depth sharing, not just small talk, but true quality time.


Pope Francis writes that … the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems. If the whole Church takes up this missionary impulse, she has to go forth to everyone without exception. But to whom should she go first? When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14).

Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of the Holy Father Francis to the Bishops, Clergy, Consecrated Persons and the Lay People On the Proclamation of the Gospel in Today’s World, Vatican, November 24, 2013, par. 47 & 48. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html

We fail to realize that, by isolating the elderly and leaving them in the care of others without the closeness and concern of family members, we disfigure and impoverish the family itself. We also end up depriving young people of a necessary connection to their roots and a wisdom that the young cannot achieve on their own.

Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti of the Holy Father Francis on Fraternity and Social Friendship, Assissi, October 3, 2020, par. 19. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/encyclicals/documents/papa-francesco_20201003_enciclica-fratelli-tutti.html

The key word is care. Whether the caregiver is a family member or hired professional, it is not only going through the motions of the procedure. What matters is empathy and concern for the patient, for healing is not only physiological but engendered emotionally.

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