Today, President and CEO Art Bennett reflects on the notion of the Catholic Church as a field hospital, as set forth by Pope Francis. How can we welcome the wounded into our Churches, homes and organizations? How can we share Christ with those who are wounded both materially and spiritually?
The First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) was a surprise to many of the local families. They were simple farmers, supporting their families and maybe a few others, mostly just minding their own business.
Suddenly they found themselves in the middle of the first major land battle of the Civil War. More than 4,800 men died – again a surprise to many, considering civilians traveled from Washington to watch what they presumed to be a small skirmish.
The last thing these local farming families wanted was to see bullets flying past their windows and to care for wounded and bloodied soldiers in their living rooms.
But like the innkeeper of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:34), they took people in. Their homes were transformed into field hospitals — temporary hospitals set up near the combat zone to provide emergency care for the wounded.
As Pope Francis says, the Church should be a field hospital.
Yes, we desire for our churches to be places where we can adore the Lord and keep the outside world at bay. Places of reclusion and peace.
The Church is such a haven, but it cannot only be a haven. It must receive and pursue the materially and spiritually wounded. Indeed, our world today is a combat zone with many discouraged people needing merciful help.
Pope Francis says that “…humanity is… deeply wounded….. it does not know how to cure its wounds… Today we add further to the tragedy by considering our illness, our sins, to be incurable, things that cannot be healed or forgiven…..” (The Name of God is Mercy)
Within the Diocese of Arlington and within Catholic Charities, we want to help people care for their wounds. We want to be a field hospital, wrapping bandages of Christ’s mercy to those most in need. Perhaps, through our actions, people can come to know Christ and believe in His redemption.
When Bishop Loverde was blessing our new Pregnancy and Adoption Support offices in April, he referred to Catholic Charities as such a field hospital. He went on to pray for the adoptive families, birth parents and all the children served at the office to experience concrete and tangible blessings within the office.
Catholic Charities as a Field Hospital
• 24 of our parishes (24!) have food pantries on the parish campus because merciful pastors realize they have parishioners and community members who are in need of food. Almost 40 additional parishes collect food for the poor for our St. Lucy Project and other food ministries throughout the diocese.
• 11 of our parishes have Catholic Charities mental health therapists on the parish campus. So many parish and community families cannot afford psychological care, yet are wounded and in need spiritual and psychological healing. Our fees are based on a sliding scale, starting at $5 a session.
• All Saints Parish in Manassas even has a Catholic Charities legal attorney right on the parish campus to provide immediate access to immigration counsel.
• Bishop Loverde (and many other priests) say mass in our prisons. Bishop Loverde always introduces the mass saying that he is excited to bring the Eucharist to a place where he knows that he will encounter Christ in the imprisoned.
When we act as the field hospital, just as local families did in Manassas 155 years ago, we open wide our doors, our arms, our hearts to all in need. We offer ourselves to someone who’s needs may be far greater than our own.
We are “for a hand to raise you up; for an embrace to save you, forgive you, pick you up, flood you with intimate, patient, indulgent love; to put you back on your feet.” (The Name of God is Mercy)