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St. Mary Magdalen's
Catholic Church
Willesden Green
London NW10
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Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Sixth Sunday of the Year – 12th February 2012
A Shared Responsibility

It’s not strictly true that I was the chaplain to Chase Farm Hospital when I was the curate in Enfield. More accurately I looked after the general hospital while my colleague answered the occasional calls to the open, secure and forensic mental health unit. It may seem that I got an unfair deal but I never complained as visiting the latter was an area of pastoral responsibility which I found very challenging.

Today – Saturday – we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the day on which the Church traditionally celebrates World Day of the Sick. Each year there is a different emphasis and this year our Holy Father chose to focus on the problems associated with mental disturbance which afflicts a staggering fifth of the world’s population and thereby “constitutes a real and authentic social-health care emergency.”

He urges us to bear witness to the tender mercy of God towards those who suffer in such a manner, not least because in many countries no legislation to care for them exists and a precise policy on mental health is absent. Moreover, prolonged armed conflicts, a succession of natural catastrophes and the spread of terrorism have caused a shocking number of deaths as well as mental traumas in many survivors. On Thursday morning a BBC correspondent who had been secretly in Homs was talking about the hysteria that was developing among those Syrians who were under constant bombardment – we can barely imagine what it must be like.

Our country too has been affected by some of these issues but suffers also from a crisis of moral values which goes hand-in-hand with the “get rich quick” mentality. As a result there is an increased sense of isolation and loneliness, often due to a lack of commitment to the institution of the family because our work/career is so important, which easily alienates the sick, especially the mentally ill, as too great a burden to bear.

Pope Benedict identifies a need to integrate appropriate therapy and a new sensitivity towards disturbance: the former is not in our hands, but we can help with the latter and express our solidarity with families who have mentally sick people dependent upon them. He concludes, “Every Christian, according to his specific task and specific responsibility, is called to make his contribution so that the dignity of these brothers and sisters of ours is recognised, respected and promoted.”

I suspect that’s a challenge for all of us.

Fr Kevin

posted by Sinead Reekie at 9:56 am