Jesuit Novitiate
Novitiate of the Euro-Mediterranean Province of the Society of Jesus

I was sick, and ye visited me

by Gianluca Severin

The second experiment of the Novitiate consists in serving for a month in a hospital, consuming meals and sleeping there, helping and serving everyone, sick and healthy, for several hours a day, according to the orders received. [from the General Examination]

Jesus loved suffering people but does not justify suffering, never utters repulsive words such as: “We must do the will of God”. Jesus draws close to them with modesty and courage, showing that it is not God’s will.

When human frailties, illnesses, accidents, hereditary defects, imprudence, faults bring us suffering, God stands by our side. God does not send suffering but even in pain He opens up possibilities for revelation. God does not force our path: only our freedom can lead us to Him. Some sense His presence, find meaning, rediscover themselves and the profound vocation of our existence. Others in pain can feel God’s presence only through our welcoming, human mediation. God calls us to cooperate so that pain can become a space for life; our concrete love, made up of care, presence, respect, sharing can make us see his love, which can transform the life of a suffering person.

Thus we lived with the people who animate the Piccola Casa del Cottolengo not to repeat consolatory phrases but to deepen our call to be companions of Jesus even in healing: we cannot perform miracles but we can take care of the existential aspects of the disease.

Suffering leads to isolation and marginalization, like the leper forced to live outside the village; we therefore touched their flesh, we embraced each other with friendship and affection.

Suffering depletes economic, emotional and relational resources, like the bleeding woman reduced to secretly touching Jesus’ mantle; we have therefore freely and generously offered time and attention.

Suffering makes you be considered, by yourself and by others, a burden, like the paralytic carried on a couch; we therefore listened to stories containing a whole life and precious experiences, accepted any help offered to us.

Suffering imprisons you in the difficulty of listening and being heard, like the deaf-mute of the Decapolis; we therefore paid attention and reconstructed the thought and will behind a moan, a flicker in the eye, a stiffening of the body.

Suffering instigates rebellion, accusations, blasphemies, it crushes with a sense of boundless emptiness, like the other thief on the cross; we then prayed with them: “Remember me”.

And we prayed for them that, seeing how God looks at them, we might learn to love them as God loves them.


Consoling is our ability to give the other something truer than his pain.
Consoling means to make those without hope live in hope.
Consoling means to allow those who suffer to see God’s love for them in us. (Vladimir Ghika)

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