Saint Theodora was not a healthy woman. She suffered with digestive problems for more than half of her life and experienced long periods of time when she was bedridden and dependent on others for her basic needs.
Caring for others and being cared for allows us opportunities to be Christ to one another. In our illness, suffering, and loss we become more vulnerable and dependent on one another and the Lord. We are forced to let go of our earthly goals and ideals and open up our spiritual side. And caring for those who are transitioning from this independent, self-centered, and materialistic world to the next is a privilege to embrace.
As stated in my new book, Young in the Spirit:
“If we are capable of doing so, we should reach out to our aging loved ones in the same way we hope someone will assist us. There is an opportunity for personal growth in very situation. Caring for seriously ill people can build a foundation for a spiritual friendship. The relationship between caregiver and care-receiver is often intimate and soulful. We may reap incredible spiritual rewards.
This may be especially true when caring for people with dementia because they often have innocence about them. The weight of caring for them is heavy. So much rests entirely on us. But trying to understand their way of thinking forces us to look at everything in our own lives from a different perspective. For example, their need to stay in the present moment will remind us to do the same, instead of worrying about and hurrying to the next activity. If the situation is presented to us, God is sending us a message and a lesson to be learned. Most likely one of those messages is a reminder to appreciate the day the Lord has made.
For older adults who are mentally alert, the end of life can be a time of spiritual awakening and of sharing one’s greatest concerns. Through deep reflection, they are likely to become more aware of how God worked in their life. They may come to realize what the important issues really were and how they may have dealt with them differently. The senior also will likely contemplate death and what they may expect in the next life. If we choose to be with them in this time, we will gain from their soul-searching and glimpse what we may experience ourselves, down the line.” (Young in the Spirit, 67-68.)
It’s likely that the sisters and other caregivers who cared for Saint Theodora realized she was a good and holy woman. But they probably didn’t know they were caring for a woman who would one day be canonized a saint. The people we come to care for may be saintly as well. We can’t know their connection to God. What we do know is that caring for anyone else brings us closer to God.
Young in the Spirit. Spiritual Strengthening for Seniors and Caregivers, explores some of the ways in which we can build on our faith, especially in our later years and when caring for those who are. The target audience is seniors and caregivers. Topics include, making personal prayers and devotions part of our daily routine, participating in faith community, serving and caring for seniors, reaching for the Lord in our suffering and loss, and sharing our spiritual story.
The book is a short, easy-to-read book at only 128 pages but contains a lot to contemplate.
Copies can be ordered from:
ACTA Publications by calling 1-800-397-2282 or going online to http://www.actapublications.com/younginthespirit/
©2013, Mary K. Doyle