Care of the Sick

In the Rule of St. Benedict, we read in Chapter 36 that care of the sick comes before and above everything else. It goes on to say that if the sick need special privileges, they should be given them. The sick person should not be demanding, as though the world circles round her; but even if she is demanding, those doing her care should be patient and kind. Anyone who has cared for a sick friend or family member can probably relate to these instructions.

Care of the sick is rarely done just by nurses, since a community may or may not have a nurse as a member. It is done by all of us. We take a sick Sister to the doctor or to urgent care or the emergency room. We help her with her medications if needed. One of us may deliver meals to her room, do her laundry, take out her trash. This is especially true with Covid-19, since the sick Sister must be isolated for a time.

Many of you know about isolation, and how demoralizing it can be to young and old. We can no longer go about freely and do the things we enjoy; we can't do our normal work or socialize with others. So part of caring for the sick is encouraging them and helping them remember that life is full of change and this illness, too, will change; we will be healthy again.

For more than three years, our community, by being very careful, has avoided most of the consequences of the pandemic. But just as in isolation, during the past year, we became restless and longed to see our friends again, to have retreatants at our Spirituality Center again. So we went through several "openings" and "closings," as we tried and met setbacks and tried again. One of our recent tries was having a single person come and stay overnight. Another was when we invited a group to dinner. Immediately after the first occasion, one of us became ill with Covid. Right after the second occasion, three of our Sisters found they tested positive for Covid. Both those times, visitors felt well and believed they were well, or they would not have visited. But it only takes one person who is positive for Covid in close contact, even though she thinks she is well, to cause infection in others. This is a hard time to be in, when we all want to be free, and yet there are big risks, especially for older people.

Having just one Sister sick put a hole in our small community, but she was not very ill and so didn't require a lot of care. However, she suffered greatly from being isolated. Three sick Sisters at once was more difficult, but we did what we do best: we engaged many hands to make the work lighter. These sick ones too suffered "isolation sickness." A lot of encouragement was needed to keep their hopes of returning health alive. Ten days of isolation may not seem like too much, if you've never had to do it. If you have, you'll understand how hard it can be for some people.

Only one person was seriously ill, and she is improving and can again move about the monastery and go for walks, for which she and we are very grateful!


  • Comment posted by Sr Julian on July 15, 2023 at 9:20AM (11 months ago)

    Sr Dorothy you summarized this so well. You are an exemplar of living out in real life Chapter 36 of the Rule of St Benedict.

    • Comment posted by Sr. Dorothy on July 15, 2023 at 1:15PM (11 months ago)

      Sr. Julian, thanks but: that is seriously ALL OF US living it out...we just can't help ourselves *smiles*

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