by Mother Marla Marie, MSCL
Often times we think of the term “pastoral care” as a task for our pastors or people who serve in the Church. “Oh, isn’t that what the priest or deacon does?” most people would answer. We are all called to offer pastoral care, paying attention to the needs of others whether physical, material, social, emotional, and spiritual. Jesus teaches:'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:40.
We have to admit that we are at times so overly stretched, that we don’t even take care of our own needs. How could we possibly be stretched even more beyond our own circle of family or friends?
At our baptism and chrismation the Holy Spirit sanctified us to love with the love of Jesus, to reach out of ourselves to the other, to have a servant heart. Do we allow the Holy Spirit guide our thoughts and deeds?
Perhaps our Maronite posture of standing at prayer is a good model for cultivating a servant heart leading us to pastoral care. The posture of standing signifies our readiness to meet Jesus. In our standing posture we are awaiting the coming of Our Lord and are in the position to run out to meet him.
Holy Spirit guide us to always be ready to care for the “least of these brothers” and to see in them that we are serving Our Lord. Mother Teresa often said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.”This is where pastoral care can begin, by offering a welcoming smile and a listening ear.
I share the following story to give an example of how God can bring great blessings from our simple, sincere gestures of kindness. This is pastoral care in action.
Lost with a Pro-Life Purpose
It was late afternoon and the day before the March for Life 2019 in Washington DC. I was planning on attending the vigil Liturgy that evening at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. This Liturgy is awesome with priests, seminarians, religious, and laity from all over the country praying for the pro-life cause.
Instead, I found myself far from the Basilica. I had met up in DC with a friend who was bringing a bus of youth from her parish in Florida and they were going to drop me off on route to their evening destination. However, the bus driver was not very good with directions and ended up in the opposite direction. He finally pulled the bus over in a plaza so that the teens could get a bite to eat before continuing on to their pro-life youth rally in Virginia. At this point I decided to look for a metro and make my way back to where I was staying because it was too late to return to the Basilica.
“Well Lord, this must be your plan for me tonight,” thinking to myself as I disappointingly walked down the dark street with snow blowing around me. It was only when I reached the subway platform and looked at the map, that I realized the location -- Largo Maryland and the last stop on that line of the metro. How did we ever get here!?
There was only one other person waiting, a young woman in her late 20s. We boarded the empty metro together. I greeted her and asked if she knew the best way for me to get to my destination. After studying the metro map, she advised me to stay on the train and I should be where I needed to go in about 40 minutes.
I asked what brought her out this evening guessing she was on her way to work a night shift in downtown DC. The young woman replied that she had a very rough week and was going in to meet a friend. She repeated again putting your head down, “I’ve had such an awful month. It has been so rough.”
“Is there anything I can pray about for you,” I asked. Her eyes welled up with tears and she began to tell her story. She shared how her boyfriend of nine years had just walked out, even after finding out that she was pregnant with his child. She mentioned that her grandfather, a Baptist Minister, had advised her many times over those years to get married. She lamented that God had given up on her because everything seemed to be going wrong.
We had quite a conversation and I assured her that God is truly looking out for her. Then I asked her about her pre-born baby and again she cried. Just the week before she went for an abortion and justified it saying, “I just couldn’t have a child at this time, I have another young child at home and I’m doing this all alone.”
“God is truly looking out for you!” I said, explaining how he put me here on this train to speak his word of love and mercy to her. “I was supposed to be an hour away from here in the opposite direction at church praying for pro-life. Somehow, I ended up in Largo. It was God’s plan to tell you how much he loves you and wants you to come back to him.”
I invited her to pray with me. We bowed our heads and I called on God the Father, asking his love and mercy for this young woman, and asked her to confess to the Lord and rely on him as her rock. We offered the Our Father and as we both said “amen”, the train pulled into her stop.
My new friend jumped up, gave me a huge hug, and kept saying that God had truly sent me to her. She smiled through tears of joy, “I will remember what you said to me. Thank you, thank you!”