Pastoral care ministry involves providing patients with the sacred experience of God’s loving presence. Through the mission that was bestowed upon me in the sacrament of Baptism, I am able to carry out Jesus’ threefold ministry – priestly, prophetic, and kingly – to the patients as a loving service of God. As a prophetic minister who acts as messenger sent by and speaking for Jesus, I offer guidance to facilitate understanding and find truth through their faith in God, especially in times of their illness, suffering, and loss. As a kingly minister who comes not to be served but to serve, I serve them by giving them support to address their spiritual (prayers), religious (sacraments), and emotional needs (listening presence). As a priestly minister who mediates between the people and God, I provide patients with the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings to God through meaningful reflection and sacred prayers.
Visiting patients and listening to their stories has led me to contemplate Jesus’ words, “Take care what you hear. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you (Mark 4:24).” This passage reminds me of an essential undertaking of a chaplain. When I listen to the patients telling me about their lives, I don’t merely listen but I also fulfill my pastoral responsibility by grasping and retaining what I hear from them. I don’t listen to the unique stories of patients to entertain myself; rather, I listen to how the patients try to explain themselves to me. As they unfold their stories, they are examining themselves by reflecting on their own experiences, describing their relationships, assessing the things that have gone wrong and the things that have gone right, and seeking ways to feel better. I, the listener, am invited to be their companion who will accept, comfort, understand, and pray with them, if possible, throughout their journeys.
Sadly, there were times that I felt discouraged and lured to distance myself from the people I was there to serve. There were people, for instance, who ignored or rejected my offer of service, such as praying together. Some were not open to accept from others, even from their own family and relatives, the spiritual and emotional support that they needed. It made me wonder why some people reject or ignore the support they need without knowing its possible good effects on them. In these situations, I just offered my “ministry of presence” – by being physically and attentively present beside them and spiritually and compassionately present by offering them my own prayers. Like the Eucharist that makes Jesus present, ministering is a concrete experience of God’s presence and unconditional loving work.
Marlon Bobier Vargas, SVD
Photo credit flickr