Anointing Of The Sick. Let’s Put a Stop to Superstition!
“The Anointing Of The Sick is not a secondary sacrament”. Let’s put an end to superstition following the ‘etiquette for the sick’ described five centuries ago by St. John of God and now revived by Benedict XVI. In his statement for the World Day of the Sick, Benedict XVI clarified that the Anointing Of The Sick should not be considered a lesser sacrament.
The Pope has drawn attention to this sacrament, which is still too often , even among Christians, shrouded by a superstitious sense of repugnance. Brother Marco Fabello, director General of the Fatebenefratelli Centre in Brescia (one of the hospitals of the old Hospitaller Order that was founded by St. John of God) praised the Pope’s appeal for a radical change from the ‘mala educaciòn’(bad education) concerning the Anointing Of The Sick. “I believe that finally an important stance has been taken on the meaning of this sacrament, that so far has not been ‘lived’ much by people and is still regarded with superstition. By that I mean that many sick people and their families avoid this sacrament until the very end when the sick person is not able to understand anymore” declared Brother Marco Fabello to ‘Vatican Radio’, “Instead we should think of the Anointing Of The Sick as a medicine, a remedy, a therapy that helps not only the soul but also the body. I believe it truly is a great gift which should be presented and explained to relatives, families and sick people with great confidence”
The Hospitaller Order is a very old one. The teachings of its founder, St. John of God, define a sort of ‘etiquette for the sick’. St John was Portuguese. Looking for greater goals in life after having spent a long time as a soldier in dangerous situations, with tireless compassion he devoted himself to looking after those in need and the sick in a hospital the building of which he had commissioned himself. Some people joined him and later they formed the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God.
Born in Montemoro-Novo, near Lisbon in 1495 St. John of God, to the world John Ciudad, then moved to Spain and lived an adventurous life, from the dangers of a military career to selling books. Admitted to the hospital of Granada with presumed mental issues linked to ‘excessive’ shows of faith, he witnessed the dramatic reality of the sick who lived isolated and were left to their own devices, thus he decided to devote his life to serve the sick. He founded his first hospital in Granada in 1539. He died on the 8th of March 1550. In 1630 he was beatified by Pope Urban VII and in 1690 he was canonized by Pope Alexander VII. Between the end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th, he was proclaimed patron saint of the sick, of hospitals, of male nurses and their associations and finally patron saint of Granada.
“I think that the process of humanization that takes us to the faith is fundamentally what prompts us to act. To think of someone sick as a full and complete person in all respects and not as something to cure means walking together in a reality that is between body and soul and accompanying a person both through physical illness and the interior spiritual suffering, which at times can be stronger than the physical pain and can be the thing that conditions people’s life the most” explained Brother Marco Fabello “ I think this is often underestimated especially in today’s health systems where haste and hurry reduce medicine, in particular surgery, to an ‘ assembly line’ rather than series of acts of human kindness and spiritual, psychological, inner help towards others”
Nowadays the followers of St John of God (patron saint of male nurses, doctors, hospitals, heart patients, booksellers and printers) operate in every continent, in 51 nations across the world. The latest additions are in Croatia and China. “We have more or less 20 hospitals in Africa that are quite demanding, we are also present in Asia. But probably what counts the most is not the number of hospitals, but the idea of continuous hospitality which we achieve together, with the help of other people, our collaborators, even though the number of Brothers is declining. We all would like to capture and summarize this concept of hospitality in a slogan we believe in and that says that we are ‘the family of St. John of God’” said Brother Marco Fabello.