Bishop’s Message: Spiritual Health, Physical Wellness
Spiritual health, physical wellness
“Jesus said to them in reply, ‘Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do’” (Luke 5:31).
St. Luke was a physician so he understood that the body can be sick. But he also knew Jesus, who often spoke about the other part of us that needs healing — the soul. Just as we cleanse the body so it can be healthy, we also need to cleanse the soul so that it can be healthy, too.
It is absolutely important for us to know that we are not just a body. We have a spirit, a soul that is not visible to us but that animates us, makes us enjoy life and allows us to love. We have to nourish that part of ourselves as much as we nourish our bodies.
The little sins that we commit can be like specks of dust that accumulate on top of a coffee table. You don’t see the specks right away, but eventually it reaches the point where you can write on top of the table.
We have to be honest with ourselves and say, “I’m a sinner and the Lord is the physician, and only he can heal me and make me whole again. That’s why he came and died for us to forgive our sins.”
The Lord gave us the sacrament of reconciliation so that we can receive his forgiveness from people who are ordained to say, “I absolve you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” That’s the Lord’s forgiveness. It is coming through a priest, the Lord’s instrument, to say, “I love you. I forgive you.”
In addition to being on the front lines providing health care for souls around Western Pennsylvania and around the world, the Church is also on the front lines of physical health care, especially in addressing the opioid epidemic. We have been in the midst of a terrible crisis for many years. People often come up to me and ask me to pray for their sons or daughters who are addicted to opioids or some other drug, including alcohol.
It is the church’s duty to be part of the solution for today’s problems; addiction affects the soul as well as the body.
It is important for people working to overcome an addiction to be part of a community that is trying to help them. It takes a good, healthy community to help people become healthy. The church helps the poor and people in need in the name of Jesus — that is one of the main reasons I stayed in the church and decided to answer the Lord’s call to be a priest. I found in the Church a community that gathers in faith and has hope. But, more than that, the Lord uses us to be a blessing for others.
The church has a long, rich history caring for the sick inspired by Jesus, who cared for the sick and healed many people. Over the centuries, the church has operated hospitals, facilities for the elderly and hospice centers. I frequently meet people who are caretakers who live out their Catholic faith and are an extension of Christ’s healing hands. They take care of anyone in need, whether it is a spouse, friend or neighbor, or even a stranger. Catholic chaplains provide for the spiritual needs of patients in hospitals and nursing homes as well as their families. When someone is sick, it is a trying time. Faith is tested, and people need the support of the community to strengthen their faith so they can bear their crosses with dignity and hope.
We need to remember that mental health is also important. Many people come to me expressing their concerns and fears about a family member or friend who is suffering from a mental illness, sometimes a serious condition such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. People in that situation are often embarrassed to ask for help. They sometimes think it’s their fault when it absolutely is not.
I recently heard the witness testimony of a young woman with an eating disorder. She eventually found help in a loving, Christian community that supported her in her recovery. We need to help all people who suffer by giving them the hope and love that only we can offer.
Many psychological issues, like those I mentioned, are difficult to overcome and lead to other problems. Fortunately, Catholic Charities in our diocese provides counseling and other services to help people with many of these issues. And if Catholic Charities can’t provide the necessary help, it provides referrals for the assistance they need.
Finally, we can never forget the needs of people who have suffered sexual abuse, whether the abuser was a priest or a parent, family member or trusted neighbor, coach or youth leader. These are intense, painful traumas. It is our responsibility as Christian Catholics to help, support and pray for all survivors of abuse. The Lord wants their healing, too.
May the Divine Physician, Jesus, give us the healing we all need: body, soul and spirit. May the Lord, who raised Lazarus from the dead, give us and those we love the new life that we all long for.
To learn more about Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Greensburg, go to ccharitiesgreensburg.org.