by Ruth Moraes
Instigated by the continuing global pandemic, in April 2021 the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development issued a document on pastoral reflections on accompanying people in psychological distress in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. Entitled “Members of One Body, Loved by One Love” the document provides some much needed insight, reflection and practical guidance on how each of us can accompany those who are experiencing poor mental health.
From the outset, the document recognises how the pandemic has laid bare our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual frailty. The pandemic has also helped to show how all these aspects are connected and when one dimension of our being suffers, the other dimensions suffer as well along with our whole being.
The pandemic has undoubtedly highlighted unjust economic, social and healthcare policies that have created new forms of poverty and marginalisation. However, as the points out, “Though devastating in its consequences, the Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity not to be missed if we want to imagine a better, fairer, more just, fraternal, charitable, inclusive world”. He encourages us to promote and practice fraternity and solidarity, to consider the new possibilities that the present time affords to rebuild a civilization of life and love.
In a time of crises, whether related to health, mental or physical, social or spiritual matters, there cannot be too many reminders about the importance of solidarity. Solidarity is a virtue consistently directed to the common good to the extent of losing oneself for the good of one’s neighbour. Pope Francis says that solidarity “manifests concretely in service that can take up very different shapes” which includes caring for the weakest and most vulnerable members of our families, our societies our people (page 9). Among the categories of vulnerable, the document those who have faced particularly challenging circumstances due to the pandemic: the elderly, detainees, seafarers, migrants refugees and stateless persons, homeless people and the unemployed.
In experiencing or accompanying someone who is physically or mentally frail, Pope Francis recalls “Our faith reminds us more than anything that God chose to become a frail child to heal a shattered world.” (page 10) It is particularly when people are frail and little that we should act on Christ’s words “… as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40).
We are exhorted like the good Samaritan to journey with those experiencing both mental and physical frailty with the “the oil of consolation and the wine of hope” . In concluding Pope Francis reminds us of his words from Fratelli Tutti: “All of us have a responsibility for the wounded, those of our own people and all the peoples of the earth. Let us care for the needs of every man and woman, young and old, with the same fraternal spirit of care and closeness that marked the Good Samaritan.”