During his weekly general audience, Pope Francis lauded families for the “hidden heroism” of caring for a sick loved one. “These are the heroes. This is heroism of the family!” the pontiff said during his June 6 catechesis. The Pope spoke of men and women who come to work, sleep-deprived after having cared for a sick family member. “This hidden heroism is done with tenderness and with courage when someone is sick at home,” he said. The Pope's address, delivered Wednesday to pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square, was the latest in a series of catechesis dedicated to the family. Since late year, the pontiff has been centering his Wednesday addresses on this theme as part of the lead-up to the World Meeting of Families in September, as well as October’s Synod of Bishops on the Family. Pope Francis focused his latest address on the particular sufferings experienced when a family member falls ill. “It is an experience of our fragility which we live mostly in the family, from children, and above all the elderly,” he said. He added that because of the love we feel for family members and loved ones, we feel their sufferings even more. This is particularly the case when parents suffer from the illness of a son or daughter, he said. In many parts of the world, families do not have ready access to hospitals, the pontiff noted. In these cases, the family becomes the “closest hospital,” in that caring for the sick person falls to the parents, grandparents, and siblings. Pope Francis observed how, in general, families grow in times of sickness. For this reason, he stressed the importance of teaching children from a young age with a sense of solidarity during such times. “We must educate children to solidarity with the sick so that they are not anesthetized to the sufferings of others, but rather are capable of helping the ill and of living fully each human experience,” the Pope said. Throughout his catechesis, the Holy Father recounted several scenes from the Gospel in which Jesus heals the sick. “(Jesus) publicly demonstrates himself as one who fights against illness, and who has come to heal man of every evil: The evil of the spirit and the evil of the body,” he said. Pope Francis recalled a scene from the Gospel of Mark in which the people brought sick and possessed people to Jesus. Recalling how the doctors of the law reproved Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, the Pope said: “But the love of Jesus was to give health, and do good.” The pontiff cited particularly the scene of the man born blind, and the debate over whether he had been deprived of sight because of his sins or his parents' sins. “The Lord clearly said: neither him nor his parents; and thus he manifested in him the work of God, and healed him.” This is God's glory, and the Church's task, the Pope said: “to always help, console, to lift up, and be close to the sick.” Pope Francis also emphasized the Church's invitation to continuously pray for those “struck by disease.” “And we must pray more, be it personally or in community.” Pope Francis said that the Christian community knows that the family, in times of sickness, is never alone. “We must thank the Lord for the beautiful experiences of fraternity in the Church which help families through difficult moments of pain and suffering,” he said. “This Christian closeness, from family to family, is a real treasure for the parish: a treasure of wisdom, which helps families during difficult times and makes them better understand the Kingdom of God.” “These are God's caresses,” he said.
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