THE MOST NEEDY IN THE FACE OF EVIL
Some are imprisoned definitively in an institution. Others wander around on our streets. The great majority live with their family. They’re among us, but hardly raise anyone’s interest. They’re those with mental illness.
It’s not easy to penetrate their world of suffering and loneliness. Deprived, to one degree or another, of conscious life and healthy affect, it’s not easy for them to live together with others. Many of them are weak and vulnerable, or live tormented by fear in a society that is afraid of them or doesn’t understand them.
From time immemorial, a pattern of prejudices, fears, and suspicions have gone about raising a kind of invisible wall between that world of darkness and pain, and the life of those of us who consider ourselves «sane». The psychologically sick creates insecurity, and their presence always seems dangerous. What’s most prudent is to defend our «normalness», shutting them up or distancing them from our surroundings.
Today we hear of the social insertion of these infirm and of the therapeutic support that can mean their integration into social gathering. But all that isn’t more than a nice theory if it doesn’t lead to a change of attitude in the face of the psychologically ill and doesn’t help to more effectively form so many families who feel themselves on their own or with little support to confront the problems that come upon them with the illness of one of their members.
There are families who know how to take care of their loved one with love and patience, working together positively with their doctors. But there also are homes when the sick person ends up a difficult burden to carry. Little by little, the living together falls apart and the whole family gets negatively affected, helping bring about the worsening of the sick person at the same time.
It’s an irony therefore to keep theoretically defending the better quality of life for the psychologically ill, their social integration or the right to adequate attention for their affective, family and social needs. All this is good, but for this to happen, there needs to be more realistic help to the families and a closer collaboration between doctors who attend the sick person and other persons who know how to be near him from a human and friendly relationship.
What place do these sick persons have in our Christian communities? Aren’t they mostly forgotten? Mark’s Gospel especially underlines Jesus’ attention to «those possessed by evil spirits». His nearness to the people who are most defenseless and needy in the face of evil will always be for us a call that questions us.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf