The Church as a field hospital

Throughout the course of her 2,000 year history, the Church has been called many things. St. Paul tells us that the Church is the bride of Christ and the assembly of the saints. In a recent reflection Pope Francis called the Church a field hospital for the wounded.

The Scriptures are replete with occasions in which God promised recovery to the sick and of course one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ life was the healing of the sick. While it’s most common to focus on the physical miracles wherein which Jesus restored life and health to the infirmed, perhaps one of the overlooked forms of the healing God-among-us offered to humanity was spiritual.

Already in the prophecies of Isaiah God revealed that He would wipe away the tears from every face. Sadness, the most common source of tears, often results from a sense of hopelessness and so Psalm 23 expresses God’s presence with His faithful ones as a refreshment for the soul. In fact the original Hebrew text of Psalm 23 may be rendered, “He makes my soul,” or even “my life return to me.” This is true for the living no less than the deceased.

The Catholic Miscellany: The Church as a field hospital, by Father Bryan P. Babick. Painting: Christ healing the sick, Mathieu Ignace Van Bree, 1773-1839St. Paul went so far as to say that he do could all things, even endure imprisonment, only through Christ who gave Him strength to face all adversity. St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a 19th century nun whose feast day began the month of October, found strength in holy Communion as she faced the loss of her mother and later suffered the ravages of tuberculosis.

On the day of her first holy Communion, when asked if it was because of her mother’s absence from that special day that caused her to weep, Thérèse said “it was beyond them that all the joy of Heaven had entered one small, exiled soul, and that it was too frail and weak to bear it without tears.”

Unfortunately not everyone called to experience the healing of hope offered by Christ choose to accept it, as Jesus indicated when He said that many are called, but few are chosen. Perhaps this in part motivated Pope Francis to reflect on the Church as a field hospital for wounded souls. Many are now calling for the Church to relax her rules governing divorce, remarriage, and the reception of Communion since, as Pope Francis has said, Communion is not a reward for good behavior.

Yet the Eucharist is not a reward for behavior that contradicts Jesus’ teaching. When we visit a doctor they never say that whatever ails us is somehow the new normal and that everyone has to get the same thing so as to remove the stigma. Rather, doctors honestly diagnose and help treat the issue to remove it as an obstacle to our health and wellbeing. This is the work of Jesus and His field hospital, the Church. Conforming ourselves to Christ’s truth, even when difficult, will heal more than hurt.

FATHER BRYAN BABICK is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston. Email him at: