Ministry to the Homebound

I just gained a whole new respect for ministry to the homebound.  My grandfather retired recently, and has been attending Mass more regularly as well as serving on his local parish council.  Actually, he’s gone to Mass every day for the past 9 months – a dedication I myself cannot imagine partaking in.

One other ministry he participates in is bringing the Eucharist to the homebound.  It was just this past weekend that I realized how important this ministry is!

I just moved from California to Wisconsin, and drove the 2,088 miles with a few overnight stops along the way.  On Sunday morning, I was flipping through channels and began watching a televised Mass.  It seemed to be an assembly of high school-aged students.  The majority of them were actually in the choir, with perhaps three dozen in the choir and only a dozen in the pews.  The presiding priest spoke in a very monotone voice and had a white male acolyte.

After attending Mass for the past three years at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, where Mass is very lively and takes advantage of the dozens of various international cultures represented in the student body, it was a bit jarring to remember how so many others in white America experience Mass such as the one I was watching on television.

There was no holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer (there are mixed feelings on that at JSTB, actually).  During the exchange of the sign of peace, it was all handshakes for these high schoolers – no hugs.  How many high schoolers don’t hug each other when showing their camaraderie with each other?  I don’t know of any.  The assembly received the Body of Christ, but not the Blood (only the presiding priest did).  The choir didn’t receive the Eucharist at all (I swear it wasn’t just fancy television camera work).

I realized that for the homebound, this might be the experience of Mass – watching it on tv, and seeing just one way in which it is done – a very impersonal way to do it, in my humble opinion.  It has been interesting to see my grandfather go through some political belief changes since becoming more involved with his parish.  He used to be adamantly in favor of the nuclear bombing of Japan during WWII, but now sees how it goes against Catholic Social Teaching.  He has now started to question the effectiveness of capital punishment, in part because of Catholic Social Teaching.

Of course, I want to see him go deeper into justice ministries, but perhaps visiting the homebound – giving them some sort of human contact and intimacy in the name of the Church and Christ – is really the most important thing he can possibly do in small town Indiana.

2 thoughts on “Ministry to the Homebound

  1. Go Grandpa! Isn’t it so interesting to see their beliefs shift? My dad certainly has after these past two terms with Bush. I imagine its taken a lot of security for your grandpa to be able to shift in his beliefs because I imagine that can be a scary idea at his age. And God bless him for his ministry work. So many, especially the elderly and homebound, are suffering from a great deal of lonlieness. I see this all of the time at work (a hospital) especially from our patients who come from a nursing home. They are thirsting for a good listener and caring attention. Thanks for your reflection Mike!

  2. My former-roommate and one of my closest friends volunteered to bring the Eucharist to Catholics who were in the hospital for the last year we lived together; it was so amazing to watch how the experience deepened her own appreciation and love for the Eucharist — which for her, was inspired by those who were receiving the Eucharist from her.

    I also identify with how powerful it is to see someone’s experiences change their politics; my mom always voted Republican when I was growing up. Now she votes Democratic — not because her values have changed dramatically, but because her current work as a public health nurse puts her in close contact with those the current administration fails to serve. If only everyone could come in contact with experiences that helped them connect their lives, their religion, and their politics the way your grandfather and my mother have done.

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