Healing with God: Prayer helps both patients and caregivers face an uncertain future

A nurse listens to a client's chest Sept. 16 at the Spanish Catholic Center, a program of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

Serving over 35 years in health care has been a special grace in my life. I have had the opportunity to be with people in some of the happiest and toughest moments of their lives, often simultaneously. Many of these moments have meant wrestling with challenges in accepting God’s will and knowing that as much as we love someone dealing with an illness or tragedy, God loves them more—He is the ultimate “maker and keeper of our days.”

Prayer, in these moments, can take many forms. It can be thanksgiving for a benign diagnosis or a life saved after a horrible accident; pleading for a cure or someone to accept treatment; or it can be anguish and anger at a health system that leaves so many without the resources needed to even attempt to get treatment.

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Prayer sustains and energizes caregivers. Knowing you can be the kindness and care of our God made visible is no small gift. Through prayer, we are able to talk over challenges and frustrations that are inherent in our health care environment while also understanding that knowing God is an incredible privilege.

Prayer sustains and energizes caregivers.

It is always very inspiring to work with caregivers who so obviously live this daily, and so often it is the housekeeper, the technician or the person delivering the tray. Patients themselves are often our greatest inspiration. Their trust, their patience and recourse to prayer make a real difference in their lives and in those of their caregivers. It is one reason that caring for patients who seem not to have had the joy of knowing God is often so painful. Not to know how much you are loved and cherished, not to know God walks with you, can make a tough illness so much more challenging and lonely. Often we can be the tenderness of God for them.

Many caregivers, myself included, anguish over patients who lack insurance and access to care. There is needless suffering, whether from treatment started too late to cure or chronic conditions that could be managed well if only treatments and meds were available.

This is why, after much prayer and assurances that federal funding for abortion was prohibited, many caregivers supported and worked to implement the Affordable Care Act . It is an imperfect law to be sure, but one that got health insurance for over 20 million Americans, many of them children and the elderly. It also improved insurance for those of us with employer-sponsored insurance or Medicare.

Now our prayers are focused on the possible repeal of the A.C.A. Under the bill passed in the U.S. House of Representatives, over $800 billion allocated by Congress for health care for low-income working Americans would be used instead to give large tax cuts to the wealthiest in our country. Fourteen million Americans will lose health insurance if the Senate passes anything close to the House’s bill, and $15.9 billion in tax cuts will be given to people making over one million dollars a year. This will be a painful step backward in our health care system, particularly for low-income Americans.

Whatever job you have in health care—or government—prayer is a wonderful companion. For some of us, it is an essential companion. Prayer allows us to walk with our God as we do the tasks He has assigned us in caring for His people, to draw on His guidance and hopefully to be a sign of His love for those who are sick and their families. Together, we must pray and work to get a bipartisan effort in the Senate to fix, not destroy, the A.C.A.

Sister Carol Keehan, D.C., is a Daughter of Charity. She has over 35 years of experience in nursing, administration and governance of hospitals. She has been president and C.E.O. of the Catholic Health Association for over 11 years.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Robert McCormick
4 months 1 week ago

The Health Care issue put me in mind of the late St. Vincent's Hospital in Greenwich Village, where my mother worked as a dietitian. On Sundays, my brother and I would be taken to visit Sister Xavier Miriam Folser, S.C. -- she worked Sundays, of course. I recall the recitation of the Angelus, the daily devotional from the hospital print shop and the lovingly tended chapel. The nuns spent their substance not wisely but too well; they were "all-in" for Christ's suffering multitude. Too late, they hatched a brilliant slogan: The art of medicine, the love of humanity. In a way, St. Vincent's was another casualty of 9/11. The doctors and nurses massed at the door to receive the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center, but of course there were none. I still can't believe St. Vincent's is gone. -- Bob McCormick

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