Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 74(2) May 2024

Faith in medicine: Caring- A gift from God?

Dr Adrian TreloarDr Adrian Treloar

As children our parents, fed us, clothed us, carried us, protected us and nurtured us. It was ever thus, and the “duties” of a parent were inextricably linked to the huge joys and blessings of parenthood too. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who did not see that parenthood is a two-way relationship. By giving to our children, we received in abundance.

As we grow older we separate from our parents- at least to a degree. In marriage, a new family-- a husband and wife initially, is formed before God. Often (by the grace of God) the bride and groom’s parents are healthy. In such circumstances it becomes the “duty” of the parents to support their children in their new vocation. “What God has joined together let no man cast asunder”. Parents must let go and support their children in their new families.

So far, for myself and Josephine, this has brought huge joys and graces. We have five new in-laws and 14 grandchildren. Great blessings.

And yet we have also faced the other challenges of family. Our parents grew older. The first to die was in his sixties post heart surgery. As I saw my Dad lying on the bed in ITU I realised that I would have to carry him. The Daddy who had always carried me would now be caried by his family. Somehow, the relationship had inverted. He died just a few hours post-op.

The next to die died of dementia needing much care and nursing from her husband and also from ourselves. She came and stayed for four months, and died peacefully in our home, surrounded by family and prayer. At the same time, my wife was very unwell with our eighth child. She spent 9 weeks in hospital leaving me at home with her mother and 7 children! I realised early on that Grandma was not only cared for by us. Her presence at home made my job of running the home and caring for our children immeasurably easier.

I learnt very clearly that those for whom we care also give to those who care for them. We all believe that caring for a loved one brings graces from God. But I also learnt that caring brings forth a two way relationship with the person for whom we care.  The rest of our parents (Grandad and Granny) died during the last year. Both needed care and support and both, in receiving that care and support, gave hugely to their families.

And now, sadly, I have the huge privilege of caring for my very disabled wife who became desperately ill in October 2022. She is permanently very disabled, but has a pure beautiful soul. It is my privilege to have her home and to care for her. Despite her illness she continues to give me so much.

In part at least, being cared for requires that the cared for person has the grace to accept that care. In my day job (NHS Doctor and dementia specialist) I have seen many who were unable to accept care and suffered so much as a result.

The treasures of our Church.

In 258AD St Lawrence was a deacon in Rome. He was responsible for the material goods of the Church and the distribution of alms to the poor. Ambrose of Milan related that when the treasures of the Church were demanded of Lawrence by the prefect of Rome, he brought forward the poor, to whom he had distributed the treasure as alms. "Behold in these poor persons the treasures which I promised to show you; to which I will add pearls and precious stones, those widows and consecrated virgins, which are the Church's crown." The prefect was so angry that he had a great gridiron prepared with hot coals beneath it and had Lawrence placed on it, hence Lawrence's association with the gridiron. After the martyr had suffered pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he cheerfully declared: "I'm well done on this side. Turn me over!" (Wikipaedia)

Seeing the face of Christ

Sr Catherine LaboureAt the end of January 1831 St Catherine Labouré was sent to serve in a home for the elderly in Enghien, caring for the poor of the neighbourhood, the marginalised etc. During 46 years of untiring service she was a harbour of peace for everyone, looking out for the elderly with unusual generosity, especially those who were the most disagreeable. She gave equal attention to the sick whom she attended during their agony.
St Catherine said - “I saw the face of Christ in each one ”.


Sisterd at workAs we grow older many of us will, inevitably be called to care for those we love (and some whom we might not) in their infirmity. Doing so is hard, challenging and the work of unsung heroes. But it can (and very often does) bring many graces and great joys. However sick the person, each person is a treasure of our Church, in each we may glimpse the face of Christ. To be able to care is a gift.