VATICAN CITY - The hidden heroes of this world are those
family members who still go to work and get the job done
after staying up all night tending to a sick loved one, Pope
In fact, the family "has always been the closest 'hospital.'
And still today in many parts of the world, a (real) hospital
is a privilege for a few, and it's often far away," he said
at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square June 10.
As part of a series of talks about the family and problems
they face, the pope looked at illness - a sign of the human
frailty that spans from infancy to old age "when those aches
and pains start coming," he said.
Often it is more difficult to see a loved one suffer than to
deal with one's own ailments, he said, because "it is love
that makes us feel" the suffering and anxiousness of others
In fact, "how many times do we see at work - we've all seen
it - a man or a woman whose face looks tired, they act tired"
and when asked what's wrong, they explain how they got little
sleep after tending to a loved one who was ill, he said,
straying from his prepared text.
But despite all that, they go on with their day, the pope
"These things are heroic. This is the heroism of families;
this is the hidden heroism that is done when someone is sick
... and is done with tenderness and courage," he said to
The Gospel is filled with accounts of Jesus encountering and
healing the sick, he said.
"He presents himself publicly as someone who fights against
illness and who has come to heal humankind from every ill -
illness of the spirit and illness of the body," the pope
"It's truly moving," he said, to see how so many people would
bring those who were ailing to Jesus.
"If I think about today's big cities, I have to wonder, where
are the doors where the sick, hoping to be healed, can be
brought?" like the doorway in the Gospel according to Mark
where a whole town would gather waiting for Jesus.
"Jesus never denied them care. He never walked by them, he
never turned his face away," and he never wasted time, the
He even put healing before the law, when he healed the man
with the withered hand on the Sabbath.
"The doctors of the law reproached Jesus because he healed on
a Saturday. He did good on Saturday. But Jesus' love was to
give health, to do good and this always takes first place,"
Jesus gave his disciples the power to heal the sick and be
near them. However, they got caught up in a blame game when
they wondered whose fault it was that a man was born blind -
was it caused by the man's sin or his parents?
But Jesus corrected them, saying neither had sinned and he
cured the man.
"Here is God's glory! Here is the church's task! Help the
sick and not get lost in gossip. Always help, console,
alleviate, be close to the sick," the pope said.
Jesus also healed those who did not belong to the people of
Israel, like the pagan Canaanite whose child was possessed.
Jesus tested her by saying he was only sent to tend to the
lost sheep of Israel and asked whether it was right for him
to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.
But "we all know that mothers fight for their children," the
pope said, and the woman fought for her child, telling Jesus
to "at least look at me as a dog," and let some scraps fall
from the table.
This proved the woman was of great faith, and her daughter
The pope asked people to teach their children to be
empathetic and caring toward people who are ill or suffering
so they aren't "numb" and insensitive to their plight, but
know how to approach them and experience human limitations.
He urged people and parishes to pray for people who are ill
and their families, and to offer concrete assistance and
"This Christian closeness, from family to family, is a real
treasure for the parish, a treasure of wisdom that helps
families in difficult moments and helps people understand the
Kingdom of God better than lots of speeches. They are
caresses from God."
Watch the Video
Continuing his audience talks about family life, Pope Francis
spoke June 10 about the obligation to care for the sick.