Visit(s). Live the meeting at the hospital
by Raphaël Buyse and Chantal Lavoillotte
Salvator, 160 p., €16.50
Priest of the diocese of Lille, Raphaël Buyse is an accompanist in the pastoral care of health. Married and mother, Chantal Lavoillote was a hospital chaplain and head of the diocesan service of the Lille hospital chaplaincy. With four hands, they wrote Visitation(s) which, more than a testimony, is a kind of re-reading of their experience in the light of the meeting of Mary and her cousin Elizabeth, recounted in the Gospel of Luke. As Marie took the risk of leaving, pregnant, for her cousin, “visitors of the sick and hospital chaplains take the risk of entering each other’s rooms. It’s the same adventure.
Each chapter is presented as a visit. By turning the page as one opens a door, the reader plunges into the story of a scene, which is an opportunity to take a step back from the practice of chaplain or patient visitor. Bridges are also built with encounters with Jesus in the Gospels and with the life of Madeleine Delbrêl, this social worker who left in 1933 to live with two companions in Ivry-sur-Seine. His house, always open, was a privileged place to listen.
“It is in the name of our baptism that we go to the hospital, that we are sent there”, recall the authors. “The Church, through us, comes to ask: ‘What can I do for you?’ In this mission, they of course rub shoulders with patients and their relatives, but also caregivers, essential intermediaries who often indicate who to visit. Some visits are ephemeral, others allow us to weave a real relationship or to reconcile with the face of the Church damaged by disappointments or false images of God.
Any meeting can become a visitation as long as one presents oneself with an available heart, without a plan for the person. “Accompaniment is an asceticism, an interior attitude which (…) consists of never putting your hand on the other. For this, training, a life of prayer, sharing in a team or a spiritual guide are necessary. A book to discover from the inside this mission with the suffering.
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