By Steven Norris
“The hospital looks and feels like a war zone,” cried one headline in March 2020. Sadly, numerous subsequent headlines have echoed the sentiment over the past twelve months.
As I continue to ponder Wendell Berry’s suggestion that “there are no unsacred places; there are only sacred places and desecrated places,” I am drawn to the sacred halls of our hospitals. The women and men who faithfully serve patients there, day in and day out, have given of themselves sacrificially during the past year — ministering not only to physical needs, but emotional, mental, and spiritual needs as well.
The practice of medicine is a sacred calling. Some historians trace the first public hospital to Basil of Caesarea. Born in 330, Basil grew up in a Christian family but wandered from the faith. After a powerful conversion experience, he returned to the church and was baptized. Later ordained as priest and bishop of Caesarea, Basil started a different kind of monastery, one focused not only on the salvation of those living within its walls, but also on the physical care of the sick and poor outside of them.
For Basil, physical healing and spiritual salvation went hand-in-hand. He believed that, “When a physician heals with medicines . . . we experience a miracle of God’s creation no less wonderful than those of the Bible” (Timothy Miller).
What would it look like to reclaim the sacred nature of our hospitals and houses of medicine? Maybe it begins with continued expressions of gratitude and support for our healthcare professionals — doctors, nurses, assistants, therapists, chaplains, administrative staff, nutritional staff, custodial staff, etc.
Early on in the pandemic, we bolstered these men and women with expressions of support. As time has gone on, I’m afraid that our outpouring of support has given way to our frustration with present circumstances. How can we find new ways to say “thank you” once again? Maybe you could take a moment to send a card, letter, poster, drawing, yard sign, or some other kind gesture.
Just this week, the Griffin Choral Arts ensemble gathered outside of Wellstar Spalding Regional Hospital to perform a concert for the patients and staff. How else can we fill those sacred halls of healing with beauty? How could we fill them with tangible expressions of love and hope?
For all of us (even those less artistically-inclined), we can pray. I was blessed to help organize a special day of prayer for the hospital back in the summer. Instead of a one-time event, however, maybe we need prayer warriors to commit to pray for everyone in the hospital setting on a daily basis, asking that God’s healing might flow through them and in them.
As we do, we might join with psalmist as we remember the true source of all healing: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (Psalm 103:1-5).