I had brought my daughter to the emergency room one night a few years ago. She was in pain and so I sat with her in a crowded emergency wait area and we waited. And we waited. Time seems to pass so slowly when we or a loved one is suffering.
The hospital staff were obviously overwhelmed with the amount of patients seeking care. I surveyed our wait area and noticed an elderly woman sitting in a wheel chair in the corner of the room. She looked very ill and feeble. She was quietly spitting up in a plastic bag the nurse had given her. She was alone.
The elderly woman’s face became sweaty and smeared with her spittle. Her breathing seemed very labored and she longingly looked at each medical attendant as they whizzed by, trying to be patient and wait her turn. She began coughing, almost choking. I looked around the room and found that not one person was even looking up to check on the woman. I realize these people were in an emergency room and had some type of medical issue, but most seemed young and healthy compared to the elderly woman in the corner of the room.
I was sitting across the room and asked the woman if she would like a cloth to wipe her face. She nodded that she would. I retrieved a cloth from the nurse’s station and handing it to the woman asked if she had family with her. She told me that she did not. I sat next to her and volunteered to call someone for her. She asked if I could call her daughter. After calling both of the woman’s daughters, who were both busy with work, the elderly woman asked that I call her brother. Her brother seemed confused by my phone call; I handed the phone to the woman and let her explain to her brother. Finally, a family member took an interest in the woman’s health and agreed to meet her at the hospital. Knowing that someone was going to be there for her, seemed to relieve the woman. I saw her smile as she handed me back my phone. Not long afterwards, a nurse opened the door and called the woman’s name. She was finally leaving the wait area. She smiled and told me thank you. She pointed at me and told the nurse, “that is my sister.” It was humbling and unexpected. As I rejoined my daughter, who as it turned out was having appendicitis, I was again humbled to hear my daughter say to me, “I would never let you come alone.”
What happened to kindness in the world?
Today during Good Friday Service, I found myself sitting near the 6th Station of the Way of The Cross, depicting Veronica wiping the Face of Christ. I found myself contemplating the simple act of kindness that brought a moment of comfort to our suffering Lord, Jesus.
It has been Church tradition that after the death of Jesus, His mother visited daily the scenes of Christ’s Passion. The origin of the Way of The Cross is the Holy Land as still today pilgrims reverently walk the Via Dolorosa at Jerusalem. It developed over time to the 14 stations we have today.
Veronica and her cloth are not mentioned in the gospels. She and her act of kindness have been a tradition passed down through the centuries. It is unknown if Veronica was truly her name or what became of her; but there is proof of her existence in the Veil of Manoppello, Italy.
The Veil has many similarities to the Shroud of Turin. Like the Shroud, its image is not painted on the cloth, but rather, apart of the cloth. The image when placed over the Shroud is an exact match. Like the Shroud, it has a history of being stolen and hidden until it found its home with the Cupuchins in Manoppello in the 1600s.
As I venerated the Cross of Jesus today, I wondered if I had been alive back then, would I have tried to comfort Him? I cannot go back in time; I must comfort Jesus by being kind and loving to my brothers and sisters here now. I like to think that as I handed the elderly woman the cloth, it was also an act of comfort to my Lord, Jesus. There is no time outside of this world. We can through our prayers and works of mercy be a comfort to Jesus during His Passion just as Saint Veronica. He will leave an imprint on our hearts just as He left an imprint on Veronica’s veil.