A friend of mine, Marietta, is elderly, old enough to have great grandchildren. Since her husband died, she has been lonely. Yet, she is a very social, yet very self-disciplined person. Tai chi, bridge, lit group, etc. (I could never play bridge! Too regimented for me!) This is in addition to Mass several times a week. She also has quiet time in which she prays the Rosary and other prayers. In addition to that, she has a few friends who are not well whom she visits occasionally. But it is extremely rare for her to have someone over, except for a meeting, bridge or a family event..
Despite all this, I had occasion to watch this Catholic lady discover a prime Catholic teaching, for the first time, recently.
Marietta has a friend, who has difficulty communicating. The woman's accent is very pronounced. Yet she is the happiest person around. But she, too, is getting on in years. She has been ill, and Marietta was concerned. So concerned, in fact, that she wanted to contact her friend's children, who live far away. The friend did not want to bother her son and daughter, it appears. It took some doing to contact them and Marietta finally had to lie to her friend about needing the daughter's phone number.
As a good Catholic, Marietta was more worried about the lie, for a while, than the illness. But she finally got through to the daughter for permission, and ended up bringing the friend to the hospital, herself.
Two days later, the son came into town. He called Marietta as soon as he arrived, to thank her for her concern. It was dinner time and we had just sat down to our meal. She was chatting with him on the phone and not eating the steamy food. I slipped her a note, "Has he eaten supper yet?" She asked him and, indeed, he had not. Although I am sure there was food in his mother's refrigerator, Marietta invited him to join us, since her house is less than a mile from where he was. Before he got to the house, Marietta looked at me in amazement. She had never invited someone over at the spur of the moment like that before!
Thus began a long evening with a fellow I hadn't seen in 35 years or so. He had been my younger sister's friend in school, not mine! We sat around the kitchen table until well past dark. Even past Marietta's normal bedtime! We discussed life, illness, his parents and camping, among other things. He had a meal he didn't have to prepare and was able to share his approach to his mother's problem. Marietta got to express her concern over the hospitalization of her friend and her theories on how to deal with it.
After he left, with profuse thanks for the meal and the company, Marietta and I sat for a while discussing the evening. She had never extended herself that far before, it seemed. She was truly surprised at herself. She even felt different inside. A bowl of chili and conversation had taken on a much greater role.
It appears that that night she had discovered "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", the basis of the Catholic acts of mercy.