If there is a group of people who suffers a great deal of neglect and indifference from our society, it's got to be the people with mental disabilities. We fear to come near them because we do not know what is running in their heads. They can be violent and out of control. They can be quiet and solitary. Most of them talk just plain nonsense and that makes caring for them particularly challenging.
Last Sunday we had the opportunity to visit a place in Bocaue, Bulacan that cares for these people and they call themselves Brothers of Mercy, which is a religious institution founded by St. John of God whose picture you can see above carrying Christ. We spent half of our day there amongst the psychiatric patients and I saw how miserable and difficult their situation is. But thanks be to God there are a few good men who unselfishly devote themselves in looking after them. Compared to the "taong grasa" and mentally handicapped vagrants you occasionally encounter in the streets, here at least they have their medicines and basic necessities covered.
Closer to home, I too experience the daily struggle of caring for a person who is mentally unstable. My father who is in his late 60s is already showing signs of mental deterioration, probably a form of early dementia, and it is no joke caring for people with this disability. My dad is totally dependent on us for his needs and he cannot be left all alone by himself without someone nearby. Oftentimes he would throw tantrums like a little kid, can be very noisy and scandalous, etc. My mom is his primary caregiver and I see how physically and emotionally draining this can be. It really takes a lot of sacrifice, love, and patience on her part to do this thankless job. In many instances her patience is stretched to the limits, even to the point of giving up, because he can be very moody, temperamental, and uncooperative. It is hard for me to deal with him as well because I have father wounds, and even after some time I still find myself resenting the idea of having to take care of my father, who being the head of the family should be the one supporting us and caring for us. I still adamantly cling to my irrational thinking that parents should not become a burden to their children in their old age because we their children have our own busy lives to take care of. It's certainly driving me nuts at times.
Who are the Brothers of Mercy?
The Brothers of Mercy are consecrated to God in adoration, love, and praise. Companions of Jesus in His poverty, chastity, and obedience, especially in His mercy to the poor and the infirm. The rich young man of the Gospel wished to be a Companion of Jesus - and Jesus loved him - but he would not leave his possessions so he went away sad. "Will you also go away?"
Unlike other congregations with similar charism to the poor such as Missionaries of Charity whose numbers are in the hundreds or even thousands, you can count the number of consecrated brothers in their community in your bare hands. They are only aided by a handful of volunteers and a few benefactors in their work.
From the beginnings of the Church, countless men have dedicated themselves to God as priests, for the administration of the sacraments to the faithful.
And many laymen have become monks and religious, serving God in the quiet of their monasteries and religious houses, without neglecting the needs of the poor and sick. These monks and religious are called "Brothers".
Today, the 'Brothers of Mercy of Saint John of God' are consecrated to God in the service of the sick-poor, the infirm in mind and body, homeless and abandoned, to those in prisons, to the deaf.
If you feel called by God in this particular ministry, I urge you to pay them a visit and see if this is where God wants you to answer His call. You can contact them at the following:
The Vocation Director
Brothers of Mercy of Saint John of God
Igulot, Bocaue, Bulacan 3018
Contact Numbers: (0917) 8401989; (0916) 9252804
Take a peek at what they do in this YouTube video below:
"I saw them so poor and ill-cared for that they broke my heart." - St. John of God