Good Samaritans and Good Faith

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As part of my job in my parish, I was re-certified for CPR, First Aid and AED use. We’ve had a number of typical and sometimes more involved first aid and emergency situations at church. But I was struck in the beginning of our seminar by some basics about approaching and getting involved in an emergency situation.

In general, the Good Samaritan laws covers much of the liability issues and what-ifs, so that if you are acting in good faith, you can proceed to administer care (or, if the scene is not safe) to not proceed with care. The caveat is that once you provide care, you must stay with the person(s) until emergency personnel arrive on the scene. To leave the person would constitute abandonment. Phrased another way, you have a greater degree of responsibility to that person once you begin care and whatever happens at that scene to change that (such as the need to evacuate), that person is in your care.

A few years ago, my family was on a reunion trip in Utah. We walked down to a nearby church on a Sunday to celebrate Mass together. It was a beautiful church with nice views of nature visible through the windows. Unfortunately, around the Consecration an elderly man suffered a heart attack a few rows behind us. There was the typical commotion that you might expect. By the time we entered the Communion line, emergency personnel had responded and were working with him in the center aisle.

At the end of Mass, the celebrant made an announcement that after the final blessing that we should exit the church by the side entrances. The man had expired and the body was blocking the main entrance to the church.

It was a stark reminder on a family vacation. It put some flesh and bones on the “sacrifice of the Mass” and Communion as viaticum “food for the journey.” Yet, colloquially, death is something we prefer not to have to see. Good Samaritan or not, we often prefer to pass on the other side.

My parents are physicians. They both had just recently retired. When the call went out through the crowd looking for a doctor in the house, my sister urged my father to step forward, but he did not. After Mass as we were walking back to our lodgings and my daughter, who was 7 at that time, asked why we exited the church in that odd fashion. I explained that someone had suffered a heart attack, pointing to the ambulances parked outside the church. She asked if he was OK and I told her that he had died.

My father then mentioned to me that the moment he turned and saw the man in the pew, his face was gray, he was sweating, his eyes were hollowed out, he knew that he was already gone.

Was that why he didn’t choose to engage? Or was he on vacation? Did he not think of himself as still a doctor? I don’t know. But when I was at my CPR training, I thought about the difference between having that choice to engage and being a baptized Christian on mission. I don’t mean necessarily being a social justice warrior out campaigning constantly or a new evangelizer. I think more simply like being a parent. Of course you take breaks and you’re not always “on”, but you never really are off the hook either. You really can’t sit one out. Not as a parent, not as someone responsible for handing on the faith.

Prayer:

God our creator, you have measured out the time of our beginnings and endings. Give us strength and wisdom to carry on with your message and mission, for it goes on long after you have called us home.

When was the last time you were called to be the Good Samaritan?


Copyright 2018 Jay Cuasay

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About Author

Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. He currently ministers to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish. He can be reached at TribePlatypus.com.

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