A temple in the hospital – To Respect the Personality of the Child
By Fr. George Chistyakov
If a bystander finds out about the existence of our hospital temple “Protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, perhaps he will immediately ask himself many questions.
First of all, why is there a temple in the hospital? And why, if this is a temple, his life is connected with the search for money for medicines, with the most diverse work among children, with the help that our parishioners give them in solving a variety of problems? Why is there a computer class here? Why is there an art studio here where kids create pictures and make cartoons? Why are there young people here who sing with the children to the sounds of the guitar? And anyway, what is this: a temple or a charity? A temple or a children’s educational center? And so on.
The answers to these questions are extremely easy. Everything in our life becomes meaningful when God enters it. More precisely, when we begin to understand that God has entered our lives. In the hospital, where we deal with very seriously ill little people, to forget that in our life, so difficult, God is present – it is really scary.
Because then everything starts to fall apart! Then we find that not only the children are sick, but also their parents; we discover that the doctors are actually sick too; that we all live with our diagnoses! And read, and read, and read. Then we feel severe fatigue. Then our complete powerlessness is revealed…
I think that the hospital is a kind of model of society. As the universe is reflected in a drop of water, so in what happens in the children’s hospital just a thousand beds away (yes, on the one hand, a thousand – that’s too many, and on the other, what is a thousand compared to the billions of people who live on Earth) – in what happens here, we see the whole world in miniature. And just as there is a lot of pain in the world, and as soon as we start to forget about God’s presence in the universe, everything falls apart, so there is so much pain in this hospital that to forget about God here is to condemn the people around us to an obvious disaster.
What is the purpose of a temple in the hospital? Of course, this question can be asked, and we can try to answer it on a theological level, we can answer based on some theories…
Practically everything becomes clear to me when I give communion to the children. When the mother offers the Holy Chalice to a small child, barely a year old, and maybe not yet a year old, and he smiles and opens his mouth for the spoon with the Holy Mysteries – that already explains everything for me. I don’t need other answers to this question. Sometimes it happens that when the child is brought to the temple for the first time – he is afraid, does not want to receive communion. I always say: nothing, we will wait. And if the mother does not force the child to receive Communion (I think it is very scary when they force communion), after a week, two or three he appears here joyful and radiant.
The radiance of a child’s smile before the Chalice – this is the full answer to the question with which we began this conversation.
Also, I consider it something very important that people live in the hospital where we come – not only children, but people. When we say “children” it implies gentle treatment of them, care for them, etc., but I try to remind both their parents and doctors that we are dealing with little people who should not only to show tenderness, but whom we must respect – to respect their personality, their inner independence, with whom we must comply, to have a dialogue, to whom we must adapt… After all, the child is not some precious Japanese or Chinese a cup that we can place on the sideboard and admire it, remembering that its place is only on the sideboard, that it was made only to be looked at and enjoyed. A child is a person who should be given freedom as much as possible – and inner, psychological freedom. A child is a person who should be treated as an equal.
It is very difficult to readjust yourself – and from a person who teaches, mentors, to become a person who makes friends, who listens, who accepts the other’s opinion. In our country, even with adults, this does not always happen, and even more so with children. And yet I am absolutely convinced that it is necessary. I think that in our temple we manage to do some things precisely because we try with all our strength to treat the children in this way.
Photo Source: taken from the “Pokrov Bogorodichen” chapel of the Moscow Children’s Clinical Hospital on Miloserdie.ru
About the author: Georgy Chistyakov, priest (4.08.1953-22.06.2007). Priest, lecturer at Moscow State University and Russian State Humanitarian University, wonderful lecturer, writer and preacher, student of Fr. Alexandra Men. I could have become a great scientist, but I was engaged in what the Church needed more - missionary preaching and organizing help for sick children. According to the recollections of his spiritual children, he took all their joys and difficulties to heart, empathized as if each of them was dear and unique to him. His sermons are an example of church eloquence of our time.