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World day of the sick

Works of Mercy: Visiting the sick

Works of Mercy are actions recommended by the Church for the good of the doer and the recipient

As we know, the image is often the most immediate and significant element to express a thought, an action, a feeling. For centuries, the Church has understood the importance of this very effective and comprehensible medium for all, and has entrusted numerous artists with the task of spreading important messages.

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The painful experience of illness

Telemaco Signorini’s ‘Room of the Agitated’ (1865) fully renders the situation in which the human soul finds itself when it is certain of a more or less serious illness. The mind, which is not always able to accept difficulties and illness, sometimes reacts in an unusual, unpredictable and often uncontrollable manner. So many manifestations of the sick make us realise how much the patient needs not only care, but above all assistance and comfort. In the vast and squalid room depicted by Signorini that welcomes the ‘mad women’, the author has left a large space at the top of the room, a great void made heavy by the dull yellow of the light that hangs over the characters.

It is the emptiness of suffering, of pain, of being unaware of what may happen and not knowing when, how and if it will end. Since we have all faced the problem of illness directly or indirectly, it is easy to understand how important it is to comply with the Church’s invitation to assist the sick.

The warmth of closeness

How sweet is the peace that can be felt in this painting by Albert Anker (Switzerland 1831- 1910) ‘Devotion to Grandfather’ from 1893. Here the author, in a corner of the humble room, shows us the old man reclining on cushions, in his armchair with the customary blanket over his legs, his gaze downcast, absorbed perhaps in his memories, and the very young grandson in his work apron, attentive to reading the story in his book. The grandson’s face shows all the effort he puts into doing something that will be appreciated by his grandfather, to make him spend some time in good company, to relieve some of the sad thoughts of a sick man. The warm shades of brown alternate harmoniously, generating that tranquillity that, despite the troubles and ills of life, are muted, softened by the loving care of those who do this very important work of charity.

Many writers and artists have experienced this pain and translated it into generosity and almost immortal masterpieces.

Paola Carmen Salamino


  • Paola Carmen Salamino


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