Care of the sick goes way back in history but hospitals as we know them today begins in the 16th century. Many were the places that took care of the sick until they recovered, similar to our general hospitals. The word hospital comes from the hospitality shown by the religious orders to the weak and poor. Catholic Times has an article written by the president of the theology department of the Pusan Catholic University, on moving from mercy to solidarity with the poor.
From the time of the middle ages until the
present, religious orders have hospitably received the poor and weak in
many different ways. They have fed the poor, gave lodging to travelers, accommodated and served the sick which became our general hospitals.
During the pestilences of the middle ages and the ever-present cases of leprosy, members of the religious orders would accompany them and show them concern without regard to their own health.
In recent times, we have the Belgian priest Fr. Damian, who was canonized for his work among the lepers on the island of Molokai. He volunteered to work on the 'cursed island' of Molokai with the lepers and eventually becoming a leper, and staying with his community continuing to serve. Hospitality was not only welcoming guests, being with the poor, weak sick and the marginalized but being a voice for them.
Our nation has become economically developed and is wealthy but the number of those who are in difficulty is not an insignificant number. Economically, Korea is high on the list of developed countries, but in concern for welfare, it is near the bottom. Close to four million people are living in painful conditions. What does it mean for us to be hospitable to these people living in the dark spots of society? The article concludes with a quote from the Joy of the Gospel #188.
"The Church has realized that the need to heed this plea is itself born of the liberating action of grace within each of us, and thus it is not a question of a mission reserved only to a few: 'The Church, guided by the Gospel of mercy and by love for mankind, hears the cry for justice and intends to respond to it with all her might'. In this context we can understand Jesus’ command to his disciples: 'You yourselves give them something to eat!' (Mk 6:37): it means working to eliminate the structural causes of poverty and to promote the integral development of the poor, as well as small daily acts of solidarity in meeting the real needs which we encounter. The word 'solidarity' is a little worn and at times poorly understood, but it refers to something more than a few sporadic acts of generosity. It presumes the creation of a new mindset which thinks in terms of community and the priority of the life of all over the appropriation of goods by a few."