When you walk towards the hospice you will notice a statue of Our Lady standing on an outside balcony. Her posture is one of prayer, almost as if she has been praying that you will visit.

The name of the hospice is that of Our Lady’s husband, St Joseph. When Mary revealed her pregnancy Joseph displayed his ordinary human weakness by almost rejecting her. He rallied round in the end, but he needed the visit of an angel to convince him. Maybe Mary instantly forgave Joseph or perhaps she accepted his reasons, but none the less ‘mercy’ was present in this unique family from the beginning.

Often patients will reflect on their own family and talk to me about schisms or long lasting disagreements. Sickness and dying can waken in patients a deep need of God and in that discovery they gain courage to forgive or to say they are sorry. Sometimes for this to be made possible, long lost members of families have to be found, and when the search is on I pray to ‘Our Lady of the balcony’ that those being sought are located.

Pope Francis has given families three words of advice to prevent schisms. He says it is important to always say ‘please, thank you and sorry’. He says of ‘sorry’…‘we all make mistakes and on occasion someone gets offended…plates are smashed, harsh words are spoken, but please listen to my advice: don’t let the sun set without reconciling. Peace is made each day in a family when you say “please forgive me”, and then you start over.’

It is beautiful when a patient comes out from the shadow of hurt or bitterness either to say sorry or to ask forgiveness, and to see it granted or received. God’s gifts of mercy and forgiveness inhabit the hospice, just as the image of the Mother of Mercy stands on the balcony outside.

Please pray for the patients, staff and volunteers of St Joseph’s Hospice.

Fr Peter-Michael Scott is the Cardinal’s Adviser on Healthcare and Chaplain to St Joseph’s Hospice.