The Corporal Works of Mercy are found in the teachings of Jesus and give us a model for how we should treat all others, as if they were Christ in disguise. “In helping the sick we have the opportunity to serve Jesus.”

St. Marianne Cope, whose feast day we celebrate on Jan. 23, is patron saint of lepers and outcasts. She is also patron saint of people with HIV/AIDS, who are today’s lepers.

Pope Francis wrote about the outcast in “Joy of the Gospel”: “We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading. … Those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised — they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers.’”

While the Gospel of Life demands us to love our neighbor as ourselves, our neighbors who are sick are often forgotten or avoided, today’s outcasts. In spite of their illness, these neighbors still have much to offer to those who take the time to visit and comfort them. “Charity takes time. Time to care for the sick and time to visit them.”

Make the time and take the time. Next time you make a meal that can be easily frozen, make a double batch and give it to a neighbor or a family in your parish who has a sick loved one. Meals are practical and very useful for sick people and their families. Everyone loves a good casserole.

The gift of casserole is commonly given to the physically ill. Mental illness is the “Non-Casserole Disease.”

Like lepers, people suffering from a mental illness were considered to be sinners or suffering from the sins of their parents. Now they’re just viewed as burdens. “In a society that judges a person on the value of what he or she produces, the person living with mental illness is easily seen merely as a burden on society. The temptation is to isolate or marginalize.” People suffering from a mental illness need our casseroles and our companionship just as much as the physically ill.

Meals are practical; companionship is more valuable. Make time for those who may be sick at heart from being lonely and forgotten and who are regularly deprived of the basic human need of friendship. Take time on a Saturday to stop and visit with an elderly neighbor. Take time on Sunday, when you’re delivering a meal, to linger an extra few minutes, giving the gifts of presents and presence.

If you are afraid to be with someone who is ailing or simply different, pray to St. Marianne Cope for the courage to reach out, the willingness to be present, and the wisdom to listen.

Here is how the book of Ecclesiastes puts it: “Be not slow to visit the sick.”

Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Fr. Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.