While most of us were captivated by the surprising news concerning the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI on Monday, Feb. 11, the Church – who keeps moving along no matter what the headlines may be – marked the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the twenty-first World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Pope Benedict XVI made certain that he was not lost in his personal headlines as he rallied the Church to prayer and awareness of the sick and those who care for them, citing the foundation of the day.
The Pope noted that “this day represents for the sick, for health care workers, for the faithful and all good people of good will ‘a privileged time of prayer, of sharing, of offering one’s sufferings for the good of the Church, a call for all to recognize in the features of their suffering brothers and sisters, the Holy Face of Christ, who, by suffering, dying and rising has brought about the salvation of mankind.’ “ (Blessed Pope John Paul II: Letter for the Institution of the World Day of the Sick, 13 May 1992, 3)
This week has been filled with many calls for prayer across the diocese and in my own circle of friends. We have been called to pray for a hospitalized 17-year-old who suffers from the effects of a debilitating aneurism and the surgery necessary to save her life. Her parents and family ask for prayer.
I heard from a dear friend who slipped on the ice on his way to work a couple of weeks ago. He went down with a thud and cracked his head on the sidewalk. The force of the fall also injured the front of his brain; he fell unconscious, and awoke in the hospital on his way to his first CT scan.
My sister Joann suffers, as all the members of my family do, with the “family knees” and its associated pain and discomfort.
On and on, the phone rings, family, friends, and members of the faithful from around the diocese and beyond, call to be remembered at Mass and before the Blessed Sacrament.
The sick and the needy are everywhere. There are those, who like my own mother, before she died, don’t know how sick they are; they have forgotten the basic skills of how to eat, how to find their way home, the names and faces of their own family members.
Then there are the doctors, nurses, therapists and technicians. There are countless numbers of caregivers and volunteers who offer their time and talent to the numbers of sick, elderly, and needy. We remember them in fond and compassionate prayer.
We remember, of course, the Good Samaritan – the personification of Jesus, who offers himself, his wealth, his very life, to protect and care for those who fall prey to the sad circumstances of life, the trials of aging, and the harsh realities of disease and death.
In our time, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta still holds the example of the modern day Samaritan – the image of Jesus. In those who follow her example, mirroring Christ’s tenderness, we see the perfect example of what we seek in this Year of Faith – we seek the face of Christ.
It is no accident that the World Day of Payer for the Sick is celebrated on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. Who can forget the attraction to the Mother of God each of us experienced when we first heard the story of the Virgin – the Immaculate Conception – who appeared to the young Bernadette in 1858 at the grotto in Southern France? Who does not still tremble and offer a silent prayer when Lourdes water is brought to the sick and infirm? Who doesn’t pray for miracles – for healing – for comfort?
Our Blessed Mother is with us as we seek the face of her Son in our sick brothers and sisters – when we welcome Him in her name and pray for the sick with faith in Christ’s power to heal and Mary’s power to comfort.
The World Day of Prayer for the Sick may have been vying for newsprint this year with an historic headline – but the sick still need your prayer.
And no, Pope Benedict did not abandon the sick in the pursuit of sympathy for his health or rationalizations for his resignation. As the Vicar of Christ, he urged the Church to go forth and follow Christ in service to the least of our brothers and sisters. In our diocese, we are blessed to offer our service and raise our voices through the intercession of our beloved friend and servant of the sick and poor, Father Joseph Walijewski, whose Cause for Beatification we raise and whose assistance we seek as we try to do our best each day to meet Christ face-to-face.
See Christ at Sunday Mass – He’ll be looking for you!