This Tuesday the Church observes the World Day of the Sick. We invite those who are suffering with any sickness, their caregivers and any medical workers to attend the 8:30am mass which will include special prayers and the celebration of the Anointing of the Sick.
Pope John Paul II initiated this day of prayer in 1993 to encourage people to pray for those who suffer from chronic illness/disease, for their caregivers and for medical personnel who assist the sick. If you are old enough to recall it, the Pope himself had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease a year before and many believe that it was his own experience of chronic illness that led him to inaugurate this day of prayer.
Of course, February 11th is also the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. As you may recall, the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous during the 19th Century in her tiny hometown of Lourdes, France over 150 years ago. Still today, 6 million souls visit Lourdes every year, including 100,000 volunteers who mainly assist 80,000 ill and disabled pilgrims seeking cures for their afflictions or the strength to endure them.
What is the significance of this day of prayer? Many years ago, in St. Peter's square, thousands of sick and infirmed pilgrims had gathered to hear Pope John Paul II speak of the "ministry" of those who are ill. Our Holy Father reminded the world that those who are sick and infirmed can set an example for all of us. When the Holy Father was speaking, he used the pronouns "we" and "us." That is, he included himself. We are all in need of some sort of healing.
Our parish would like to be present to those who are suffering. In addition to the priests who will come to anoint you (or you can catch a priest after mass if you are preparing for surgery), we have a team of Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion that are ready and waiting to bring the Holy Communion to you either in the hospital or at home. In fact, most hospitals have a team of Catholic volunteers that bring the Eucharist to Catholic patients during the week. All you have to do is call our parish office to schedule a time for a visit!
There are times when I discover months into a chronic illness that a parishioner has been suffering without the sacraments. That makes me sad because it doesn't have to be that way. Just call the office and leave the rest to us. We are happy to come to see you! And for the record, we are used to seeing people at their worst! No need to get dressed up, cleaned up and even comb your hair!
I hope to see many of you on February 11th if you are in need of an anointing. If you are healthy, it would be wonderful to see you as well, so that the sick of our parish know of our solidarity!
Father Don Kline, V.F.