Each February 11, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, commemorating the Blessed Mother’s appearances to young Bernadette in 1858 in Lourdes, France, today a pilgrimage site where people find healing in the holy waters that flow from the grotto where Mary appeared.
In one of her 18 apparitions to Bernadette, who suffered from asthma, Our Lady encouraged that the faithful unite their suffering with the sufferings of Christ.
The feast day is also World Day of the Sick, established by St. John Paul II on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes in 1991 as a special time of offering one’s suffering for the good of the Church, and reminding the faithful to see the face of the suffering Christ in those who are ill.
In observation of World Day of the Sick, Bishop Ronald Gainer visited UPMC Pinnacle West Shore Hospital in Mechanicsburg on Feb. 11, where he offered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick to several Catholic patients.
During the sacrament, a prayer is prayed over the individual, and sacred Chrism is marked in the sign of the cross on their foreheads and palms. The sacrament offers strength, peace and courage, and assistance from the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit for healing of the soul, and of the body if such is God’s will (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1520).
After visiting with patients, the bishop celebrated Mass for a number of hospital staff, patients, volunteers and visitors.
The bishop began his homily with a reflection on the Gospel reading from St. John which recounts the Wedding Feast at Cana. This passage emphasizes the role of the Blessed Mother in our lives, Bishop Gainer said.
At the Wedding Feast, Mary intercedes on behalf of the newly-married couple, to save them from the embarrassment of running out of wine.
“Her maternal care for this couple is so evident, and it is multiplied through the centuries through her maternal intercession for us,” the bishop said.
“We honor Mary as someone who truly has maternal love for all of us, and who will intercede before her son, that his power of healing might be realized in our infirmities,” he said.
For this reason, the World Day of the Sick is observed on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
“Today we celebrate that miraculous place at Lourdes, France, where many have come with great faith and experienced some healing; not always the healing of their bodies, but certainly spiritual, emotional or mental healing,” Bishop Gainer said.
“Let us remember the sick, as we always do in prayer, and on this day in particular,” he said. “We lift them up for God’s blessing, for God’s healing, and we thank God for all of those who have devoted their lives to the care and the cure and the healing of those who are ill.”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness