Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In honor of the many Religious Institutes dedicated to Jesus Christ and His Church with charisms that serve to provide healthcare and healing, we ask for the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes. This Saturday, February 11, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the 25th World Day of the Sick, all over the world. This year is 159th Anniversary of the apparition of Our Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France which began on February 11, 1858. The Virgin Mary revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception. St. Bernadette was a humble, country, peasant girl who would not have known this dogma. This occurred four years after Pope Pius IX declared this dogma that teaches the reality that the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, was conceived without original sin. Since 1846, the Immaculate Conception has been the patroness of the United States of America. Millions of people over these years have made pilgrimages to Lourdes to ask for Our Blessed Mother’s intercession and to pray for healing, bathing in the water there. Thousands have been cured by the water of Lourdes.
Have you ever considered going on a pilgrimage?
A pilgrimage is a meaningful journey to a holy site. It provides the opportunity to seek a time of quiet and reflection. A reason to go on a pilgrimage may be for the deepening of one’s relationship with God. For someone who is discerning a call to serve God, it could give him or her the freedom to discern a vocation to the Priesthood or Consecrated Life. The following are some common reasons for going on a pilgrimage as stated by “Pilgrim’s Way” in Canterbury, CT: http://www.pilgrimswaycanterbury.org/
- To set aside time for God and feel closer to him
- To discern his will and guidance at times of transition or difficulty
- To be strengthened in faith
- To feel inspired by the communion of saints who have gone before us
It would be special to make a Pilgrimage to Fatima this year for the 100th Anniversary. There are at least 3 Priests in the Diocese of Phoenix who will be leading such a pilgrimage:
- Fr. Michael Reinhardt, Pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Mission in Phoenix will be leading a diocesan-wide pilgrimage for the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima to Lourdes, Fatima and Spain from November 1-11, 2017. For a brochure, please call or stop by the Parish at 1418 S 17th Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85007 — (602) 254-4944.
- Fr. Shea Bowora at St. Mary’s Parish in Chandler will be leading a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima and Spain from October 23- November 1, 2017.
- Fr. Dale Craig, SOLT, Pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Phoenix will be making a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Fatima and other cities from June 5-15, 2017.
There are some pilgrimages to other holy sites planned for this year which include:
- July 10-22, 2017, a priest from St. Gregory’s Parish in Phoenix will lead a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Jordan and Barcelona. Feel free to contact them: St. Gregory Catholic Church, 3424 North 18th Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85015. P: (602) 264-4488.
- Fr. Steve Peterson will be leading a Pilgrimage to Italy from November 8-18, 2017. Feel free to contact by phone: (507) 273-4916 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
- From November 5-16, 2017, Fr. Rolando Santoianni, IVE, for the 75th Anniversary of St. Anthony’s Parish, will be leading a pilgrimage in Spanish to Rome, Orvieto, Assisi, Florence, Ravenna, Padua and Venice to give thanks to St. Anthony of Padua.
Who was St. Bernadette Soubirous?
Born on January 7, 1844, Bernadette Soubirous came from a simple, poor family in the countryside of France. She did not have an education or opportunities for success. Only three of her eight siblings lived beyond the age of 10.
Starting on the 11th of February 1858, Our Lady visited Saint Bernadette eighteen times inspiring her to pray her Rosary. Our Lady appeared with a glow, dressed in a white dress and veil which partially covered her hair. Our Lady’s eyes were blue and gentle, and her face bore a simple smile. There was a yellow rose on each of her feet. Here are St. Bernadette’s words about the apparition found in the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours of the Catholic Church for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes:
I had gone down one day with two other girls to the bank of the river Gave when suddenly I heard a kind of rustling sound. I turned my head toward the field by the side of the river but the trees seemed quite still and the noise was evidently not from them. Then I looked up and caught sight of the cave where I saw a lady wearing a lovely white dress with a bright belt. On top of each of her feet was a pale yellow rose, the same color as her rosary beads.
At this I rubbed my eyes, thinking I was seeing things, and I put my hands into the fold of my dress where my rosary was. I wanted to make the sign of the cross but for the life of me I couldn’t manage it and my hand just fell down. Then the lady made the sign of the cross herself and at the second attempt I managed to do the same, though my hands were trembling. Then I began to say the rosary while the lady let her beads slip through her fingers, without moving her lips. When I stopped saying the Hail Mary, she immediately vanished.
I asked my two companions if they had noticed anything, but they said no. Of course they wanted to know what I was doing and I told them that I had seen a lady wearing a nice white dress, though I didn’t know who she was. I told them not to say anything about it, and they said I was silly to have anything to do with it. I said they were wrong and I came back next Sunday, feeling myself drawn to the place….
The third time I went the lady spoke to me and asked me to come every day for fifteen days. I said I would and then she said that she wanted me to tell the priests to build a chapel there. She also told me to drink from the stream. I went to the Gave, the only stream I could see. Then she made me realise she was not speaking of the Gave and she indicated a little trickle of water close by. When I got to it I could only find a few drops, mostly mud. I cupped my hands to catch some liquid without success and then I started to scrape the ground. I managed to find a few drops of water but only at the fourth attempt was there a sufficient amount for any kind of drink. The lady then vanished and I went back home.
I went back each day for two weeks and each time, except one Monday and one Friday, the lady appeared and told me to look for a stream and wash in it and to see that the priests build a chapel there. I must also pray, she said, for the conversion of sinners. I asked her many times what she meant by that, but she only smiled. Finally with outstretched arms and eyes looking up to heaven she told me she was the Immaculate Conception.
During the two weeks she told me three secrets but I was not to speak about them to anyone and so far I have not.
How Did We Begin Celebrating the World Day of the Sick?
Twenty-five years ago, St. John Paul II declared February 11 at the World Day of the Sick. Today, Pope Francis celebrates it with great joy as an opportunity to show God’s mercy.
Pope Francis gave this Message on December 8th, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception:
On 11 February next, the Twenty-fifth World Day of the Sick will be celebrated throughout the Church and in a special way at Lourdes. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Amazement at what God has accomplished: ‘The Almighty has done great things for me….’” (Lk 1:49). Instituted by my predecessor Saint John Paul II in 1992, and first celebrated at Lourdes on 11 February 1993, this Day is an opportunity to reflect in particular on the needs of the sick and, more generally, of all those who suffer. It is also an occasion for those who generously assist the sick, beginning with family members, health workers and volunteers, to give thanks for their God-given vocation of accompanying our infirm brothers and sisters. This celebration likewise gives the Church renewed spiritual energy for carrying out ever more fully that fundamental part of her mission which includes serving the poor, the infirm, the suffering, the outcast and the marginalized (cf. JOHN PAUL II, Motu Proprio Dolentium Hominum, 11 February 1985, 1). Surely, the moments of prayer, the Eucharistic liturgies and the celebrations of the Anointing of the Sick, the sharing with the sick and the bioethical and theological-pastoral workshops to be held in Lourdes in those days will make new and significant contributions to that service.
Even now, I am spiritually present at the grotto of Massabielle, before the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, in whom the Almighty has done great things for the redemption of mankind. I express my closeness to all of you, our suffering brothers and sisters, and to your families, as well as my appreciation for all those in different roles of service and in healthcare institutions throughout the world who work with professionalism, responsibility and dedication for your care, treatment and daily well-being. I encourage all of you, the sick, the suffering, physicians, nurses, family members and volunteers, to see in Mary, Health of the Infirm, the sure sign of God’s love for every human being and a model of surrender to his will. May you always find in faith, nourished by the Word and by the Sacraments, the strength needed to love God, even in the experience of illness.
Like Saint Bernadette, we stand beneath the watchful gaze of Mary. The humble maiden of Lourdes tells us that the Virgin, whom she called “the Lovely Lady”, looked at her as one person looks at another. Those simple words describe the fullness of a relationship. Bernadette, poor, illiterate and ill, felt that Mary was looking at her as a person. The Lovely Lady spoke to her with great respect and without condescension. This reminds us that every person is, and always remains, a human being, and is to be treated as such. The sick and the those who are disabled, even severely, have their own inalienable dignity and mission in life. They never become simply objects. If at times they appear merely passive, in reality that is never the case.
After her visit to the Grotto, thanks to her prayer, Bernadette turned her frailty into support for others. Thanks to her love, she was able to enrich her neighbours and, above all, to offer her life for the salvation of humanity. The fact that the Lovely Lady asked her to pray for sinners reminds us that the infirm and the suffering desire not only to be healed, but also to live a truly Christian life, even to the point of offering it as authentic missionary disciples of Christ. Mary gave Bernadette the vocation of serving the sick and called her to become a Sister of Charity, a mission that she carried out in so exemplary a way as to become a model for every healthcare worker. Let us ask Mary Immaculate for the grace always to relate to the sick as persons who certainly need assistance, at times even for the simplest of things, but who have a gift of their own to share with others.
The gaze of Mary, Comfort of the Afflicted, brightens the face of the Church in her daily commitment to the suffering and those in need. The precious fruits of this solicitude for the world of suffering and sickness are a reason for gratitude to the Lord Jesus, who out of obedience to the will of the Father became one of us, even enduring death on the cross for the redemption of humanity. The solidarity shown by Christ, the Son of God born of Mary, is the expression of God’s merciful omnipotence, which is made manifest in our life – above all when that life is frail, pain-filled, humbled, marginalized and suffering – and fills it with the power of hope that can sustain us and enable us to get up again.
This great wealth of humanity and faith must not be dissipated. Instead, it should inspire us to speak openly of our human weaknesses and to address the challenges of present-day healthcare and technology. On this World Day of the Sick, may we find new incentive to work for the growth of a culture of respect for life, health and the environment. May this Day also inspire renewed efforts to defend the integrity and dignity of persons, not least through a correct approach to bioethical issues, the protection of the vulnerable and the protection of the environment.
On this Twenty-fifth World Day of the Sick, I once more offer my prayerful support and encouragement to physicians, nurses, volunteers and all those consecrated men and women committed to serving the sick and those in need. I also embrace the ecclesial and civil institutions working to this end, and the families who take loving care of their sick. I pray that all may be ever joyous signs of the presence of God’s love and imitate the luminous testimony of so many friends of God, including Saint John of God and Saint Camillus de’ Lellis, the patrons of hospitals and healthcare workers, and Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, missionary of God’s love.
Dear brothers and sisters – the sick, healthcare workers and volunteers – I ask you to join me in praying to Mary. May her maternal intercession sustain and accompany our faith, and obtain for us from Christ her Son hope along our journey of healing and of health, a sense of fraternity and responsibility, a commitment to integral human development and the joy of feeling gratitude whenever God amazes us by his fidelity and his mercy.
Mary, our Mother,
in Christ you welcome each of us as a son or daughter.
Sustain the trusting expectation of our hearts,
succour us in our infirmities and sufferings,
and guide us to Christ, your Son and our brother.
Help us to entrust ourselves to the Father who accomplishes great things.
With the assurance of a constant remembrance in my prayers, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
A Sister Who Cares for the Sick Homeless in Phoenix
Recently, I had the joy of visiting Sr. Adele O’Sullivan, CSJ (Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondolet), a family physician who treats homeless people in Phoenix who are very ill. She founded “Circle the City”, a Medical Respite Center in Phoenix to provide the homeless a place to stay while they heal and recover. Circle the City was founded in 2008, and it currently has a medical team which includes primary care providers, a psychiatrist, physical therapists, behavioral health specialists, and nurses dedicated to meeting the needs of their patients. Additionally, their team of case managers and volunteer patient advocates work to connect patients with healthcare, income, housing, and other benefits.
Sister Adele O’Sullivan’s service and work to treat those who are poor and sick is heroic. Here are some photos from my visit:
As we pray for those who are sick and suffering, we pray that they receive the graces and strength from God to persevere and continue living with faith, hope and love, uniting their sufferings to Christ’s suffering on the Cross which redeems us. St. John Paul II teaches us:
“The suffering of the crucified God is not just one one form of suffering alongside others, not just another more or less painful ordeal: it is an unequaled suffering. In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order: the order of love. This suffering opens the door to the hope of liberation, hope for the definitive elimination of the “sting”, which is tearing humanity apart. It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with the flame of love and draws forth even from sin a great flowering of good.”
God bless you! Blessed Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
Sister Anthony Mary Diago, RSM
Director of the Office of Consecrated Life
Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona