Fr Peter Michael Scott, Diocesan Adviser for Healthcare Chaplaincies reminds us that the sick too have a vocation.
On 11 February 1858, in the French village of Lourdes, the Virgin Mary appeared to an asthmatic girl called Bernadette. As February led into March, the frail Bernadette, accompanied by the sick and infirm, received more visions of Our Lady. The Blessed Virgin would ask Bernadette to ‘pray for sinners’ and to ‘come in procession’. Her request made the asthmatic girl aware of her vocation to pray.
February 11 is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of Prayer for the Sick. It reminds those who are sick and infirm that in the perplexity of their suffering they can ‘come in procession’ to God the Father and ‘pray for sinners’. Often infirmity and suffering leave the sick feeling useless, but the Church is keen to remind them that they can be powerhouses of prayer.
The Diocese will mark the Day of Prayer for the Sick on Saturday 7 February at 2pm with a beautiful Mass in the Cathedral. During this celebration the Cardinal, Auxiliary Bishops and Priests will anoint those who are infirm. One of the important aspects of anointing is to mark out those who are sick as special in God’s eyes.
February is a time when parishes can acknowledge the special apostolate of the sick and housebound. One way is to ask the housebound or sick to pray particularly for those approaching sacramental milestones e.g. those being received into the Church at Easter, First Holy Communion and Confirmation candidates, and those preparing for marriage. Such prayer and reminders of parish life link the sick and housebound with the Church community and acknowledge them as prayerful and useful parishioners.
We must also remember to pray for the sick. A church noticeboard with the names or pictures of the infirm (provided with their consent) or a regular bidding prayer dedicated to their needs would connect them into the conscious life of the parish.
Our Lady allowed the sick and frail Bernadette to see her vocation to pray; the Church is keen to remind us that those who are ill can serve us by their prayers just as we serve them by our regular visits.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
St Bernadette, pray for us.