Last Saturday was the memoria of Our Lady of Lourdes. This day also marked the twentieth ‘World day of the Sick’. In his message for this day Pope Benedict focussed upon the scriptural verse “Stand up and go: your faith has saved you.’ (Lk 17:19) This was Christ’s proclamation after he healed the ten victims of skin-disease.
An extract taken from the Holy Father’s letter explains that
“The Eucharist received at a time of illness… contributes in a singular way to working this transformation, associating the person who partakes of the Body and Blood of Christ to the offering that he made of himself to the Father for the salvation of all. The whole ecclesial community, and parish communities in particular, should pay attention to guaranteeing the possibilities of frequently receiving Holy Communion, to these people who, for reasons of health or age, cannot go to a place of worship. In this way, these brothers and sisters are offered the possibility of strengthening their relationship with Christ, crucified and risen, participating, through their lives offered up for Christ, in the very mission of the Church. From this point of view, it is important that priests who offer their discreet work in hospitals, in nursing homes and in the homes of sick people, feel they are truly ‘ministers of the sick’, signs and instruments of Christ’s compassion who must reach out to every person marked by suffering.”
The experience of caring for the sick and dying can become, through our communal and individual prayer, a means of drawing ourselves ever closer to Christ, and the transcendental character we each have within our soul. This communion with the Trinity allows one to place our present experiences and sufferings into the context of Christ’s passion and victory over death and the whole History of Salvation. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day” (Jn 6:54). The Eucharist, especially as Viaticum, is – according to the definition of Saint Ignatius of Antioch – “medicine of immortality, the antidote for death” (Letter to the Ephesians, 20:PG5,661); the sacrament of the passage from death to life, from this world to the Father, who awaits everyone in the celestial Jerusalem. The visitation of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception to Bernadette Soubirous near Lourdes in France by the river Gave, has drawn generations of faithful into a deeper and profound relationship with Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Our Lady of Lourdes directs us towards her Beloved Son, as our suffering has also been shared by her suffering as prophesised by Simeon “Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, Look, he is destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is opposed- and a sword will pierce your soul too-so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.’ “Lk (2:34-35).
As an East Anglian Seminarian I encourage you to visit and spend time with the elderly, sick and infirm in your parish, as blessings will be poured out on you through the grace of the Holy Spirit from our Heavenly Father. The witness of their faith will shine brightly to a younger generation who seek to find a firm foundation of faith. Christ’s ministry reached out repeatedly to the sick in the Gospels and drew each into the Kingdom of Heaven, it was the socially marginalised and overlooked that first made their proclamation of faith in Christ, as Pope Benedict teaches us “Stand up and go: your faith has saved you.’ (Lk.17:19).
3rd Year Seminarian
Diocese of East Anglia