World Day of Prayer for the Sick
We celebrate the World Day of Prayer for the Sick on Feb. 11, 2011. The date was not randomly chosen; it is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. And while there are many shrines around the world noted for blessings and healings, Lourdes, pictured at right, is the most notable.
In 1858, Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a young woman who lived near Lourdes. Calling herself "The Immaculate Conception," Mary instructed Bernadette to dig in an apparently dry spot. Obedient, Bernadette dug and hit a spring, a spring that was shown to have healing powers. And thus began the flow of people seeking healing to a little known town in the south of France. That flow continues to this day.
Pilgrims to Lourdes are drawn to several sites: the grotto where the apparitions occurred, the baths filled with water from the spring, any one of the three churches where mass is almost always in progress. But Lourdes is a place of people, not just rocks and water. The largest gatherings of people come in the evening, with the long, winding line of candle-bearing pilgrims singing "Immaculate Mary" together, yet in various languages. Many also arrive in the afternoon when the sick, assisted by friends and volunteers, gather in the square for the rosary and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Miracles do happen, sometimes visible but more often deep within the spirit.
As I pray for the many sick among my family and friends, as well as for the sick of the world, I will take them on a virtual trip to Lourdes. There they will be surprised, as I was, by the solemn quiet and deep sense of the spiritual that pervades the whole area. We will go to the square in the afternoon and join the hundreds of others who have come to ask Mary to intercede for them and for their healing. We will be blessed by the Lord at Benediction, and… who knows? Lourdes is a place of healing, healing of both soul and body.
by Mary Buckley CSJ