Bishop Wenski – Column


Last February 11, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, the World Day of the Sick was held in Adelaide, Australia.  Begun by Pope John Paul II some 14 years ago, these annual observances seek to underscore the Church’s commitment to the sick and to bear witness to God’s tender mercy towards them.  As Christians we must strive to recognize in the features of every suffering person the face of Christ himself.

Too often, the sick complain of being depersonalized by the experience of their illness.  And it’s no wonder – in a high technological and bureaucratic world, it can seem that by becoming ill they lose their identity, their personhood.  They can easily be reduced to “the lung case” in Room 1080-B; or the “Medicaid Part B” in cubicle D.
Through her pastoral care, the Church can embraced the sick person as a whole person – and, in doing so, help make the time of sickness a unique kairos. That is, an opportune time to help the ill person to find adequate responses to the ultimate questions about human life – questions on the meaning of pain, suffering and death itself, considered not only as an enigma difficult to face, but as a mystery in which Christ incorporates our lives in himself, opening them to a new and definitive birth for the life that will never end. And so, to those who are injured or sick, the Church through her ministry of pastoral care says:  courage, God has not forgotten you.  Christ suffers with you.  And by offering up your sufferings, you can collaborate with him in the redemption of the world.

The World Day for the Sick observance helps underscore the importance of pastoral health care.  I am grateful for all who carry out this ministry in the name of the Church here in the Diocese of Orlando.  At the same time, this observance should stimulate us, in the name of the solidarity we owe to our injured and ill brothers and sisters, to advocate for adequate access to health care for all.  Too many people for one reason or another are denied access to necessary forms of care and treatment. This true in so many parts of the still developing world; but it is also shamefully true in the affluent West.  During this year’s observance, special note was made of the needs of the mentally ill who are too often seen as a burden for their families and the community.  Their dignity too must be recognized, respected and promoted.

At Lourdes in the mid-19th century Mary appeared to Bernadette Soubiroux. Since then, it has become a pilgrimage destination for millions seeking cures.  And many miraculous cures have been documented.  But even when prayers were not answered by a physical cure, pilgrims have testified that at Lourdes they have found peace in their acceptance of God’s will. The phenomenon of Lourdes teaches us that in Christ, the hope of true, full health can be found.  The salvation that he brings is the true response to the ultimate question about man – and that salvation promises a “health” that is more than just a physical or even spiritual well being but one that is expressed in total harmony with God, with self and with humanity itself.  It is a salus, a health, found only through the mystery of the passion, death and Resurrection of Christ.

O Mary, Immaculate Virgin, Woman of suffering and hope, be kind to every suffering person, obtain fullness of life for each one.