On Feb. 11, 2020, I was ordained a bishop and installed as the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Gary. That date was not chosen by accident, but because it is the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The date was chosen in collaboration with the papal nuncio who came to Gary to represent the Holy Father on that momentous day.
Only a few months prior, I had completed a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, and entrusted myself once again to Our Lady at the very site of so many miraculous healings.
There is a strong tradition of bringing the sick and suffering to Lourdes to experience love and healing. The healing offered at Lourdes sometimes takes the form of extraordinary miracles, but always brings with it a beautiful healing that comes from treating the sick and suffering with dignity and compassion. For this reason, in 1992 St. Pope John Paul II designated Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, as the World Day of the Sick, a day for "prayer and sharing, of offering one's suffering for the good of the Church and of reminding everyone to see in his sick brother or sister the face of Christ."
I could not have imagined one year ago how providential it would be that I was ordained on this feast day. Within weeks of my ordination, the coronavirus spread throughout the world, bringing sickness and suffering. To whom should we look during such times? Jesus, of course.
We also look to his Mother Mary for her intercession and maternal care. On the cross, Jesus spoke to his mother directing her to the beloved disciple John, and to all of us, as he said, “Behold your son” and he said to John and all of us, “Behold your mother.” (Jn 19) He gave us to her – and vice versa.
Her intercession at the wedding feast of Cana brought about the first public miracle of Jesus recorded in the bible. Her intercession continues today for all of us, especially the sick and suffering.
The confluence of the World Day of the Sick on the day I was ordained is not an accident. I see it as laying the spiritual foundation for our response to the pandemic – turning to Jesus and turning to his Mother. For that reason, I invited our diocese to pray two simple prayers daily “Jesus, I trust in You” and “Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.” I continue to suggest that these prayers coincide with the traditional times for praying the angelus, at noon and 6 p.m. daily. Of course, you may choose any time to offer these simple prayers.
Feb. 11 will soon be upon us, and I renew our call to seek the intercession of Our Lady of Lourdes and to look to Pope Francis’ message for this year’s World Day of the Sick. Here are a few excerpts from his message:
“The celebration of the XXIX World Day of the Sick on 11 February 2021, the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, is an opportunity to devote special attention to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care both in healthcare institutions and within families and communities. We think in particular of those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. To all, and especially to the poor and the marginalized, I express my spiritual closeness and assure them of the Church’s loving concern:
“Dear brothers and sisters, the commandment of love that Jesus left to his disciples is also kept in our relationship with the sick. A society is all the more human to the degree that it cares effectively for its most frail and suffering members, in a spirit of fraternal love. Let us strive to achieve this goal, so that no one will feel alone, excluded or abandoned. To Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Infirm, I entrust the sick, healthcare workers and all those who generously assist our suffering brothers and sisters. From the Grotto of Lourdes and her many other shrines throughout the world, may she sustain our faith and hope, and help us care for one another with fraternal love.”
Jesus, I trust in You.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary