Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us!

Photo: The replica of the Lourdes Grotto at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

“Be merciful,” Pope Francis urges on 30th World Day of the Sick, Feb. 11

“Be merciful, as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36) is the theme of Pope Francis’ message for the 30th World Day of the Sick, observed on Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes (see below). 

Service to the sick and suffering “must be understood as a constant and choral action of the whole Church, a healing community, which stands beside those who suffer on a path of charity,” the Holy Father writes. 

17th annual conference
The observance of the World Day of the Sick coincides with the start of the 17th annual Divine Mercy Medicine, Bioethics, and Spirituality Conference. The three-day virtual event, Feb. 11-13, features a wide array of speakers from the worlds of healthcare, medicine, academia, and the Church. 

Registration is open now to healthcare professionals (offering academic credit) and anyone who would like to know more about the spiritual care of the patient and the bioethical issues confronting so many families and individuals today.

“I believe it’s critically important to stay spiritually in touch with ourselves and support other healthcare professionals during this unprecedented time of pandemic,” says Marie Romagnano, MSN, RN, CCM, founder of the Marian Fathers’ apostolate Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, and organizer of the conference. “We can get through these dark and difficult days with hope and prayer, realizing that the Divine Mercy message and devotion was specifically for us and that we can help so many that we are caring for during this crisis.”

‘Rich in mercy’
“Thirty years ago, St. John Paul II instituted the World Day of the Sick to encourage the people of God, Catholic health institutions and civil society to be increasingly attentive to the sick and to those who care for them,” Pope Francis writes. “Many advances have been made, yet there is still a long way to go in ensuring that all the sick, also those living in places and situations of great poverty and marginalization, receive the health care they need, as well as the pastoral care that can help them experience their sickness in union with the crucified and risen Christ.”

In his message, the Holy Father urges us to turn our gaze first towards God, who is “rich in mercy” (Eph 2:4). “He always watches over his children with a father’s love, even when they turn away from him,” he notes. “Mercy is God’s name par excellence; mercy, understood not as an occasional sentimental feeling but as an ever-present and active force, expresses God’s very nature. It combines strength and tenderness.”

Mission and service
The pandemic has reminded the world in a profound way of the heroic service of healthcare workers on the front line, Pope Francis continues.

“Dear healthcare workers, your service alongside the sick, carried out with love and competence, transcends the bounds of your profession and becomes a mission,” he writes. “Your hands, which touch the suffering flesh of Christ, can be a sign of the merciful hands of the Father. Be mindful of the great dignity of your profession, as well as the responsibility that it entails.”

Expressing gratitude for advances in medical science, the Holy Father notes that pastoral care remains paramount, with attention paid to the uniqueness of each patient and their needs. 

“Patients are always more important than their diseases, and for this reason, no therapeutic approach can prescind from listening to the patient, his or her history, anxieties and fears,” Pope Francis says. “Even when healing is not possible, care can always be given. It is always possible to console, it is always possible to make people sense a closeness that is more interested in the person than in his or her pathology. For this reason, I would hope that the training provided to health workers might enable them to develop a capacity for listening and relating to others.”

“Dear brothers and sisters, to the intercession of Mary, Health of the Infirm, I entrust all the sick and their families,” Pope Francis concludes. “United with Christ, who bears the pain of the world, may they find meaning, consolation and trust. I pray for healthcare workers everywhere, that, rich in mercy, they may offer patients, together with suitable care, their fraternal closeness.”

To read Pope Francis’ message for the 30th World Day of the Sick, click here.

Please register online to participate in our virtual conference, running Feb. 11-13. To learn more about Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, visit our homepage and explore the many rich resources available.


The grotto in Lourdes, France, where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette

“I am the Immaculate Conception," Our Lady told St. Bernadette

By Matthew August

I shall spend every moment loving. One who loves does not notice her trials; or perhaps more accurately, she is able to love them. I shall do everything for Heaven, my true home. There I shall find my Mother in all the splendor of her glory. I shall delight with her in the joy of Jesus Himself in perfect safety. 
— Saint Bernadette Soubirous, visionary of Lourdes 

On Feb. 11, 1858, a young girl by the name of Bernadette Soubirous journeyed from her home to the Grotto of Massabielle, a garbage dump in Lourdes, France. As her family was very poor, she went there in search of some wood to heat her home. She suddenly heard a gust of wind and turned around to see if something was there.

“I saw the trees quite still,” recounted Bernadette. “I went on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head to look at the Grotto, I saw a lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her Rosary; the beads of the Rosary were white.”

Bernadette instinctively grabbed her Rosary, but her hands trembled with fright. The woman smiled and invited her to pray the Rosary. Once they finished the prayer, the woman disappeared.

"I am the Immaculate Conception"
Bernadette felt compelled to visit the Grotto once again. There she saw the woman, who then asked her to return for the next 15 days. Over these visits, Our Lady delivered a message instructing the faithful to build a temple on the ground where she stood and to let processions come. She also announced, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

What does that mean? Simply that she was preserved from the stain of sin from the first moment of her conception (see Catechism, 490-493). She is free from the evil mark that plagued mankind after the fall of Adam and Eve.

We can understand this better if we look back in the Old Testament and remember the sacred Ark of the Covenant, the most revered relic of the Israelites. The Book of Exodus states that it held the two stone slabs with the Ten Commandments inscribed on them — the Word of God. It was said to be so holy that God struck down anyone who touched it without authorization (see 2 Sam 6).

Mary is even more sacred than the original Ark of the Covenant. While the Ark served as the tabernacle for the written Word of God, Mary was destined to be the tabernacle for God Himself. God in His power preserved the original Ark from the slightest touch of impurity. Thus it is no wonder that He preserved Mary, the tabernacle where He would place Himself, from any stain or imperfection.

Divine promise
Mary was prepared from the moment of her Immaculate Conception to serve God’s purposes. This should give us tremendous hope.

In the Immaculate Conception, we see a divine promise — a promise that God will equip us with everything we will need to fulfill our mission in life. We have not been preserved from every stain of sin like Mary, no, but that’s because we are called to something different. 

The call that God has put in our heart may seem impossible. There may be no signs of hope. You may have tried time after time to obey and failed, but through the Immaculate Conception, we know that God does not leave us on our own. What God started in your life, He’s going to finish. 

Mary’s human state didn’t stop God from bringing about the Incarnation. God equips each and every one of us with everything we need to fulfill our mission, just as He did with the Mother of God. “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:16). May God give us the grace to recognize our talents and gifts. Just as the Lord trusted Mary, He trusts us.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us! 

Photo by Nick Castelli on Unsplash

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