My dear people,
Wednesday of this coming week, 11 February – the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes – has traditionally become a day on which the Church asks us to pray especially for our sick brothers and sisters and for those who care for them. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has taken a quotation from the Book of Job as the title for his Message to the Church on this day: I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. The Pope goes out of his way to encourage and express appreciation to all who in any way give themselves generously in their care for others.
I too offer my thanks and admiration to all of you throughout the Diocese of Lancaster who quietly and without complaint so often assume the burden of looking after the sick and the frail who cross your path. This burden can often be a heavy one, but as the Pope remarks we must never underestimate the value before God of accompanying others on their journey of suffering. Sitting alongside the bed of a sick person is never a waste of time, for in the person of the sick we mysteriously encounter Christ himself: I was sick and you visited me.
The Holy Father also remarks in his message that time spent with the sick is a holy time, but we need the wisdom of God and grace of the Holy Spirit to appreciate this. We should also realise that we are never quite alone when we are taking care of others for we have the support of the prayer of the whole Church. As members united in the Body of Christ, the prayer of one is the prayer of all, and equally the prayer of all is the prayer of one. The whole Church prays with us and for us.
Perhaps our time is the most precious gift we can give to those sick and infirm in our midst. By our very presence and our practical concern we assure them of their dignity and importance as persons, created in the image of God and redeemed by Jesus Christ. Being sick and elderly can often mean being alone and even feeling a sense of isolation, so there is no greater expression of Christian charity than to befriend others in their time of need. Suffering and illness are by nature mysterious, often beyond our understanding, and we need to recall how the Son of God himself plumbed the depths of suffering through his passion and death on the cross, yet his trust in God his Father never wavered.
Our Blessed Lady, the mother of Jesus, and John the beloved disciple stood by Jesus in his greatest hour of need as he hung on the cross. May Mary and John be close to all our sick and infirm brothers and sisters, and also inspire us to reach out selflessly to them as they share in the mystery of Christ’s cross.
With my blessing on all our sick, and my deep appreciation for those who so devotedly care for them.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
+Michael G Campbell OSA
Bishop of Lancaster
P.S. Our own Lancaster Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes is from 24 -31 July 2015. Please do consider coming along – all the details are here!