“Is anyone among you sick?
He should summon the presbyters of the Church,
and they should pray over him and anoint him
with the oil in the name of the Lord.”
One hundred and fifty four years ago this month, a young Bernadette Soubirous had a heavenly experience that transformed her small village near the south of France into a worldwide place of pilgrimage especially for those who are ill and suffering.
The story began while Bernadette was out collecting firewood at a nearby grotto; she heard a gust of wind and saw a woman wearing a long white dress with rosary beads draped over her arm. The woman spoke to her asking her to recite the rosary. The woman, who would eventually reveal her identity as the Virgin Mary, visited the girl 17 times giving her guidance to share with the world.
As a result of Bernadette’s heroic witness of faith, the Catholic Church canonized her in 1933 and celebrates her feast day on February 18th.
The miracles of Lourdes continue today to inspire hope in pilgrims from all over the world, regardless of religion. People travel there seeking spiritual, emotional and physical relief from the healing waters of grace that flow near the grotto where the Virgin Mary once stood.
Serving the multitude of pilgrims who visit Lourdes each year are various volunteers from many organizations including the Knights of Malta – a Catholic lay order caring for the sick for more than 900 years. With a chapter in Chicago, St. Mary’s has been privileged to welcome them each year to commemorate these significant events. The recent Mass of anointing was no exception.
Monsignor Robert Dempsey, the group’s chaplain, presided as 20 Knights and Dames of Malta and their families joined 50 Residents and Sisters came together in worship. In his homily, he reminded us that even in the midst of hardship, Our Lord never abandons us. He compared St. Jeanne Jugan and Knights of Malta founder Blessed Gerard’s understanding of Christ’s teaching that “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” found in Mathew 25-40. Explaining that there is great grace in serving the vulnerable (sick, elderly, marginalized) and in doing so, we can love God by loving and serving our brothers and sisters.
After the Mass concluded, the Sisters invited the Knights and Dames and their families to join the Residents for lunch. It was a delightful afternoon that will become a special memory.