11th February, 2023
Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes
St. Patrick’s Church, Fermoy
Our recent Bank Holiday, to coincide with the Feast of St. Brigid, was established to mark the extraordinary lengths that healthcare staff went to care for those afflicted by Covid. They did so through the frightening days before a vaccine became available. They continued caring through the explosion of numbers in hospitals and nursing homes and did so at great risk to their own health and that of their families.
Overall, it’s an experience that disrupted us deeply – it was a real jolt to find how fragile our hold on life is – to realise how precious our health is.
For those who did the caring through Covid we remain eternally grateful. Especially grateful for those who stayed with the dying when we their family were advised not to.
On this Vigil of the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes we gather in faith to reflect and pray on this corporate experience of illness in our midst as we make tentative steps toward renewing our annual pilgrim journey to Lourdes with pilgrims who are sick and frail but without whom our going would be less than fulfilling and satisfactory.
In regard to the World Day of the Sick for 30 years now the Pope of the time offers to the Church and the world a reflection on the preeminent place of care for the sick in the life of every disciple of Jesus. Pope Francis follows eloquently in that tradition with his reflection for this World Day of the Sick under the theme from Lk. 6:36 “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” “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”
Jesus has been the supreme witness to that merciful love of the Father in his constant care for the sick and his instruction to the apostles to do likewise. All who work in healthcare walk in those merciful footsteps of Jesus. Pope Francis speaks directly to you “Be mindful of the great dignity of your profession as well as the responsibility it entails”.
Despite the great advances in medicine for which we are thankful our centres of care can only do so much and physicians are human. While we aspire toward and desire healing and fulness of health, frailty and illness is the reality for so many at any one time but the destiny of all inevitably. How we care for the sick, the weak and the vulnerable is the litmus test of our mercy and humanity. Pope Francis, “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. 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 his or her pathology”.
This sense of care for the individual sick person and their family is the touchstone that has been the hallmark of Cloyne Lourdes Hospitality over the years. You who co-ordinate this team of carers and you who play your special roles within it understand well the challenge of assisted pilgrims. You know how deeply it touches their hearts and spirits to know they are in the hands of people who care deeply for them.
To-night we are thankful for the way in which the co-ordinators kept the flame alight through Covid, through the creative use of technology. This year we “fan the flame” anew as we plan for our pilgrimage in June.
May Our Lady of Lourdes guide and direct our path and plan to pray again at the Grotto of Lourdes from which an abundance of grace and healing continues to be poured into the hearts of all who kneel and pray there.