In these times we are sharing a very profound journey of prayer, care and support for those whom we know who are sick in our family, our neighbourhood and in our community. We also experience a strong sense of closeness, interconnection and fraternity with our sick sisters and brothers throughout the world.
At the same time this experience is a powerful reminder of our own fragility. In his letter for the 29th World Day of the Sick, which takes place on Thursday, 11th February Pope Francis writes:
The experience of sickness makes us realize our own vulnerability and our innate need of others. It makes us feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God. When we are ill, fear and even bewilderment can grip our minds and hearts; we find ourselves powerless, since our health does not depend on our abilities or life’s incessant worries (cf. Mt 6:27).
Sickness raises the question of life’s meaning, which we bring before God in faith. In seeking a new and deeper direction in our lives, we may not find an immediate answer. Nor are our relatives and friends always able to help us in this demanding quest. (#2)
An experience of pandemic
The current pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick. Elderly, weak and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner. This is the result of political decisions, resource management and greater or lesser commitment on the part of those holding positions of responsibility. Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good.
Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbour. A silent multitude of men and women, they chose not to look the other way but to share the suffering of patients, whom they saw as neighbours and members of our one human family. (#3)
Such closeness is a precious balm that provides support and consolation to the sick in their suffering.
In his message for this 29th World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis urges a path of healing grounded in a trusting and interpersonal relationship between the sick and those who care for them. See World Day of the Sick: Pope urges “trust-based relationship” in care for the sick – Vatican News
Close to our sick sisters and brothers
Pope Francis goes on to speak about the nature of our service and outreach to those who are sick, whereby we are called to set aside our own wishes and desires and our pursuit of power, saying: “Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people”. (#3)
If a therapy is to be effective, it must have a relational aspect, for this enables a holistic approach to the patient. Emphasizing this aspect can help doctors, nurses, professionals and volunteers to feel responsible for accompanying patients on a path of healing grounded in a trusting interpersonal relationship (cf. New Charter for Health Care Workers , 4). This creates a covenant between those in need of care and those who provide that care, a covenant based on mutual trust and respect, openness and availability. This will help to overcome defensive attitudes, respect the dignity of the sick, safeguard the professionalism of healthcare workers and foster a good relationship with the families of patients.
and he concludes:
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. (#5)
You can read the full letter from Pope Francis HERE
Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes
Ahead of the celebration of the World Day of the Sick on 11 February 2021, the Bishops’ Council for Healthcare offers the following Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes to pray for those who are sick, for all who work in the medical profession, and for an end to the pandemic. The Novena begins on Wednesday 3 February and concludes on Thursday 11 February – the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick. See link Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes | Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference