February 1, 2008

Novena to Our Lady of Lourdes to begin on Feb. 3

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein

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By Sean Gallagher

Catholics across the archdiocese are invited to take part in a nine day period of prayer traditionally called a novena for Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein and all of the sick. It will start on Feb. 3 and conclude on Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, one of the Church’s primary patron saints of the sick.

Since 1993, Feb. 11 has also been observed by the Church as the World Day of the Sick.

This special archdiocesan novena has, in part, been initiated because of the recent discovery that Archbishop Buechlein is suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer affecting the lymphatic system.

However, Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, said that the archbishop’s illness can be a reminder of the need to pray for all the sick.

“I can’t think of a person who hasn’t been affected by cancer among their family or friends,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “There are just so many people we hear about who have cancer or some other very serious illness. And we really do need to pray for them.”

Msgr. Schaedel said the novena prayer could be prayed by individuals, groups of Catholics, or before or after parish Masses or in schools. (Download a Word version of the prayer)

The archdiocesan novena will conclude on Feb. 11 with a special Mass in observance of the World Day of the Sick starting at noon at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, 1400 N. Meridian St., in Indianapolis.

Msgr. Schaedel is scheduled to be the primary celebrant. All priests are invited to concelebrate at the Mass and are asked to bring their jubilee vestments for the liturgy.

Love of Lourdes

Father Jonathan Meyer helped bring the novena to fruition.

In his ministry as associate pastor of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis, he had been planning a novena to Our Lady of Lourdes since this year is the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary to St. Bernadette Soubirous near the southwestern French town (see related story).

Father Meyer made a pilgrimage to Lourdes when he was a seminarian studying in Rome and, with his fellow seminarians at the Pontifical North American College, prayed novenas to Our Lady of Lourdes.

He described Lourdes and devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes as a “beautiful treasure” that is an “undiscovered mystery” for many Catholics.

“If you look at the story of Lourdes, it’s the power of God working through simple, ordinary people,” Father Meyer said. “And that’s what I see this novena as an opportunity to be, for people to realize that … God is able to use them through their prayer to make a difference in our world.”

Many of the prayers offered at Lourdes and in devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes are to Mary, whom Father Meyer said is a natural person for us to turn to when praying for the sick.

He likened praying to Mary for those suffering various illnesses to people young and old who often think of the care given to them by their own mothers when they were sick.

“It’s Mary who is our mother,” Father Meyer said. “It’s Mary who we do go to. She is the refuge of the sick. She is the mother of the poor and the afflicted. So us going to her is so, so important to receive the graces of Christ.

“Lourdes does that so beautifully. It’s not about her. If you go to Lourdes, it’s all about our Lord through our Lady.”

Msgr. Schaedel serves as a chaplain for the Knights and Dames of Malta in the archdiocese. They are members of a Catholic organization, dating back to the Middle Ages, that continue to help the sick today, including leading them on pilgrimages to Lourdes.

Msgr. Schaedel has participated in three pilgrimages to Lourdes and came away struck not so much by the physical healings that take place there, but the “healing of spirit or attitude or a healing of faith” that happens more often.

“In some ways, that’s one of the greatest gifts God can give us in the midst of sickness,” Father Meyer said. “It’s the ability to surrender ourselves to God’s will, to accept the suffering, to accept the ability to endure the trials or the medication or the treatment.

“One of the greatest gifts that we can pray for our archbishop is that he’s able to endure God’s will with peace and with inner joy and with faith.”

Purposes of prayer

Msgr. Schaedel noted that Catholics across central and southern Indiana are invited to participate in this novena for various reasons.

One reason is for the archbishop as he begins his cancer treatment.

“We pray for his healing, for his peace of mind, peace of body and peace of spirit,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “We pray for the caregivers, the physicians who will be caring for him.”

Msgr. Schaedel also noted that Catholics who participate in the novena should do so “out of a spirit of thanks to God for all of the wonderful progress that has been made in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.”

Father Meyer said that prayers for the sick can extend this gratitude to take in being thankful for the continued presence of God in the midst of sickness.

“God is there during times of sorrow and woe, but, ultimately, God is always there,” Father Meyer said. “God willing, out of any moment of prayer, there’s an opportunity for a deeper relationship, for a deeper communion. Then God is no longer just someone I go to in times of need, but God is someone that I’m always going to out of faithfulness.”

Ultimately, however, Msgr. Schaedel said he hopes the novena will be a time when archdiocesan Catholics will become reacquainted with the importance of the sick and of prayer.

“I hope that it will make them aware of the need to be mindful, to be prayerful, to be helpful to the sick,” he said. “I would hope that it would remind people of the power of prayer.

“More things are wrought through prayer than we can imagine.” †

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