February 15, 2008

Hundreds turn out for special Mass marking World Day of the Sick

George Diehl, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, prays during the Feb. 11 Mass. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

George Diehl, a member of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Parish in Indianapolis, prays during the Feb. 11 Mass. (Photo by Sean Gallagher)

By Mike Krokos

Joe Naughton made it a daily habit to pray the archdiocesan Novena Prayer for the World Day of the Sick from Feb. 3 to Feb. 11.

So did teacher Darla Griffiths and the students at Lumen Christi School in Indianapolis.

They were among the nearly 400 people who attended the special noon Mass on Feb. 11 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis in observance of the World Day of the Sick. The Mass also concluded the archdiocesan novena to Our Lady of Lourdes that began on Feb. 3.

The novena and Feb. 11 Mass were initiated, in part, because of the recent discovery that Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein is suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer affecting the lymphatic system.

“I have prayed the novena with my wife, June,” said Naughton, a member of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis.

Naughton said it was important for him to attend the Mass because it marked the World Day of the Sick and also the 150th anniversary of the miraculous apparitions and healings at the Shrine in Lourdes, France.

“I am here to pray for the archbishop, and all who are sick, and their caregivers,” he said.

Griffiths said the entire Lumen Christi student body, except the kindergarten class, attended the special Mass at the cathedral.

“We’ve been praying the novena every day at Mass during school,” said Griffiths, who teaches first- and second-grade at Lumen Christi. “It’s important to pray for our bishop and the other sick.”

For Griffiths, who is a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, the Mass also took on a special significance.

“I lost my mom [to cancer] two weeks ago,” she said.

In his homily, Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general, shared how the 1941 book, The Song of Bernadette, written by Austrian Jewish writer Franz Werfel—and a 1943 Academy Award-winning movie by the same name—helped make Lourdes, France, the Marian shrine it is today.

Werfel and his wife, Alma, escaped from the Nazis in Germany, and ended up in Lourdes.

“While they were there in hiding—for seven weeks—the Jewish couple was touched by the care, the concern, the love of the people at Lourdes,” Msgr. Schaedel said.

While there, Franz Werfel read about the Marian apparitions and St. Bernadette, and “promised that if he escaped safely to the United States, he would—in his words—‘sing a song’ of the saint.”

Werfel did escape, and he kept his promise by writing the book, Msgr. Schaedel said.

God’s compassion is the hallmark of Lourdes, Msgr. Schaedel noted, and God’s healing mercy is Our Lady’s message.

“The loving concern of God is what Our Lady brings. Lourdes reminds us that God is always with his people, especially those in need of healing—physical or spiritual,” he said.

Six million people visit Lourdes each year, he noted, and there are, at last count, more than 7,000 unexplained healings that have occurred there.

Mary is our advocate, a mother that our hurting human race can turn to in its suffering, Msgr. Schaedel said.

“Mary is God’s instrument, God’s reminder of his healing power,” he said. “Mary’s purpose at Lourdes or anywhere else is to take us to Jesus. Mary, like the Church, is the way to Christ.”

In 1992, Pope John Paul II declared that Feb. 11, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, would also become known as the World Day of the Sick, Msgr. Schaedel noted.

In proclaiming the World Day of the Sick, Pope John Paul II said that illness is not necessarily just a negative event, Msgr. Schaedel added.

“He called sickness ‘an opportunity to release love, in order to give birth to works of love toward [our] neighbor,’ ” Msgr. Schaedel said.

Thanks to a book and a movie, millions have now heard the story of Lourdes, Msgr. Schaedel noted.

“If you ever get the chance, go to Lourdes. But even those who never go can find what goes on there in serving others: compassion, forgiveness, healing, mercy, understanding,” he said.

As Christians, we are called to take note of Mary’s example there and follow it, he added.

“Mary is the model disciple. She will lead us to her son. Wherever she goes, that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Follow her.”

Dec. 8, 2007, to Dec. 8, 2008, has been designated by Pope Benedict XVI as Lourdes’ jubilee year, Msgr. Schaedel noted.

With that in mind, Msgr. Schaedel encouraged all to continue praying the archdiocesan novena in the months ahead.

Though Archbishop Buechlein did not attend the Mass, Msgr. Schaedel updated those in attendance on his condition.

The archbishop has undergone one chemotherapy treatment and, thus far, has not suffered any side effects. Another treatment is scheduled this week, Msgr. Schaedel noted.

“He [Archbishop Buechlein] knows we are here. He knows we are praying for him, and he is very appreciative,” Msgr. Schaedel said. †

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