Today, 11 February is the annual World Day of the Sick. This day of prayer was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1992 to commemorate the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and the healing that occurs at Lourdes. Pope Francis, in his message for the World Day of the Sick, reminds us that “since the beginning of creation, God has given us the capacity to enter into relationships for we are not meant to be alone. God, who is love, created us for communion and endowed us with an innate capacity to enter relationship with others.” Our Holy Father continues: “We are created to be together, not alone. Precisely because this project of communion is so deeply rooted in the human heart, we see the experience of abandonment and solitude as something frightening, painful, and even inhuman. Loneliness is a deep wound in humanity, exacerbated by disease, pandemics, war, and neglect of the most vulnerable.” The following is a prayer for the World Day of the Sick.
All-powerful and ever-living God, the lasting health of all who believe in you, hear us as we ask your loving help for the sick; restore their health, that they may again offer joyful thanks in your church. Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Lent begins this Wednesday. Ashes will be blessed and distributed at the three Masses celebrated on Ash Wednesday – 8:30 a.m., and 7:00 p.m. at Our Lady of Peace; and 10:00 a.m. at Notre Dame de Lourdes. Our school students will join us for the 10:00 a.m. Mass.
Ash Wednesday, as well as Good Friday, are days of fast and abstinence. Fasting is to limit yourself to one complete meal accompanied by two smaller meals that do not constitute a complete meal. A smaller meal means that you would do without something that you would normally include as a part of a complete meal, or you would reduce the portion size. Perhaps you would eat half of a sandwich instead of a whole, or a bowl of soup without a sandwich, or a sandwich without chips or fries. Fasting is expected for anyone who has reached the age of eighteen and has not yet reached the age of sixty. So that would be anyone born from 1965 through 2005.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, and all Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence. Abstinence is to refrain from eating meat. Meat includes red meats such as hamburgers, poultry products such as turkey, or chicken, pork products such as ham or bacon. You are required to abstain from meat once you have reached the age of fourteen – born at least by 2009. Abstinence, unlike fasting, remains in effect for the remainder of your life.
Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day coincide this year. It is challenging to celebrate on a day that carries with it the weight of a season of penitence. Obviously, there is no “turf” with the “surf” this year, and Valentine’s celebrations should be mindful of the Lenten season. The readings for Ash Wednesday should serve as a standard not only for Valentine’s Day but for each day – “When you fast, do not look gloomy.” (Matthew 6:16), “A clean heart create for me, God” (Psalm 51:12). It is a day to celebrate love and our relationships, most especially our relationship with God our Creator who loves us unconditionally. In advance of Valentine’s Day, we offer the following prayer.
Almighty and eternal God, you have so exalted the unbreakable bond of marriage that it has become the sacramental sign of your Son’s union with the Church as his spouse. Look with favor on the couples, whom you have united in marriage, as they ask for your help and the protection of the Virgin Mary. They pray that in good times and in bad they will grow in love for each other; that they will resolve to be of one heart in the bond of peace. Lord, in their struggles let them rejoice that you are near to help them; in their needs let them know that you are there to rescue them; in their joys let them see that you are the source and completion of every happiness. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.