Listen to Archbishop Malcolm's Message
February 11 is World Day of prayer for the Sick. It was started by Pope John Paul II as a way for the Church to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses and coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
This weekend people around the world take time to pray for the sick and for those who work tirelessly to alleviate suffering. Charitable organisations mark this day by providing the sick with medicines, food, and spiritual guidance.
Throughout the Archdiocese, in our hospitals, care homes, hospices, family homes and chaplaincies, we have wonderful people dedicated to caring for our sick, and I'd like to begin this message by acknowledging with deep gratitude the incredible care they provide.
Due to the fact that the world day of prayer coincides with the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, I wanted to draw to your attention our diocesan pilgrimage each July. Ever since the 1920s when our first pilgrims left Liverpool for Lourdes, it has been an important way in which we have tried to help those who are ill to realise a goal of visiting the shrine. Over the years countless numbers of sick pilgrims have been able to offer their own prayers at the grotto, not least because of the dedicated support of medical professionals and volunteers – hospitalité and youth alike. Nationally we are one of the largest diocesan pilgrimages to Lourdes – last year we were over 1,200 pilgrims – and as you can imagine, the planning is detailed and time consuming. In fact preparations have been well under way since the autumn by our dedicated team of volunteers.
Lourdes holds a special place in my own heart and is a highlight of my year. Being able to spend time together as a diocesan family, both in prayer and socially in the streets and cafés, not least with our assisted pilgrims, deepens the bonds that we have with each other and renews our faith and following of Christ.
This weekend every parish, care home, hospice and hospital are being given posters and leaflets about our pilgrimage to remind us it is possible for people of all physical needs, ages and dependencies to be able make a pilgrimage to Lourdes. Through our wonderful healthcare team, our generous hospitalité volunteers who provide the expertise and backbone support to our journey and time in Lourdes, along with our wonderful young people who facilitate the safe passage of our assisted pilgrims to services, our pilgrimage is a wonderful and life-changing event. I would like to encourage each one of you to consider becoming a new member of our pilgrimage team. Please pick up a leaflet as you leave church today and find out how to become part of our pilgrimage to Lourdes. By doing so, you will not only have a terrific experience yourself but you will also make it possible for those who are poorly to enjoy the same encounter with God's love, at the grotto, supported with the powerful prayer of Our Lady and St Bernadette.
Therefore, as we continue to pray for those who suffer from various physical illnesses, and those suffering from mental illness and dementia, let us equally give thanks to all those who are dedicated to caring for them throughout the year. In addition, let us renew our commitment to serving them in whatever way we can and making it possible for them to experience the gift and prayer of Lourdes. Our aim is simple ... to make it possible.
With every candle lighted by you for loved ones this weekend I promise my prayers too, along with prayers of gratitude to all those who give their lives in caring for them.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
The Most Reverend Malcolm McMahon OP
Archbishop of Liverpool