Praying for The Sick

Tomorrow is the annual World Day of the Sick. This day acknowledges the place of a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s personal sufferings, when one is ill.

This day of observance was instituted in May 1992 by John Paul II and is celebrated each year on February 11, the Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The Pope had previously written a great deal on the topic of suffering and believed that it was a salvific process through Christ, but there seems to be a personal connection with the initiation of a special day of prayer for the sick. He himself had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a year earlier.

It’s interesting that Pope Benedict XVI announced his surprise resignation on World Day of the Sick in 2013. He gave his declining health as the reason for retiring.

Like most people who get sick, I’ve had friends and strangers offer to keep my intentions in prayer. I can’t say that I expect the prayers of others to take away the health difficulty, but the knowledge that others are united with me certainly gives me a sense of peace and acceptance of what is happening to my body.

I have heard an interesting notion from my friend Donna. She once offered to pray for me, not in the sense of intercessory prayer, of remembering my intentions, but to actually do my praying.

People often think that when they are lying sick in bed that they will be able to pray more … what else is there to do when lying around! But that is often not the case. Many sick people find that they are unable to have the energy or focus needed to pray at the time of illness. I like Donna’s idea.

Pope Francis has issued a pastoral letter for the 28th World Day of the Sick. His starting point is the verse from Matthew’s Gospel: Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.

The Pope points out how this assurance can offer new strength and it reminds us of the fact that Christ is with those who are hurt and afflicted.

Francis says, Jesus does not make demands of those who endure situations of frailty, suffering and weakness, but offers his mercy and his comforting presence. He looks upon a wounded humanity with eyes that gaze into the heart of each person. That gaze is not one of indifference; rather, it embraces people in their entirety, each person in his or her health condition, discarding no one, but rather inviting everyone to share in his life and to experience his tender love.

 Our illness makes us one of those who labour and are burdened. Jesus offers us the strength to face all the worries and questions that assail us.

The Pope offers special words for healthcare workers. Thanks to their expertise, they can make patients feel the presence of Christ who consoles and cares for the sick, and heals every hurt. They are there to promote the dignity and life of each person.

He also acknowledges those many individuals throughout the world who lack access to medical care because they live in poverty. Francis points out the many volunteers who reflect the image of Christ, the Good Samaritan, by their acts of tender love and closeness.

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peter Bisson SJ
    Posted at 01:16h, 10 February Reply

    Thank you Philip!

  • Sharon walters
    Posted at 10:09h, 10 February Reply

    Thank you Father Shano!

  • John D. O'Leary
    Posted at 20:47h, 10 February Reply

    I am in hospital now, the third time in the past year. As A Catholic I want and I wish I could see, ” his comforting presence ” in the lives of the dozens and hundreds of suffering people around me. But I don’t. Many people measure their suffering in hours and minutes, day by day and with no ending. No relief. I see many prayers and reflections about people like this , by healthy or recovering people who find the suffering of others as an occasion for their meditations. But this attitude, however well intentioned, is cruel and mean and brings no real relief to the suffering ones.

  • Barbara Lewis
    Posted at 11:25h, 11 February Reply

    I am sorry that John has this additional suffering on top of his physical problems.
    My sister died yesterday after 10 days in an ICU.
    Number 4 in a family of 8 children, mother of 2 with her third grandchild due in 3 weeks, Trisha had plenty of suffering in her life.
    Doesn’t everyone!
    I like reading the Bible. It gives me the long view.
    It shows me God loving his suffering children.
    It shows me Jesus on his cross for hours.
    He rises from the dead.

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