Order of Malta hosts World Day of the Sick Mass Feb. 11 at Cathedral.

A large turnout is expected for the first archdiocesan World Day of the Sick Mass, to be hosted by the Order of Malta Feb. 11 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

Cardinal Roger Mahony will preside with concelebrating priests to include Auxiliary Bishop Edward Clark; Passionist Father Patrick Brennan, Msgr. Clement J. Connolly and Msgr. Paul Dotson, Order of Malta chaplains; Msgr. Sal Pilato, Order of Malta provisional chaplain; Msgr. Gregory Cox, executive director of Catholic Charities of Los Angeles; Msgr. Kevin Kostelnik, Cathedral pastor; Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, archdiocesan ecumenical and interreligious affairs director; and Scalabrinian Father Raniero Allesandrini, Dominican Father Jerome Cudden, Jesuit Fathers Gregory Goethals, William Muller and Scott Santarosa, and Father Lawrence Seyer.

In years past, the Western Association of the Order of Malta has hosted the annual event in Oakland, Orange County, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose and Seattle. After supporting several projects for the poor, sick and elderly --- including Santa Teresita Assisted Living Nursing Home in Duarte, operated by the Carmelite Sisters --- the Order offered to host the Mass for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, said Joseph Sanders, the Order’s secretary and Mass co-chair.

 “We pray that through this World Day of the Sick Mass we may share some of the amazing grace and comfort of Lourdes with those who face physical, mental and spiritual challenges in our community,” Bitsy Hotaling, president of the chapter in L.A., told The Tidings.

The World Day of the Sick was instituted by John Paul II in May 1992 and celebrated for the first time in February 1993 to commemorate Our Lady of Lourdes. In 1858, the Blessed Mother appeared in a cave (the Grotto of Lourdes) 18 times to Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old illiterate peasant girl who was chronically ill, instructing her to pray the rosary, do penance, build a chapel at the grotto for people to visit in procession, and to uncover a miraculous spring that still runs today. 

Since then, millions of pilgrims have visited Lourdes, fulfilling the Virgin’s will. (St. Bernadette was canonized in 1933.)

While going to the Cathedral might be difficult for many elderly and sick, Sanders said the great benefit is the spiritual and physical strength the sacrament of anointing provides.

“It is an opportunity to invite the Lord in to help us bear our burdens and to ease the pain and suffering,” he said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in explaining the anointing of the sick (n. 1499-1523), notes that the sacrament is rooted in the Old and New Testaments. “Illness becomes a way to conversion; God’s forgiveness initiates the healing,” the Catechism says (n. 1502), citing Psalm 32 (“I confessed my sins to you and you forgave all my sins”) and the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus’ disciples “cast out many demons and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6: 13). 

And the example of Christ the Physician is cited to note the Lord’s “compassion toward the sick and his many healings of every kind of infirmity, a resplendent sign that God has visited his people… Jesus has the power not only to heal, but also to forgive sins; he has come to heal the whole man, body and soul” (CCC, n. 1503).

The anointing catechesis suggests that those suffering a serious (chronic or terminal) physical or mental illness, as well as the elderly and those anticipating serious surgery, should not postpone the sacrament. (It is advisable to consult with the person’s doctor to determine if the anointing would be a consolation to the patient.)

The Order of Malta --- more formally, the Sovereign Military Hospitaler Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta --- is a lay religious order based in Rome, founded in the mid-11th century.

As a sovereign entity under international laws, it keeps diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries and has a permanent observer in the United Nations. It provides medical, social and humanitarian aid in more than 110 countries and operates hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and ambulance services throughout the world.

The Western Association is headquartered in San Francisco and operates free medical clinics in Los Angeles and Oakland for the poor and uninsured. It also provides nursing services to certain parish communities in L.A., Orange County, Phoenix and San Francisco. 

Aside from offering hands-on and financial support to about 60 local projects serving the poor, the sick, the homeless and the elderly, every spring, its members take about 50 men, women and children facing life-threatening physical challenges on a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

The anointing of the sick will take place after the 2:30 p.m. World Day of the Sick Mass Feb. 11 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. For more information about the Western Association of the Order of Malta, visit www.orderofmaltausawestern.org.

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