After a year of being in cancer remission, David Smith, 43, attended the recent World Day of the Sick Mass with his 13-year-old son Michael. For Smith, the Mass was a time to ask for blessings for the future, and to meet again with the people who had helped him during his cancer treatment.

“Since I have to make it through three years before I can say that I am cancer free, the more blessings I can get the better,” Smith told The Tidings after the event at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. He added, “With my treatments there is always the possibility that the cancer will come back.”

On Feb. 13, more than 1,000 people gathered at the cathedral to pray for the healing of those suffering from physical, mental or spiritual illness, as well as for their caregivers. More than 10 priests concelebrated at the Mass, where Archbishop José H. Gomez administered the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.

The Western Association of the Order of Malta, a Catholic lay religious order that ministers to the sick and poor, co-hosted the Mass with the cathedral in observance of the 24th annual World Day of the Sick and the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

When Smith was diagnosed with stage two Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in August 2014 he experienced “a whole range of emotions in a very short period of time.” But, with the help of prayer, his anger and disbelief soon changed into acceptance, he explained.

“Once you accept it — know it’s there — and have a course of action to deal with it, then it makes life so much easier,” he said. “You don’t beat yourself up.”

The first homily he heard after the diagnosis was about Christ’s call to carry your cross and follow Him. “Having just been given a large cross of my own to bear, the homily hit home, and I openly wept in church,” Smith said in a letter to the Order of Malta.

He began to pray more and decided that God gave him cancer for a reason. As an accountant, Smith had often focused exclusively on work, but after the diagnosis he began to take life at a slower pace, spending more time with his kids and volunteering for the Order of Malta.

“You accept it and with God’s help you get through it,” he said. “You have to take up your cross and look at every day as a blessing. … It’s all about attitude.”

Smith first heard about the Order of Malta through a client. Through the Catholic charity he applied and was accepted for a nine-day pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, in May 2015. He had already completed his treatment at the time of the trip, during which he was able to bathe in the waters at Lourdes and pray for continued spiritual growth and healing with 50 other pilgrims from the West Coast. “It was a great experience,” he said.

At the Feb. 13 Mass, each attendee received a one-ounce bottle of blessed water from the spring at the famous grotto in Lourdes, where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858.

He added about the Order of Malta, “They’re really a great bunch of folks to work with. They genuinely care about you.”

Today, Smith and his two children volunteer at St. Francis Center, an L.A. soup kitchen sponsored by the order for the homeless and disadvantaged.

According to Smith, the help he received from the Order of Malta has allowed him to grow spiritually and foster a deeper love of his faith.

“To see that people genuinely care and live out their faith, it really renewed my enthusiasm for the Catholic Church,” he said.