The Great Healing

Two weeks ago I watched as row after row of the sick and disabled, old and young, sat in the front rows of a great church. They were waiting to be blessed and anointed, but it was also as if they were waiting for some greater hope to appear, some relief from distress, pain and the agonies of old age.

A Blessing for All

Our world also needs to be blessed and healed — of war, poverty, violence, lawlessness, lewdness and terrorism. Nations can most assuredly become sick and in need of healing. Perhaps, then, in addition to our annual World Day of the Sick, we should also have a “Day of a Sick World,” in which all people can come forward and be blessed by the One who long ago proclaimed the coming of a Kingdom of perfect health and fullness of life.

My thoughts return to Courtney Lenaburg, who can now stand, feed herself and find her voice after her visit to Lourdes. Can our world do the same? Can it stand, feed itself and find its voice, by the grace of God?

© Copyright 2003 Catholic Exchange

Pavel Chichikov is poetry editor of Catholic Exchange. You can email him at

Miracles of Lourdes

The image of Christ in glory hung above them, painted on a great dome. It was He for whom they waited. These were the final hours of the World Day of the Sick in Washington, DC. It’s an event held every year on February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

The Church recognizes that sixty-five miraculous cures have taken place at Lourdes, France, since 1858, and about 5,000 unexplained cures. Courtney Lenaburg has been there, and now she was here at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Her mother, Mary, was seated behind her. Every so often, when Courtney’s muscles went into spasm, or when she groaned and seemed restless, Mary would stand, lean forward, and stroke her daughter’s face. Often, she kissed her very gently on the forehead.

Since going to Lourdes, Courtney has shown great progress, her mother told me. Now she can feed herself and stand, and she is beginning to use her voice. Mary Lenaburg calls it “miraculous.” On this day, Courtney would be blessed by one of the bishops at the Mass and then receive an anointing with holy oil on the palms of her hands and on her forehead.

Deacon Don McAskill from Fredericksburg, Virginia, was there too, some rows away to the left in the great basilica. Confined to a wheelchair, he’s not as active as he used to be and does most of his work from home. Just a few days before the Mass, he learned that an orphan from northern Iraq who suffers from leukemia had finally been cleared for departure to the United States. This was a result of his work and that of his associates.

Janet Xoyes, Sally Mooney, and John Daigle were there as well, behind Courtney on her right. They represented Catholic Deaf Ministries in Landover Hills, Maryland. When the great Amen came at last, they were on their feet, smiling broadly and signing. Janet jumped up and down with joy, glory and happiness in her eyes.

In Need of Healing

Row after row of the disabled, the deaf and the blind — just like those whom Jesus of Nazareth healed as signs that the Kingdom of God had arrived — were seated in rows before His altar waiting to be blessed and anointed. It struck me that Jesus had also been waiting for them to come and receive His perpetual, never-failing kindness. These were the newest guests of His healing hospitality.

Those who could walk came forward to receive the laying on of hands. I noticed a young mother carrying her small son, who rested his head on her shoulder. Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Helena, Montana, blessed the child, while the mother turned her head away and closed her eyes. Was this the way the mother of Our Lord closed her eyes in hope and prayer when her Son was blessed in the Temple? All mothers hope for such a blessing.

The Papal Delegate to the World Day of the Sick, the Most Reverend Javier Lozano Barragán, spoke during his homily of how Christ heals and reverses the disintegration of death. Looking around at the faces of those who were to be blessed, I thought about the rest of us in the basilica, in apparent good physical health for now, but still in need of a blessing. In a way, we are all members of the order of the sick, for we are consumed by fevers and anxieties. We suffer more or less from the infections of ambition, pride, selfishness, indifference. We groan under the weight of unappeased status, hunger for money, yearnings and temptations, which if satisfied, would hurt those who love us.

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