The 28th World Day of the Sick was celebrated on February 11, 2020. Saint John Paul II initiated the World Day of the Sick to encourage the faithful to pray for those who suffer from illnesses and for those who care for and minister to them. February 11 is also the Optional Memorial for Our Lady of Lourdes.
In 1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared many times to St. Bernadette in the hollow of the rock at Lourdes. Since then, there have been many miraculous cures and conversions attributed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.
The Roman Catholic Church has a long history of founding and engaging in the provision of healthcare rooted in a faithful response to the Gospel call. “After this the Lord appointed seventy others … Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10: 1, 8-9.)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) reiterates this call and says, "Heal the sick!" The Church has received this charge from the Lord and strives to carry it out by taking care of the sick as well as by accompanying them with her prayer of intercession. She believes in the life-giving presence of Christ, the physician of souls and bodies.” (CCC, 1509.)
The Pastoral Letter for Catholic Health Care issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops offers eight guiding principles:
Throughout Canada’s history, many women and men, clergy, religious and lay, have dedicated themselves to living out these principles by providing medical and spiritual care for the sick. In Alberta, communities of religious women founded the provincial hospital system and delivered quality healthcare with a preferential option for the poor. The first hospital in this province was established in 1863 by the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns) in St. Albert. The founding of the hospitals spread from this beginning and fostered the hospital system we enjoy today. We are all indebted to this rich legacy of faith, fortitude, perseverance and care of the sick.
Pope Francis’ Message for the World Day of the Sick, “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28), offers comfort to the sick saying “brothers and sisters who are ill, your sickness makes you in a particular way one of those “who labour and are burdened”, and thus attract the eyes and heart of Jesus. In him, you will find light to brighten your darkest moments and hope to soothe your distress.”
Pope Francis also offers timely encouragement to healthcare providers, “may you always strive to promote the dignity and life of each person, and reject any compromise in the direction of euthanasia, assisted suicide or suppression of life, even in the case of terminal illness. I echo Pope Francis’ message and encourage healthcare providers “to be consistent with your “yes” to life and to the human person. Your professionalism, sustained by Christian charity, will be the best service you can offer for the safeguarding of the truest human right, the right to life.”
Bishop William McGrattan sums up his first decade as bishop in two words: very busy.
“One could describe it as being very busy and demanding, some would say tiring, but when I look back there has been a great gift of growing in wisdom,” said Bishop McGrattan.
Since his episcopal appointment 10 years ago this past January, Bishop McGrattan has made dozens of pastoral visits to parishes within each diocese that he has served – Toronto, Peterborough and Calgary – to see what’s taking place at the ground-level. He’s visited 23 parishes since his installment as Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary three years ago this February.
“I’m constantly trying to listen,” said Bishop McGrattan. “I think when you listen you can often discern and make some good decisions that can be far-reaching, have sustainability and make a greater impact.”
Some highlights from his first three years in Calgary include:
“I believe these initiatives can strengthen the diocese in forming missionary disciples,” said Bishop McGrattan.
One challenge has been managing the limited financial resources of the diocese in a strained economy. In good economic times, the population has grown and the diocese has responded by renovating or building new churches. But in a sluggish economy, the financial resources of the diocese have also weakened.
“We have sufficient but we don’t have enough to be building the churches that are required to accommodate new neighbourhoods,” said Bishop McGrattan.
He wants to set a pastoral plan for the Diocese in another three years from now.
“I thought I was going to do a pastoral plan in the first three years, but I think there is a wisdom in not forcing this type of initiative on the Diocese,” he said.
“I want to have three years to work up to a spiritual and pastoral revitalization. We need to till the ground before we enter into a process of formalizing the pastoral direction and means.”
In the meantime, Bishop McGrattan is using the information from the consultations with clergy in his first six months here to understand the challenges and priorities of the Diocese.
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
The beginning of a New Year is a time associated with taking stock of the past, looking forward to the future, and making resolutions. Actually this is a continual practice in our lives. Events such as the birth of a child, changing jobs, or simply moving, entail at some level making a new beginning. The embracing of change can be difficult at the time, yet in hindsight, the new beginning is often an event which inspires positive growth in our life.
This process of beginning and growing in new ways is also a part of our spiritual journey. Beginning in Baptism, “the person baptized is configured to Christ. Baptism seals the Christian with the indelible spiritual mark (character) of his belonging to Christ.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 1272.) Baptism begins the journey of holiness “to be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5: 48) and it is restored through the grace received in the Sacrament of Reconciliation which has sometimes been referred to as the sacrament that renews this baptismal state of grace or a type of “Second Baptism”.
In the spiritual life, embracing the path of change in our life and seeking sacramental forgiveness involves ongoing reflection and prayer. St. Ignatius of Loyola developed the daily Examen recognizing the importance of beginning anew each day. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks about the perseverance to seek continual growth in holiness, saying, "The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect." In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired: "Strengthened by so many and such great means of salvation, all the faithful, whatever their condition or state - though each in his own way - are called by the Lord to that perfection of sanctity by which the Father himself is perfect." (CCC, 825.)
The path of our holiness weaves through many ordinary life events. In his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate (GE), Pope Francis encourages the faithful to see life’s challenges as opportunities for new growth saying, “At times, life presents great challenges. Through them, the Lord calls us anew to a conversion that can make his grace more evident in our lives, “in order that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). At other times, we need only find a more perfect way of doing what we are already doing: “There are inspirations that tend solely to perfect in an extraordinary way the ordinary things we do in life.” (GE, 17.)
Persevering in our spiritual life has also been expressed by a few saints as Nunc Coepi or Now I Begin. The experience of beginning over and over again is a common path for each of us when we grow in faithful holiness. The emphasis on “Nunc” or “Now” affirms the importance of the present moment and the Grace of God that it holds for each one of us. St. Rose Phillippine Duchesne known for her faith-filled courage and humility, wrote, “Do not look back to the past, or forward to the future. Claim only the present for it holds God’s will.”
In Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis writes about the Spirit revealing the Will of God in the present moment - “Always ask the Spirit what Jesus expects from you at every moment of your life and in every decision you must make, so as to discern its place in the mission you have received.” (GE, 23.)
As this new year and a new decade begin, my prayer for you is to embrace the mission God entrusts to you and to live the fullness of the present moment so that you will “allow the Spirit to forge in you the personal mystery that can reflect Jesus Christ in today’s world.” (GE, 23.)
By Most Reverend William T. McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The holy days of the Christmas season are upon us.
This year, at the Vigil Mass for the Nativity of Our Lord, we hear the familiar narrative from Matthew’s Gospel of Jesus’ humble birth among us in fulfillment of the scriptural promises. Joseph, a “righteous man” is faced with a situation he does not fully understand and yet in the simple words of the Gospel, “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” And in that moment, Joseph becomes a model of trusting in God and following His Will.
These inspiring events of Mary and Joseph, annunciations and dreams, angels and shepherds, stars and adoring magi serve to captivate our imaginations and invite us to celebrate the profound simplicity of God’s presence among us as a humble and innocent child. The Son of God is born into the human world and gives flesh to God’s saving power. These scripture passages announce hopeful messages of “Peace on Earth,” “Good will to all,” and the absolute steadfastness of God’s promise to save His people. Indeed, such messages of “Good News” are welcomed among the poor, the vulnerable, and all of us who recognize the need for God’s salvific love in our lives.
This year Pope Francis, in speaking to the United Nations, offered the following reflection about Christmas:
“These are days in which we raise our eyes to heaven and commend to God those people and situations that are closest to our heart. In this gaze, we acknowledge ourselves to be sons and daughters of one Father, brothers and sisters. We give thanks for all the goodness present in this world, and for all those who freely give of themselves, those who spend their lives in service to others, those who do not give up but keep trying to build a more humane and just society. We know well that we cannot be saved alone. … May Christmas, in its authentic simplicity, remind us that the most important thing in life is love.” (Pope Francis, December 20, 2019.)
As our communities in Faith look heavenward at Christmas, let us invite the Christ child to be born into our hearts spiritually, to transform our lives, and to strengthen the witness of our faith so that we might grow in humility and confidence as missionaries of charity for our brothers and sisters. May we proclaim His Birth with great joy and announce the saving love of Jesus Christ in the daily living of our lives.
I offer you the assurance of my prayers as you gather with family and friends to celebrate these holy days of Christmas.
Yours in Christ,
+ Most Reverend William McGrattan
Bishop of the Diocese of Calgary
December 24, 2019
Written by Bishop William T. McGrattan | December 5, 2019
As the Season of Lent begins, it is a good time for us to seek an interior renewal and to face the distracting attachments and preoccupations that have become part of our often very busy lives. These forty days serve to remind us of Christ’s journey into the desert. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) tells us that “Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.
By the solemn forty days of Lent, the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. (CCC, 540)
It is this Lenten discipline of penance, renunciation, and detachment which reawakens within us the awareness of our dependence on God and His great love for each of us. While retreating to the desert might be impossible on a practical level, our Lenten observance of penance, abstinence, prayer, and almsgiving helps us to grow in Christ daily and to avoid temptation.
In particular, the psalmist’s refrain, “Be still and know that I am God” invites us to be attentive to our times of personal and communal prayer. One of the Desert Fathers, Amma Syncletica said, “There are many who live in the mountains and behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is possible to be a solitary in one’s mind while living in a crowd, and it is possible for one who is a solitary to live in the crowd of his own thoughts.” (Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Cistercian Publications: 1975, p. 19)
Listening to God in prayer is an important part of a life of faith. God desires to speak to us and we have the privilege of listening to the promptings of His Spirit through the consolations and desolations with which He graces us during our prayer. William Barclay’s reflection on prayer and silence is often quoted as follows, “… Prayer is a way of offering ourselves to God in order that He should be able to make use of us. It may be that one of our great faults in prayer is that we talk too much and listen too little. When prayer is at its highest, we wait in silence for God's voice to us; we linger in His presence for His peace and His power to flow over us and around us; we lean back in His everlasting arms and feel the serenity of perfect security in Him.”
The psalmist writes in Psalm 46, “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Walter Brueggemann, a well-known scholar of the psalms, says that some psalms were written for the good times while others were written for the times when the future seemed uncertain and perhaps filled with impending troubles. These psalms were written for people living in times of change and uncertainty who were experiencing feelings of anxiety and even dismay. (The Spirituality of the Psalms, Brueggemann, pp. 19-25.) Psalm 46 provides the reassurance that God is stable when all else seems unstable. At a deeply personal and spiritual level, this is important for each of us.
This is the deeper experience of prayer and listening which the time of silence and stillness offers to us.
“In the silence of the heart, God speaks. If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you. Then you will know that you are nothing. It is only when you realize your nothingness, your emptiness, that God can fill you with Himself. Souls of prayer are souls of great silence.” (Saint Teresa of Calcutta, In the Heart of the World: Thoughts, Stories and Prayers)
Let us embrace this season of Lent as a time to “be solitary in one’s mind.” (Benedicta Ward, Ibid.) If we allow God’s grace to renew our hearts during this Lenten season through prayer, then in the solitary stillness of such experiences we will know His great love, wisdom, and charity and be moved more generously to witness and share this with others.
Most Reverend W. T. McGrattan, D.D., Bishop of Calgary
Picture: Rest on The Flight into Egypt, c. 1510 by Gerard David
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers