Today is the Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time; the readings and the prayers of the Mass reflect that. Each and every Mass is centered on Christ. The second Sunday of February is designated as "World Marriage Day." So, today we also recognize marriage as a vocation which God has given to most men and women. We should spend some time reflecting on the call of God for a man and a woman to become as one. This means selfless love and openness to life, to children. This is a perfect day to pray for all those who are married—that every husband and wife live the vows each made on the wedding day and that they receive the support that they need.
February 11 was designated as "World Day of the Sick" by Pope John Paul II. We are reminded to see Christ in those who are suffering from illness because He suffered to save humankind. We also should pray for all the sick, not just those we know. They are our brothers and sisters who need our prayers. Those who suffer help us too because, when they offer their sufferings to God, they help the Church, and we are members of the Church.
Lastly, February 11 marks the day on which Our Lady appeared to fourteen year old Bernadette Soubirous in Lourdes, France in 1858. There were fourteen apparitions in all, the last of which occurred on July 16 of that year. Our Lady revealed herself as the Immaculate Conception, a term which the young girl never heard before and did not understand. She asked that all people be reminded of the need for conversion and penance. She also said that each person can participate in Christ's Redemption of the world through suffering and mortification. In pain, sickness, or in any adversity, we have the opportunity to grow deeply in our relationship with God. We can become less dependent on material things and more trusting in God.
Our Lady of Lourdes told St. Bernadette to go and wash in the spring. After digging in the place to which Mary pointed, water started to bubble forth. This is now the miraculous waters of the spring of Lourdes. Many sick people have been cured by bathing in this water, and many have not. We do not know why this is, but we trust that God does what is ultimately best for us and for others. There have been numerous spiritual cures in Lourdes. People have come from there with renewed faith and love for Jesus.
Our Lady always leads us to her Son. So, at Lourdes she indicated that a chapel be built. Thus, there would be a place where confessions would be heard and Masses would be offered. We thank God for granting us the apparitions of Mary in Lourdes and in all the places and times of our world. We thank Him for this most beautiful help so that we might be on a continuing road of conversion, penance, and therefore growth in the love of God.
Besides praying to God directly, let us ask Our Lady to pray for all husbands and wives and to pray for all those who are sick.