.- Wednesday, February 11 marked the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was celebrated at the Vatican with a Mass for the sick and an address from Pope Benedict. When faced with suffering and death, the Holy Father taught, we should turn to Christ, who in the Eucharist enables us to "love life always."
The celebrations for the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and the seventeenth World Day of the Sick began at 4:30 on Wednesday with a Mass presided over by Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Ministry.
The Mass was attended by the sick and pilgrims from UNITALSI (Italian National Union for Transport of the Sick to Lourdes and International Shrines) and Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi.
At the end of Mass, Benedict XVI arrived in the basilica where he blessed the sick and made some brief remarks.
"This Day invites us to make sick people more intensely aware of the spiritual closeness of the Church," said the Pope, because the Church "is the family of God in the world, within which no-one must suffer for lack of what they need. At the same time, today we have the opportunity to reflect on the experience of sickness and pain, and more generally on the meaning of life which must be lived to the full, even in suffering," he said.
Recalling then how this year's World Day is dedicated to sick children, the Holy Father asked: "If we remain speechless before the suffering of adults, what can we say when sickness strikes a young and innocent child? How can we, even in such difficult situations, see the merciful love of God, Who never abandons His children at their time of trial?"
"Such questions," the Holy Father said, "are frequent and sometimes disquieting, and the truth is that on a merely human level they do not find adequate answers, because the significance of suffering, sickness and death remains unfathomable to our minds. However, the light of faith comes to our aid."
Pope Benedict pointed the faithful to turn to the Word of God, which "reveals to us that these evils are also mysteriously 'embraced' by the design of salvation. Faith helps us to uphold the belief that human life is beautiful and worthy to be lived to the full, even when undermined by sickness."
At the same time, the Pope noted that "God created man for happiness and for life, while sickness and death came into the world as a consequence of sin."
"But the Lord has not left us to ourselves. He, the Father of life, is doctor par excellence to man and never ceases His loving attentions to humanity," he reminded the faithful.
"We are achieving an ever greater awareness of the fact that the life of man is not a disposable product, but a precious casket to keep and safeguard with all possible care, from beginning to final and natural conclusion. Life is a mystery which, of itself, calls for responsibility, love, patience and charity on the part of each and every individual," Benedict taught.
"For Christians," he concluded, "the reply to the enigma of suffering and death is in Christ. ... It is in the 'school' of the Eucharistic Christ that we are able to love life always and to accept our apparent impotence in the face of sickness and death."