On March 23, nearly 400 people gathered at St. Ambrose Church in Annandale for the Annual Mass and Anointing of the Sick, sponsored by the Northern Virginia Region. Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, the principal celebrant, concentrated his homily on the everyday miracles in our lives that often pass without notice. Some 40 dames, knights, and candidates from across the region came in their Lourdes uniforms to serve “our lords, the poor and the sick.”
The bishop was joined in concelebrating by the Rev. Andrew Fisher, a magisterial chaplain of the Order and pastor of St. Ambrose; the Rev. Christopher Hayes, a parochial vicar; and the Rev. Eric Culler of the Diocese of Toledo. They administered sacramental anointing to everyone wearing the blue-and-silver Miraculous Medals distributed by Order members before Mass. Immediately afterward, the region hosted luncheon in the parish center, joined by Bishop Paul S. Loverde, a conventual chaplain ad honorem and bishop emeritus of Arlington.
In his homily, Bishop Burbidge emphasized the Most Blessed Sacrament among the miracles of our daily lives. “[Our Lord] comes to us today as he speaks to us in his Word, blesses us with his healing love in the Sacrament of Anointing and gives us himself in the Holy Eucharist,” he said. “We will leave here today enlightened, consoled, and nourished as new persons in Christ Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who knows, loves, and protects his flock. That is the miracle!” Bishop Burbidge also asked the malades to offer their pains for the sake of the Church. “I thank the sick in our midst today, for your faithful witness as you unite yourselves to the Lord and his cross,” he said. “You are so very close to him at this very moment in your life. That is why you are encouraged to offer your sufferings for the needs of the Church, especially at this time in which she is in need of healing and transformation.”
Pete and Marilen Recinto have been attending the Northern Virginia Regional Mass since traveling to Lourdes in 2014 as members of the Gold Team. As Pete explained, “We were new to the [St. Ambrose] parish; we didn’t know anybody. Then Laura Mead, the director of religious education, just approached my wife [asking] ‘Would you like to join us at Lourdes?’ And my wife just said, ‘Why not?’”
Pete continued, “It’s amazing! Nobody has offered to take us to Lourdes, and [my wife has] been in a wheelchair for 20 years.” The Recintos found the pilgrimage brought many spiritual gifts in a peaceful place. “You know what I noticed? The place is all full of sick people, so I was expecting people to be complaining. But they were so happy and smiley,” Pete said. The Mass of the Anointing of the Sick provided another powerful experience. “I like to see the faith of the people,” he added. “You can feel their longings and hope for healing.”
Northern Virginia Hospitaller Laura Mead, DM, commented that this is one of several important works within the region but the only one designed to bring the Lourdes experience to people who could not travel there. She appreciated the witness of malades and companions, who also carry a heavy cross. “This Mass just shows me that in this time of crisis in the Church, Jesus and his Church are so strong and alive.” She also noted, “It's important in these times to run to the sacraments and to continue to trust that Our Lord will always care for us – our physical needs, our spiritual needs and any other needs that we have.”