Below is Archbishop Nicholas Chia’s message to parish priests on World Day of Prayer for the sick

The World Day of Prayer for the Sick will be officially celebrated by the Vatican tomorrow, Friday, Feb 11 2011, and this year’s theme is “The Cross is God’s ‘Yes’ to Mankind”.

On this occasion of World Day of Prayer for the Sick, Pope Benedict XVI, in his message, asks everyone to become more sensitive to the needs of our sick brothers and sisters, noting that those who are suffering and weak “must be at the centre of our attention so that no one feels forgotten or marginalised.”

Addressing the youth in particular, and reflecting on the “mystery of suffering”, the Pope explains that the Passion and Cross of Jesus are nothing to fear. Rather, the cross is the “highest and most intense expression of His love and the source from which flows eternal life…the cross is God’s ‘yes’ to mankind.” The Pope encourages young people to “serve Jesus in those who are poor, sick, suffering, in difficulty and in need of help”.

In reflecting on Pope Benedict XVI’s words, the concept of carrying your cross comes to mind. We use this expression often during Mass celebrations, both in homilies and songs of praise, but do we really know whether people understand what it means to carry your cross? Do they take it to heart and incorporate it into their daily lives?

World Day of Prayer for the Sick is a perfect opportunity to remind Catholics of the happiness that carrying their cross can provide in terms of bringing them closer to Christ and giving them eternal life. Jesus suffered for our sins, which showed God’s love for us. Pope Benedict XVI notes that, “Jesus used Love to combat Evil… He has shown us that the way to peace and joy is Love.” When one accepts his or her crosses in life, understanding God’s love for us, it becomes easier to develop a positive attitude, which ultimately leads to the achievement of internal peace and joy!

I would like to invite all parishes to acknowledge World Day of Prayer for the Sick by organising initiatives within your local parish that will both promote care and service towards the sick and help parishioners to understand the concept of carrying your cross. These activities can be done at any time in the year that is convenient for the parish. Following are some suggestions:

• In homilies, elaborate on what it means to carry your cross in everyday life, not only in terms of illness, but in any difficult situation.

• Organise a parish Mass for the Sick and Anointing on a convenient day this year with the same theme given in the Pope’s message, working in conjunction with the Archdiocesan Liturgy Commission.

• Ask youth groups (altar servers, etc.) to organise visitations to hospitals, care centres, etc. (e.g. Assisi Hospice, Mount Alvernia, Canossaville Children’s Home, St Joseph’s Home, St Theresa’s Home, Villa Francis, etc.) to reach out to those who are sick and suffering.

• Ask catechists to acknowledge this occasion in their Sunday School lessons by sharing stories and/or preparing activities that address the theme of the Pope’s message and what it means to carry one’s cross.

• Encourage parishioners to seek out and offer assistance to those who might feel “forgotten or marginalised”, whether through charity work or in their daily lives.

• Promote service to Catholic organisations that address the needs of the sick or suffering by providing a list of Catholic organisations with contact information to parishioners for their easy reference.

I thank you in advance for your cooperation.

Your servant in the Lord,

Archbishop Nicholas Chia

(Top Photo: People in wheelchairs join a procession to St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican for Mass marking World Day of the Sick and the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. CNS photo)

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