Scores of individuals, some in wheelchairs, using walkers or assisted by the Order of Malta’s Knights and Dames, made their way forward to receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick at the annual World Day of the Sick Healing Mass Feb. 9 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.
A priest laid his hand atop the individual’s head, prayed for them, then anointed their forehead and the palms of their hands with holy oil.
“It was fantastic. I do feel blessed,” said Herman Schimanke, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Angels Church in Paradise Valley who had embedded glass removed from one of his feet following an at-home accident that also required a skin graft.
The Mass, which has been organized by the Order of Malta for a decade, coincided with the Catholic Church’s annual day to recognize and pray for the ill and their caregivers.
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“We were able to provide preferential treatment to the sick. They were able to receive Holy Eucharist and the sacrament of the sick. That makes it a glorious day not just for them but all of us,” said Tim Jeffries, the order’s Phoenix president.
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Marisela Penaloza, a parishioner of St. Clare of Assisi in Surprise, brought her 10-year-old daughter, Mhia. A cancer patient, Mhia was scheduled Feb. 13 to have a large tumor removed from one of her legs and have her knee replaced. She also has been receiving chemotherapy to address spread of the cancer to her lungs.
“Thankfully, the chemo has reduced those. (But) It’s been a very rough time,” said Marisela, tearing up. “She needs all the strength and faith she can have.”
Not all prayers result in immediate or eventual physical healing, noted celebrant Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares. But suffering can draw one closer to God and be a witness to those around them.
“Sometimes, God does not heal us physically but gives us the grace to bear the suffering. Suffering has meaning. When we unite ourselves to Christ and His suffering, we become victims with Jesus for the salvation of the world. Our suffering brings much grace to ourselves, families, friends and the world.”
As many members of one body, he said, someone is always suffering to one degree or another. Referencing the Second Reading, the bishop reminded the congregation that Paul told his readers the physical body naturally loses strength over time (2 Cor 4:16-18).
“Sometimes, God does not heal us physically but gives us the grace to bear the suffering. … Our suffering brings much grace to ourselves, families, friends and the world.”Auxiliary Bishop Eduardo A. Nevares, Diocese of Phoenix
“But our spirit is effervescent. It is renewed each and every day as we put our gaze not on what is transitory — because what is transitory is passing. But we place our hope and trust in that which is eternal,” he continued.
“I could see people around me affected. One lady who went up to be anointed, came back and she was crying,” said Marie LeMoine, a caregiver who is also dealing with her own effects of a compromised immune system.
“There are always graces from a Mass. There are always graces from a blessing with the oil. I come for that and anything the Lord will provide,” said LeMoine, who is a parishioner at St. Timothy in Mesa.
The Mass, which was broadcast by AZTV and EWTN and livestreamed on the diocesan Facebook page and YouTube channel, is part of an annual observance instituted 27 years ago by Pope St. John Paul II. It coincides with the Church’s annual Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes every Feb. 11.
Whether around the world or the block, having the community pray for the sick is a blessing, said diocesan Chancellor Dr. Maria Chavira, who is also a dame in the Order of Malta. “When someone is dealing with an illness, they may feel really alone. This provides an opportunity to get together as a community and remind them there are people praying for them and they are not alone.”
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