They come for a double dose of the sacraments that only Jesus can offer.
Massgoers at one special liturgy leave filled with Jesus sacramentally via Holy Communion and an Anointing of the Sick. Though they may still suffer in body or mind with an ailment, they leave with lighter loads too. Firstly, because the anointing returns them to their baptismal state and secondly, due to the spiritual support of those who voluntarily accompany the suffering.
That companionship is a key part of the World Day of the Sick Mass, and it extends to caregivers too, whether family or professional. Knights and Dames in the Order of Malta are those faithful companions. More than just coordinators of the annual Mass as part of their mission to serve the poor and sick, the Knights and Dames and their volunteers literally walk alongside the sick from their cars into the church. One man labeled such people as Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus in His weakness.
The Knights and Dames also sit with the suffering, as appropriate, and stand beside both as each of the sick is anointed and caregivers’ hands are blessed. In that way, they illustrate Mark’s Gospel passage recounting the healing of the paralytic man lowered through a roof opening.
Such biblical and spiritual settings await all faithful — especially the medically ill, disabled and those with mental health issues and their caregivers — who attend the annual Word Day of the Sick Mass. A standing room-only crowd accepts the invitation each year. The next chance to say “yes” is Feb. 8 at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral.
This will be the third straight year that the Mass will be broadcast globally via EWTN. Some 200,000 households tuned in via EWTN last year.
“I tell people all the time, if in body, mind or soul, you are feeling great pain and suffering, I encourage them to seek the sacrament of the sick so our everlasting and merciful God can miraculously clean them of all the stain of sin and be clean as a true and pure child of Christ,” said Tim Jeffries, president of Phoenix’s Order of Malta chapter.
He himself knows pain and suffering: six spinal surgeries, 11 other operations and a long period of hatred toward his brother’s murderers. He prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries for years, particularly reflecting on the Agony in the Garden. It was three weeks after he forgave those murderers that someone providentially invited him to discern joining the invitation-only order. After some research and a self-awarded “Ph.D. in suffering” from “Bootstraps University,” Jeffries knew he was called to the Order of Malta.
He works the right said of the cathedral during each World Day of the Sick Mass and watches the faithful to make mental note of them and silently offer prayer. Jeffries described one Hispanic woman in that area last year who sat alone and was weeping. He sat down to embrace her.
World Day of the Sick Healing Mass
1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 8
Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral, 6351 N. 27th Ave., Phoenix
Sponsored by Order of Malta. A Catholic fair celebrating Our Lady of Lourdes will follow.
➤ Booth reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org
➤ Prayer requests: email@example.com
View via Livestream
“As I held her, her weeping went next level and I knew why: because it was Jesus holding her,” Jeffries said. As she settled down, Jeffries introduced himself in broken Spanish and offered her a bracelet from Lourdes that he had on his own wrist. She then introduced herself as “Lourdes.”
All Massgoers will receive water from Lourdes, France. Pilgrims still flock to the grotto regularly and report curing of medical conditions through its waters and prayer. Jeffries has been there at least 10 times and wants to go 20 more. It’s a place where grace is palpable, although the annual liturgy ranks highly, too, if the heart allows, he said.
Nathan Tijerina will be attending the World Day of the Sick Mass for only the second time and got exponentially more involved this year. He escorted Massgoers from their cars last year, designed posters for the Mass this year and is trying to visit 60-something parishes to deliver them.
Tijerina is a “Knight in Waiting” — he will be vested in June — and knows exactly what his prayer is for Massgoers. He will pray that the sick receive the healing that they need. “God only knows what they really need to get their healing,” Tijerina said.
For caregivers, his prayer is that they they don’t feel empty or invisible, “that they’re fulfilled by the sacrifice that they’re offering.” Even though he isn’t a full-fledged member yet, Tijerina found an authenticity and vulnerability within the order that he doesn’t give over people and a sense of true connection. He invites Massgoers — the sick and caregivers — to come for a similar relationship.