Pope Francis has referred to the Church as a “field hospital” many times. His message for the recent “World Day of the Sick” noted how this designation becomes “a very concrete reality” for many places in the world where the only health care comes from missionary and diocesan hospitals. He reminded us that the Church practices a maternal care for all the sick, and holds a special place for health care workers that assist them. The Blessed Virgin Mary, too, he emphasized, always accompanies the sick and suffering.
The “World Day of the Sick” was instituted by St. John Paul II in 1992, one year after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. February 11 was the date he set for its observance, the same day that the Church celebrates Our Lady of Lourdes. Pope Benedict XVI also chose February 11 in 2013 to announce that he was resigning the papacy, citing failing health as a significant factor in that decision.
Our Lady of Lourdes has been a source of help and healing for thousands of souls, whether they be ailing popes or simple pilgrims. In July 2008, Sister Bernadette Moriau visited Our Lady’s shrine at Lourdes, France, seeking assistance for an illness that required her to use a brace and often confined her to a wheelchair. After nearly 40 years of pain, she experienced a sudden and immediate recovery. On February 11, 2018, French Bishop Jacques Benoit-Gonin declared Sister Moriau’s healing a miracle. It is the 70th documented miracle to have occurred at Lourdes.