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In our frailty, God is close

· Secretary of State Papal Legate to Lourdes ·

“God doesn’t ask us to be ‘super heroes’ nor does he ask us even to deny that we are experiencing difficulties”, by donning “the mask of a ‘superior’ man or woman” to confront the cause of our humiliation or limitations. Instead, “God asks us to give him credit and to trust him”. This was the message of consolation that Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Pope Francis’ Special Legate to Lourdes for the 25th World Day of the Sick, offered to the faithful gathered for the occasion in the Marian village in southwestern France. The Secretary of State presided over the celebration of an international Mass at the Marian shrine on Saturday morning, 11 February, exhorting the faithful to “not be afraid”.

Commenting on the liturgical readings of the day, the cardinal invited the sick to quel those fears which find fertile ground in the weaknesses caused by disease, pointing out how this fragility can often be “the main obstacle” in their relationship with God and with others. Offering words of hope, Cardinal Parolin said the Lord “comes close, he does not forget us; we are important to him. We are those with whom he wants to share his own life”.

The Papal Legate also shared Pope Francis’ closeness in prayer to the sick “and his encouragement to the doctors, nurses, volunteers, and to all the consecrated people engaged in service to the sick and the needy; to the ecclesial institutions working in this field, and to the families who lovingly care for their sick ones”. May they always “be joyous signs of God’s presence and love”, was the Pope’s hope, said Cardinal Parolin, inviting them to look to the example of the Virgin Mary’s faithfulness and openess to the Lord.

On the evening before Saturday’s liturgy, the papal envoy greeted participants of the traditional candlelit vigil and procession that precedes the main liturgical celebration. Before the Massabielle Grotto, Cardinal Parolin again spoke of fragility. In an age in which “autonomy, I would say self-sufficiency, is exalted as an absolute value, we all need to rethink the human being - to discover how one of its intrinsic characteristics is dependency, not self-sufficiency. The human person, in every phase of his or her existence, is aware of his or her own physical, behavioural, spiritual limits: of the incapacity to be enough in and of oneself; of the constant need of the other”. And perhaps like no other experience, “illness, when it occurs, clarifies all of this”. Sickness can bring about the “unequivocal interruption of some relationships, loneliness, the loss of a few freedoms and opportunities”. But, he concluded, this frailty and these limitations “do not destroy the highest and intrinsic dignity of every human being”.

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Feb. 23, 2017

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