A scene so reminiscent of Lourdes itself: Malades sit before the altar as Order of Malta Chaplains and visiting priests approach.
Wheelchairs lined the aisles while rows of blind women and men faced the altar among the 92 Malades attending the 8th Annual Lourdes in a Day Pilgrimage of the Sick earlier this fall. Arriving at St. Peter Claver Parish in West Hartford, Connecticut, we are immediately swept into the rhythm of service, prayer, and ritual of devotion so familiar to our Order members from Lourdes itself. Newcomers are struck, as by a loving embrace, by the lending of hands, ensuring that Malades and other attendees alike share in the beauty of an extraordinary experience of service and faith. Father Dr. Thomas Kelly, ChM, of the Eastern Connecticut Area, as principal celebrant, convened the gathering. He was joined by nine con-celebrants, two of whom were Malades themselves. Father Kelly wove a loving homily to the infirmed, being that of a true Lourdes priest. The morning events included Reconciliation, washing with Lourdes water, and the Mass with Anointing of the Sick. Lunch, talks to Malades and caregivers, Adoration, benediction and distribution of bottles of Lourdes water rounded out the afternoon. Father Joseph Cavoto OFM, ChM, gave a deeply powerful reflection during the Eucharistic Adoration that followed.
Nine concelebrants flank Rev. Dr. Thomas Kelly, ChM, offering the Holy Mass.
Lourdes in a Day Pilgrimage founder and organizer Mark F. Sullivan, KM, writes, “The Lourdes in a Day Pilgrimage of the Sick can be celebrated wherever we have Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta! It provides a holy day for our Malades with added enrichment for the Area or diocese and for all who participate. Many of the attendees are Malades who would be incapable of air travel and taking time away from their medical providers as would be needed to travel to Lourdes. This ministry truly goes to the core of our purpose; the Care of the Sick and the Poor.”
More than twenty Knights and Dames were on hand from at least three American Association Areas, and many additional volunteers, assisting with washing and needs of the Malades during this meaningful gathering.
At lunch, Area Hospitallers from all three American Association Areas in New England discussed the prospect of bringing something like the Lourdes in a Day Pilgrimage to other Areas. Boston Area Hospitaller Christopher Carter Lee, KM, felt that Order gatherings where Mass is offered could be enriched by the presence of Malades and the opportunity for members of the Order of Malta to serve them at such times. Connecticut Area Hospitaller Elizabeth Tamarkin, DM, shared Lourdes in a Day experiences from her Area with the group. Mark notes that he has prepared and offers a manual for how the pilgrimage day can be organized wherever Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta are present to serve. This material can be found under Area Leadership Resources when you log into the Members Only section of our website.
The Malades, Order members, and all who came alike could not help but be dramatically moved by the Pilgrimage of the Sick. Everyone was elated by the events during the entire day. Lourdes in a Day served many, inspired well, and beautifully demonstrated that the experience of Lourdes travels with us, wherever our Order may be found.