"We value tremendously the service that you render to us," Bishop Richard J. Malone told a gathering of healthcare workers Saturday afternoon at the annual White Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral. "We pray that all of you in the healthcare professions will be guided by the hand of God and sustained by Christ's grace as you engage the art and science of healing body, mind and spirit."
Marking the 26th World Day of the Sick, Bishop Malone called the establishment of the day 'one of the many gifts to the church in the legacy of Pope St. John Paul II.' The bishop noted that Pope Francis reminds us that "healthcare ministry will always be a necessary and fundamental task to be carried out with renewed enthusiasm by all, from parish communities to the largest healthcare institutions. The care given within families is an extraordinary likeness to love with a human mercy. Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, family and all those who care for the sick take part in this ecclesial mission. It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by people."
At this year's Mass, Bishop Malone also offered Anointing of the Sick to several people in the pews including a small child named Olivia Margaret Regis, who survived open heart surgery only seven days after birth. Anointing of the Sick is intended to strengthen those who are facing illness or surgery. It is no longer only a sacrament for those nearing death. Rather, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that : "By the sacred anointing of the sick and the prayer of the priests the whole Church commends those who are ill to the suffering and glorified Lord, that he may raise them up and save them. And indeed she exhorts them to contribute to the good of the People of God by freely uniting themselves to the Passion and death of Christ" (1499).
The tradition of the White Mass in the United States finds its origins in the development of the national Catholic Medical Association in the early 1930s. From its inception, the medical profession has been understood as a healing profession, a way in which Christ's work continues upon the earth. This is a time each year set aside in recognition of the dedicated work of healthcare professionals as they continue the healing mission of Jesus, "The Divine Physician."
The Mass has the designation, "White" because of that color's connection to our baptismal promises and the bonds of community we all share through this sacrament of initiation. The White Mass is also associated with St. Luke, the patron saint of physicians and surgeons, and is named for the white lab coats worn by many in the medical profession. Healthcare workers bring God's love and care to every person and patient they meet to heal the body and spirit. White Masses honor all those who work in health care - from nurses and physicians to dietary staff and lab workers.
Noting the many challenges medical professional face in the area of medical ethics in the face of rapidly advancing science, he offered to them a special blessing. "Through you, Christ is present in the suffering. And through the suffering and sick, Christ is present to you. Thank you for your commitment, for your principles, for your sacrifice, for your professionalism, for your compassion, for your love, and may St. Luke, patron of healthcare providers, and the Holy Spirit guide you. May Mary, mother of all life watch over you all."