World Day of the Sick is a Catholic Church awareness day, or observance, on February 11, aimed at praying and sharing, sacrificing one’s suffering for the welfare of the church, and urging everyone to see the face of Christ in his or her ailing brother or sister. The day falls on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, and it is an important occasion for individuals in the Catholic health ministry to reflect on caring for those who are sick as well as those who care for them.
History of World Day of the Sick
In 1992, Pope John Paul II established the day to urge people to pray for individuals who are ill and their caretakers. The pope showed signs of Parkinson’s disease in 1991, but it wasn’t verified until 2001, therefore, it’s notable that he opted to establish the World Day of the Sick barely a year after his diagnosis. In his apostolic letter “Salvifici Doloris”, the pope wrote extensively on the subject of suffering and considered that it has always been a redeeming process through Christ.
On February 11, 1993, the first World Day of the Sick was observed. Our Lady of Lourdes, a term referring to the Virgin Mary in honor of apparitions alleged to have been seen in and around Lourdes, France, by a little girl named Bernadette Soubirous, is also celebrated on February 11. Bernadette was recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church a few years later.
Because numerous pilgrims and tourists to Lourdes, France, claimed to have been healed at the Marian Sanctuary through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, he chose the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes as the day of the observance. The pope also paid homage to the Harissa sanctuary in Lebanon.
The World Day of the Sick had a particular significance in 2005 because the ailing pope died on April 2 of that year. As he lay dying in St. Peter’s Square in Rome, a large crowd assembled to pray for him.
On this day in 2013, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, citing his poor health as the cause for his departure. On World Day of the Sick, people all across the world take the opportunity to pray for the sick and those who labor tirelessly to alleviate their pain. Faith-based organizations commemorate this day by providing medicines, food, and spiritual guidance to the sick.
World Day of the Sick timeline
Pope John Paul II begins to show signs of Parkinson's disease.
Pope John Paul II initiates the observance to remind people to pray for the sick and also their caregivers.
On 11 February, World Day of the Sick is held for the first time.
Pope Benedict XVI resigns from his position, blaming his poor health as the cause for his departure.
World Day of the Sick FAQs
Who can receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick?
The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick is for anyone who is undergoing treatment for a serious illness or surgery, or who is suffering from the effects of old age. It differs from the Viaticum or Last Rites in which the church provides Holy Communion as nourishment for the journey to eternal life.
What are the effects of the Anointing of the Sick?
Sick persons who have been anointed receive God’s grace through the Holy Spirit. They will be healed and free of all sin when they die. The person must have trust in God’s plan for their salvation in order to have the strength and bravery to embrace the disease.
How many times can you take the Anointing of the Sick?
A person takes the sacrament as often as they need throughout their lives, and if their chronic sickness worsens, they may be anointed again. Death due to external circumstances, such as the execution of a death sentence, does not qualify one for the sacrament.
How to Observe World Day of the Sick
Pray for the sick
Say a prayer for those who are sick. They need all the help you can offer, and your prayers can go a long way.
Offer support to the sick
Interested individuals and organizations can also provide the sick with food, medication, and other supplies. Volunteering at a local health center is another excellent way to participate.
Appreciate healthcare workers
The World Day of the Sick also serves as an occasion to honor the work of healthcare professionals, hospital chaplains, and all those who help the sick. Encourage them and show them that their efforts are appreciated.
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Why World Day of the Sick is Important
We get to help the sick
Many people suffer from illnesses around the globe. It is our responsibility as a global community to give help where we can and ease suffering.
It promotes unity
The holiday promotes unity and togetherness among people of different backgrounds. It provides the opportunity to create a stronger bond with people across the globe.
It helps us show caregivers appreciation
Individuals and organizations that care for the sick play a crucial role in our society. This observance is an excellent way to recognize their efforts.
World Day of the Sick dates