MANILA, Feb. 13, 2014—True to its mission of “serving the sick and the poor”, the Order of Malta’s Philippine arm was again at the forefront of the “World Day of the Sick” celebration, which coincided with the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, held at the Espiritu Santo Parish in Santa Cruz, Manila on Tuesday.
The World Day of the Sick is an observance in the Catholic Church instituted on May 13, 1992 by Blessed Pope John Paul II who will be canonized in April, to encourage people to pray for the sick and those who care for them.
Since February 11, 1993, it is celebrated yearly all over the Catholic world during the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes as “a special time of prayer and sharing, of offering one’s suffering”.
John Paul II chose the feast of Lourdes because many pilgrims and visitors to Lourdes (a place in France where the Marian apparition took place) have reportedly been healed through the intercessions of the Blessed Virgin.
Incidentally, it was also during the Lourdes’ feast day in 2013 when Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation.
The Order, or the “Sovereign Military Order of Malta” (SMOM), with the Archdiocese of Manila, organized the “Holy Mass for the Sick” at Espiritu Santo Church in keeping with the principles summed in the organization’s Latin motto: “Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum” (Defence of the Faith and Assistance to the Poor).
Philippine Association of the Order of Malta executive secretary Cecilia Piñones explained that they have been involved in this activity “even before there was a World Day of the Sick”.
“Between 25 and 30 years ago, since the Order came to the Philippines, one of the events we always look forward to in the calendar is the feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes, because this is the best time when we can reach out to the community,” Piñones said.
The Order offered medical consultations and psycho-spiritual counselling for free on the Espiritu Santo Parish grounds.
“We gather the sick in one venue. Traditionally, we held this at the Manila Cathedral, but since the Cathedral is closed for renovation, we have been doing this at the Espiritu Santo Parish for the past four years,” she added.
The Order’s recipients are mostly from lay organizations and non-government organizations (NGOs) many of whom are from the nearby dioceses of Parañaque, Novaliches, and Imus.
Piñones stressed that these recipients make it a point each year to attend the Holy Mass for the Sick.
According to its official website, the Order’s members, called “Knights” and “Dames”, commit themselves to “nurturing, witnessing and protecting the faith and serving the poor and the sick representing the Lord, which become a reality through the voluntary work they carry out in humanitarian assistance and medical and social activities.”
But membership to the Order is “by invitation only”.
Piñones reasoned that the Order wants to be sure it attracts only the most committed and serious individuals who are ready to serve “the poor and the sick”.
Piñones added that they must also be “devout Catholics”.
Present in over 120 countries, the Order is one of most enduring and noblest institutions in the Western Christian civilization with a 960-year history, and has special status under international law. (Raymond A. Sebastián)