21 March 1987

To the sick and their helpers to Lourdes

On Saturday, 21 March, the Pope received a large group of sick people, together with doctors, nurses and other helpers.  The meeting was arranged by O.P.T.A.I., an organization which looks after the transportation of the sick to Lourdes.  The Holy Father gave the following address:

Beloved Friends!

1. I welcome you to this audience with great emotion, affectionately greeting you – the sick and suffering, the bishops, the directors of the Federated Work of Transportation of the Sick to Lourdes (O.P.T.A.I.) who have organized this meeting, the doctors, the nurses, and the stretcher-bearers who accompany you.

Deep emotion is my first spontaneous reaction to this gathering, because meeting those who suffer is always a moving, disturbing experience; we realize our powerlessness to restore, as we would wish, health and prosperity!

Yet this is followed by the sentiment of gratitude, because you accept with faith and love, with resignation and courage, your illness, even while you fight against this evil with the help of doctors and science, even while you ask for healing.  Always trusting in the goodness of the Lord who abandons no one, you offer him your sufferings for the Church, for the Pope, and now in a particular way for a fruitful Marian Year and for the approaching Synod of Bishops.

I thank you, then, not only for this visit, an indication of your Christian Faith and of your affection for me, but precisely for your spirituality which transforms your lives into mystical union with God and an authentic and effective apostolate.  Be ensured that I accompany you always with my prayers and with remembrance at Mass.

2. In reality, taking a panoramic look at today’s society and the life of the Church, one sees how great are the spiritual needs of contemporary man;  one feels an ever greater necessity to confide in the power and mercy of God.  One feels the need to pray and to suffer, with faith and love, that the Lord, who is Father and Providence, may illuminate humanity and guide it towards that Truth and that eternal salvation for which alone we have been created.

You who suffer, and also you who are so close to their suffering, can more deeply comprehend how in reality human history revolves around Calvary, where Jesus Christ, the Son of God, dies crucified for the redemption of the world.

All human science, with its discoveries and techniques and all human intelligence, with its organizational capacities and inventive resources, certainly cause society to progress, but they never  eliminate Calvary, because man’s earthly pilgrimage is a quest for the Apostolate, a perennial yearning for what transcends him.  It is therefore necessary to pray so that the divine light may illuminate minds and move hearts, elevating them to the perspective of eternal truths and the riches of grace.  The message of Lourdes, to which you travel often with your Marian pilgrimages, is precisely the message of “salvific suffering” which I sought to expound in my Encyclical (Salvifici Doloris).  Bernadette understood this perfectly, and so, from that time on, have countless numbers of the sick.  They have gone to the Grotto of Massabielle to obtain light, comfort, sustenance and serenity.  In the midst of pain, near to Mary, with Christ crucified.

Meditating on the drama of human history and on the mystery of the Cross, one understands that Calvary is essential in the design of creation and redemption.  God desires our love, and the demonstration of love is found in faith; but love is not given without suffering.

With Mary, then, look to Christ Crucified in order to feel in your hearts the importance and the grandeur of your suffering.  Like the sick and the elderly in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes always show kindness, patience, understanding, generosity and solicitude towards their suffering brothers and sisters, because a mysterious and sublime divine design is being fulfilled in history, and in it we are all responsible participants.

3. Beloved friends!

We are in the month of March consecrated to St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus and Mary, Patron of the universal Church, patron of a happy death, it is dedicated to the one whom the Gospel calls a “just man” (Mt 1:19).  Faced with the extraordinary events which were happening to Mary, his spouse, and then in the life of Jesus, he remained always in humble silence and trustful expectation – silence in the face of mystery!

May St. Joseph inspire you also to remain always in humble, devoted and confident abandonment before the reality of suffering and the mystery of the Cross!  Pray to him constantly with great fervour, and to Mary Most Holy, the Virgin of Lourdes!  Follow his example!

And may you also gain help and consolation from my blessing, which I now cordially impart.

John Paul II