The Rose Mass: A Celebration of the Ministry of Healing
This past September, I saw a truly memorable sight I will never forget – the transformation of a basketball arena into a state-of-the-art mobile dental clinic, where 400 dentists, hygienists, oral surgeons and many more volunteers served poor clients seated at 100 dental chairs. It was the Mid-Maryland Mission of Mercy and Health Equity Festival at the University of Maryland’s Xfinity Center. This two-day event was co-sponsored by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington and by the university’s School of Public Health. During the clinic, 1,200 patients received much needed treatment, demonstrating the difference that community partnerships and caring can make in the lives of the poor.
Some observers said the dental clinic was the greatest victory they had ever witnessed in that basketball arena. It certainly put a lot of smiles on the faces of the patients and volunteers that day.
Those who work in the field of health care have an exalted vocation. They are called to do the work of Christ the healer, who healed lepers, the blind, the deaf and the lame, but most importantly, he healed people’s hearts. Catholic health care demonstrates God’s mercy and love at work among us and in us, through human hands, words, actions and hearts.
Tomorrow morning, at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, I will celebrate the 24th annual Rose Mass to seek God’s blessings on the medical, dental, nursing and allied health care workers in the Archdiocese of Washington, as well as the many health care institutions here. This special Eucharistic celebration takes its name from the rose-colored vestments worn on Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent. The rose has also come to symbolize life, whose care is entrusted to the healing professions.
After the Mass, which is sponsored by the John Carroll Society, that group will present its Pro Bono Health Care Awards recognizing volunteers from Catholic Charities’ Health Care Network, whose 300 volunteers provided $9.8 million worth of charity care to nearly 1,900 patients this past year.
Our Catholic health care institutions carry out the work of Christ the healer in our community every day. Last fall, I blessed the new Holy Cross Germantown Hospital, the first new hospital in Montgomery County in 35 years. That hospital builds on the legacy of Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, founded by the Sisters of the Holy Cross in 1963, which is also expanding to better serve our community. Joining with those hospitals in providing millions of dollars in charity care each year is Providence Hospital in the District, which was established by the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul in 1861, as does MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, also in the nation’s capital.
That work of preserving and safeguarding human life in all its stages also unfolds in an array of Catholic health ministries, including Catholic Charities’ Sanctuaries for Life program serving women facing crisis pregnancies, and the Jeanne Jugan Residence, where the Little Sisters of the Poor care for the elderly poor.
Catholic health care institutions are guided by the perspective that all human life is sacred. The extra dimension of Catholic health care is the understanding that along with state-of-the-art medical care, Christ’s love as it is given and received provides the ultimate healing.
That perspective is crucial in our world and in our community today, as the District of Columbia Council and the Maryland General Assembly consider bills to legalize assisted suicide, which would transform the role of doctors from healing patients to hastening their deaths. Pope Francis has decried such a “throwaway culture” that regards the sick and disabled, the unborn and elderly, as useless and “disposable.” He warns against a “false compassion” that would justify acts against human life such as assisted suicide, euthanasia and abortion. In a world which cites “quality of life” as reason to end life, our Holy Father says, “[i]n fact, in the light of faith and right reason, human life is always sacred and always has ‘quality.’ As there is no human life that is more sacred than another: every human life is sacred!”
Our Holy Father urges those in the health professions to serve as Good Samaritans, especially in caring for the poor, the elderly and people with disabilities. At the Rose Mass and every day, let us pray for Catholic health care workers entrusted with carrying out the work of Christ the healer in our community and our world.