The Rose Mass and the Ministry of Healing


Some of the most vivid stories of Jesus’ ministry are those in which he heals the sick. We can easily imagine the gratitude of Peter for Christ’s healing of his mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15) or the profound faith of the friends of the man lowered through the ceiling of the house where Jesus was preaching (Luke 5:17-26), or the joy of the leper Jesus healed near the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:40-45). The Lord cared for these people out of compassion and love, and pointed out that such concern is a sign of the presence of his kingdom.

The ministry of healing of body, mind and spirit is a hallmark of the ministry of Christ. Thus, from the earliest days of the Christian community, care for the sick and suffering has been a sign of the work of the Church. It is not different today, which is why the Archdiocese of Washington celebrates the Rose Mass at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda.

First celebrated in 1992 and carried on today by the John Carroll Society, the Rose Mass takes place on the fourth Sunday of Lent. This day on the liturgical calendar, traditionally called “Laetare Sunday,” is marked by the rose-colored vestments and a note of joy as the community finds itself at the mid-point of the Lenten season, confident in the promise of salvation won for us by our Lord.

This special liturgy gives us an opportunity to recognize all those who share in the healing ministry of Christ in service in all fields of Catholic healthcare. In particular we recognize the outstanding work of the Catholic Charities Health Care Network, which brings together more than 250 doctors and scores of other healthcare professionals to provide care for those who do not have easy access to medical, dental and psychological care. The impact of this work is literally lifesaving to the most vulnerable members of our community. Each year close to 2,000 insured and uninsured patients receive upwards of four million dollars of care.

Jesus teaches us that all are called to reach out to the sick and suffering in compassion and love. As our country once again enters into a debate about how best to provide healthcare, who is responsible for the cost of that care, and how best to serve those who “fall through the cracks,” it is important to recognize that the Church will always commit its resources to extending Christ’s healing ministry to all those who come to us seeking relief. We are blessed with thousands of volunteers who offer their professional skills out of their love for Jesus and their desire to fulfill his command to love their neighbors. In a small but powerful way, we offer our prayers of gratitude for them and our prayers of petition to our loving God to continue to provide us with the means necessary to comfort and heal the wounded, the suffering and the ill.