by Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito, Bishop of Palm Beach
On the first Sunday of May, it was a great joy to be at the Rosary Walk of Emmanuel Church in Delray Beach for the annual Diocesan Marian Festival. Due to the limitations imposed by the pandemic, this festival was not able to take place for the past two years. There was a great sense of happiness as so many from our Diocese came together on this day to honor our Blessed Mother and to consecrate ourselves to her as her sons and daughters. Mary is our Mother, who leads us to her Son in order that we might have the joy of life, which He has given us both now and for eternity.
The gathering reflected the diverse cultures present within our Diocese and the devotion to Mary within these cultures under her different titles. Mary relates to all of us as a mother and it is fitting that we speak to her in the language of our particular experiences and backgrounds. This year, we honored Our Lady of Vailankanni (Our Lady of Good Health), to whom the people of India have a particular devotion. She is believed to have appeared twice in the town of Vailankanni, India, during the 16th to 17th centuries. Her apparitions were in the context of healings and so the title of Our Lady of Good Health was attributed to her. Certainly, this title is so appropriate for Mary as she truly is one who leads us to health in every aspect of our lives, both spiritual and physical. Her healing nature is well attributed to her appearances at Lourdes and in many other places.
It is well for us during this particular month of May to pray and look to Mary as Our Lady of Good Health. In our own families and circumstances, we may find ourselves in need of physical healing due to illness and sickness, as well as in regard to other relational matters that need healing. Mary is our mother, who leads us to her Son. By His Cross and Resurrection, He is with us and always raises us above our sufferings, so that we may have life. Mary knew the supreme pain of losing her Son as she stood under the Cross. It was her supreme faith that gave her the healing of this pain, which she knew would come through the Resurrection.
At this particular time, we are living in a world that is much in need of healing. Our society is a broken one, which has lost its way in many ways because it is not in uniformity with its Creator and His plan for humanity. Without the vision that God has for us, we lose our way and find ourselves in need of healing which only He can bring. The horrible war that is taking place in Ukraine is but one example of this break with God‘s plan. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has called upon us to pray to Mary during this month for an end to the atrocious war and for peace within the world.
In our own nation, we are experiencing a great deal of discord, due to the lack of respect for life on behalf of an unborn child. The political dissension which has arisen because of the expected decision of the Supreme Court to overturn the tragic decision of Roe v. Wade, points all the more to the need for healing among us. When the right to life of an unborn child is not respected, the right to life of every person is not respected. Abortion is the sure slippery slope by which the gift of life is not respected as absolute and is viewed as a commodity. We need to pray to Mary, especially at this time, for a greater respect for life and for the proper legal remedy to end abortion.
Certainly, as we are coming through the conclusion of the pandemic, which has affected our world and our nation during the past two years, we look to our Blessed Mother for the gift of good health. We pray that we will continue to make progress in combating the recurrence of the coronavirus and to use good sense and health remedies in this regard. We are grateful for the progress that has been made. At the same time, we have experienced the political anger and confusion which has arisen in the context of overcoming the virus, which has revealed the need for healing in a very basic human manner.
We are blessed in our Diocese to have Mary as our patroness, under her title of Queen of the Apostles. We are blessed to have reconsecrated ourselves to Mary’s immaculate heart on the Feast of the Annunciation this year in union with our Holy Father’s request. We are especially blessed to have had the Marian Festival after a two-year period and to call upon Our Lady of Good Health to heal us as needed in so many ways.
We are a Diocese of great diversity through many different cultural backgrounds. That is a great treasure, as it reminds us that we are all God’s children, and He has created us equal but with different identities to reveal His nature. We relate to Mary as a mother, and we do so through the experience of our own background and cultures within our families. Mary relates to each of us as a mother and brings us healing, through her Son, that we all need.
On the occasion of the recent Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis reminded us that, “This is the mystery of the Church: a celebration of differences, a sign, and instrument of all that humanity is called to be. For this reason, the Church must become increasingly synodal: capable of walking together, united, in harmonious diversity, where everyone can actively participate and where everyone has something to contribute.” His words are certainly lived within our Diocese of Palm Beach, and we follow his call to pray to our mother Mary for the peace, healing and good health that we continue to need.
Our Lady of Good Health, pray for us!
Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito
May 13, 2022