As Covid-19 kept all but a handful of people from gathering in the vast Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral on February 13, a Catholic order with a thousand-year history of care for the sick co-hosted the annual Day of the Sick Mass.
In a typical year, the Mass draws 1,800 people. Blessed water from the healing Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes would be distributed by members of the Sovereign Order of Malta. They would have brought it back from their annual pilgrimage of the sick to the shrine in France.
While this year’s event had none of that, the annual liturgy took on a special significance this year, in the midst of a crippling pandemic.
Archbishop José Gomez, who presided the Mass, offered a special blessing for the sick to experience the healing care of Jesus. Prayers were offered for their loved ones, healthcare workers and those who have died….
Michael Psomas, president of the Los Angeles location of the Sovereign Order of Malta, came to the Mass after distributing backpacks and jackets at a nearby homeless shelter. The knights have cared for the sick during plagues from the Black Death to Ebola, so it has been a challenge to strike a balance between mission and social distance during the Covid contagion.
“Historically and internationally, we are the ones who rush in,” Psomas said. “We are treating malaria and setting up hospitals in Aleppo when it’s being bombed by the Syrian government.”
Locally, the order created systems for those in self-isolation to serve alongside members going out to encounter those in need. Its vans deliver cases of sanitary supplies to homebound members, who repackage them into hygiene kits for the homeless. Masked members then distribute the kits in shelters and encampments.
On the advice of experts, they are waiting for a one-shot Covid vaccine before inoculating homeless people, who are unlikely to show up for a second dose.
“And then we will go tent to tent to vaccinate here in Los Angeles,” Psomas said.
The above comes from a Feb. 15 story in Angelus News.