‘Messe Des Malades’ Brings the Graces of Lourdes to an American Cathedral

To mark the 32nd World Day of the Sick, Frank La Rocca’s special Mass setting will be heard Feb. 10 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California.

‘Lourdes Grotto at Heiligenkreuz’
‘Lourdes Grotto at Heiligenkreuz’ (photo: Karl Allen Lugmayer / Shutterstock.com)

The World Day of the Sick, instituted in 1992 by Pope St. John Paul II, is always celebrated on or around the Feb. 11 feast day of Our Lady of Lourdes. 

The Order of Malta has a special charism toward care of the sick and a devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, so celebrating a special healing Mass for the World Day of the Sick is a natural connection for the Knights and Dames of Malta. We host the malades (the sick) and treat them as Christ Jesus, while the priests offer to them the special sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

It is always a special day. But this year in Oakland, Bishop Michael Barber has decided once again to celebrate the World Day of the Sick in an extraordinary way, with the new Messe des Malades commissioned by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone and composed by the Benedict XVI Institute’s composer-in-residence, Frank La Rocca. 

Bishop Barber will host the Messe des Malades Feb. 10 at 11 a.m. Pacific time at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland. Father Brandon Macadaeg will serve as the celebrant. His brother priests will be on hand to anoint the sick. Richard Sparks will travel from Seattle to conduct the Oakland Cathedral Choir. EWTN will broadcast the Mass later that day. 

I was there last year when this Messe des Malades was celebrated for the very first time.
It was one of the most remarkable Masses I have ever attended. The healing power of sacred music cannot be underestimated. The sick came seeking hope. They came in droves, with the cathedral at standing room only.

Then came the procession: First the Knights of Columbus. Then the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher. Then the Knights and Dames of Malta.

Finally, in procession came our beloved priests and bishops. 

When they arrived at the altar, the Benedict XVI Choir led by Richard Sparks began to sing Hail Holy Queen in honor of our Blessed Mother, for this was her special feast day. 

La Rocca’s sacred music brought everyone to a sacred silence; our offerings to God would include all our malades’ suffering and pain. The sense of divine grace was palpable.

Last year, I wrote to friends about the experience: “The beauty of it all was in the perfection … of God’s power to heal. Many were made clean that day and healed. It was an anointing for the ages. May it be done again. Amen!”

I was not the only one who experienced this Messe des Malades as something extraordinary. Bishop Barber himself said, “I saw a lot of people with spiritual joy today. Some of the sick wept as they were anointed. It was an unforgettable day in the liturgical life of the Diocese of Oakland.” 

Whether you attend live or via video, such a chance to experience the healing graces of Our Lord is not to be missed.


More Information

To register for the Feb. 10 Messe des Malades (or to receive a link and time for the broadcast) visit: eventbrite.com/e/messe-des-malades-oakland-cathedral-world-day-of-sick-tickets-728375951077. Tickets are not necessary but registering helps us plan for the reception after.

An audio recording of Frank La Rocca’s Messe des Malades will be released by Cappella Records on March 15. To order a copy, visit benedictinstitute.org/messe-des-malades/.

Thomas Greerty is a Knight of Malta in the San Francisco Bay area.