Our website is made possible by displaying online ads to our visitors.
Please consider supporting us by whitelisting our site.

Healing service returns after two-year break

First slide
First slide
Previous Next

After Mass Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, a young man told his mother he was thinking of joining the priesthood. During a healing service following the Mass, the 14-year-old and his mother approached the altar. There, at the foot of the cross, Deacon Leo Flynn prayed over the young man and anointed him with blessed oil. Later that night, Deacon Flynn asked the shy teenager if he wanted to be a priest.

To the young man’s mom, this was proof that the Holy Spirit was present and that God heard her prayers.

“I just want people to experience the love of the Lord.” - Fr. John Melmer

"I just felt an outpouring of the Holy Spirit," said the woman who asked that her name be withheld. She attended the Mass and service at the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria with her son who has anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning deficits. "I know God is healing," she said.

Healing is an important mission for Father John Melmer, parochial vicar of St. John the Beloved Church in McLean and 10-year member of the diocesan Catholic Healing Ministry, which organized the Mass and healing service.

"What led me to the priesthood was that idea of healing, that idea that I can be the Lord’s servant," he said. "It’s my prayer each person would see the value of this ministry," intended for all, whether wounded by sin, disease or trauma, a ministry that seeks to provide spiritual nourishment from the Lord. "I just want people to experience the love of the Lord."

Father Melmer celebrated the Mass, assisted by Deacon Flynn from the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington. In his homily, Father Melmer said healing also takes place through the sacrament of penance, and he recommended going to confession at least monthly. His words echo those of Pope Benedict XVI. "Healing is an essential dimension of the apostolic mission and of Christian faith in general. It can even be said that Christianity is a ‘therapeutic religion, a religion of healing,’ " the pope emeritus wrote in his book "Jesus of Nazareth."

After Mass, the soft voices of the ministry choir filled the basilica and complemented the prayerful silence. Then the faithful slowly made their way to the altar and to the various prayer stations set around the church. There, lay members, along with Father Melmer and Deacon Flynn, prayed with those asking for healing, and offered laying of hands and anointing with blessed oil. This anointing is different from the sacrament of the anointing of the sick, which can only be given by a cleric. Two parish priests offered the sacrament of confession.

Roughly 200 people attended the Sept. 14 Mass and healing service, the first in almost two years as services were canceled due to the pandemic. Established in 1990, the Catholic Healing Ministry ordinarily leads monthly Masses and services in various diocesan parishes. The group hopes the event marks the restart of its monthly ministry.

COVID-19 has prompted new protocols, said ministry Administrator Loretta Schlosser of Culpeper. Volunteers come with hand sanitizer and take other precautions, such as first asking permission to touch or bless people.

The cautious movements of people in the basilica church, weary faces and hushed voices were familiar sights for Schlosser, who joined the healing ministry after she received an invitation from founder Catherine Griffin, who passed away in 2019.

"We put it all in God’s hands," she said.

Physical healing is one aspect of the ministry, but importantly people receive comfort and love through the intercession of the Holy Spirit, Schlosser added.

"With everything going on in the world, there is a lot of hurt and woundedness," said Diane Maple, a parishioner at the basilica. In the early days of the pandemic, the brokenness became more obvious for some people because their lives were not as busy as they used to be, she added. Acknowledging the hurt is a key step in the healing process and the service came at a much-needed time, Maple noted.

Chapman is a freelancer in Alexandria.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2021