Before the Mass started, the St. Mungo Singers sang a number of Marian motets: Arcadelt’s Ave Maria, Palestrina’s Alma Redemptoris Mater and Schubert’s Salve Regina, as well as James Quinn’s Praise the King. These were interspersed with gentle clarsach airs played by Dr. Noel Donnelly. The final pre-Mass piece was the appropriate Song of Healing which Dr. Donnelly wrote almost 10 years ago in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.
As the clergy entered, congregation and choir joined in singing “Mary, full of Grace” to the familiar tune “O Sanctissima” (words by Pam Murray). Archbishop Conti welcomed everyone to the liturgy before leading those present in the penitential rite which concluded with the singing of the Byrd setting of the Kyrie. The Bellahouston Gloria followed.
After the readings and Responsorial Psalm, Cardinal O’Brien gave the homily. He expressed his sense of privilege at being present to join with those from the healthcare professions to pray for help in carrying out their vocation, and to experience that solidarity as members of the one Body of Christ, carrying out his work of healing today.
He wished to take up two aspects: the first was the wonder of the vocation of healing and the second the need today for outreach in our own circumstances. The wonder of the healing vocation is that it was Jesus’ own vocation on earth. It was his joy to heal the sick, and the value of the healing vocation is that in exercising it, we are being Christ to those who are sick in body, mind or spirit.
He reminded the congregation that Pope Benedict XVI had visited the sick and elderly in St. Peter’s, London and had spoken of the Church’s respect for them, saying “each one of us is willed, loved necessary”. It is a privilege for priests to be able to minister to the sick, and the Cardinal made the point that the elderly and the ill often give their carers more than they receive.
His second thought for reflection was the need for healthcare professionals to look outward to others in their communities, hospitals and countries. He reminded them of the words of Pope John Paul II when he visited the UK, and spoke of the necessary role of the Church at the heart of the world. We cannot retreat from public life, particularly when our fundamental principles and beliefs are being questioned and ridiculed. Those in the healthcare professions must be ready to speak out and to seek to form consciences.
In finishing his reflection, Cardinal O’Brien returned to the words of Pope Benedict, this time from his sermon on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, when he had reminded those present that we have the obligation to be salt and light, to bring new flavour to society.
In the intercessions which followed, the congregation prayed for those working in, touched by or impacting on the healthcare services. At the end, all joined in singing the beautiful and fitting John Bell response “Lord Jesus Christ, lover of all, trail wide the hem of your garment, bring healing, bring peace.”
During the Preparation of the Gifts, there was more gentle reflective harp music, then the hymn “Lord, I give my life to you”, familiar from the Papal Mass. The Sanctus, Memorial and Agnus Dei were sung, and during Communion the choir led the singing of the Taize “Eat this Bread” and “Be Still, my Soul”.
The music for the Mass had begun with a Marian theme and ended with one, with the singing of “Hail, Queen of Heaven”, before everyone enjoyed the generous hospitality of the Lourdes community in the Parish Hall.