St. Agnes Church (file photo 2009)
ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS, NJ -   An Anointing of the Sick and Healing Mass will be offered at St. Agnes Church on Monday, Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. the first time such a mass has been said in this parish.

       “I’d like to invite everyone who is in need of any healing to attend the mass,” said the Rev. Fernando Lopez, pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help-St. Agnes parish.  “Since Feb. 11 is a World Day of the Sick, it is the perfect time to start this new tradition within our parish.”

      The practice of anointing the sick with oil and special prayers is administered in the Catholic church to bring both spiritual and even physical strength to a person during times of illness, and especially near the time of death, the pastor explained, adding, “it is most likely one of the last sacraments a Catholic will receive.  Since Sacrament of the sick is one of the outward signs established by Christ, it is performed to convey God’s grace on the recipient.”

       Nor is the mass limited to Catholics, Lopez continued. “The administration of the Sacrament of the Sick in this context is offered for Catholics who are experiencing physical ailments of a serious nature, those who will be undergoing surgery for serious reason, and the elderly who have become notably weakened even though no serious illness is present. It is also for Catholics who are battling serious illnesses and have not been anointed recently, and even children who are seriously ill.” Lopez pointed out that reception of the sacrament offers the most benefit when the persons receiving it have also received the sacraments of Penance or Holy Eucharist first. 

     But the Healing Mass is offered for all and everyone can gain from the prayers for the ill that are included in this special mass, the pastor said.

    Several priests from neighboring parishes will also be at the mass, joining Father Lopez in this first Healing Mass for the parish.

   “I highly recommend parishioners bring their loved ones who are baptized Catholics for the Sacrament to experience the love and compassion of Christ, and I invite all others who wish to experience the mass and join in prayers, to attend,” the pastor said.  He pointed out many people had their throats blessed at masses in both Our Lady of Perpetual Help and St. Agnes Saturday, a tradition in the church.  Tradition has it that Blaise,  a Bishop and martyr of the Church who lived in the 300s, saved a young boy who was choking on a fish bone, leading to the annual blessing of throats on the feast of St. Blaise, observed annually on Feb. 3.  

    Because of the special mass, the 7 a.m. mass normally offered Monday mornings at St. Agnes is cancelled to prepare for the Healing Mass. Masses will continue at 7am Wednesday and Friday, at St. Agnes, as well as Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 a.m. at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Navesink Ave. Highlands.