As we tick down the final hours of this World Day of the Sick, I wanted to ask for a prayer for my friend, mentor and brother, Deacon Bill Ditewig.

Some of you may know this already, but he’s been laid up for a couple weeks, suffering terrible back pain. It turns out he will need spinal surgery. (Long story short, it appears to be the result of an infection that has wreaked havoc on his vertebrae.) Right now, surgery is scheduled for Monday or Tuesday — Happy Valentine’s Day, Bill. There will be weeks of rehab after that.

Please remember Bill and his family in your prayers tonight and this weekend.

This prayer to Our Lady of Lourdes is inscribed in a chapel at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the city where Bill was ordained:

Ever Immaculate Virgin Mother of Mercy, Health of the sick, refuge of sinners, Comforter of the afflicted, you know my wants, my troubles, my sufferings; look with mercy on me. By appearing in the Grotto of Lourdes, you were pleased to make it a privileged sanctuary, whence you dispense your favors; and already many sufferers have obtained the cure for their infirmities, both spiritual and corporal.

I come, therefore, with complete confidence to implore your maternal intercession. Obtain, O loving Mother, the grant of my requests. Through gratitude for your favors, I will endeavor to imitate your virtues, that I may one day share your glory. Amen.

Whisper up a prayer, too, to one of Bill’s favorite saints, Pope John XXIII. May he watch over this faithful deacon and his family with tenderness, reassurance and love.

I chatted with Bill the other day and his spirits are good. So is his prognosis. But, as I texted him today, this could be bad news for his career in liturgical dance.

As we say in television: stay tuned. I leave you with this snapshot, taken last November when I gave a parish mission in St. Petersburg. Bill drove down from his home in Land o’Lakes to have lunch. We had a blast. I look forward to doing it again soon.