by Father Ronan Murphy
I am writing this article on Feb. 11, the Feast of our Lady of Lourdes, which our late Holy Father, Pope St. John Paul II designated as “The World Day of the Sick.”
Growing up, I was very sickly, having very bad asthma just like St. Bernadette Soubirous, the graced visionary of the Immaculate Conception at Lourdes back in 1858.
Back then, growing up in classified third-world Ireland, we had no such thing as nebulizers, only a tiny little Ventolin spray. There were many times growing up that I would spend a week at a time at home from school with this sickness. Sometimes I felt I was about to die, not being able to draw my next breath. But I always felt consoled that my mother was there for me. And any time I would take a serious attack or call on her, she always ran to my aid.
How often she would rub Vicks on my chest or boil water and place my head over it just to loosen my lungs so I could breathe. Today, thank God I am asthma-free largely in part to my mother nursing me through it over the years.
And it is the same with Mary, Our Mother. I often think of Jesus being the Divine Physician. Remember what He said: “It is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick,” referring to the spiritually or morally sick, for He goes on, “I have not come for the righteous but for sinners.”
And I often think of Mary being his perfect assistant nurse. If my mother was always there for me in my physical sickness and ran to my aid every time I called upon her, how much more Mary, who is my spiritual and supernatural, nay my perfect mother — “Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored thine help or sought your intercession was left unaided.”
Pope St. John XXIII once said, “That Mary does for us the same things done by all mothers for their children — she loves, she watches, she protects and intercedes.”
Mary as mother wishes to nurse us in our physical sickness, but more so in the greatest of all ills in our spiritual sickness caused by sin.
In regard to physical sickness, there is an ancient English saying, “A saint who grants few miracles will have few pilgrims.”
Mary, whom we honor as “Health of the Sick,” has patients and pilgrims flocking in their droves to her many shrines around the world, especially Lourdes, precisely because she grants many miracles to her sick children out of her motherly concern. Mary has great power at the throne of God in asking help for all her afflicted children.
As I said, the greatest of all ills is spiritual sickness caused by sin because it can end in everlasting death, if we are not cured of it.
Mary is more concerned as mother for the spiritually sick than for the physically sick. St. Simon Stock called her “the medicine of sinners,” and St. Ephraim said, “not only medicine but health itself.”
“Robust health for those who have recourse to her,” he said.
She has the capacity to mother and nurse the greatest sinner to full moral and spiritual health in Jesus her Son.
The sacred Canticles apply to Mary the following words of Proverbs, “He that shall find me shall find life, and shall have salvation from the Lord.”
Let us not fear, that on account of the bad odor of our wounds, she may refuse to take care of us. She is our mother, and as a mother, she does not shrink from dressing the wounds of her children. She is our celestial nurse or physician whom we honor as “Health of the Sick.”
Blessed be the Holy and Immaculate Conception
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God.
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Mother, have mercy on us.
Our Lady of Lourdes, heal us
for the greater glory of the Holy Trinity.
Our Lady of Lourdes, heal us
for the greater glory of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our Lady of Lourdes, heal the sick,
Health of the sick, Help of the suffering,
pray for us.
Mary, conceived without sin,
pray for us who have recourse in thee.
St. Bernadette, pray for us!
Father Murphy is the Coordinator for Marian Devotions of the Diocese of Brooklyn.