In this week’s blog Fr Paddy reminds us of the truth in the old saying that “Our Health is Our Wealth as we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of Prayer for the Sick.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Nationalist Papers.

This column appeared in the edition published 10th February 2010

This Thursday, February 11th is the feast of “Our Lady of Lourdes” and is also World Day of Prayer for the Sick. Living with sickness in mind, body or spirit is a difficult and vulnerable journey that visits so many in all our families, friendships and community. It is true that our health is our wealth. That being healthy is perhaps a gift that we don’t fully appreciate until sickness comes to visit our story. Nobody wants to be sick. We all have a responsibility to try and maintain good health. We are as a nation much more attuned to the importance of a “Balanced” lifestyle. It is so important that we make a genuine effort to have a healthy diet and also makes space for exercise.

Sickness makes us vulnerable. When one has to live with serious illness you are in many ways no longer in control. Life becomes dependent on treatments, medications, hospitals and family on the often fragile road to recovery and full health. Sickness is a cross that is not just carried by the individual who has to suffer but is also felt greatly by their loved ones who often helplessly have to look on. When a loved one is seriously ill it is a terrible reality, a reality greatly felt this day by so many. Parents worried about their sick child, a mother living with terminal cancer fearful about the future as she looks at her children. Elderly people who live alone and are dependent on home help, in order to try and maintain independent living.

Mental illness is a burden felt greatly by so many at this time. It is a difficult sickness. It is not like a broken leg or an arthritic hip that manifests itself in a physical way. Depression, addiction and anxiety are all very deep and painful wounds that are very real in the hearts again of so many within all our families and communities.

So many people who carry the cross of serious illness find themselves searching for meaning and purpose in life. Candle shrines, in hospital Oratories, are always lighting. Lourdes, whose feast is celebrated this week, in the context of World Day of the Sick, is a place where millions of pilgrims visit annually, in the hope of finding hope; peace and healing.

Jesus spent much time with the sick. It was a fundamental priority for him to associate with those who were sick and wounded in life and his empathy was very attractive to the sick. One Gospel story tells of a family opening a roof and lowering their loved one on a stretcher in the hope that Jesus would bless and cure him. One of the most authoritative statements that Jesus makes, regarding his mission, was that

“I have come not for the healthy but for the sick”.

His carrying the cross to Calvary is the ultimate solidarity with those who suffer serious illness. I know that the Lord greatly loves and is very close to the sick.

May all who are burdened by sickness be comforted and strengthened by Gods rich blessing at this time.