Alexis Dallara-Marsh shares the history of the Marian title, Our Lady Health of the Sick, and a prayer for her intercession.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, embrace all who are emotionally and physically ill, that they may return to good health under your tender care. (Source: Association of the Miraculous Medal)
This past Lenten season, Pope Francis placed his hope in Our Lady, Health of the Sick, asking her intercession to her most precious son, Jesus Christ, for healing across our world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There is quite a bit of history regarding this special name given to Our Lady.
In biblical times: The origin of referring to Mary as "Health of the Sick" makes its first appearance in Mary's care of St. Joseph, who was enveloped by a most "happy death" in the literal sense, being in the arms of both our Lady and our Lord Jesus Christ during his final hours. Because of this grace, St. Joseph is now commonly referred to as patron saint of the dying. Such a title could not be more accurate, as what greater love could one receive at the time of physical suffering than their Heavenly presence?
In later times: Similar titles for our Blessed Mother, such as "Hospital of sinners" and "the Joy of the sick," originated from the words of Saint Ephrem, who lived in the 4th century and was more recently declared a Doctor of the church. "Health of the Sick," however, continued to be another title, one which would become used in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Litany of Loreto, comprised during the Middle Ages. Subsequently, in modern times, the oldest hospital in North America is thought to be the Immaculate Conception Hospital, built as a tribute to Our Lady as "Health of the Sick" in 1524. Later, St. Camillus de Lellis founded a confraternity invoking the use of the black scapular of "Our Lady, Help of the Sick," approved by Pius IX in 1860.
Today: Our Blessed Mother continues to care for Her children not just in times of physical suffering, but in caring for our spiritual health through eternal salvation. As Christ is the Divine Physician, sharing his Divine Mercy for souls that would otherwise be lost, so She is eternally present by his side, particularly by His passion and sorrowful mysteries. How fitting that during our most difficult trials, we can turn to Our Lady, Health of the Sick, for Her everlasting comfort and healing.
An English-language translation of the Pope’s prayer from March 11, 2020, is below:
O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain, with steadfast faith.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that, as you did at Cana of Galilee,
joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform ourselves to the Father’s will
and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself, and bore our sorrows to bring us,
through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.
We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test – and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.
(Source: Vatican News)
Copyright 2020 Alexis Dallara-Marsh
Image: Laura Allen (2019), Unsplash
About the Author
Dr. Alexis Dallara-Marsh is a board-certified neurologist who practices in Bergen County, NJ. She is a wife to her best friend, Akeem, and a mother of two little ones on Earth, plus two others in Heaven above.