By Larry Peterson
It was in December of 1531 when Juan Diego, alone on Tepeyac Hill (in the area which is now called Guadalupe), was praying to the Blessed Mother asking if she could cure a sick relative. Our Lady appeared to Juan Diego and said this to him, “Do not worry about this illness or about any other misfortune. Am I, your Mother, not here at your side? Are you not protected by my shadow? Am I not your safety?”
We celebrated the great feast of The Queenship of Mary on August 22nd. This feast is so important that there are those who believe it should be declared a Holy Day of Obligation replacing the Assumption celebrated on August 15. What is not so celebrated and well known is the feast day that follows. It is always held on the Saturday before the last Sunday in August. This feast day is known as Our Lady, Health of the Sick.
If we stop to think about it, we can quickly see that our Blessed Mother stands out in the gospel readings as someone who was always there to help others. She gives herself over starting at the Annunciation. A teenager, she is asked to be a mother to the Son of God. She said to the Angel Gabriel, “but I know not man.” She understood the ramifications of what she was accepting. But she embraced God’s calling willingly not worrying about herself.
Next, it is on to her cousin Elizabeth’s house. Why? To assist her aging cousin in giving birth to her child. Mary must have stayed for about six months before leaving for home. Unselfishly, she stayed until Elizabeth was healthy enough to take care of baby John, by herself. Mary would have been almost six months pregnant when she returned home.
Classic artwork always depicts Mary’s parents, St. Joachim and St. Ann, as loving parents who took wonderful care of their special child. It is not written in the gospels, but it is safe to assume that Mary was with them when they were old, caring for them and even being with them as they passed on to their waiting reward.
We see her and her Son, Jesus, sitting with St. Joseph as he is old and dying. St. Joseph, the Patron of the Dying, has his true love by his side wiping his brow, wetting his lips, keeping vigil, and not leaving her husband’s side until his time is done. There are those that believe that it was these actions which first brought her to be called, “Health of the Sick.”
A true Angel of Mercy, Mary’s greatest challenge, and heartbreak came as she had to watch her Son, who was immune to sickness and death, willingly allow Himself to be whipped, beaten, crowned with thorns, mocked and ridiculed. Then she had to follow Him, bloodied, and battered, as He carried His cross to Calvary. She watched Him die and held His blood-soaked, lifeless body in her arms before he was buried.
Jesus gave his Mother to all of us as He lay dying on the cross. Mary gave her all to Him and, as our Mother, will do so for us. This is why she is called Our Lady, Health of the Sick.”
The magnificent Stabat Mater (translated means Sorrowful Mother), was written to describe the pain and suffering Mary had to endure during her Son’s crucifixion and death. What follows are the first two and the next to last verses of the Stabat Mater. They are quite poignant and frame the entire hymn. The link above will give the entire hymn, considered among the top seven hymns ever written.
At the Cross, her station keeping
stood the mournful Mother weeping,
close to her Son to the last.
Through her heart, His sorrow sharing,
all His bitter anguish bearing,
now at length the sword has passed.
Christ, when Thou shalt call me hence,
be Thy Mother my defense,
be Thy Cross my victory;
As She said to Juan Diego at Guadalupe, 1500 years later, Am I, your Mother, not here at your side? Are you not protected by my shadow? Am I not your safety?”
Our Lady, Health of the Sick; Please pray for us.
copyright©Larry Peterson 2018