I do not know if I have photos from Lourdes. On today’s Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, we also celebrate the World Day of the Sick. I post this blurry photo from another Marian Shrine, taken by a local man who attached himself to me and became my personal tour guide as I walked along the paths in Fatima. This was the spot that Mary was said to have appeared to the visionaries. Many healings happen in Lourdes and Fatima, as well as other sacred spaces around the world.
I often ponder about healing and cures. Personally, I will never understand what happens. We clearly hear in today’s Gospel of Mark that the leper courageously approaches Jesus and asks to be made clean. His request is granted and Jesus assures him that of course he wants to do this. The leprosy immediately leaves the man and despite Jesus cautioning him to tell no one, the man cannot contain his amazement, going about the countryside, proclaiming his new freedom. Others came to Jesus. We do not know if he cured them all. One would assume yes, but then why do people today who pray for a cure not receive the answer they wish?
I see much healing in my life since I have become sick. I witness many miracles but I know others continue to pray for a cure. I do not think that will happen in the traditional sense and it is not for lack of faith. I tell folks not to stop praying for a miracle but I have seen such disappointment over the years from people who have chased a cure and not lived their lives. Someone said to me recently that praying for a dying person was daunting. I have so many people praying for me that I had not really considered this aspect. How should we pray? For what should we pray? Good questions! I can honestly answer the how: pray with compassion and love in your heart. Pray fervently and with faith to move mountains. Pray sincerely letting your heart break open. Weeping and moaning count as prayer.
The what is harder. Each person will have his or her own desires–both the person praying and the recipient. If you are at a loss as to what to pray, perhaps ask the person what is needed at that moment. I have a friend who does this regularly. For me, the check-in on my part is revealing because sometimes I am surprised by what I ask for. For my praying friend, the clarity is helpful. I can give specifics of where I am at physically that day or I can ask for something I am struggling with emotionally. Strength, peace and courage are always a go-to in my situation I find. I spend time praying daily for people who are praying for me, asking God to grant their needs at that moment, whatever they may be. As I have strangers praying for me, this seems like a good prayer. I find it helpful to pray in both generalized and specific ways when I can.
On this World Day of the Sick, let us remember in our prayers those who are sick and suffering, those who are taking their last breaths, those who love them, those who are estranged, and those who care for them. Consistently, I have said that what I need most from people is prayer. I maintain that is how I remain on earth. At some point, I will need prayers for a peaceful passing and a happy death. I know I can continue to count on those who pray for me to do so.
What would a happy death look like to you?
How do you want people to pray for you?
Great Physician, be with us who are sick, who need your merciful care. Grant us patience, courage, joy, peace, and hope. Give us our daily bread and let us be satisfied. Bless those who care for us and those who love us. Mend broken relationships in order to heal our spirits as well as our bodies. We thank you, Gracious God, for hearing us. Amen.