Saturday, 27 February 2010


Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and glory.
She is a tree of life to them that lay hold on her; and he that shall retain her is blessed. (Prov 4: 6)
Forsake her not, and she shall keep thee: love her, and she shall preserve thee. (Prov 4: 6)
Behold thy children gathered together from the rising to the setting sun, by the word of the Holy One rejoicing in the remembrance of God. (Bar 5:5)

Health of the sick! What a consoling title to fall on the ears of us poor mortals, few of whom are free from one or more ailments. Not that our Lady's healing powers are applied chiefly to illnesses of the body. Yet before we pass on to more spiritual maladies let us just give a glance at almost innumerable instances in which she has cured purely corporal diseases. The subject is too vast to be entered on in these pages. Whole volumes would be required to record the miracles that have been wrought by Mary's power in every age and in every clime. To enumerate even in the shrines of our Lady in different lands would be a gigantic undertaking; and at each of these holy places who could count the numbers  who have come crippled, blind, afflicted with loathsome sores and other diseases, and who have left whole and sound, leaping with joy, like the lame man at the gate called Beautiful, and praising God, who has given such power of His holy Mother. Take only one such place of pilgrimage - Lourdes. Might we not apply to it the words of the prophet, and say to our august Queen: "Behold thy children gathered together from the rising to the setting sun, by the word of the Holy One rejoicing in the remembrance of God?" (Bar 5). And seeing them flocking in from all lands, even those blighted by the cold blast of heresy, may we not cry out: "The nations that knew not thee shall run to thee, because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel, for He hath glorified thee"? (Isa 4). Has He not said to thee: "Since thou becamest honourable in My eyes, thou art glorious....Fear not, for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; I will say to the north: Give up; and to the south: Keep not back; bring My sons from afar, and my daughters from the ends of the earth....Bring forth the blind that have eyes and see not; and the deaf that have ears and hear not. (Isa 43). "Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the damb shall be free; for the waters are broken out in the desert, and streams in the wilderness"? (Isa 35). But if Mary works such wonders for the body which is perishable, what will she not, and what does she not, do for the soul? Who can reckon the multitudes she has raised from the death of sin, or restored to health when wasted by mortal disease? yet these are not precisely the class to which one's mind adverts when addressing our Lady by the title: "Salus Infirmorum." is it not more the sickly, the infirm, the weak, those who need more the care of a mother than a physician? Who is not beset by spiritual ailments, languor or depression, which make the soul feel generally out of health and the vigorous practice of virtue an almost impossible effort? Let us then call our Mother to our aid. Let us whisper in her ear the symptoms we shrink from disclosing to others; let us tell her we feel sick, yet can scarce say what ails us. Her tender heart will be moved to compassion; she will not pass by and leave us helpless; rather will she pour in oil and wine, raise us from our state od spiritual inertness, whisper to us what means to employ to cure our maladies, and, above all, will interest in our behalf the divine Physician of our souls, by the neglect of whose prescriptions we have probably brought on ourselves the sickness we bewail. Thus shall we be restored to health and vigour, by the loving tender care of her whom we love to invoke under the consoling title of "Salus Infirmorum", and whom none need fear to approach. "Why should poor weak man tremble to come to Mary?" says St Bernard; "there is nothing stern, nothing dreadful about her; she is all sweetness....Consider well the whole course of the Gospel history, and if thou find in Mary any such thing as harshness, or hardness, and even the least sing of loss of temper, trust her not again, and fear to come unto her. But if thou find her to be altogether, as indeed she is, full of a mother's tenderness and mercy, give thanks unto Him who, in the vast abundance of His goodness, hath given thee such a spokeswoman in whom thou canst not be trust. In fine, through the boundlessness of her charity, she hath made herself 'all things to all men' (1 Cor 9: 22), 'A debtor both to the wise and to the unwise.' (Rom 1:14). She openeth to all the bosom of her mercy, that of her fullness all may receive; the captive, ransom; the sick, pardon; the sorrowful, comfort; the sinful, pardon; the righteous, grace, even angels, gladness. She is not one who inguireth what we have deserved; but is to all most easy to be entreated and most merciful. In the wideness of her love she hath pity upon the needs of all". (St Bernard on the Twelve Stars.)

Health of the sick, pray for us.
(text credit: "My Queen and My Mother" by RGS) 


"Maria Salus Infirmorum - Mary Health of the Sick" is one of the most beautiful titles that the Church gives to Mary, the Mother of God. When we look at the vintage pictorial representation of Our Lady under the title 'Salus Infirmorum' we can see her with her hands folded in prayer of intercession, the posture of Orante.  The image also expresses Mary’s “compassion,” her suffering with those who suffer:  “Quis infirmatur et ego  non infirmor”  (attributed to Saint Paul).  Mary is not the ultimate source of health and redemption (salus),   it is God himself who heals all our infirmities, as indicated in Psalm 103:3 topping the whole picture.

 The image of Mary is surrounded by the symbols of the apothecary and medical professions.  The lower half of the illustration contrasts sickness (a sick person on her sick bed) and healing (possibly an allusion to the pool of Bethesda).  “Health of the Sick,” Mary is a true physician.  But her medical equipment is not the stethoscope.  She acts as a healer by radiating holiness (virtue).

Credit: vintage picture and explanation after Mary's pages

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