The Well (el Pozo) at the Basilica of St. Rose

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day Eight - Rose of the Sick

When a person sneezes, we say, "God Bless You!."

According to one legend, saying this blessing originates with the belief that a person's heart stops for a fraction of a second during a sneeze. Even though that old wives' tale won't help cure the cold or allergy that caused the sneeze, people continue to say it. It's a kind gesture and a simple prayer for the person in their moment of ill-health.

Visiting the sick, one of the Corporal Works of Mercy, can be done through prayer. How many times do we pray for the sick; especially at Mass?

Saint Rose not only tended to the sick, she prayed for them unceasingly. Her infirmary within her parent's home offered great support to the women of Lima. Not wanting to be a social worker, however, Rose made sure that her support for her patients was directed toward prayer and a closer union with her Lord. She said, "Prayer is the great pharmacy where we can find the medicine for all our ills."

Pope John Paul II once wrote in an address to the sick and suffering, "You who are weighed down by suffering are in the front line of those beloved by God." Rose of Lima understood that by visiting the sick she would find those who were closest to God. How is it that the sick are closest to God when it appears as though God has abandoned them in their illness?

The answer is found in the cross. By suffering, dying, and rising, the Lord gave the mystery of human suffering and death a profound and salvific meaning. We are all called to imitate Christ - to be living icons of Jesus the Lord. In sickness and death, we most closely reflect the Lord who suffered and died for us. This is why Rose had her infirmary. She saw her Lord in the sick and suffering.

Rose would not pass up the opportunity to teach her guests in the infirmary about the Lord. When her patients would give her praise for her works of mercy, she would point to a statue of the child Jesus which she had set in the window. She would say, "There is your divine physician. Give him the praise. I am just an instrument."

The statue of the child Jesus was a gift to Rose from one of her wealthy benefactors. Rose kept it in the infirmity and referred to it as her "little Doctor." As she cared for her patients, she would keep her eyes fixed on the image and utter her 149 names of the Lord. This mantra and contemplation of her Lord helped her to overcome the tremendous smells of the cancerous patients she served.

Rose was a pioneer in her zeal to help all women living on the streets. The Spanish would not care for the African, Indians, or Meztizos. Rose cared for them all; Not because she was partly quechua herself (on her mother's side), but because her heart knew no boundaries. How could it? This woman, who so loved the Lord, knew that in Him "there is no Jew, or Greek, slave, or free." In God's eyes, all are the same.


Rose of the Sick,

Your love for those you served in your infirmary was a love for Christ himself.
Teach me to see my Lord in the sick and in my own sufferings.

Help me to see that all suffering, all crosses, even death itself can lead me to know Christ.

Lord Jesus, bless me in my moment of suffering and at the hour of death. Amen.

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