Honored as the "Health of the Sick," she comforts us as she comforted Juan Diego: Do not worry about any misfortune.
It was in December of 1531 when Juan Diego was assured by the Lady who had been appearing to him that his sick uncle would be healed. “Do not worry about this illness or about any other misfortune,” she told him. “Am I, your Mother, not here at your side? Are you not protected by my shadow? Am I not your safety?”
This message from the Virgin Mary points to her role as Our Lady, Health of the Sick. A feast day in honor of this devotion was historically celebrated August 24. Now, it is held on the Saturday before the last Sunday in August.
If we stop to think about it, we can quickly see that our Blessed Mother stands out in the Gospels as someone who was always there to help others. Her life is a constant testimony of self-gift. We see her surrender to God’s will at the Annunciation. Then her service to her cousin Elizabeth.
Classic artwork 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 we can imagine how she loved and cared for them as well.
We then can think of her and her Son 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 is no doubt she is truly the “Health of the Sick.”
Mary’s greatest challenge and heartbreak came as she had to watch her Son willingly allow Himself 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 was dying on the cross. Mary gave her all to Him and, as our Mother, will do so for us. As we endure our own sufferings in life, she accompanies us as she did Him. She is standing at the foot of our own crosses too.
This is why she is called Our Lady, Health of the Sick.
The magnificent Stabat Mater (Sorrowful Mother) was written to describe the pain and suffering Mary had to endure during her Son’s crucifixion and death. Here are the first two and the next to last verses of the Stabat Mater, which frame the entire hymn.
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 after watching her firstborn on the Cross: 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.