So, I don’t discuss this publicly very often but since it’s February and I think about sickness…
Lourdes is number 1 on my pilgrimage list. Once I saw a program about Lourdes and watched the sick carted to the grotto by volunteers. I wanted to be one of those volunteers. The sick in their wheelchairs and stretchers with their rosaries could have been the scene St. Louis de Montfort described in True Devotion to Mary:
They shall carry on their shoulders the bloody standard of the cross, the crucifix in their right hand and the rosary in their left, the sacred names of Jesus and Mary on their hearts, and the modesty and mortification of Jesus Christ in their own behaviour.
February is celebrated as the month of love, but behind all love is sacrifice. With the feasts of St. Blaise and Our Lady of Lourdes and, for many Februaries, the start of Lent, February is filled with the themes of healing, illness, and redemptive suffering.
I was 32 when I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Since then, I’ve welcomed my 3rd child and became a small business owner and coach for a handful of little league teams. In large part to the impression a crowd of strangers left on me as they were carted down to the grotto, I embraced the diagnosis less as an illness and more as a greater share of the cross. My diagnosis quickly freed me from many of the worries that had chained me down: stress about money and worry about work, in particular. And as life began to become more physically restrictive, trying to be guided by the Holy Spirit rather than myself, I have accomplished more and been more active than I’d ever been.
The world is scared of the cross, afraid of the child that comes sick or at the wrong economic time, the ageing parent, the disabled adult, or one’s own illness and disability. When someone tries to tell me how much could be accomplished by giving up the cross, I’m reminded of Mother Angelica saying, “I am not afraid to fail, I am scared to death of dying and having the Lord say to me. 'Angelica, this is what you might have done had you trust me more'.” February is the month of the sick, the caregivers, the tired parents (it’s the month dedicated to the Holy Family). St. John Paul II once said,
Together with Mary, Mother of Christ, who stood beneath the cross, we pause beside all the crosses of contemporary man and ask all of you who suffer to support us. We ask precisely you who are weak to become a source of strength for the Church and humanity. In the terrible battle between the forces of good and evil revealed to our eyes by our modern world, may your sufferings in union with the cross of Christ be victorious.
The message of February is love because the message of February is pro-life because its message is to embrace the cross. February in the Church calendar goes out of its way to make the weak visible for all of us who need them.