Here is a story that every family I know can tell: all of us have been sick. For a long, long time.
In the past few months our household has endured countless rounds of colds and coughs, flu and fevers. With four kids in school and one toddler at home it’s not surprising. Over the weeks I’ve spent pouring doses of cough syrup and searching frantically for fever medications in drugstores, I read everywhere about the “tripledemic”: the extra-potent convergence of COVID-19, RSV and the flu that’s hitting families, schools, workplaces and hospitals across the U.S. right now.
Caught in our own endless slog of hacking coughs, feverish kids and runny noses, I started stockpiling ways to pray through this winter’s sick season. Tuck one of these ideas in your pocket (along with extra tissues) to remember the God of the sick sees you, too.
• Invoke the Trinity. What better way to counter any illness from mild to severe than by calling upon God’s own name for strength and comfort? The Prayer of St. Patrick’s Breastplate binds us to the holy name of the Trinity and reminds us that God is our protection in every moment: “Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me.”
• Seek a saint’s intercession. Many of us grew up getting our throats blessed on the feast of St. Blaise (Feb. 3rd). As a kid in Catholic school, I always seemed to have a seasonal sore throat by that mid-winter Mass, so the timing was perfect. But did you know there are plenty of saintly friends to call upon when sickness hits?
St. Roch survived the plague to become a patron of the ill, along with St. Angela Merici who was devoted to serving the sick. St. Gianna knew the personal and professional sides of caring for kids as a mother and doctor. By winter’s end we might all be praying to St. Jude, intercessor of the impossible.
• Sit with a healing story. The Gospels are full of stories of Jesus healing the sick: small children, older adults and people with diseases or disabilities. Cures don’t come for everyone, but praying with the abundance of healing Scriptures remind us that God sees, cares for and loves those who are suffering.
• Pray for others. The “pain Olympics” of comparison are never worth playing, but it can help to unite our suffering with others when we are feeling low. Remember those in the hospital while you’re sick at home. Give thanks for those in healing professions when you’re stuck on hold with the doctor’s office or waiting at urgent care for hours. Keep a list of friends and family who are sick and check in with a quick text or prayer.
• Rest without guilt. God could have designed our bodies to heal by exertion but instead, our bodies usually need more sleep to heal. Listening to your body, tending to others as caregiver and heeding the Sabbath call to rest are ways to honor God’s care for bodies.
On the bleakest days when you can barely crawl out of bed, remember that “Help!” is a complete sentence and a full prayer. As the Psalmist cries out, God hears every petition and comes to our aid: “The Lord sustains him on his sickbed” (Psalm 41:4). Even when our bodies suffer, our souls can draw closer to Christ who knew the depths of human suffering.
May the healing power of the Divine Physician — and the hope of the New Year — lift your spirit this month, in sickness and in health.
Laura Kelly Fanucci is an author, speaker, and founder of Mothering Spirit, an online gathering place on parenting and spirituality.