When cancer enters your life, it can be overwhelming. This post teaches about the Catholic Church’s positions on sickness, healing, and Catholic prayers for the sick.
We’ve also included an inspirational story about Blessed Chiara Badano, a teenage Catholic cancer patient who died in 1990.
Table of contents
Sick, Our Nature Demanded To Be Healed
Ever since our first parents, Adam and Eve, fell from our Father’s grace in the Garden of Eden, humanity has been constantly faced with a huge lack of immortality: We experience pain, we suffer, and, ultimately, we die.
Now, that would sound pretty grim if that was the whole story — Thanks a lot Adam and Eve! But thanks be to God, literally, that is not the whole story. Only moments after the fall from grace, the first sin committed by our first parents, within the same Bible chapter, we have what Catholic tradition calls the protoevangelium: The first Gospel. It’s the first time in the Bible that we are told that salvation will come (cf. Genesis 3:14-15).
But we all know the story quite well. A few millennia later, God Himself became incarnate to save us (cf. CCC 457) and to be our model of holiness (cf. CCC 459).
Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Savior; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (St. Gregory of Nyssa in CCC 457).
His Healing Ministry
One of the most obvious themes of the life of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is His healing ministry. Jesus proclaimed liberty to captives and healing to all the sick (cf. Matthew 8:16). But let us not fall into the wrong mindset that many around Jesus fell into. Many thought that Jesus had come to take away suffering, to take away pain and heal every single person of their infirmities. But is this really true?
Yes! An emphatic “Yes, yes, yes!” But… not in the way that many back then had thought. Jesus came to bring us one better: He came to destroy death.
Let’s look at this closely. Jesus is God. That makes Him “He who is Life Himself.” That is to say, God doesn’t merely have life, He is Life. Therefore, when Jesus, Life Himself, goes into the darkness of death, death can’t do anything but be destroyed! Death is no more and is unable to hold Him down and so He rose from the dead to save us (cf. Romans 4:25).
As St. Paul says so emphatically in 1 Corinthians 15:54-55, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
But to proclaim this glorious gift of eternal life that He has given us, He asks us to carry our cross daily for the Cross was the necessary medium to heal the rift between God and man, and lead death to be destroyed. When we suffer with a joyful hope in the resurrection of the dead to eternal life, it can be more evangelistic than our words could ever be. Jesus does, however, heal the physical ailments of many as I mentioned, but they’re always as a sign of the spiritual and eternal salvation that He came to bring us. The Catechism says this in paragraph 1151:
In his preaching the Lord Jesus often makes use of the signs of creation to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. He performs healings and illustrates his preaching with physical signs or symbolic gestures. He gives new meaning to the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover, for he himself is the meaning of all these signs.
Catholic Prayers For The Sick
The two most powerful sources of Catholic prayers for the sick will always be the Sacrament of Confession and the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick. They both prioritize the spiritual healing and restoration. The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick can sometimes be accompanied by physical healing also.
As St. James so explicitly mentions in his epistle: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (James 5:14-15).
Always remember that our heavenly Father always has our best interests at the forefront of His plans for us. Jesus always walks with us in our sufferings, especially in our sufferings (I am reminded of that famous story named “footprints in the sand”). Cling to Him with everything that you’ve got and give Him all of your pain, suffering and disillusions. He will turn them into joy, glory, and finally, He will turn your death into life.
A Story Of Blessed Chiara Badano
I leave you with the following inspirational story of a young lady, a cancer patient who is in now in the process of becoming a saint.
Chiara seemed to have everything going for her as a teen. She had a loving, holy family and a rock solid faith that was nurtured by retreats and youth ministry programs. She was popular amongst her friends and was liked by boys. It’s not hard to see why. She was beautiful. Chiara loved to hang out in coffee shops. She was great at tennis, swimming and mountain climbing. Her outgoing personality and adventurous spirit made her dream of becoming a flight attendant. Chiara had a bright life ahead of her.
One day while playing tennis, Chiara experienced excruciating pain in her shoulder. Shortly afterwards she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma. She watched her bright future slip away. But it’s here that the real story of her life begins—the story of heroic virtue.
Chiara’s joy was explosive and it only increased with her suffering. After one very pain-filled night she said, “I suffered a lot, but my soul was singing.” Google pictures of her on her death bed. Her eyes look like pools reflecting the glory of heaven. One of her doctors remarked, “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” Cardinal Saldarini heard of this amazing teen and visited her in the hospital. Awestruck, he said, “The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?” Chiara’s reply was simple: “I try to love Jesus as much as I can.”
Chiara had a profound sense of redemptive suffering. She often repeated the phrase, “If this is what you want, Jesus, so do I.” Like any teenage girl, she loved her hair, but with each lock that fell out she’d pray, “For you, Jesus.” She frequently refused morphine, saying, “I want to share as much as possible in His suffering on the cross.”
During one of her many hospital stays Chiara took walks with a depressed, drug-dependent girl, despite the pain of walking from the huge growth on her spine. When she was encouraged to stop and rest she said, “I’ll have time to rest later.” Ever thinking of others, she said, “I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.”
Chiara requested to be buried in a wedding gown. As the end of her short life drew near she told her mother, “When you’re getting me ready, Mum, you have to keep saying to yourself, ‘Chiara Luce is now seeing Jesus.’”
She died on Oct. 7, 1990. Her parents and friends were with her. Her last words were: “Goodbye. Be happy because I’m happy.”
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Let us pray for one another in our times of trial that we may be able to endure with unending love for Jesus. Maybe we can take the words of Blessed Chiara and make them our own when we are in pain, emotional or physical: “For you, Jesus.”
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