For those unfamiliar with the life of St. Therese of Lisieux, this is a painting that tries to express the moment in her life when everyone had given up hope of her recovery from a mysterious illness. Suddenly, the statue of Mary seemed to come to life and smile at the sick girl, and she immediately recovered.
What was this strange ailment the young Therese suffered from? Today, we might diagnose it as a nervous breakdown. This over-sensitive child, already suffering the loss of her mother, now realized she would lose her \”second mother\”, her oldest sister Pauline, who entered the Carmel in Lisieux. Although Pauline was close by, and the family visited her whenever possible–as often as once a week–Therese, as the littlest of the \”little girls\” was not allowed private conversation with Pauline, or even an opportunity to join in the general conversation. She was expected to \”be seen and not heard\”, The few moments at the end of the visit when Pauline spoke with directly were later described by Therese as \”crumbs\”. This went on for years.
However, one day when her melancholy and distress seemed to be at the worst, the miracle occurred. The Virgin smiled at her, and all her previous illness vanished. For the rest of her life–including the years when she suffered horribly from tuberculosis and other ailments prior to her death at age 24–she never again lost her peace.
We could also think of the shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, in southern France. The spring first discovered by St. Bernadette in the nineteenth century is still pouring its healing waters on the innumerable people who come seeking cures every year. There are some miraculous healings: paralyzed people who walk again, cancers that disappear, and so on. But it is said that for everyone who bathes in the waters, there is a spiritual healing. The physical ailment they brought with them to Lourdes may not disappear, but they somehow gain a new acceptance and peace with their situation, and they thank God for this. The ability to accept the will of God peacefully is a healing we don\’t hear much about, but it is a true healing nonetheless, when we can let go of our resentment toward Him and welcome His peace instead.
Mary, health of the sick, in this time of pandemic help us to remember that you are our Mother, who always intercedes for us before God. We beg for healing and an end to this pandemic, but if this is not God\’s will, please obtain for us the peace we desperately need.