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World Day for the Sick

Maintaining Joy and Finding Purpose in Suffering

The World Day of the Sick was instituted by Pope St. John Paul II in 1992.  Beginning on February 11, 1993, it is celebrated every year on the commemoration of Our Lady's first appearance to St. Bernadette in Lourdes, France. Millions of people have been physically or spiritually healed through the miraculous waters and Eucharistic Adoration. 
 

Testimony of Michelle Meza

Praised be Jesus Christ now and forever! My name is Michelle Meza, I'm 30 years old, and a Discalced Carmelite Secular. That means I am a lay-woman living out Carmelite spirituality in the world. I also live with a chronic illness called psoriatic arthritis, which greatly inhibits my daily physical activity. Though these limitations are at times disheartening and difficult, with God’s grace I’ve been able to maintain joy in my life and find great purpose in my sufferings.   

World Day for the Sick has a special meaning for me, not just because I have a chronic illness, but because my patron saint is St. Bernadette Soubirous who received 18 apparitions from Our Lady of Lourdes in the year 1858. I chose St. Bernadette as my confirmation saint when I was 15 years old. Little did I know the tremendous role she would play in my life 7 years later in teaching me how to suffer well. While being newly diagnosed, I struggled to see God’s purpose in this tragic turn of events. I had been discerning entering religious life with the Carmelites for a few years and was just finishing up a bachelor’s degree in history. Chronic physical illness generally disqualifies anyone from religious life. As I searched for answers, I stumbled upon a book called "The Message of Bernadette" that changed how I looked at my disability from that day to the present. It stated that God sends suffering to us, because it is the ladder that will lead us to Heaven. Wow! 

Suffering is a means of our own sanctification and by offering it up to the Father united to the sufferings of Christ Crucified can also lead to the salvation of other poor souls. This resonated so deeply within me. I knew it was a great grace, my vocation really. With this profound realization, I committed myself to a life of prayer, consecrating myself to Jesus through Mary. I knew that the Mother of Sorrows would apply my daily sacrifice wherever her Son felt it was needed most, and make up for my own failings. I became quite ill after Thanksgiving, which left me dealing with extreme fatigue for nearly a month. In that time, I forgot to recite my daily act of consecration to Our Lady and my morning offering. 

Around the new year I remembered to recite these short prayers before getting out of bed and POOF! The fatigue dissipated, which is a miracle for anyone who has chronic pain. Energy is hard to come by…   

If you or anyone you know suffers from chronic illness, know that God has a plan for you and it may very well be that he is calling you to help him save souls. “One human soul is worth the created world” as St Thomas Aquinas says, and that is no exaggeration. I take heart in this sublime reality though I do need to be reminded of it from time to time!