As a kid, I knew that St. Blaise was the patron saint of throat ailments because his blessing was on my birthday, and I narrowly escaped the horror of being named Blaise.
After that, I never paid much attention to saints and sicknesses until I got cancer and was happily buried in prayers to St. Peregrine for my recovery.
Since then, I’ve learned that I could turn to St. Lawrence for back pain, St. Werenfried for aching joints, St. Polycarp for hearing issues, and St. Rita for my frequent self-inflicted wounds.
There is a patron saint for about anything that ails you from appendicitis to vertigo, from poisoning to paralysis.
Even if there is no miraculous cure attributed to their intercession, it is good to have someone to unload your suffering, to seek some consolation, and to understand from their stories that your sickness doesn’t define you.
We understandably turn to prayer when we’re in agony or just had some difficult diagnosis, but I can’t help thinking about Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi: “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?”
Maybe, once in a while, I should pray in gratitude for this body that, despite a little wear and tear, continues to serve me well.
My feet may have some neuropathy, but they are still, as da Vinci said, “a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” I may not be running, but there is still spring in my step — enough to chase a 3-year-old around the yard or go for a hike in the woods.
My hands, crooked and scarred, are still a symphony of 27 bones, 34 muscles and over 100 ligaments and tendons performing together. These can still cook, garden, repair, make and hold.
My neck remains an incredible gift, a swivel allowing me to watch a plane cross the sky and then instantly notice the wildflower at my foot. It’s the neck that nods the head in quiet understanding.
I need to take time to give thanks for eyes that still see the detail of creation and ears that on a quiet morning, offer me the birdsong.
I don’t know how old David was when he said in Psalm 139, “I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” but it is something I need to do more of, especially as I age.
Otherwise, I am going to be praying to St. Dymphna (patron for depression).