Looking for Help

St. Benedict Medal

I imagine that everyone who reads here has been exposed to the popular wisdom that nothing is certain except death and taxes. And that is true. Some might point out that the very rich seem often to escape the dread feelings that grow as April 15th draws near, but even the very rich pay taxes of kinds other than that levied on personal income. They might buy gasoline, for example, which is heavily taxed by both state and federal governments. For those of us blessed to live in America, I believe it accurate to observe that paying taxes in one form or another is inevitable.

So, too, is death inevitable. As a consequence of Adam's sin, all humanity is born spiritually dead—and that includes Catholicism's principle goddess Catholic Mary. For some, however, spiritual death is not permanent. Some are blessed to be numbered among the Elect of God. These, by God's mercy and grace, will receive the gift of saving faith. They will be re-born, quickened by the power of the holy Spirit and spiritually alive. And they will never come under God's condemnation.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.-- John 5:24

Even those who receive the inestimable gift of everlasting spiritual life must yield their physical bodies to death in this world. Should the prospect of inevitable physical death be frightening? Not for those blessed by God with adoption:

11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.—Romans 8:11-17

For those who still wander in Egypt with others who are dead in spirit, death -- or more correctly what follows death -- should be absolutely terrifying. After death they will be judged at the White Throne of Christ. Their eternal sentence has already been pronounced:

11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.—Revelation 20:11-15

The child of God has no reason to fear death, though he may well be concerned for the process of dying, which indeed could be both painful and of extended duration. In such cases, one who is dying may seek comfort and support from a friend or loved one. Many of us may know this from having been at the side of loved ones who suffered lingering deaths marked by excruciating pain.

Think about it. Who would you most want to have at your side as the specter of death hovered near to hand? Your spouse? Your children? Your best friend? Your priest or minister?

From personal experience, I know that having loved ones present when one is gravely ill may be comforting, but does little to facilitate medical care or healing. When the outcome is in question, the One I want most to be at my side is the Lord. His abiding presence is comforting and helps me to enjoy visits from family and friends. I am confident that He guides the medical professionals who care for me and that He gives me strength to endure all things.

Do you wonder whose presence and support sick or injured Catholics seek? Do they pray to the Lord for healing and deliverance from their trials? Perhaps. Again from personal experience and observation, I know that some unwell Catholics or those who wish them well are likely to pray to one of the variant forms of Catholic Mary:

“We cannot enter a house without first speaking to the porter. Similarly, we cannot enter heaven without calling upon the aid of the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the Portress of Heaven.--St. John Vianney, quoted on Images of Heaven's Our Lady and The Saints web page (My underlining)

“The Blessed Virgin Mary comforts and refreshes those who are in their last agony. Then she also receives their souls at death. ---St. Vincent Ferrer, Ibid. (My underlining)

“May the Blessed Virgin Mary help me to live a holy life and die a holy death. Then at the last instants of my life, may she come to my assistance and lead me to heaven.”---St. Dominic Savio, Ibid. (My underlining)

A Catholic who is feeling poorly might also call upon other Romish demigods, such as Saint Jude:

O glorious Apostle St. Jude, true relative of Jesus and Mary, I salute you through the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Through this Heart, I praise and thank God for all the graces He has bestowed upon you. Humbly prostrate before you, I implore you through this Heart to look down upon me with compassion. Despise not my poor prayer and let not my trust be in vain. To you has been assigned the privilege of aiding mankind in the most desperate cases. Oh, come to my aid that I may praise the mercies of God. All my life I will be grateful to you and will be your faithful client until I can thank you in heaven. Amen—quoted on the Prayers to St. Jude web page (My underlining)

Or perhaps he will bring in an archangel to consult on his case:

Glorious Archangel St. Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, you are illustrious for your gifts of wisdom and grace. You are a guide of those who journey by land or sea or air, consoler of the afflicted, and refuge of sinners.

I beg you, assist me in all my needs and in all the sufferings of this life, as once you helped the young Tobias on his travels. Because you are the "medicine of God" I humbly pray you to heal the many infirmities of my soul and the ills that afflict my body. I especially ask of you the favor (here mention your special intention), and the great grace of purity to prepare me to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. Amen.—quoted on the Prayers to St. Raphaelweb page (My underlining)

Or maybe a pilgrim:

Dear mendicant Pilgrim, you once took care of sufferers from the plague and were always ready to help others by kind service and fervent prayers. You yourself had no home and you died in a dungeon. No wonder countless invalids have confidently invoked your help. Please grant a cure to this patient, N., and help us all become spiritually healthy. Amen.—quoted on the Prayers to St. Roch (My underlining)

When I pray for healing for myself or for others, I direct my prayers only to the Lord. My prayers are simple ones, using simple language. I know that my Father hears my prayers and knows my needs before I voice them. There is no need for syrupy words or pious hyperbole when going before the Lord. A true believer is free to go before God as a child might go before his earthly father (Hebrews 4:16)

26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.—Romans 8:26-27

From my own experience, I know that in times of serious illness, I am comforted and strengthened by drawing near to the Lord. I need no holy images, nor rosaries nor saccharine prayers from which to draw strength and comfort. The sure knowledge that Christ is with me is all that I need.

Catholics, on the other hand, might cling to religious symbols in times of great need. There are the little cross-shaped final blessing kits like the one my wife keeps, or perhaps a rosary, or a prayer card or maybe even a St. Benedict medal. There are indulgences attached to the habitual wearing of this medal, which invokes the support of Benedict in these words that surround the figure of the Catholic saint:

Eius in obitu nostro praesentia muniamur! (May we be strengthened by his presence in the hour of our death!)

To whom do you pray when you need help—the Lord or the ghost of some created being?

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