Time to call on some saints in the health care debate

The debate over health care reform in the U.S. has gone from robust to absolutely wild and wooly, not to mention uncivil — Rep. Joe “You lie!” Wilson — and downright dangerous — the tragic killing of anti-abortion protestor James Pouillon last week in Michigan.  Perhaps it’s time to call on the intercession of some saints to help bring a little grace to the debate and perhaps some resolution.

Since antiquity, Christians have prayed to holy men and women to ask their intercession with God for life’s ailments. Through the centuries, just about every sickness has been associated with a special patron. For example, headache sufferers can call on St. Therese of Avila. People with cancer have a special friend in St. Peregrine. St. Frances de Sales intercedes for the deaf. The mentally ill can count on St. Dymphna. Alcoholics share both Sts. John of God and Monica. St. Lucy helps folks with eye diseases. Our Lady of Lourdes is always good for bodily ills of every stripe.

Health care providers have patrons too. Anesthesiologists and anesthetists pray to St. Rene Goupil. St. Apollonia takes care of dentists and presumably dental assistants. Radiologists find an intecessor in St. Michael the Archangel. Surgeons have a trio: Sts. Luke (a healer himself, tradition holds), Cosmas and Damien. Nurses have a pantheon in Sts. Raphael the Archangel, Agatha, Camillus de Lellis and John of God. Pharmicists have choices depending on whether they work in hospitals — St. Gemma Galgani — or in your neighborhood drug store — St. James the Elder.

A quick check of Our Sunday Visitor’s eternally useful Catholic Almanac or St. Anthony Messenger Press’ searchable patron saints can turn up dozens of other examples.

Of course, all saints pretty much work, depending on one’s personal piety and practice. Saints are generous like that.

Perhaps a good one for this particular debate might be St. Sharbel, the Lebanese Maronite monk and hermit. It might seem an odd choice, but when saints perform miracles, it’s not for mere mortals to figure out why.  In Lebanon and across the world, St. Sharbel is celebrated on the 22nd of every month. This is because on Jan. 22, 1993, a Lebanese woman, Nohad El Shami, who had suffered a paralyzing stroke, prayed for his intercession. She was miraculously healed. The saint, who never ventured far from his boyhood village, was said to have works many miracles throughout his life.

You can read about this wonderful saint in the recent issue of One magazine, published by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. In “A Saint Without Borders,” reporter Marilyn Raschka and photographer Sarah Hunter tell the story of St. Sharbel and his miracles in a small Lebanese village where he is buried. You can also see a multimedia presentation by both journalists about St. Sharbel.

Since the 22nd is coming up next week, and we’ll have a 22nd in all the months ahead during the health care debate, St. Sharbel might just be the saint to pray and ask his intercession. We could use a miracle or two right about now. Congress and President Obama want to have a comprehensive health care bill completed by the end of the year. St. Sharbel’s feast day is Dec. 24. Health care reform would make a great Christmas gift for the nation. I think he could do it.

8 Responses

  1. And actually a list of the Catholic Almanac’s patrons and intercessors is online:
    http://www.osv.com/OSV4MeNav/CatholicAlmanac/PatronSaintsandIntercessors/tabid/350/Default.aspx

  2. Promises have been made but we must remember congress has it’s constituents and the platforms of it’s parties to fulfil. Here in MN we have a political platform action agenda item which says “Pharmacists shall dispense all medications prescribed by a physician without moral judgement.” Many of our senators and representatives are pledged to support platforms like that and are bought and paid for by “Pro-choice” constituents.
    So far Congress has defeated every amendment submitted which specifically bans the use of any tax money for abortion and clear and unambigous amendments protecting the conscience rights of healthcare workers. Currently the legislation says these workers shall participate in acts they morally object to under “emergency” condititions. This would require pharmacists to dispense, “Emergency Contraceptives” which cause mini abortions. I know because I am a nurse and our son is a Pharmacy Doctor. So let’s ask President Obama, “Where is the beef?”
    And yes, we better pray in our Churches asking for the intercession of every saint. Ask your priest to include this in an unambiguos way in the prayers of the faithful.

  3. Way to go Jim. The last two sentences of this article concerning Mr. Obama and his Democrat Party Congress was giving me a pain in the region of my body that would require prayers to St. Fiacre (look it up). Your letter and comments gave me a little hope.

  4. What a great idea, I read all the links recommended by the writer, Tony Spence. What a great saint. What is of particular note is that the miracle that is bringing all the good people to St. Sharbel grave occurred on January 22nd, 1993 which is to the day the 20 anniversary of the Roe vs Wade decision. Bearing this in mind, I propose that St. Sharbel be patron saint of Universal Health Care and the Unborn.
    Dear St. Sharbel we request your intersession in providing we Americans from the unborn to the very eldery and all those who are the guest of our country a meaningful universal care that will protect all both physically and financially in these most challenging times. We ask for you blessings on this young president of ours who is trying to do so very much to protect the poor and marginalized of our society.
    Did you know that the majority of the bankrupsy of this country is a result unexpected financial health care burden?

  5. While Universal health care is a wonderful goal, how does one reconcile the fact that Medicare Pt. One will be insolvent in 2017, and Social Security in 2037? Just how are we giong to pay for all of this? From what I have read to date, all this country will do is go deeper into debt to China, and we know how they take care of their people.

  6. Khanski, good question. 1st and formost we pray to this patron saint, then we work to solve the budget situation like everything depends on us but recognizing everything really depends on God. I agree with you that we cannot go deeper in dept to finance this thing. However Obama committed that he is determined to not bring us any further into debt. I personally believe this smart young man is capable of pulling this off. I believe there are efficiencies to be had. We need look at new ways of doing business. Not the same old way. Two very bright management consultants. Hammer and Champy, wrote a very insightful book about 13/15 years ago that gives us insight into address this worthwhile challenge. The book is titled "Reengineering the Corporation". Their concept works. I know from experience because I was directly involved with applying it to an Army Command and the Army’s Acquisition Corps. Effectively these authors identified two questions that needed to be addressed when assessing organizational entities, Why are we doing what we are doing? and Why are we doing it the way we are doing it? The insurance adjustment methodology is a good example of how this works. A decade ago this process was set up to address all possible claim situations that could possibly happen. In addressing these two questions, it was decided to set up a claims process to handle let say 90 to 95% (I cannot recall the exact percentages but these are close) of the claims and another process to handle all the rest. This reduced the average claims times from over a month to a matter of a few days. This was order of change in improvements. The same can happened when Obama looks at all the process within the running of the Fderal Government with the same potential of order of magnitude improvement of processes resulting in comparable cost savings to fund universal health care. It can be done! It is possible!!!

    Now when I was involved in reengineering, I saw the same type of battles that we are seeing now with health care reform. It is a matter of trust as well as how we as people are wired (by God) in how we see the world around us. I actually wrote a a paper on it offering insights and solutions. The paper is titled, "Reengineering Can Work". Today the title could be changed to "Universal Health Care Can Work". Take a look and give me your thought. I included a link to that paper in the title. The work I did on that paper lead to another project that is near and dear to my heart as a Catholic who is really into the Social Teachings of our Catholic Church. That work is also in the internet and is Called "Our Road to World Peace". It is an ongoing project and must be built on personal peace, then peace within our immediate families, then bringing peace to social, work, faith, political, stc communites, then cities, states, country and evently the entire world. The bottom line is that it is up to each of us. I see our young president trying to take our country in this direction. It is up to each and everyone of us to help him in this process!!!!

    God bless!!!!

  7. Jim, I was also involved “re-engineering” processes. Unfortunately many of the promises were not met, and was more hype then substance. Many of these methods were based on Japanese methods, long honed, that were picked up from the U.S.

    But that does not change the fact that this country is going bankrupt. The interest on our debt already is a significant part of the GDP. I hate to be cynical, but would YOU TRUST the “Chicago machine” with your health care. There are certain basic facts on costs, number of health personal, torts, etc. “cost savings” that do NOT MAKE COMMON SENSE. One grand scheme, will, has history has shown, will fail. Not today, but 5-10 years from now. Perhaps reading the articles in the Wall Street Journal will help drive home the point that it would be far more prudent to take the time to evaluate what is being legislated, one part at a time rather then “ram it through”. Remember, follow the money trail. From reading this bill and the “cap & trade” bill, these bills were sitting on the shelf, “a long time a-brewing”.

    A most interesting article is in the Wall St. Journal 9/18/2009, Health Care Reform & the President’s Falthful Helpers. Read it and WEEP.

  8. Forgot to add, Health Care Reform & the President’s Faithful Helpers. Read it and WEEP, was in the Personal section of the WSJ, under the Houses of Worship weekly section.

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