What’s the ritual in your family when someone gets sick? Breaking out the thermometer, giving medicine, making soup or tea, and setting up a humidifier might be part of that routine.
But what about prayer? After all, healing was a centerpiece of Jesus’ ministry, and he commanded the apostles to heal the sick as well (Mark 16:17-18). In doing so, he was continuing a long tradition of petitioning God for healing from sickness. “My son, when you are ill, delay not, but pray to God, who will heal you,” Sirach advises (Sirach 38:9).
So, don’t hesitate to pray for kids when they’re sick…or to encourage them to pray for other sick family members. Prepare ahead of time by keeping holy water in your medicine cabinet, along with a prayer for sickness. You can find numerous prayers for and blessings of the sick in Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers, and you’ll find two more prayers for the sick below.
Or say your own spontaneous prayer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Lay hands on the sick person, and consider blessing him or her with holy water.
And if a family member is seriously ill, about to have surgery, or in danger of death, check with your parish about having them receive the Sacrament of Anointing. Once popularly referred to as “Last Rites,” the Sacrament of Anointing isn’t just for people on the point of death (Catechism 1514).
Talking points: Praying for healing
If you make praying for the sick a regular habit, sooner or later your kids will probably ask some questions about the practice. Here are some talking points to share with them:
- Why does God allow sickness? Sickness is part of the mystery of evil. It wasn’t part of God’s original plan for humanity, but is one of the consequences of original sin.
- Why do we pray for healing? Because God wants us to, because God wants what is good for us, and because God wants to be in a loving relationship with us. Although illness is an evil, God can use it to bring about something good when we turn to him in our time of need. That good might involve physical healing, but it also might simply be a strengthening of our relationship with God.
- Why doesn’t God always answer our prayers by healing the sick person? Why God doesn’t heal everyone who asks for healing is a mystery. The Book of Job spends pages and pages wrestling with this question, and we know that Jesus didn’t heal everyone in Israel. His healing miracles were an announcement of the coming of the Kingdom of God, which is present in the Church but not yet fully realized. When it is, there will be no more sickness and no more death (Isaiah 35:5-6; 65: 19-20).
- What good can God bring from sickness? If we stick with God in prayer when we are sick, even if we aren’t immediately healed, God can still bring about something good. It may confirm the faithfulness of the just, repair sin, or lead to a deeper conversion of the sick person. Also, by their union with Christ, Christians may unite their suffering to Christ’s suffering on the cross. “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church,” Paul writes (Colossians 1:24). In this way, Christians can participate in Christ’s redemptive suffering.
- Should we still go to the doctor? Yes. The Church has long taught that part of God’s plan is that we fight against all forms of evil, including sickness, using the gifts God gives us. This is why Catholics have founded so many hospitals and health care facilities!
If you really want to geek out on the Church’s doctrine on sickness and healing, check out the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s Instruction on Prayers for Healing.
Blessed Chiara Badano, patron of sick children
Sick kids, especially those with chronic illnesses, might find inspiration in the example of Blessed Chiara Badano. She’s the Italian teenager whose faith-powered joy and courage in the face of painful, terminal bone cancer inspired all around her.
In many ways, she was an ordinary teen who liked tennis and swimming, and dreamed of becoming a flight attendant. She attended her parish youth group and joined the Focolare Movement. But it was as she was dying of cancer that her true spirit shone out, amazing everyone with her holy joy and love of God even as she suffered.
So striking was her attitude that the local cardinal visited her. “The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?” he asked. Her reply: “I try to love Jesus as much as I can.”
A doctor remarked: “Through her smile, and through her eyes full of light, she showed us that death doesn’t exist; only life exists.” You can read more about her here, and get a coloring page of her in the Living Sparks of God coloring book.
Blessing for someone who is sick
Leader: Our help is in the name of the Lord . . .
Response: . . . who has made heaven and earth.
Leader: Let us listen to these words from the Gospel
according to Luke:
As the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various kinds of diseases brought them to him; and he laid his hands on each of them and cured them. The Gospel of the Lord.
Response: Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Leader: Lord Jesus, as you once laid your hands on the sick,
we ask you now to send your healing Spirit
onto (name of the person):
comfort and strengthen him/her,
free him/her from all illness,
and restore him/her to health.
The prayer leader makes the Sign of the Cross
on the forehead of the sick person.
We ask this in the name of the Father, and the Son,
and the Holy Spirit.
Padre Pio’s prayer for healing
Heavenly Father, I thank you for loving me.
I thank you for sending your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ,
to the world to save and to set me free.
I trust in your power and grace that sustain and restore me.
Loving Father, touch me now with your healing hands,
for I believe that your will is for me to be well in mind, body, soul and spirit.
Cover me with the most precious blood of your Son, our Lord
Jesus Christ from the top of my head to the soles of my feet.
Cast anything that should not be in me.
Root out any unhealthy and abnormal cells.
Open any blocked arteries or veins and rebuild and replenish
any damaged areas.
Remove all inflammation and cleanse any infection by the
power of Jesus’ precious blood.
Let the fire of your healing love pass through my entire body
to heal and make new any diseased areas so that my body
will function the way you created it to function.
Touch also my mind and my emotion, even the deepest recesses of my heart.
Saturate my entire being with your presence, love, joy, and
peace and draw me ever closer to you every moment of my life.
And Father, fill me with your Holy Spirit and empower me to
do your works so that my life will bring glory and honor to
your holy name. I ask this in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.