Today is the feast day of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, physicians who were martyred for the faith during the persecution of Diocletian in Asia Minor. Subjected to numerous tortures, the brothers were finally beheaded for their faith and their bodies were subsequently buried in the city in which they lived. During the Crusades, their bodies were exhumed and their relics were sent to various places throughout Europe including Rome and Bremen.
The feast of St. Cosmas and Damian is important for us because it speaks to us about two important aspects of Christ’s own public ministry: healing. Christ’s Public Life was as much about healing physical illnesses as it was about healing souls. In the story of the paralytic, for example, Our Lord first forgives the sins of the paralyzed man and then heals him. Indeed, there are many examples of this throughout the Gospel. Physical healing comes about as a result of spiritual healing.
In many ways, the Catholic Church continues this specific ministry of Our Lord in numerous ways. Like Sts. Cosmas and Damian, numerous missionaries and religious as well as numerous Catholic doctors, nurses, and psychologists seek out those that are in need of physical, mental, or spiritual healing. Numerous orders were founded in the Church for this specific purpose like the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and the Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne. Indeed, most people know the Catholic network of charities through its hospitals, medical centers, and nursing homes even if they have never set foot in a Catholic parish.
It is important to emphasize that St. Cosmas and Damian were unlike many medical practitioners today. While they were doctors and they did heal numerous bodies as well as souls, Cosmas and Damian did not charge any fee for the work that they did. In our own world, this is difficult to imagine since medicines cost a lot of money and a hospital stay could put a family into financial ruin if they don’t have health insurance. Yet Cosmas and Damian had their doctor’s office open to anyone and preached Christ’s message of healing by their martyrdom.
Why is it then that so many people believe that “free” equals “cheap”? Of course, this is true in most cases. “Free” items are not very appetizing for the most part and may not be worth anything monetarily. Yet the Church offers us healing of body and soul. In every confessional, a priest sits and waits for people to come and confess their sins. In persona Christi, the priest is another Christ healing people from their diseases and illnesses that they have lived with for years. Why don’t we avail ourselves of this opportunity today and go to Confession? We may not be healed immediately, but we are on the road to being healed.
Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!
Sts. Cosmas and Damian, pray for us!