I’d like to say that stomach bug season is upon us, but I’m pretty sure stomach bugs are what we’d call an “evergreen topic” among moms, Catholic or otherwise. Not to put too fine a point on it, but our family has a protocol: as soon as any of us shows the first symptoms of whatever stomach bug is going around, each of our three children (all girls with long hair) must bring a deep Tupperware container to bed with them. That bucket stays pillowside until the bug has passed … or said bucket needs cleaning because it’s, um, served its purpose in the night and kept all that long, flowing hair from being globbed up with sick because the sufferer couldn’t make it to the toilet in time — again. I mean, it’s a fallen world: I know that we’re going to get sick. It’s good to stand at the ready, whenever we can.
During our family’s 2018 summer pilgrimage, we came across an unexpected gem in the south of France: La Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Santé, or the Chapel of Our Lady of Health. This petite, late-medieval chapel sits just on the “newer” side of the bridge (and “newer” here means it was built in the 14th century) which offers passage to the much older citadel of Carcassonne.
This chapel is considered one of the starting points on the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrim path that draws its devotees through southern France into the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. This chapel was also built at this location because it was once the heart of Carcassonne’s hospital district. Family members of the sick wanted a place to pray. They also wanted a place where they could express gratitude to Mary for her intercession once their family members were healed. And, as mentioned above regarding our fallen world, they also wanted a place for future visitors and pilgrims to pray for those who had died.
For most of us, the most accessible pilgrimages we will take will be the unexpected ones. We will walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night to hold back the hair of the child who actually woke up in time to ask for help before calling for the Pet Seal Ralph. There are also those among us whose pilgrimages are to a hospital with a diabetic child, to a mental-health clinic with a rage-filled child, or to a cemetery to bury a child who lost her fight with cancer.
It is for these pilgrimages that Our Lady gave us her portable, accessible, gentle Rosary. The Rosary is a type of prayer called a “chaplet” — a little chapel. Within the string of beads, we create a place of prayer — a sheltered stop on our pilgrimage, wherever we are. When we practice the Family Rosary, we turn our family, bit by bit, into a sturdy stone chapel, a place where we can all stop along the way, whether our pilgrimages lead us through the sun-blasted summers of southern France or through cold, bright hospital halls.
We know that we’re going to get sick. It’s good to stand at the ready, whenever we can. The Rosary helps us do just that. If you’d like to learn more about Our Lady of Health, you can watch our Three Minute Pilgrimage to La Chapelle de Notre Dame de la Santé here on YouTube.
Notre Dame de la santé, priez pour nous.
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
In your family’s seasons of sickness, what are some ways, large and small, you have seen God’s hand at work?
Copyright 2019 Erin McCole Cupp