Feast of Our Lady of Health

image007On 16 November the Order of the Ministers of the sick (Camillians) will celebrate the Feast of ‘Our Lady of Health’. This is an important feast for all sick people and for those who provide them with care. It emphasises the commitment to care of the Camillians who like their Founder profoundly venerate the Virgin Mary, praying to her as ‘Health of the Sick’. This is a special event for the heirs of St. Camillus; it was the Giant of Charity, indeed, who chose the Virgin Mary Salus Infirmorum to be the patron saint for the whole of the Order.

Tomorrow, 13 November, the Holy Mass will begin with the triduum in preparation for the feast in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. For the occasion the church will stay open at 12.00 for personal prayer.

Inside the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Campo Marzio in Rome, where there is also the generalate house of the Camillians, is kept the valuable sixteenth-century painting of the Virgin with Child (Salus Infirmorum). By an unknown hand, this painting was given to the Church of St. Mary Magdalene by a Roman aristocratic lady in 1619 after her prayers for recovery from an illness in front of the painting were miraculously heard.

At the outset it was placed on the high altar of the church, with a frame of gold. This picture of Our Lady of Health was subsequently moved to one of the side chapels which had been built for this purpose in 1718 following plans drawn up by the Roman architect Francesco Ferruzzi that were carried out by Giuseppe and Giovan Battista Luraghi. The principal characteristic of the chapel is its simplicity which has the aim of giving emphasis solely to this holy image.

For long venerated, this artefact of Our Lady of Health of the Church of St. Magdalene was solemnly crowned by the Vatican Chapter of 1668. Subsequently, the dispersal of ecclesiastical goods by Napoleon also involved the disappearance of these ancient crowns. A second crowning took place in 1868: the crowns and the added decorations in the background, still today, can be admired on the heads of the Virgin and Baby Jesus.

The programme of the celebrations