We’ve heard it said all our lives, and those of us who have more sand in the bottom of life’s hour-glass than at the top realize its truth.
“If you have your health,” we’ve been told, “you have everything.”
Not quite, of course. For you can be the healthiest of people, but bereft of faith you might well be an empty vessel, too.
But the verity in all of this is the notion of health’s importance, something we all realize at one point or another during our stay on the planet.
It probably would not be an exaggeration to say that in every one of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s 110 parishes there are people facing a formidable health challenge. Or perhaps they are helping a family member wind through the maze of pain and sickness.
The point is everything you’ve heard about the importance of good health is true.
Even as this meretricious missive is being written, our own spiritual leader, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, is fighting his own battle with illness, trying with God’s help and the prayers of the faithful, to return again to a state of good health.
Sometimes even those of us who live lives filled with healthy practices fall victim to the capricious nature of disease or misfortune. We all know of those who run daily, who eat right, who avoid the vices of smoke and excessive alcohol, and yet are still betrayed by their bodies.
They go to bed healthy and awake the next morning with pain in their chest, or liver or pancreas. For against all notions of proper living and care, there are simply times when we are forced to deal with issues of bad health — sometimes minor, other times frightening.
It is an eternal conflict, this warfare between our bodies and the germs and diseases that would harm them. It is a battle that has produced throughout history great poems, plays and books that chronicle historic struggles. It has even inspired humor.
James Thurber, the great cartoonist and essayist, once joked that “early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy, wealthy and dead.”
But even in the face of humor, the importance of good health — of taking care of this “temple” God has so graciously given to us — can’t be overstated. Isaac Walton once wrote: “Look to your health; and if you have it, praise God and value it next to a good conscience.” Good health, he noted, is “a blessing that money cannot buy.”
Will Durant, who along with his wife Ariel, were widely-read authors of philosophy and its history, also compared the value of money and good health. “The health of nations,” he said, “is more important than the wealth of nations.”
So you get the point. Even those reading this who’ve never had to grace the portals of a physician’s office must realize the importance of taking care of ourselves. We must do our best to care for our bodies, and we should realize that God will help us in the fight. Pope Francis recently reminded us as much. He was speaking of health care professionals who run the risk of “burning out” as a result of long shifts, high stress, emergencies “or the emotional impact of their work.”
Healing, he said, “among other things passes not only through the body but also through the spirit.”
Those who are in the midst of a battle for health — and those who are helping them — must remember that they are not alone, he said.
“The Lord, who endured the difficult experience and pain of the cross, is there beside them.”
This is not to say that healthy living will one day help us avoid our necessary end. It won’t. But it will make the trip to that final destination far more pleasant.
And knowing that we’ve offered prayers, help and companionship to those who are fighting to heal their bodies and minds makes our trip a little easier, too. It’s always comforting to know you’ve done the right thing, to recall that you’ve been helpful.
So, here’s to your good health. And when you say “take care of yourself” to family and friends, really mean it.
Record Editor Emeritus