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Only Say the Word and I Shall be Healed: Reflections from Casa Juan Diego

Grace came to the Houston Catholic Worker last summer after her graduation from the Catholic University of America. Her fluency in the French language has been a real gift for a number of our guests.


In the middle of this past Lenten season, I went on retreat. A priest and spiritual director recommended that I make the Gospel of Mark an integral part of my Easter preparations. I then began to read one chapter of Mark’s gospel every day, and what I discovered there suddenly came to life in front of me at Casa Juan Diego. Mark provides us with a compelling account of Jesus, the healer. In one particular instance Jesus heals a paralytic man whose friends lower him down through the roof of the house where Jesus is preaching (Mark 2: 2-6). After reading this passage, I began to see this paralytic man and his friends everywhere at CJD and in myself.

We attend to a handful of sick and injured people in Houston to provide food and hygiene products that make living with particular illnesses possible. The people lined up at our door for these supplies become for me the paralytic man who without guile or duplicity, finds the courage and grace to ask Jesus for healing and comfort. The sick people that I encounter at CJD inspire me to ask for healing, too. While living and working at CJD, I was diagnosed with gastritis and gluten intolerance. Prior to these diagnoses, I had spent months trying to manage my pain and my diet, often with little success. I also spent months simply wishing that what had been afflicting me would simply go away. When I think of the paralytic’s healing, it fills me with inspiration. Could I too approach Jesus with a similarly open spirit, a trusting and faithful heart?

Before I came to CJD, I used to read the healing and miracle accounts with no small amount of suspicion, maybe even with some derision. How could instant healing be possible? And perhaps a more honest question, why couldn’t it happen to me? My own lack of faith reminds me of a movie I watched recently called The Miracle Club, starring Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith and Laura Linney. In this movie, three women and their parish win a trip to Lourdes; some of these ladies have fixed ideas about what is going to happen to them when they get there. One of these women, Kathy Bates’ character, is sorely disappointed when she learns that since 1858, only 62 miracles had happened at the pilgrimage site (The Miracle Club, 2023). In the film, Bates’ character then accuses her parish priest of lying to her and to the other pilgrims, because given those odds, it was unlikely that she would ever be a recipient of a miracle.

Since reading Mark’s gospel at CJD, I realize I have thought and acted a bit like Bates’ character in The Miracle Club towards my own health problems. I haven’t been able to see that begging for an affliction to end and asking for healing, are not in fact, the same requests. I think many of our sick and injured friends have come to know the truth that we read in the Book of Revelation: in Jesus all things are made new. Healing is a transformative endeavor. What ails me might remain unchanged, but in healing, my relationship to that which causes me pain is transformed. I am renewed in the belief that I am not alone in my pain.

If I had to compare myself with the folks I meet every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I would be forced to conclude that I haven’t shown the same faithful spirit towards my ailments as they have. But through their companionship, they point me in the right direction. I think what has been so special and encouraging for me as a Catholic Worker is the realization that I am surrounded by a community that yearns to be healed together in Christ. We yearn to be healed from illness, from the painful separations of our families, from violence, and from addictions. But like the paralytic man’s friends who dared to ascend a rooftop, the healing that we need at CJD comes from each other’s accompaniment in faith.

I believe that what is left unwritten in Mark’s account of the paralytic is what happens after he regains use of his legs: this man, whoever he was, had a continual need for healing and for conversion for the rest of his life. Jesus is our constant healer, who tends to our souls if we ask Him to. It is my prayer for myself and for this community that we may experience a spirit open to continual conversion and healing in our lives.

The Miracle Club, 2023. Directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan.


Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XLIV, No. 2, April-June 2024.