St. Valentine’s Day is upon us again. He, which ever of the many Saints Valentine is the celebrated one, is considered the patron of love and romance. Indirectly we dentists appreciate the Saint for the peripherals – all of the chocolates and other decadent eats that are exchanged in his name.

I suppose the heart shaped box of delicate chocolates just would not have the intended impact if they came with tooth brush and floss attached?

At any rate, this led me to musing about the other Saints and their relationships to health and illness. Apparently there are over 10 thousand Saints plus or minus a few. Each is the patron of someone or something.

St. Apollonia for example is the patroness of toothache sufferers. St. Lydwine oversees sickness in general, while Blessed Margaret of Castello intercedes for disabilities and St. Roch for invalides. Cancer is in St. Peregrine of Laziosi’s bailiwick; Chron’s disease is St. Timothy’s.

Usually the affliction apportioned to the Saint is related to their life history or manner of sainthood. With the vast numbers of saints, many share areas of responsibility, for example St. Vitus helps those with nervous disorders (after his famous St. Vitus’ dance) and Sts. Dymphyna and Benedict Joseph Labré deal with mental health.

We yearn for health when being afflicted by acute or chronic illnesses, both physical and spiritual. Our suffering resonates with those figures of faith and history that were similarly burdened. To achieve solace we reach out for help and intercession to both the earth bound and the heavenly.

The Saints are as different from one another as any group of people, yet they have common character traits of faith and a sense of personal responsibility. They were active participants determining how their afflictions impacted their lives. Each of them accepted the challenge given. However, their response was their choice.

So, the message to us today is the same: acknowledge what is sent and be actively involved with your health and health care.

Enjoy the chocolates!

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