In Praise of Healers

In Praise of Healers

“You are a lucky man.” I will never forget these words from the retina surgeon who had just proclaimed the wonderful news that the surgery he performed on my left eye had saved my sight. He further explained that a retina detachment that includes the macular region rarely works so well as to restore full vision. Bottom line: I had beaten the odds. I am still praising and thanking God.

When I found that I was scheduled to blog for September 26, I noticed that this day is also the day when the Roman church remembers Saints Cosmas and Damian, who suffered martyrdom during the reign of Emperor Diocletian, around the year 287. The legends of Cosmas and Damian recount that they were twins, both physicians, who devoted themselves to caring for the poor. Later the Roman Emperor Justinian I claimed that his leg was miraculously cured through the intercession of these twin martyrs.


How much of the legendary lives of these two martyrs is fact and how much is pious fiction? No one knows. However, Cosmas and Damian, along with St. Luke the Evangelist, are the patron saints of physicians and those involved in preparing medicines, pharmacists.

As a missionary in the Philippines, I lived in rural places where there were herbal remedies for many things. Many of those herbal preparations were studied by scientists to determine whether they are effective. These scientific studies identified naturally occurring remedies for infections, which pharmacologists later produced, tested in the laboratory, and turned into pharmaceutical products. Other studies identified why some leaves can be used to make naturally occurring expectorants. The list goes on.

When I ponder Saints Cosmas and Damian, I always think of the many charitable organizations that serve the poor, even in the most desolate economic situations of the world. Medical missions from local hospitals and medical schools are a great service, particularly when basic skills in healing the sick are passed to others through training and by empowering local doctors, nurses, and midwives to improve their service to the sick, especially the poor.

Saints Cosmas and Damian must smile when they see improvements in the lives of the poor through the efforts of medical missionaries and their generous friends who make ample donations to support these charities. May the Lord bless today’s versions of Cosmas and Damian.


Painting: The healing of Justinian by Saint Cosmas and Saint Damian, Fra Angelico

Medical symbol:  PhotoXpress


About the Author

Dan Kroger, O.F.M., a native of Cincinnati, joined the Franciscans in 1967 and was ordained in 1973. He taught high school and served in rural parishes in the Philippines. Dan earned a Ph.D. in Christian ethics at Notre Dame. He also taught at De La Salle University, Manila, until he was assigned to his present post as publisher/CEO at Franciscan Media in 2006.