Ioreth | Health of the Sick

Silvery Cinquefoil (Potentilla argentea). Low plant, flowers 1 cm across, roadside in an upland barrier beach forest.

Meditation of the Day

In Middle-earth, as we have already seen many times, wisdom is not the prerogative of the high and mighty, or of those who are accounted wise by others. The wisest of all—such as Gandalf—are precisely the ones who know that wisdom, and courage, can reside in the unlikeliest of places, even under the guise of foolishness. Hence the wizard’s centuries-old interest in the humble lives of hobbits. On hearing Boromir express skepticism about the folk tales concerning Fangorn Forest, Celeborn sagely remarked: “Do not despise the lore that has come down from distant years; for oft it may chance that old wives keep in memory word of things that once were needful for the wise to know” (Bk2 Ch8).

This lowly, earthy, easily dismissed wisdom is embodied in the person of Ioreth, “an old wife, . . . the eldest of those who served” in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith. Although the last king of Gondor disappeared almost a thousand years earlier, she calls to mind the tradition that a rightful king can be known by the gift of healing. It so happens that the only remaining claimant to the throne is encamped outside the city, and prompted by her saying, Gandalf will shortly call upon him to exercise his gift upon Faramir, Éowyn, and Merry, who are slipping into darkness from their encounters with the Nazgûl. It is also the old wives, not the pedantic herb-master, who correctly remember the virtues of athelas, the herb that in Elessar’s hands will cure the effects of the Black Breath.

Jesus, anointed with the Holy Spirit, is the great Healer of both souls and bodies. He “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). He brings relief from illness with a single word, a simple touch. Physical and emotional healings are powerful signs that the Kingdom of God has indeed drawn near, in the Person of Christ. His Blessed Mother is the one who continually reminds us where healing may be found, and who mercifully intercedes for us with her Son. It is in this sense that she is called upon as the “health of the sick.” Innumerable miraculous cures and healings have been attributed to her intercession, especially at the great shrines of Christendom. When those who follow merely human wisdom, or the medical knowledge gained from empirical evidence, see no hope for a cure, we can always entrust ourselves to the deeper wisdom of our Ioreth (“old woman”), the Mother of God.


O Mother of Mercy,
be the succour and support of all the poor afflicted,
the consolation of those who mourn, the remedy of the sick,
I beseech you, O Mary.
You who are the beloved daughter of God the Father,
the Immaculate Mother of God the Son, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit,
you, whom the archangel hailed as full of grace,
be our advocate, ask for mercy for sinners.

O Mary, be the star that guides me, my light in the darkness,
my courage in adversity and my refuge in pain.

O Mary, full of compassion, O my Mother, never forsake me.
Through your intercession, may I soon share in your happiness in the ecstasy of the Angels and Saints.

O Virgin! purer than Heaven, protect me, protect my beloved family,
protect all your children, fill us with your favours,
adorn us with your virtues.
You are our advocate, ask for mercy for your poor sinners.

Ven. Marthe Robin

Musical Selection

Action Points

  • Little children, and adults who have learned childlike ways, never hesitate to ask good things from their mother. They don’t overcomplicate things by prejudging whether their request is worthy of being granted. They simply ask, in any and all circumstances. And it gladdens their mother’s heart to see them ask with confidence. Let’s approach our Mother with the same childlike simplicity, for those in our lives who are afflicted in body and mind, or for ourselves.

To Go Deeper