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Prayer For a Medical Test
By Sister Karen Zielinski, O.S.F.


A Sigh of Relief
Holy, Wholly Healthy


"I have to be at the doctor's office by 9:30," Willie told me with dread in her voice. My neighbor was preparing for her annual colonoscopy. The day before the test, she was at home, drinking the prescribed liquid.

The following day, her test was over in a half hour; her doctor would get back with her test results.


A Sigh of Relief

After her test, we chatted about how good it felt now that it was over. We agreed that any medical test—blood work, scans, MRIs—may cause stress. We both know we need to be good stewards of our bodies, and medical tests are a necessity. But we also agreed we felt relief when they're over.


Remember, O Most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired with this confidence, I fly unto you, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother; to you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.

Medical tests seem to have three parts which make us anxious: the time before the test, the test and the time after the test. That sounds pretty basic, but there are three distinct sections.

When our doctor first orders a test, we place it on our calendar and then put it at the back of our mind. As the test date gets closer, we might get anxious about the upcoming procedure. We spend energy being nervous about something yet to happen. We try to control what we can: finding out where the test will take place, arranging for a ride and doing any preparations. We might also take time to pray: God, release me from any anxiety that is welling up inside me before the test.

On the test day, we might feel a whole new wave of anxiety. We dread the beige tube of the MRI scanner, the needles or the x-ray machines.

During the test, I continuously sing a verse or a line from a hymn in my head. The third verse of the hymn "Whatsoever You Do" by Willard F. Jabusch is comforting, especially the line "When I was anxious you calmed all my fears." I sometimes sing it dozens of times during a test. It calms me. We survive, and leave the test room.

By the time we visit our doctor for our test results, the worst is over. The medical tests are finished; we have new fears to face. Will we need surgery? Chemo? Has our chronic condition worsened? After the test I ask: Creator God, bless my body and be with me— whatever the outcome.

Some people have no problems taking medical tests, but for the rest of us, there are ways to lessen our fears. The only way I can get through a medical test is by asking God to accompany me. During every test, I pray. Sometimes I pray my favorite prayer, the Memorare, over and over again, almost like a mantra. I repeat it many times when I am going through my dreaded MRI. When I pray before, during and after a test, I do not feel so alone.

Holy, Wholly Healthy


Web journaling.htm. The Web page SoulfulLiving offers some starter questions for journaling from Ray Whiting.

Healing Words, by Larry Dossey, M.D. This 1993 New York Times best-seller talks about the power of prayer and the practice of medicine.

As a Franciscan sister who has lived with multiple sclerosis (MS) since 1975, I have dealt with needles, side effects from medications, unreliable electric carts and loss of balance. I have learned to wait—for handicapped parking spaces, test results and insurancecompany approval for medical tests and medicines. I have seen my own parents and relatives become ill and die, and have cried with friends who were diagnosed with cancer.

Compassionate care involves the whole person—the physical, emotional, social and spiritual. This care is inherently a spiritual activity. Just holding the hand of a patient can be a sacred, spiritual act. Little things like listening to a patient's fears can offer much comfort. Words are not even necessary.

Medical advances have shifted the focus of medicine from a relational, caring model to a technical, cure-focused one. One of the best ways to cope with health challenges is through the gift of our faith, weaving spirituality through the fabric of our health. Whatever health issues we face, we have at our disposal healing, helpful resources to make our situation a little less overwhelming. Throughout this year, I hope to share some spiritual coping and comforting practices in this column, "Holy, Wholly Healthy."

Sister Karen Zielinski, O.S.F., was director of communications for the Sisters of St. Francis of Sylvania, Ohio, from 1991 to 2008. She is now director of Canticle Studio, for products which focus on spirituality and health. She can be contacted at whollyhealthy@


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