Chronic Illness and Holy Week: It Just Won’t Bend.

Reverend Beth+ recently wrote about a little stumble she had.  She is fine, but she banged up her face a bit. She wrote about it here. It’s right on her beautiful face, for all the world to see.

And it made me think of all of the illness and wounds that can’t be seen.  Anxiety.  Depression.  PTSD.

And for me, a chronic illness.

In 2010 I was diagnosed with Chron’s Disease.  And while it is generally mild, and doesn’t cause me too much of an inconvenience, when it rears it’s head it is awful.  It can show up in a lot of ways, and for me it causes terrible inflammation of the joints.  I can’t bend my elbows, walking hurts, ankles swell to gargantuan proportions.  It hits my vanity pretty hard, especially when I can’t do my hair (yikes!). But more so, it can be hard to hold my children which is even more painful.

But more so, it can be hard to hold my children which is even more painful.

Right now, as I work with my doctor to figure out the right medicine, I am experiencing a flare which has decided to settle in my right leg.  Ankle and calf are swollen and my knee HURTS when it bends.  Which makes walking difficult, and kneeling impossible.  Seriously, it just won’t bend.



Now, Episcopalians like to kneel a lot.  You don’t get to experience a service where we don’t do it.  But in Holy Week we get especially bendy, and it’s like kneeling on steroids.  Especially on Good Friday, where one can spend the majority of the time on their knees.  And this year it just won’t happen for me.

And it is screwing with majorly.

As a priest, I suspect I am in the same boat with a lot of my sisters and brothers when I say that I really like Holy Week.  Sure, it’s a lot of work, and come Easter Monday I will want to stay in bed all day…but Holy Week is special.  It is a time when we (literally) walk with Christ through the Stations of the Cross, we wash feet and break bread, and we (figuratively) feel Christ’s pain as he is stripped, whipped, and nailed to the Cross.  And we kneel.  A lot.

And I can’t.

So this year I will be figuring out how to spiritually kneel when I physically can’t.  I will be figuring out how I can be penitent in heart and soul (well, more so than normal) when the body just isn’t cooperating. I will be figuring out how to lead others in that which I cannot do- and somehow come to peace with a body that is indeed made in the image of God but doesn’t work the way that I want it to.

I know that the shadow of the Cross is transformed in the light of the Resurrection.

I know that the shadow of the Cross is transformed in the light of the Resurrection.  My prayer is that my body will be transformed with it.  And if not my body, a close second would be my attitude. Because I would love to see my chronic illness through the perfect eyes of God; to know that I am perfect in my creation, even in my struggle.




  1. Stephanie Sawyer · April 1, 2015

    Sometimes, liturgy demands things of us that we simply cannot give. I understand completely. You are in the situation of leading liturgically. Wouldn’t it be nice if, during these flare ups, those of us with special circumstances could simply step back and worship God in our own quiet setting and heart felt devotions as our body allows? Liturgy must not dictate how we worship. It is only a setting to bring to mind the beauty of God’s greatness and holiness. When it begins to be ‘must’ it loses its value. God values us in our smallness and frailty, too. He is so big and loving, compassionate of our every fiber. Some of us just need to say, “My body needs a time off for a bit for its limitations.” Wouldn’t it be nice if the church could recognize those with health circumstances in those functions? Demand in liturgy does not echo the love of God who is highly compassionate in our limitations.

    • Reverend Katie · April 1, 2015

      Stephanie- sometimes the body does say, “stay at home”. But the liturgy never says that. All liturgy demands is intentional worship of God, and nothing more. Kneeling really is optional- it’s just my learned and one of my preferred ways to participate in worship. Personally, it is so important for me to be in worship that- stepping back from communal worship- just isn’t something that I would choose for myself. While there is still much that I am learning, I know 100% that worshiping in community- especially in a flare up- is they only way for me to go. It allows for others to carry me in worship, in my love for God, when perhaps I cannot do it myself or I need some help.

      I believe that the church does “recognize those with health circumstances” even if we don’t always communicate that well- and it saddens me if that has been your experience. I would love to worship with you, so that we can carry each other.

  2. markbrownsky · April 1, 2015

    Chrons sucks – I am praying for relief and healing for you Katie. If you choose to go the prostrate, I will gladly assist you to get up!

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