Should Health Be the #1 Priority for Catholics?

In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and so many other life-altering events taking place in our world, Dr. Sri poses a question that is very important for Catholics to consider: Should physical health be our first priority? Drawing from the Saints and from Church doctrine, this episode reminds us that while physical death is inevitable for all of us, what comes after death is determined by how we prioritize here on earth. 

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“The true foundation of our lives is God.”


St. Thomas Aquinas on the Importance of Bodily Health

How important is our physical health, and as Catholics, should it be our number one priority? St. Thomas Aquinas poses a similar question in his studies, asking where the happiness of man truly is found. Aquinas examines many things that seem to bring happiness: power, pleasure, reputation, wealth, and even bodily health. However, he finds that none of these things, not even our health, should be the first priority in our lives.  Instead, our number one priority should be seeking union with the source of true happiness—God our creator.

Pilgrims on Earth

It’s easy to become consumed by our current reality on Earth, forgetting that our destiny is heaven and our ultimate purpose is eternal union with the Holy Trinity. We are only pilgrims on Earth, and whether we journey well or whether we lose sight of our true destiny, we all face the reality of death. But while death is inevitable for all human beings, eternal life in heaven is a choice:

“Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature.”

CCC 150

Where Do We Place Our Trust?

As the Catechism states, faith is about more than just an intellectual belief in certain things; it’s about giving one’s life to God and entrusting ourselves to him. Where are we placing our trust during this time of crisis? Is it in temporary things like our possessions, or even in our health? Or are we placing our trust in our Lord and Savior, who knows exactly what we need and when we need it? 

Pope Francis’ Blessing

Let’s journey back for a moment to Pope Francis’ blessing to the Church on March 27th, 2020. As he stood there all alone in St. Peter’s Basilica, he reflected on the biblical scene of the disciples on a boat with Christ amidst a storm: 

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”

Mark 4:35-40

In his address, Pope Francis repeats this question Jesus asks the disciples: “Where is your faith?” And he poses that same question to us today as we pass through our storm. Just as he was with the disciples in the midst of the storm, Jesus remains with us through this storm, too. 

“The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls;”

Pope Francis

In this, Pope Francis reminds us who really sustains our lives and challenges us to examine what we’ve neglected during this time of crisis and panic.

“Essential Services”

Bishop Baldacchino of Las Cruces, New Mexico, was one of the first bishops to safely reopen Masses in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. He was encouraged especially by Pope Francis’ message, and pointed out how the world deems many physical things to be “essential” right now, while refusing to call faith “essential:” 

“We have our priorities totally upside down. Here in New Mexico, you can buy all the liquor you want, this is essential and worth the risks. You can buy marijuana, this is an essential service and the risks are tolerated. But the Eucharist – the summit of our Christian life, the sacrament of our salvation –  this is not worth any risk, it’s too dangerous. We take risks to buy destructive things and call it essential while denying ourselves the true medicine. The BigMac and MillerLite, essential, the Body of Christ, not so much.”

Bishop Baldacchino

3 Practical Exercises of Faith 

  1. Ask yourself, “Where do I place my trust?” and ask God for the grace to trust him more
  2. Discern what kind of media you’re taking in. It’s good to be informed, but does the kind and amount of media you take in give you interior peace or does it increase anxiety?
  3. Look at everything through the eyes of faith, and remember that spiritual goods are more valuable than physical goods


Dr. Edward Sri is a theologian, well-known Catholic speaker, and author of several best-selling books. His work with Ascension includes study programs such as A Biblical Walk Through the Mass, No Greater Love: A Biblical Walk Through Christ’s Passion and Mary: A Biblical Walk with the Blessed Mother. Several of Dr. Sri’s programs were filmed on-site in the Holy Land, and feature immersive video explorations of the sacred sites where Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles lived and died.

Dr. Sri is the host of the acclaimed Ascension podcast All Things Catholic with Dr. Edward Sri.  Together with Curtis Martin, Dr. Sri is a founding leader of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), of which he serves as senior vice president of Apostolic Outreach.

Dr. Sri lives with his wife Beth and their children in Colorado.

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