Acrylic on archival quality masonite, 12x12”

This past summer I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It took what seemed like an interminably long time ( two months) while I waited for my consult with the oncology surgeon. I was trying to practice surrendering all of my anxieties and fears to God  (quite unsuccessfully I think) and one day I remembered St’s Cosmas and Damian. 

I have prayed to them in the past and have heard their names called out with the 

saints in the prayers at Mass. I knew that they were physicians but I only found out later that they were also surgeons and did their work for free. They lived in Syria in the fourth century and were martyred under Diocletian for refusing to deny Christ.

So periodically, in this time of waiting, I  asked these two twin brothers to intercede on my behalf and go to whoever the surgeon was who would be laying his hands upon me to operate on my breast. The day came and I ffinally received my date to see the surgeon. My son came with me for support. I met the doctor and as he came in to the examining room, the ffirst thing he reassuringly said to me as he placed his hand on my knee was “You are going to be ffine... it is small.” Then we met in the consult room to discuss what was to happen going forward. As he walked in, he looked at my ffile and said  “Oh you are from Barry’s Bay! I have a cottage there. I have been going there since I was a 

young boy, then when I grew up I bought my own cottage. When I am there I go 

to St.Hedwig’s.”

I was profoundly happy to hear this, and knowing now that he was a Catholic I said “Dr. Gay, I have been praying for you to Saints Cosmas and Damian, who were physicians, to guide your hand as I did not know who would be operating on me.”

He replied “That is so interesting! I just returned  from Rome and just visited  the beautiful church of St’s Cosmas and Damian!” I was speechless.

I was so taken aback and my heart was beyond full of joy that God had chosen Dr. Gay for me through the intercession of these two saints and that this good doctor had just prayed to them as well on his visit to their church that has been there for centuries. Being a physician I am sure that he was asking for their assistance in his vocation when he knelt before their relics, just as I, too, was asking for their assistance in his vocation!! Oh heaven!! How do we mortals ever doubt your presence in our lives! All I felt for months was my fragility but on that day, heaven spoke loud and clear. After that day, I coasted on the joy of that encounter between heaven and earth and knew that the right doctor had been chosen for me. THIS is the Communion of Saints that we affirm every time we recite the Nicene Creed. He held my hand while having a painful pre-op procedure and we prayed a Hail Mary together before I went under anesthesia. 

What a comfort!

This painting is my homage to Dr. Bruce Gay. The idea came to me gently in the quiet, while pondering what I would paint. I thought about how when a doctor operates on his patients, he is lifting such a heavy emotional and physical burden from them and then Christ’s words rang in my heart; “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25,40)  Christ mentions this more than once in the Gospels. He also tells us that whatever we DON’T do for others, we DON’T do for Him. “When I was in prison you did not 

visit me…” And so, here is Dr. Gay, in reality, in faith, in the supernatural, removing 

the suffering  tortured crown of thorns from Christ’s head. So, in the life of faith, we know from Christ's tender words, the greatness of the smallest acts towards our fellow man must always be seen as being done to Our Beloved Christ as well. Can you imagine what a different world we would have if doctors all believed and lived out this reality? (Abortion would be unthinkable!) Not just doctors... ALL of us. What a calling we have and also what a responsibility. To alleviate Christ’s sufferings in our neighbour. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Thank you St. Cosmas! Thank you St. Damian!

The tree in the image is a nod to the fact that the olive tree is the tree of Syria, where 

St’s Cosmas and Damian lived. No small irony that Christ began his suffering in the Garden of Olives. With one hand Cosmas points to the heavens and the Holy Spirit, who is hovering over the procedure and with the other hand Cosmas lays it on Dr. Gay’s shoulder  while Damian instructs and guides the surgeon’s hands as he removes the crown of thorns. Two chalices are ffilling up with the blood of the Martyrs Cosmas 

and Damian, who were beheaded after other attempts on their lives failed.


© 2024 Christine Oskirko. All rights reserved.