The news would have seemed unthinkable a decade ago, but it seems that here we are, in the Year of Our Lord 2022, once more facing the scourge of polio.

Officials have said that it is possible that hundreds of people in the state have gotten polio and don’t know it. Most people infected with polio have no symptoms but can still give the virus to others for days or weeks. The lone confirmed case in New York involved an unidentified young adult who was unvaccinated.

I’m not sure how people are going about not getting their kids vaccinated against polio — a vaccine we know works. How are they getting them into elementary schools without proof of vaccination?

However this new threat has arisen, it occurs to me that we have two excellent intercessors to go to with this news, for the sake of the world and for individuals: Cardinal Francis George, OMI, and Blessed PierGiorgio Frassati.

Cardinal Francis George was afflicted with polio at age 13, suffering partial paralysis of his legs and one arm; he did manage to be able to walk with some difficulty but required a brace to support one leg for the last 30 years of his life. Many Catholics are not even aware of it, because George didn’t focus on his difficulties or permit himself to be waylaid by them.

For Bl. PierGiorgio Frassati, polio struck differently. While this social activist and Dominican Tertiary was performing quiet outreach to the poor he encountered in his own Torino neighborhood and surrounding slums, he picked up a particularly aggressive strain of polio. Thinking he had the flu, and not wishing to burden his family (which was already dealing with the impending death of his grandmother), the 24 year-old PierGiorgio took to his bed and died within a week as polio eventually paralyzed his muscles of respiration.

These two very different but valiant Catholic men should become our go-to intercessors as we watch the (hopefully minimal) progress and disruption caused by this new outbreak.

Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati, and courageous Cardinal Francis George, pray for us.


Cardinal George Image source: Adam Bielawski, Creative Commons