An Excerpt from Theological reflection on promises of the Catholic physician

The Linacre Quarterly Vol. 80 , Iss. 3, 2013

On the guild’s website there is a list of the promises that physicians in the CMA make. The first part of the promises could be made by any member of the healthcare field, regardless of their faith: “to continually improve my professional abilities, … to respect my patients as human persons, … to serve public health.” Almost every healthcare professional could agree to those promises. It is the second set of promises that sets you apart: “to recognize the Word of God as the inspiration of all my actions, to be faithful to the teachings of the Church and to form my professional conscience in accord with them, to cultivate a filial relationship with God, nourished by prayer, … to participate in the evangelization of the suffering world.”

That last promise, “to participate in the evangelization of the suffering world” bears a closer look today. We are in the midst of a year of favor, a Year of Faith, declared by Pope Benedict XVI, in which we are invited to “re-appropriate our knowledge of the faith, to reinvigorate it, purify it, confirm it and confess it” (cf. Porta Fidei, n. 4). The Year of Faith is also an opportunity to begin the New Evangelization, of preaching the Good News to cultures like ours that once heard it, but are quickly turning away from it.

How are you, as healthcare professionals, invited to be a part of the New Evangelization? How are you called, in your way of life, called to live this Year of Faith? The primary way is holiness in your daily life. To be saints in the world. The path of holiness is a fourfold process in which we enter into a relationship with the Holy Trinity.

First, we admit that we are sinners. I recognize that I am a sinner. By this I can then see Jesus as he truly is. Not just a wise philosopher, teacher, or prophet, but the Son of God who has come to take away the sins of the world, including my own. Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus, becoming his disciple, I am then made aware of something even greater—that I am a child of God, loved as a Son or Daughter by God the Father.

Where the relationship with Jesus is fostered primarily in our personal prayer, the relationship with the Father is nourished in the Sacred Liturgy, especially in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It is here that we are assembled to worship Our Father who art in heaven.

It is also through the Sacraments celebrated in the Sacred Liturgy that we receive the “life-giving waters” Jesus promised. “Rivers of living water will flow from within him. Jesus said this in reference to the Spirit” (Jn 7:38). As sinners redeemed by Jesus Christ and children of the Father, we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit, not for our own benefit, but rather to go and live and proclaim this Good News to others. That is why it is said at the end of Mass, “Ite, Missa est, Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord, Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”

For those in the healthcare profession, much of what you do is no different than what others do in your field. A Catholic doctor, nurse, or healthcare provider carries out many of the same tasks done by a non-Catholic in your profession. What sets you apart is your motivation, your goal, and the awareness of what you have been given.

Your first motivation is the love of Jesus Christ. The love of Christ compels us. The love of Christ urges us on. It is our love, united to the love of Christ that allows us to truly serve the sick, the poor, and the dying. To see one’s life, not just as a doctor, nurse, or healthcare professional, but as a friend of Jesus, a child of God the Father who has been given the gifts of the Holy Spirit to evangelize a suffering world.

There are three great opportunities in life in which we learn the most: in travel and immersion in another culture, in loss, and in suffering. Healthcare professionals share in two of those three. The promise is made to evangelize, not just the world, but the suffering world. Motivated by the love of Jesus Christ, an essential aspect of your vocation is to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to those who are dealing with loss and who are suffering.

Each day you wake up and prepare to take on your challenging work. Each time you walk into your office or hospital, take the words of the Mass and make them your own. Paste them on your door, tape it to your desk, make it your screen saver. Imagine they are words spoken by Jesus directly to you as you take on your duties and responsibilities, for indeed they are: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”

Steven Beseau

Reverend Steven P. Beseau is the Director of the Saint Lawrence Catholic Campus Center, Lawrence, KS and is a priest of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.