August 31, 2011

MaterCare Conference Day 2 A Sign of Contradiction

Greetings in Christ! Today was day two of the MaterCare International Conference.  I decided this morning to attend mass at the Basilica of St. Peter, and so I met my brother-in-law and we were able to hear a Polish mass said at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II.  While praying during mass, I could not help but reflect upon John Paul’s mission to the youth.  He rightly recognized that it is the youth who have the greatest ability to change the world, and who have a responsibility to act upon this ability.  So many young adults have been inspired to go into the world to spread the Truth in areas of great darkness.  One are of great concern to the late Holy Father was medicine.  So much so that he created the Pontifical Academy of Life to help keep himself informed by the best and brightest from around the world concerning new technologies.    It has become evident that over time medicine has lost its guiding light and now so much of the wonderful knowledge is being misused.  For example, as medicine focuses on ‘quality of life’ over the sanctity of life “the concept of quality of life never comes to the rescue of the weak, but almost always in order to supply an improbable ethical justification for discriminatory decisions like, for example, neonatal euthanasia with children who are very premature or born with severe handicap” (Cardinal Ignacio Carrasco de Paula, current president of the Pontifical Academy for Life).  Much work is being done throughout the world by many individuals and organizations, and as this continues we must look to the future, to those who will take up the banner of Truth.  It will be today’s youth who must take this step, and the time is now to start this process.   In one of the talks today, this issue was addressed by Ronan Mullen, and Irish senator who has been at the forefront of conscientious objection in that country, made it clear that today’s youth, the next generation of the fight, cannot simply watch what is happening, but must act.  They cannot take for granted the ground gained, but have a responsibility to continue the work.  This is a challenge that we all face.  In our busy schedules, particularly for medical students, how do we have the energy to take up the fight?  It is difficult enough to finish our studies.  And yet, is this reason valid?  Is it not true that we could continue to state the same reason throughout our lives?  We must contemplate what we are called to do with our lives and what it means to be a Catholic physician.
A Catholic physician is a sign of contradiction, particularly the obstetrician and gynecologist.  Father Richard Taylor, spiritual advisor to MaterCare International, gave an excellent talk today where he laid out the four C’s of being a Catholic OB/GYN.  The first C is competence.  The Catholic physician must be competent in his field of practice.  However, the catholic physician cannot be satisfied with purely technical competence.   He must be committed to moral excellence, doing what is in the mind and heart of Jesus, and in this he will obtain true competence. The second C is conviction.  The Catholic physician must be convinced, believing practitioner of the Faith, where practicing medicine becomes an act of discipleship of Christ the Healer. The Catholic physician, through his practice, must express the conviction that they are doing what Christ and the Church desire of them.  The third C is community.  It is through the relationships with others that individuals realize their full potential, and thus community becomes very important.  This becomes even more poignant for physicians, for in healing they are following in Christ’s footsteps by restoring sick individuals to the community.  Consider how when Christ healed, particularly leprosy, he was reintegrating the person both in the self, but also into the community and into relationships with others.  The other sense of community belongs to the community of believers, who become a sign of contradiction in this world.  And as Catholic physicians live out their vocation, witnessing to the community, they build up the community and strengthen during our trials on this earth.  The fourth C is compassion.  For physicians, a disposition of compassion is greatly received by those in need.  But compassion must also be given to those who do not understand the Truth or who work against us.  In many cases, conversion is the fruit of perceived compassion.
These four C’s offer attributes that we can all strive to in our practice.  Even in our training, we should be emulating these ideas.  But to reach perfection in this area, we face many challenges.  In another talk given today, Monsignor Suaudeau, of the Pontifical Academy for Life, emphasized the relationship of the physician in training and the Magisterium of the Church.  The Monsignor continued to emphasize throughout his talk the fact that Christians should not be afraid of pursuing medicine, particularly obstetrics and gynecology.  As a medical student, I know why many people do shy away from this field of practice.  That road is not an easy one.  In fact, it is one fraught with ethical dilemmas, hostility from colleagues, and great spiritual travail.  And yet, we are being called to turn toward all of this, rather than away.  Monsignor Suaudeau made the argument that strong Christians have a obligation to respond to their vocation as OB/GYNs.  When Christians turn away from this field, Christian families around the world suffer greatly at the loss of like-minded physicians.  Moreover, the field itself is in great need of evangelization.  However, the Christian who chooses to pursue a career in OB/GYN has a great responsibility.  First and foremost, this individual must be competent, both in the technical sense and in the spiritual sense.  The competent individual will be able to face the challenges and in the interim impress his colleagues in his abilities.  Moreover, as the individual gains professional influence, he is able to more successfully evangelize his colleagues.  And yet, the individual Christian cannot reach this point alone.  There are so many dilemmas and challenges that one faces, that there are times that the answer is unknown.  It is in these instances that the Magesterium can play the vital role.  The individual can use the Magisterium as an anchor in the storms faced through training, turning to the teachings and guidance of the Church when facing these challenges.  Moreover, the individual needs fellowship.  It is in friendship that he can gain great strength and guidance, and, most importantly, individuals who will call him back when he strays from the Truth.
There is so much for us to do.  Generations have gone before us, fighting the good fight, and now our time is coming.  We now have been called out to make a decision on how we will proceed.  Will we ignore the fight, claiming we are too busy? Or will we step up to the challenge and take our place in this fight for Truth? 

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