Oct 18, 2020
Catholic Medical Association
They must rejoice when they live among
people considered of little value and looked down upon,
among the poor and the powerless,
the sick and the lepers,
and the beggars by the wayside.
St. Francis. Earlier Rule 9.2
We celebrated the annual “White Mass” for medical professionals this morning at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is the Feast of the beloved physician Saint Luke (eclipsed by the Lord’s Day). This was the first time (hopefully of many) that it was held at the Shrine, gathering Catholics involved in healthcare for a time of prayer and fraternity. Bishop Steven Raica, newly installed in Birmingham, celebrated the Mass. A few local doctors are joining together to start a chapter of the Catholic Medical Association in Hanceville. As we celebrated, another Catholic association came to my mind, medical even, the conversion of Saint Francis and the miracles of Saint Clare.
A key moment in the conversion of Saint Francis he recounts in the Testament:
The Lord gave me, Brother Francis, thus to begin doing penance in this way: for when I was in sin, it seemed too bitter for me to see lepers. And the Lord Himself led me among them and I showed mercy to them. And when I left them, what had seemed bitter to me was turned into sweetness of soul and body.
The Lord, the Great Physician of our souls, said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Lk 5:31-32). Francis describes his early state in an immersive way, “when I was in sin.” This state was bitter. This itself was a symptom of a malady of soul. [Think of how awful your favorite food can taste when you are sick, and how it becomes delightful again when you are well]. He could not “make” mercy as the Lord had made mercy, healing the lepers, willing to touch them. So often, in our reluctances to perform penance – that is, to be totally transformed by the Gospel in every aspect of our being – we must rely upon the Lord to give us (“the Lord gave me”) and to lead us (“the Lord Himself led me”) the grace that we need. This is a gradual grace; Francis for a time left them, the lepers, after taking care of them, but later Francis left the world instead. What had been bitter became sweet.
Saint Clare performed a number of medical miracles, many of which were retold by her Sisters in the process of canonization. But a special example of her “medical” love for Francis was that she made a pair of socks for him after he received the stigmata. It was extremely painful for him to walk, and the socks helped to take the pressure off. The feature image is found in the Basilica of Clare near to the Crucifix of San Damiano (I wish it was better, sorry for the fuzzy picture). In stained glass, Clare tends to the stigmatized feet of Francis during his stay near the end of his life. The sock is found among the precious relics in the Basilica of Saint Clare.
During the covid pandemic our medical professionals have faced many and unexpected challenges. We pray through the intercession of Saints Luke, Francis and Clare for their protection. And we ask Mary, Mother of the Sick, to comfort those who are ill, especially those without proper medical treatment. May the Great Physician of our souls, Jesus Christ, bring universal (catholic) health of mind, soul and body to each and to all.