Early in the morning, before their rounds began and before the sun rose, a large group of Catholic health care professionals gathered at Our Lady of Fatima Chapel in the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center Friday, Oct. 11. There, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades celebrated the White Mass, asking the Holy Spirit’s intercession and blessing.
Following the tradition of the legal profession’s annual Red Mass, the White Mass is named for the white coats worn by doctors and bestowed upon them during medical school. As physicians take an oath to care for the sick and dying, their profession is closely aligned to the ministry of Jesus, the divine physician.
Because it was the feast day of St. Pope John XXIII, the “Good Pope John,” Bishop Rhoades spoke of his love and concern for the sick and suffering. Having been a medic as well as a military hospital chaplain before serving as pope, the future saint knew well the pain and horrors of war. As pontiff, he was the first pope to visit the Church’s children’s hospital, Bambino Gesu.
Bishop Rhoades then shared narratives about the saint that illustrated his deep love for each person, following that of the Good Shepherd. He also preached on true Christian love, which is sacrificial and self-giving. He thanked those present for their great care and charity of those patients entrusted to them.
“From the beginning, Catholic health care ministry has been about embodying Our Savior’s love and care for the sick. We heard in today’s Gospel that Jesus cured the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute and many others. These healings were signs of His compassion and love for all those who were hurting,” he said.
“The Gospels are replete with examples of Our Lord curing every kind of ailment and disease. And He cared not only for people’s physical afflictions. He touched people at deeper levels as well — including spiritual healing through the forgiveness of sins,” the bishop explained. “As St. John writes in his Gospel, Jesus said: ‘I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.’” (Jn 10:10)
“This holistic vision is the vision of Catholic Health Care Ministry. That is why pastoral and spiritual care is important in our Catholic hospitals. Also, Christian love is to be the animating principle of Catholic health care. All employees are called to imitate the love of Jesus in their care of patients and in their relations with one another. Real love, not just superficial, sentimental or unanchored love,” Bishop Rhoades said. “It is a love anchored in the love of God.
The homily also touched on the cultural realities Catholic physicians face every day.
“Real love does not succumb to false concepts of mercy, like that promoted by advocates of physician-assisted suicide and the legalization of euthanasia. Real love does not ignore the sanctity of life of unborn children. Real love does not show disrespect for the good of marriage and the marriage act through contraceptive interventions. Real love does not disrespect our creator and perform surgeries or administer drugs that reject the truth of human persons and their identity as male or female, created in the image of God. What is technologically possible is not always morally right.”
His words seemed to uplift and resonate with those present, who discussed them further at a breakfast reception following the Mass.
‘We must see Christ in everyone we care for,’ affirms physician
Dr. John Rice, president of the St. Andre Bessette Guild of the Catholic Medical Association, said following the White Mass that the Mass is an opportunity for the Church to honor Catholic health care professionals who bring Christ’s healing mission to the bedside every day.
“We come together to offer prayers for the sick and those who provide their care. This is also an opportunity for physicians, nurses and others to recommit themselves to an authentic vision of the human person. We must see Christ in everyone we care for, and, in turn, we must be the hands and the voice and the heart of Christ for every patient we meet.”
“Bishop Rhoades highlighted some of the areas in which society directly challenges our Catholic understanding of the human person,” Dr. Rice continued. ”Abortion, in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research all undermine the dignity of persons at the beginning of life. Contraception, same sex “marriage” and transgender conversions contradict the God-given plan for sexuality. Euthanasia and physician- assisted suicide both reflect a lack of trust in God and His dominion over our lives. Physicians are called to lead the fight to restore integrity to health care.”
The Catholic Medical Association is a national organization founded in 1932 and dedicated to integrating the truths of the Catholic faith with the science and practice of medicine, according to Dr. Rice.
“Our local guild, dedicated to St. Andre Bessette, strives to imitate his charism of humble healing of both body and soul.”
The Guild chaplain is Father Glenn Kohrman, pastor of Holy Family and St. John parishes in South Bend. The next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6 and will begin with Mass in the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center chapel, followed by a meeting in the education center.
— Jennifer Miller
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