Msgr. Valenzano, Father DeAscanis, and dear friends in Christ,
What a joy it is to welcome all of you here to the Basilica of the Assumption for this White Mass for Catholic health care professionals. This morning I would like to extend a warm word of thanks to everyone from the Catholic Medical Association for your presence here today, as well as to those whose logistical work made today’s events possible.
I would also like to thank and congratulate the officers of the Baltimore chapter of the Catholic Medical Association who will be inducted today following the Post-Communion prayer.
As you may know, the White Mass takes its name from the white lab coats which are so often worn by medical professionals, and it takes place on the Sunday nearest to October 18th, which is the feast of St. Luke the Evangelist. Tradition tells us that St. Luke was also a physician, and therefore is one of the patron saints of Catholic health care professionals.
It just so happens that the Gospel passage which the Church sets before us for this 29th Sunday in Ordinary time is taken from the Gospel of Saint Luke. So for just a moment, let’s think together about what the patron saint of your chosen profession has to say to you in this passage, in which he records some stirring words of Our Lord, who speaks of praying always.
This Is How I Become Truly Myself
A moment ago, in the Collect, or opening prayer of the Mass, we prayed in these words: We said, “Almighty and ever-living God, grant that we may always conform our will to yours and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.” It is no coincidence that this prayer is prayed in preparation for hearing the Gospel in which Jesus tells “his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary.”
But what do this prayer and this saying of Our Lord have to do with us? Aren’t we to understand that in order for us to find Christ in our professional lives and in our day-to-day work, it is necessary that we become friends with him. That’s right – and the idea is an astonishing one. It is not a convenient add-on for those who happen to have the time for it. No, friendship with the living person of Jesus Christ is an absolute necessity for you and me if we are truly to understand who we are, where we’ve come from, and that we – and those we are called serve – have an eternal destiny.
And this friendship, this understanding, comes only through prayer. After all, time spent with Someone who is goodness itself leads very naturally to friendship with him. Pope Benedict XVI once put it very beautifully. He said, “Friendship is not just about knowing someone; it is above all a communion of the will. It means that my will grows into ever greater conformity with his will. For his will is not something external and foreign to me, something to which I more or less willingly submit or else refuse to submit. No, in friendship, my will grows together with his will, and his will becomes mine: this is how I become truly myself.”
At Each Phase and at Every Age
But let’s make no mistake. The understanding of human dignity that comes through an integration of faith reason, leads us to conclusions which are increasingly countercultural. Bearing witness to these truths in the public square, both personally and professionally, is far from easy.
Just last month in Rome our Holy Father, Pope Francis, met with representatives of the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations. During their time together, and in his characteristically direct style, he told them: “Dear friends and physicians, you are called to care for life, remind everyone, by word and deed, that [life] is sacred — at each phase and at every age — that it is always valuable. And not as a matter of faith – no, no! – but of reason, as a matter of science!”
The Pope continued, “There is no human life more sacred than another, just as there is no human life qualitatively more significant than another. The credibility of a healthcare system,” he said, “is not measured solely by efficiency, but above all by the attention and love given to the person, whose life is always sacred and inviolable.”
Indeed, when we look around us we can see that it is precisely in the health care field that encroachments are increasingly being made which would force us to act against our consciences and against the dignity and sacredness of human life, whether on your end of things, in the hospital and in the office, or on my end, as a provider of health insurance to those whose employment is within our Catholic institutions.
Yet, dear friends, you and I can learn something very valuable from the persistent widow in today’s Gospel. Her sheer stamina and her unrelenting focus on her goal won the day, and she obtained not only a hearing but indeed a just verdict. So must it be with us. With charity but also with courage, stamina, and persistence, you and I are called not only to see Christ in the infirm and in the defenseless, but also to be their voice and to defend their dignity, because otherwise, they may well have no voice, and no defense.
Finally, in this Basilica of Our Lady’s Assumption, I entrust you and your noble work to the prayers and the care of Mary, about whom Saint Luke writes so lovingly and so eloquently in his Gospel. And I make my own the words of Pope Francis, speaking to representatives of your profession at his audience last month. He said, “Never fail to ask the Lord and the Virgin Mary for the strength to accomplish your work well and to bear witness courageously to the ‘gospel of life!’”
May God bless you and keep you always in His love!