Catholic health care professionals not only work to heal mental and physical health, they’re also devoted to the spiritual welfare of their patients.
It’s a message Catholic healthcare workers unite around annually at the White Mass, celebrated in October, near the feast of St. Luke, patron saint of physicians, and named for the color typically worn by healthcare professionals.
This year, Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, episcopal adviser to the Catholic Medical Association, was the invited homilist at the Oct. 17 Mass in Phoenix at the Diocesan Pastoral Center. He also delivered the keynote address at the subsequent banquet. Sponsored by the Catholic Physicians’ Guild of Phoenix, the event is an opportunity to reflect on the care of the sick and the ministry of healing that are integral to Catholicism since its very origin.
“Modern medicine promises to create children for some, while discarding others,” said Bishop Conley said during his homily. In his keynote message, Bishop Conley addressed the medical students and seasoned healthcare professionals, challenging them to help patients understand the meaning and gift of life.
“Pope Francis tells us that we are each called to recognize in the fragile human being, the face of the Lord, who in His human flesh experienced indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, be it in developing countries, [or] be it in well-off societies,” he said. “Every unborn child, condemned unjustly to being aborted, has the face of the Lord, who before being born, and then when He was just born, experienced the rejection of the world.”
We must do more than condemn poor practices, explained Bishop Conley, adding that Catholic health care professionals are called to make changes and help patients understand the meaning and the gift of life.
“Thirty-six years ago, Blessed Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize, but she was not an activist or a politician, but an Albanian woman in a blue sari who responded to the call of Jesus Christ,” he said. “Mother Teresa said that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion. A direct killing. If a mother can kill her own child, what is left for me to kill you, or you to kill me?”
Abortion is the most tragic action in the world today, more accessible than before, and now, chemical abortion destroys in the first days of life, explained Bishop Conley.
“She was right and I believe that one day we will wake up and wonder what we are doing and how did we get here. We are called to be a burning light of peace. So, how can you as medical professionals fulfill that noble calling to be a burning light of peace?”
Bishop Conley offered suggestions to healthcare workers to bring that peace to their patients. Maintaining a life of prayer, private confession, the Mass and the Sacraments, as well as attending to the spiritual life of their patients and colleagues will make a difference in forming an honorable practice.
“Practice and witness to the sanctity of human life in the world and propagate the culture of life yourself,” he said. “Commit to the New Evangelization. The Lord counts on you to spread the Gospel of Life to patients and colleagues in the world and to be a good witness of charity.”
Belinda McNerney, who owns Ave Maria Pharmacy based out of Prescott with her husband Paul, said that she appreciated Bishop Conley’s words of encouragement.
“We really like this bishop and we appreciate all that he said to stand up for life,” she said. “His words are powerful.”