[dropcap]D[/dropcap]r. Michael Rock has been standing in the breach for decades, defending the unborn and fighting to protect the lives of the elderly and infirm. He recently received the Guardian of Faith award from the National Catholic Medical Association, an organization he’s been active in for years and was president of in the late 1990s.
Growing up in a staunchly Catholic family in Philadelphia, Rock’s name suits him well. His parents, he said, were solid Catholics who raised their children to understand and cherish the faith built on the rock of Peter. And with two uncles who were priests, there was ample opportunity for Rock and his siblings to have their questions about faith and life answered. His brother went on to become a priest who worked for then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the Vatican.
As a young resident in the early 1970s, Rock remembers well the devastating blow that the Roe v. Wade decision dealt the nation. “I just remember in my youth in high school and college, I didn’t know anyone of any faith who didn’t think abortion was a horrific thing. Even the AMA years ago thought the abortionists should be thrown out of the medical association.” After seeing pictures of aborted babies, he got upset and resolved to do something about it.
“I worked with a resident who was an extremely active supporter of Planned Parenthood and I thought, ‘This isn’t right.’ I got involved,” Rock said.
He started giving talks at churches and eventually wound up testifying at the Arizona Legislature on bills pertaining to abortion. He was also frequently called on to speak at the Arizona Right to Life conventions.
As a physician, he donated hundreds of hours over his career caring for and visiting the sick at a Phoenix nursing home once run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, as well as volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul medical clinic and the Missionaries of Charity center in South Phoenix.
In 1986 he and his family traveled to the West Indies to serve at a medical clinic for one month where the impoverished conditions stood in stark contrast to his practice back in the States.
These days, he serves on the board of Life Choices Women’s Clinics. He also visits the sick and elderly. He brings Holy Communion and his concern for those dealing with end-of-life issues and recommends Americare Hospice as the local Catholic-approved hospice organization.
When someone is terminally ill, he said, family may wonder what difference a week or two could make. Actually, Rock said, it can make all the difference in the world.
“Often they’ll patch up a family relationship that’s been awry for 20 years or something like that. Not uncommonly, Catholics that have not been going to church want to see a priest. So what difference does a week or two make? It may determine where you spend eternity, so it’s a big deal,” Rock noted.
He offered his thoughts on what it means to be a Catholic man in 2016. “I think, just as the bishop suggested, men need to be bolder and not just stand on the sidelines,” Rock said. There’s a temptation for men to spend too much time at work, watching sports or on the computer, he said. “Men need to not cave. Is Sunday the Lord’s Day or the NFL’s day?”