"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son…”
Imagine you have just arrived to your first clinical anatomy lecture. You’re intensely focused because last night your anatomy professor sent an email to the class reading: “Everything you need to know about clinical anatomy will be presented in the first lecture.” Everything?
Promptly at 8:00am, your professor walks to the podium. But she doesn’t pull out notes or turn on the projector. She speaks one word, and then she walks out of the lecture hall. Sound like an ineffective teaching strategy?
For your anatomy professor, it certainly would be!
However, when God spoke a Word, Jesus Christ, in some sense this Word really did contain all we ever need to know about anatomy to care for patients. When God spoke a Word, He begot Truth incarnate in the form of a human body—a perfect body inclusive of the blueprints for processes like DNA replication and hematopoiesis.
However, as Catholic Christians, we also know that when God spoke the Word, this revelation contained much more than just the natural truths of physiologic science. With his Word, God also spoke into being the beauty of moral law, necessary to guide the relational aspects of what it means to be a human being in communion with others and with God.
As members of Novus Medicus, we know that both the physiological and moral “guidebooks” given to us in the person of Christ must be respected and utilized in order to truly heal our patients.
But how do we form ourselves in this Truth such that our medical decision making becomes guided by Christ’s steadfast wisdom? How do we train ourselves to hold fast to the Church teachings we instinctually know are true, but that we often have a difficult time defending to our colleagues and peers?
After all, Truth remains rather hidden and quiet compared to the noise surrounding us in our world today. Presented with ever-increasing arguments and distractions, we often encounter real difficulty when trying to “tune into” Christ’s quiet voice. It is not Christ’s way to force himself upon us, and his Eucharistic presence will not be tempted into going “decibel for decibel” with noisy protests raging on.
I suggest that our success in formation will largely come down to our efforts to remember that it is Christ himself, Truth incarnate, whom we have set out to serve in the practice of medicine. When we make these efforts, we are spurred on to learn both excellence in the natural practice of medicine, as well as to be built up in the faith and morals of the Church that help us avoid transgressions against the right to human life.
The word “anamnesis” beautifully ties together two “remembrances” that can help us in this exercise. It comes from Greek and is used to refer to both the remembrance of a patient’s own account of his medical history, as well as to the eucharistic remembrance of the Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Jesus Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass. This, to me, is profound! In tying together these two specific remembrances, the concept of “anamnesis” reminds me that Christ is living part of his eucharistic life, suffering, and death in the patient recounting his “history of present illness” to me.
This was exactly the motivation I needed to defend Truth even early on in my medical training. I spent my first two years at a Catholic medical school petitioning for the amendment of curricula that promoted medical interventions such as sterilization and IVF. At some point, when I sat before Jesus in the Eucharist to ask him if the headaches and the time spent writing emails (when I could have been studying!) was worth it, He responded by showing me that when a woman is sterilized, the generative life of Christ is sterilized. When a child is aborted, the budding life of Christ is aborted. Because Christ lives in the members of his body, how his members are medically treated matters.
Consequently, the way that you are forming yourself in the Truth matters! St. Ignatius tells us that the Enemy will attack our stronghold at its “weakest point.” How are you seeking to strengthen your “weakest point” in Christ and his Truth today? Are there places in your formation where you are uncertain of how to defend yourself, or maybe tempted to believe that Christ “got something wrong” in the teaching He left to Holy Mother Church? Regardless of your answer, we want to walk with you! Join us in our Catholic medical student and physician community, and take advantage of the spiritual, ethical, and medical formation opportunities we have to offer.
As members of Novus Medicus, we know that some things never change. Truth is a person, his name is Jesus Christ, and in Him, through his Church, we find everything we need to offer excellent medical care to every patient we encounter. Join us in deepening your formation in the Truth today!