Saturday, February 10, 2007

Catholic Action!

One of the best things a Catholic student in the health care professions can do is become involved with a local Catholic organization such as Newman Club or the Catholic Medical Student Association. Most campuses have some type of Catholic student organization. It’s worth becoming active even if you disagree with the leadership, take issue with the lack of catechesis among the members, etc., the point is to find some people with whom you can forge potential friendships. The culture war is not going to be won by a lone ranger. Catholics from all sides—spanning the whole theological spectrum—must gather together to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, receive the sacraments, heal the sick, learn about the faith and support one another.

For those of us who might be described as doggedly orthodox, and are prone to having a certain higher-level of catechesis, “social justice” at the expense of profound mystery becomes quite frustrating and even more tedious. However, we must ever remember, as Pope Benedict reminded us near the beginning of his pontificate, truth without love is empty and love without truth is blind. These are two sides of the same coin, as it were. Pouring our heart into helping the helpless as an expression and efflorescence of our love for Christ (and our concomitant theological orthodoxy) will only inspire a greater commitment to the Church and fidelity to Christ in those around us.

Think of Blessed “Mother” Teresa of Calcutta. Is there any doubt among anyone about her love for the Church and wholehearted acceptance of its teaching? No. Such acceptance spurred her great advocacy for and acceptance of the indigent. Is there any doubt about her commitment to the poor? No. She is remembered internationally as a woman of selfless abandonment to the “poor in spirit.” Such a one satisfies the Catholic heart either liberal or conservative and reminds us all that our response to the poor and suffering must ever be a response to the love God has for us and a result of the great gift of grace bestowed on us by His son.

No doubt, small gestures of great love and devotion can have a profound effect on the theologically tepid. So there’s nowhere to kneel during the Consecration? Kneel anyway as the Church prescribes. It won’t hurt you to kneel without padded kneelers for one day. Imagine what cost it was for Our Lord to take nails to His hands and feet, and to have His fascia (er, flesh) ripped away from His Holy Body. Bow during the Creed when “He became man.” Make all you do a prayer and people will want to know what inspires your action, devotion, and happiness.

Getting involved with your local Catholic student organization is a way for you to make a difference. You might possibly be the catalyst for a resurgence in your school of Catholic life. Maybe your organization only holds the occasional Mass and a few lunch-time meetings. Become a leader, and next year plan to increase membership twofold and set goals: to educate non-Catholics about specifically Catholic medical practice and ethics; to educate Catholics about what we believe, why we believe it, and why we should believe it, practice it, and teach it; to teach, at least rudimentarily, about NFP so patients can have all the options; invite renowned speakers to discuss Catholic issues and advertise around your local and campus community; hold monthly Masses, invite many Catholics and non-Catholics alike and hold a liturgy in which Heaven really does reach down to earth and earth is graced with heaven as in Michealangelo’s Creation of Man. The point is to faintly hear the angels singing. In truth, we must remember, the Mass can never be otherwise than that and far more greater than we can possibly grasp: for in it, Christ presents His eternal condescension to us by becoming not a bloodied body on a Cross, but a real and living presence under the appearance of bread and wine.

For now join the Catholic Medical Association and the Catholic Medical Student Organization.

Both of these are great resources for all Catholic medical students. Perhaps, we’ll even be able to meet at the annual convention. In fact, I’ll count it: see you in Atlanta this October. Pax.

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