NEW HAVEN – Jesus’ purpose on Earth was to heal a broken world.
In his homily at the annual Archbishop’s White Mass to honor medical professionals April 26, Father Michael Whyte explained that from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his “singular purpose was to offer a complete and absolute healing of the human person – body and soul – so that the gift of eternal life might be ours one day.”
Drawing from his own recent “medical miracle” of undergoing a successful kidney transplant, Father Whyte paid tribute to all medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, caregivers, researchers and emergency medical personnel, to hospice, palliative professionals “and more.”
He noted that since the White Mass began in the 1930s, Catholics have honored the belief that healing professionals are cooperating in Christ’s healing mission and ministry; and that their intelligence, skills and compassion are “gifts and talents from God.”
“I congratulate you all today for the vocation of healing that you have been called to and have embraced,” he said to the congregation gathered at St. Mary’s Church. “I thank you for cooperating with Christ.”
At a luncheon that followed at The Graduate Club, Archbishop Leonard P. Blair spoke about the images of Jesus in Scripture, including that of the Divine Physician.
“The good work and ministry of those committed to the healing professions help to bring the healing touch of Jesus to those entrusted to your care. This is often difficult, heart-wrenching and tiring work,” the archbishop said, adding his thanks.
He talked about the ongoing effort, in Connecticut and elsewhere, to enact legislation allowing physician-assisted suicide.
He urged the health care professionals to “be good shepherds of where, to enact legislation allowing physician-assisted suicide.
He urged the health care professionals to “be good shepherds of the lives entrusted to your care.”
Advances in pain management and palliative care give patients and caregivers promising alternatives, he said.
“We promote compassionate care for the most vulnerable among us when we affirm their existence, listen to and acknowledge their fears; when we tirelessly and creatively manage their symptoms and burdens, including pain, and thus help them alleviate their spiritual and existential suffering. Assisting them with suicide does not belong on this list of comfort and aid to the most vulnerable,” the archbishop said.
He presented the first Archbishop’s Award for Excellence in Health Care to Dr. Daniel J. Diver, chief of the section of cardiology at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center in Hartford.
In accepting the award, Dr. Diver echoed Father Whyte’s sentiments, and talked about how his Catholic faith has influenced his vocation.
In addition to honoring the faith and guidance of his parents, who were present at the luncheon, Dr. Diver talked about a 10-foot marble statue of Christ the Divine Healer that he passed daily in the Johns Hopkins Hospital during medical school. It is inscribed with the words, “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”
“I said, ‘If you help me, then I’ll do it for everyone else,’” he said, revealing his prayer as he passed the statue of three decades ago.
Now at St. Francis Hospital, he noted that one of the privileges of working in a Catholic hospital is its chapel. “Every single day, I go over there for about five minutes,” he said.
Noting that the chapel has a statue of Mary, he said, “I’m still worried about whether I’m up to the task, so I ask for her help. I ask that I am able to do whatever it is I’m charged with, and to do it in a way that is pleasing to God.”
He also said that he ends every day by going into the hospital to meet for a few minutes with his patients and their families. “I try to touch them,” he said. “If you put your hands on someone, it means something to people.
“When I leave that room,” he continued, “they don’t really know whether I’m a good doctor…Here’s what they do know. They know I care about them. They know that at St. Francis, we’re going to treat them with compassion and respect. And often,” he said, “I’ll tell them they can count on me like friends. It means something to them.”