Catholic physicians called to imitate Christ

Kansas City, Kansas Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann gives the homily at the annual White Mass at Christ the King Church in Kansas City, Mo. In it he spoke of the importance of the sick in the life of the Church, and prayed for those engaged in Catholic healthcare. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — A Mass celebrated Feb. 10 at Christ the King Church honored Catholic physicians, nurses, paramedics, and others in the healing professions. Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr., of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph was the principal celebrant, with Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas and Father Gregory Lockwood, parochial administrator of Christ the King parish concelebrating. They were assisted by Father Anthony Williams, Director of Mission Integration and Priest-Chaplain and Manager of the Spiritual Care Dept. of St. Joseph Medical Center and St. Mary’s Medical Center of Blue Springs, Deacons Todd Brower, Kevin Cummings and Joe McNeal.

Named for the white garments worn by those in the medical community, the White Mass has been celebrated in the United States since the development of the Catholic Medical Association in the early 1930’s. It has been a joint diocesan celebration in the Kansas City area for a number of years.

In his homily, Archbishop Naumann reminded his listeners that Feb. 11, World Day of the Sick, was established by Pope St. John Paul II in 1992, on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes, to “express our solidarity with the sick and how important they are in the life of the Church. How they are seen in a special way, united with our crucified Lord.” He urged prayer for the sick, but also for the doctors, nurses, therapists and administrators who care for the sick, in fact, all those involved in Catholic Health Care.

The archbishop continued, “In his remarks for the 26th World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis said, ‘The Church’s maternal vocation to the needy and to the sick has found concrete expression throughout the two thousand years of her history in an impressive series of initiatives on behalf of the sick. This history of dedication must not be forgotten. It continues to the present day throughout the world. In countries where adequate public health care systems exist, the work of Catholic religious congregations and dioceses and their hospitals is aimed not only at providing quality medical care, but also at putting the human person at the center of the healing process, while carrying out scientific research with full respect for life and for Christian moral values…

“’The memory of this long history of service to the sick is cause for rejoicing on the part of the Christian community, and especially those … engaged in this ministry. Yet we must look to the past above all to let it enrich us. We should learn the lesson it teaches us about the self-sacrificing generosity of many founders of institutes in the service of the infirm, the creativity, prompted by charity, of many initiatives undertaken over the centuries, and the commitment to scientific research as a means of offering innovative and reliable treatments to the sick. This legacy of the past helps us to build a better future, for example, by shielding Catholic hospitals from the business mentality that is seeking worldwide to turn health care into a profit-making enterprise, which ends up discarding the poor. Wise organization and charity demand that the sick person be respected in his or her dignity, and constantly kept at the center of the therapeutic process.’”

Archbishop Naumann said the Holy Father’s words remind us of the challenge in our nation, of keeping healthcare accessible to everyone, while at the same time protecting it from becoming overly bureaucratic, where the individual person becomes lost, both in the methods of research and the models of care. He reminded the congregation of the challenges in the Kansas City area, “the decline of Catholic hospitals serving not only Catholics but our entire community.” He therefore prayed for those actively engaged in Catholic healthcare, that the Lord would help them continue in that profession.

The Gospel reading, Mark 1:40-45, recounted Jesus healing the leper. After describing serious effects of leprosy, especially nerve damage, the archbishop urged his listeners to remember that the body is a temple of God, and good stewardship of the body, and its health, is necessary to keep it a temple of God. He then added, that for some, including himself, good stewardship of health might include downsizing the temple a bit, which was greeted with laughter.

He also mentioned that exercise is good for stewardship of the health of the body; “the sheer amount of walking that Jesus and the apostles did to get from one place to another, would have resulted in positive numbers on their Fitbits!” Again, laughter.

Archbishop Naumann reminded the congregation that while the leper was truly desperate and socially outcast, he still knew he needed the Lord. Those in the medical and science professions today can be led astray by the notion that because of their education and experience, everything is under their control, and there is no need for God… “You in the medical science professions have the ability to draw many others to know Jesus by the accepting goodness of your own faith.” As his homily was ending, he urged those in attendance to remember that “Faith and science are partners in leading us to the truth. … Part of your responsibility is to protect today’s sick from the isolation of the lepers of old.”

The Mass continued with the music from Christ the King Sanctuary Choir and Schola Cantorum, Singers from City on a Hill’s Lux Mundi Schola Cantorum and singers from Sursum Corda of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Following the Mass, a reception was held for attendees from the Catholic Medical Association and the medical science professions.


March 18, 2018
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph