A Modern Lay Saint
We are all called to be saints. And, we are all called to be saints right where we are. We start right where we are right now. We do not need to wait until the conditions are right or we have discerned this or that. We have right now in our hands, and what we have in our hands is the "stuff" that God has given us that we need to become saints.
An example of becoming a saint in your every day life is the modern saint Giuseppe Moscati (1880 - 1927) who was a doctor. In fact, he is the first modern physician to be canonized a saint.
However, his sanctity was achieved not so much because he was a doctor. It was achieved by the way that he approached his profession. Giuseppe saw his profession as a way to express his faith. What he did for a living was integrated with his faith life. His faith informed every part of being a doctor.
Now, Giuseppe might have had a different profession and still have become a saint because of his attitude and how he lived out his profession through his Catholic faith. Of course, this message is something that the Church has been teaching since the beginning. We all have different gifts and talents which the Lord has given us. And, we are responsible for using those talents for Him and those whom He has placed in our lives.
Giuseppe shows us it can be done even in a scientific profession that often is driven by ego, money, and prestige. Let's learn more about him.
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The Early Years and a Decision to Become a Doctor
One of the professions which Giuseppe might have chosen was law. His father, Francsco Moscati, was a well-respected magistrate and his mother, Rosa de Luca dei Marchesi di Roseto, came from a noble family. Giuseppe was the seventh of their nine children when he was born in Benevento, Italy. When he was four years of age, the family moved to Naples.
His parents passed on the faith to their children in tangible ways. For example, when the family would return to his father's part of the country, they would attend mass at a chapel of the Poor Clares. There, this well-known father, the judge, would serve at mass just like he was a young man.
Giuseppe, himself, made his first communion at the age of eight, and he was confirmed when he was ten. Then at the age of twelve, he found his path toward serving others through medicine.
One of his older brothers, Alberto, suffered a serious and incurable head injury after a fall from a horse during his military service. The young Giuseppe observed the care that was given to Alberto and also assisted in giving that care. Through that experience, he was inspired to pursue a life of caring for others as a doctor through helping with both the physical and spiritual needs of others.
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Medical School and His Early Career
Accordingly, Giuseppe would enter medical school at the University of Naples. It was not an easy place to be because it was not just a secular institution it was openly anti-religious among both the faculty and the students. However, Giuseppe maintained his faith through receiving the sacraments regularly, daily prayer, and submitting everything that he was doing in his studies to the Lord. Like his father, he was a gifted student, and he performed well in his studies.
In 1903, at the age of twenty-three, he completed his medical degree with honors and began his internship at the Hospital for the Incurables. At the same time, he began teaching courses in general medicine at the university from which he had been graduated.
Giuseppe considered it important to continue to develop his skills and to put the best of scientific knowledge to use as a physician. Thus, he never stopped learning and obtained training in as many as twenty specialties which enabled him to treat a wider range of patients. Giuseppe's knowledge in so many different areas of medicine was so well-respected that he was consulted by everyone from young medical students to famous specialists. When asked for help, no matter by whom, he humbly shared his knowledge and experience in order that more people might receive quality care.
In addition, Giuseppe put to use the latest information in the new field of biochemistry to help treat patients. Motivated by his mother's death in 1914 from diabetes, he would be one of the pioneers in giving insulin to those who suffered from this disease.
Hospital officials recognized his skills and talents and soon the young doctor was being asked to serve in administrative positions. Giuseppe willingly did, but he always maintained his practice of seeing patients.
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How He Treated His Patients
Giuseppe knew from his faith that men and women are composed of a body and a soul and the physician needs to be mindful to treat the whole person and not simply the body. Thus, he would approach his patients by first placing himself in the presence of God and asking for the Lord's help.
Then, he would treat each patient with respect being cognizant that helping his fellow man was a work of corporal mercy. Thus, he puts his vast knowledge and experience at the service of the Master in order to assist in the healing of the body and soul of his patients.
As he wrote to one young doctor who had been one of his students, "Remember that you must treat not only bodies, but also souls, with counsel that appeals to their minds and hearts rather than with cold prescriptions to be sent in to the pharmacist."
Consequently, his bedside manner appealed to the patients' faith or even seeds of faith. For those who were Catholic whether practicing or not, he encouraged them to receive the sacraments, especially if their condition was dire or they were being prepared for surgery.
As a result, Giuseppe was remembered for his warmth and concern for his patients because he was sharing the love of the Lord through his professional practice in caring for the ill.
Giuseppe was also aware of helping those in material need. As many of his patients were poor, Giuseppe would treat them for free, in some cases absorbing the costs himself. In fact, he would often insert money in the envelope which included the prescription he wrote in order to help the patients defray the costs of the medicine.
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Only three years after graduation, in 1906, the young doctor showed in a dramatic way the heroism that he demonstrated in his every day life. The famous volcano of Mt. Vesuvius, which is not far from Naples, erupted. Giuseppe, who was a lifelong bachelor, immediately went to the area to offer his services to those in need.
At a nursing home in the danger area, he told the director who was married and had children to leave as he would take care of the situation. Then, along with several other staff members, Giuseppe proceeded to evacuate all of the elderly residents.
They managed to get the patients to safety only minutes before the roof of the nursing home collapsed under the weight of the volcanic ash. Later, Giuseppe refused any honor for his part in helping the elderly men and women and instead worked to insure that the staff were recognized for their heroic work.
Later, during World War I, he tried to enlist, but was refused. Instead, Giuseppe found a way to serve by working with wounded soldiers. It is estimated that Giuseppe treated over 3,000 soldiers during the war.
The more we trust God, the more we are open to His working in and through us. And, Giuseppe was no exception. He certainly was hard-working, experienced, and knowledgeable. However, God would sometimes work in miraculous ways through Giuseppe.
There were cases in which he was able to diagnose and prescribe the correct medicine for patients whom he had never seen. In addition, as was mentioned earlier, Giuseppe would encourage his patients to entrust themselves to God through the sacraments. And on occasion, once the patient received the sacraments, he or she would be healed from illness and be released from the hospital.
Through many years of service, Giuseppe had seen countless patients and been able to help so many men and women recover from illnesses of the body and of the soul. Giuseppe had practice his faith through his profession. It was the path the Lord had given to him to achieve holiness, and he took advantage of the opportunities provided in his every day life as a doctor.
As was his practice, he attended daily mass and received communion on Tuesday, April 12, 1927. Giuseppe then proceeded to go on his rounds to visit his patients. After a brief lunch, he sat down to take a quick break before continuing his work. He suffered a stroke and died at the age of forty-seven.
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Feast Day: April 12 (Memorial) and November 16 - Translation of Relics (Memorial)
Patron of Doctors
Patron of Bachelors