Once Pope Francis said: “God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it”.
But what kind of gift did God exactly give us on Christmas? The Texan televangelist, Joel Scott Osteen, thus replies: “Christmas is the perfect time to celebrate the love of God and family and to create memories that will last forever. Jesus is God’s perfect, indescribable gift. The amazing thing is that not only are we able to receive this gift, but we are able to share it with others on Christmas and every other day of the year.”
The saints were the ones who successfully shared Jesus with those with whom they came in contact with. And the extent to which they were able to do that, thanks to the workings of the Holy Spirit in and through them of course, earned them holiness. One such saint who did really that was Saint Joseph Moscati (1880-1927), the “holy physician of Naples” as he was popularly known.
Dr Moscati is one of the glories of the medical profession. When dedicating the Church of Saint Giuseppe Moscati in the suburbs of Rome in 1993 Pope Saint John Paul II alluded to the doctor’s method: “In addition to the resources of his acclaimed skill, in caring for the sick he used the warmth of his humanity and the witness of his faith”. Thus, in the life of this great physician, medical school professor as well as pioneer in the field of biochemistry one can notify that harmonious correlationthat peacefully dwelt within him between faith and reason. A correlation, which, the same Polish Pontiff, highlighted so much in the opening sentence of his famous encyclical regarding the relationship between faith and reason, Fides et Ratio: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth”.
Giuseppe Moscati’s life was an outstanding witness of what it means to serve the truth faithfully. A truth which powerfully resonated in the practical charity he heroically exercised for Jesus himself, as present in the sick people. “I was sick and you visited me” (Matt 25:36). Being the seventh child out of nine, and born to an aristocratic family, Giuseppe felt the call to study medicine when his brother Alberto, a lieutenant in the artillery, suffered an incurable head trauma due to his falling from a horse in 1893.
Giuseppe stood by his brother’s bedside to care for him. There he experienced the limited effectiveness of human remedies and the consoling power of the Christian faith.
After he enrolled in medical school in 1897 at the University of Naples Moscati managed to study diligently while ardently practising his Catholic faith. In 1903 he received a doctoral degree with honours. Then he started practicing medicine at the Hospital for Incurables in Naples and lectured in general medicine at the same university. He was also a hospital administrator and became famous for the extraordinary skill he had in diagnosing his patients’ maladies. Dr Moscati managed to synthesize traditional methods with the findings of the new science of biochemistry.
This great scientist looked at medical practice as a lay apostolate. Before he examined a patient or conducting research Giuseppe used to place himself in God’s presence. To patients who were about to undergo surgery he exhorted them to receive the sacraments. Dr Moscati also devoted himself in responding to his patients’temporal needs. He offered a free of charge service to his poor patients and, when the need arose, he would send someone home with an envelope containing prescription and a 50-lire note. To a young doctor and one of his former students he once wrote: “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.”
Recently the Lord gave me the grace of writing a book about Saint Joseph Moscati in Maltese. It’s name is Tabib tar-ruħ (A doctor with a soul). You can get it from SAY IT MALTA bookshop 32, Tarxien Road, Paola. Or phone 27131060. Tabib tar-ruħ is a gift for Christmas you can lovingly give!