Benediction of Vanderbilt Christian Medical Student Graduates (Commissioning)

Wesley Ely, MD, MPH
May 10, 2017

REF: Ely EW, Linacre Q. 2018 Aug;85(3):200-201. doi: 10.1177/0024363918779841. Epub 2018 Jun 1

(format adapted from a benediction given at Xavier Univ 2015)

Let us gathered here unite in prayer so that we may entrust into the hands of the Lord the hearts of those who are graduating.

  1. May God the Father, who called you to the vocation of medicine, complete your formation in His image, enabling you to remain immersed “in” but not “of” this world. (Jn 17:14-16)
  1. May Christ his Son, our Lord, give you the grace to make wise choices when you are with your patients and to be faithful in your commitment to each of them, always confident in the support of those who love you during the trials anddisappointments that inevitably befall all dedicated physicians.
  1. May the Holy Spirit bless you with a discontentedness that sparks healing actions and words for those in most need, especially difficult patients who through their own suffering have become blind to beauty and goodness around them and reject your attempts to help.
  1. May God bless you with discomfort, as modeled for us by two modern-day saints, Drs. Gianna Molla and Josef Moscati…discomfort that will provide a fortress against half-truths, and superficiality, ensuring for you a life in oneness with the Blessed Trinity.
  1. May God bless you with *rage* towards prejudice and abuse of others, especially the poor and voiceless, so that you will sew fairness and peace.
  1. May you always remember Christ’s hematidrosis (Lk 22:39-44) when you receive the “gift of tears” shed for your patients and reach out your hand to comfort them in the spirit of Mt 25.
  1. May God bless you with foolishness to know that you can make a difference; so that you will do things others say can’t be done.
  1. May your integrity and drive be a radical gift to the world, constantly teaching those around you that Mercy mandates both diving into the chaos of another person’s and providing her lifting and healing, even when cure is not possible.

Ever living God, Bless these graduates whom we are sending forth to carry the Gospel of Christ to all people. Let your Spirit enlighten their minds and guide their actions so that they may be renewed in faith, united in love, and advance the work of the Church for Your honor and glory. And may Almighty God bless you all…in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…Amen

** Note that the use of “rage” here is not meant to incite or justify violence (physically or verbally) against those with whom we disagree. It is, rather, meant to wake us up to the importance of becoming “energized” into taking a stance against the immoral treatment of our vulnerable brothers and sisters in society. We must take this stance (especially as healthcare professionals) not figuratively or theoretically but in substance and action because of the truth that we know: all people are made in the image and likeness of our loving God.

Comment

Jesus, You take over!

A prayer of the Servant of God, Fr. Dolindo Ruotolo

Jesus to the soul:

Why are you upset and agitated? Leave your cares to Me and all will be fine. I tell you honestly, every act of true and blind reliance on Me, results in what you desire and will resolve all your difficulties.

Abandonment in Me does not mean being frustrated, becoming anxious and desperate, offering Me your anxious prayer, that I may follow you and have your anxiety be a prayer. Abandonment means to shut the eyes of your soul in peace, moving your thoughts away from your troubles, and instead of thinking about your worries and pain, let Me take over your troubles. Simply say: Jesus, You take over. To be worried, restless, and to think of the consequences of an event is the opposite of reliance, it is really contrary to it.

It is like a child, who wants his mom to take care his needs, but in the way he wants: and with his whims and childish ideas he hampers her work. Shut your eyes and go with the flow of My grace. Do not ponder over your present moment and put away thoughts of your future as a temptation; rest in Me, believe in My goodness and I swear on My Love, that if you think like this: Jesus, You take over, I indeed will do it for you, I will comfort you, free you, and guide you. If I have to take you in a different direction from the one you are looking at, I will train you, I pick you up in my arms, and you will find yourself, like a baby sleeping in his mother’s arms, on the other shore. What gives you immense stress and hurts you, is your reasoning over it, your thoughts and the pains it gives you; it is wanting at all costs to take care by yourself of what is afflicting you.

How many things I can do, be it a material or a spiritual need, when the soul turns to Me, looks at Me and says to Me: Jesus, You take over, and close its eyes and rests in Me! You do not receive many graces because you insist on getting them by yourself; but instead you will receive numberless graces, when your prayer is in full reliance on Me. When you are in pain, and you pray that I may act, you want Me to act as you believe I should… you do not turn to Me; instead you want Me to submit to your ideas; you are like a sick person who does not ask the doctor for the cure, but tells him what the cure is to be. Don’t be like this, but pray as I taught you in the Our Father: Hallowed be your name, which means, may You be glorified in this need of mine; Your kingdom come, which means, everything may work toward Your Kingdom in us and in the world; Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, which means, You direct it as it seems best to You for the good of our eternal and temporal life.

When you truly tell me: Your will be done, which is the same then to say: Jesus, You take over, then I do intervene with all My omnipotence, and I will resolve every situation, even if there is no way out. For example, do you see your sickness becoming worse instead of improving? Don’t become anxious, close your eyes and tell Me with trust: Your will be done, Jesus, You take over. I repeat it, I do take care, I intervene like a doctor, and even do a miracle if it is necessary. Does a patient become worse? Don’t be frightened, close your eyes and say: Jesus, You take over. I tell you again: I will indeed do it for you, and there is no medicine more powerful than my loving intervention. I take over only when you close your eyes.

You never sleep, you want to appraise everything, to think, to delve into everything; you choose to rely on human power, or, worse, on men, trusting their intervention. This is what hampers My words and My will. Oh how much I long for this reliance in order to assist you, and how much I grieve to see your anxiety. Satan does just this: he gives you anxiety to remove Me from you and throw you into human initiative.

Trust only in Me instead, rest in Me, rely on Me in everything. I do miracles in proportion to your complete reliance on Me, with no thought of yourself. I spread treasures of graces when you are in the most squalid poverty. If you have your own resources, even a few, or if you seek them, you are at the natural level, thus you follow the natural way of things, which often are dominated by Satan. Never a thinker or a philosopher has done any miracle, not even among the Saints; only he who relies on God does divine work.

When you see that things become complicated, say with your eyes closed: Jesus, I abandon myself to You; Jesus, You take over, and stop worrying about it, because your mind is 3 sharp and for you it is difficult to distinguish evil; but trust in Me, and let your mind wander away from your thoughts. Do this for all your needs; all of you, do this, and you shall see great things, endless and silent miracles. I swear it on My Love. I shall indeed take over, you can be sure of it. Pray always with this loving confidence and you shall have great peace and great fruits, even when I choose for you the grace of immolating yourself for reparation and the love that entails suffering. Do you believe it is impossible? Shut your eyes and say with all your soul: Jesus, You take over. Don’t be afraid, I indeed will take care of you, and you shall bless My Name, in humility. A thousand prayers do not equal only one act of abandonment; don’t ever forget it. There is no better novena than this: Oh Jesus I abandon myself to You, Jesus, You take over.

Comment

Hippocratic Oath

I swear in the presence of the Almighty and before my family, my teachers and my
peers that according to my ability and judgment I will keep this Oath and
Stipulation:

To reckon all who have taught me this art equally dear to me as my parents and in
the same spirit and dedication to impart a knowledge of the art of medicine to
others. I will continue with diligence to keep abreast of advances in medicine. I will
treat without exception all who seek my ministrations, so long as the treatment of
others is not compromised thereby, and I will seek the counsel of particularly skilled
physicians where indicated for the benefit of my patient.

I will follow that method of treatment which according to my ability and judgment, I
consider for the benefit of my patient and abstain from whatever is harmful or
mischievous. I will neither prescribe nor administer a lethal dose of medicine to any
patient even if asked nor counsel any such thing nor perform act or omission with
direct intent deliberately to end a human life. I will maintain the utmost respect for
every human life from fertilization to natural death and reject abortion that
deliberately takes a unique human life.

With purity, holiness and beneficence I will pass my life and practice my art. Except
for the prudent correction of an imminent danger, I will neither treat any patient
nor carry out any research on any human being without the valid informed consent
of the subject or the appropriate legal protector thereof, understanding that
research must have as its purpose the furtherance of the health of that individual.
Into whatever patient setting I enter, I will go for the benefit of the sick and will
abstain from every voluntary act of mischief or corruption and further from the
seduction of any patient.

Whatever in connection with my professional practice or not in connection with it I
may see or hear in the lives of my patients which ought not be spoken abroad I will
not divulge, reckoning that all such should be kept secret.
While I continue to keep this Oath unviolated may it be granted to me to enjoy life
and the practice of the art and science of medicine with the blessing of the Almighty
and respected by my peers and society, but should I trespass and violate this Oath,
may the reverse be my lot.

Comment

A Doctor’s Prayer, Seeking Saintly Aid

This prayer was first published in the National Catholic Register (NCR) in July 2016: http://www.ncregister.com/site/article/a-doctors-prayer-seeking-saintly-aid/

On my best days as a physician at the bedside, this is the scene: My patient is sitting in the bed, and she and I are making eye contact and communicating directly to one another.

Additionally, as I have been practicing since I was a second-year Tulane medical student on the storied wards of Charity Hospital in New Orleans, I am following Mother Teresa’s enduring advice and acknowledging Another who is there.

When asked how she picked up cachectic (suffering from poor health, malnutrition and weight loss), fly-covered, dying people from the gutters of Kolkata, she responded, “I look in their eyes and say, ‘This is Jesus Christ.’”

Jesus is there with my patient and me, too.

Additionally in the room, I imagine the presence of the doctors of the Church and physician-saints, such as Drs. Gianna Molla and Joseph Moscati, who practiced medicine in 20th-century Italy.

Seeking intercession from the saints, and prayer in general, is key to my medical ministry.

For me, prayer is a verbal consent to accept God’s will in my life, down to the smallest detail. Praying with the saints, then, is merely having them with me in the conversation. I am talking to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit with friends and mentors at my side. These advisers help direct my gaze towards the Divine.

So in the morning as I prepare to walk to a patient’s bedside, I kneel, thanking the dear Lord for his many gifts and asking, ““How may I serve you as I come to the bedside of my sick patient? How might I be an instrument of your healing and peace?”

I confess I need lots of help if I am going to make optimum decisions in caring for my patients’ physical, mental and spiritual needs (e.g., a brief “spiritual history” is a respectful method of addressing patients’ preferences). Just as I value and regularly engage the wisdom and experience of my medical colleagues—and would not dare proceed as if I had all the answers myself—so also do I engage the spiritual counsel of my ‘colleagues on high’ who have already walked the paths I currently trod. I am thankful, then, for heavenly assistance so that I might use the full spectrum of what the Holy Spirit is offering me, all in an effort to help those entrusted to my care hurt less and smile more.

I have learned that this sacred journey is much more direct, quick and sure if I walk it consciously alongside the Blessed Virgin, too. She keeps me staring at Jesus, guiding me along a more graceful path than I would otherwise choose.

Heaven knows I am surrounded, as well, by the likes of Sts. Joseph, Francis, Aquinas, Ignatius, Pio and Damien, not to mention Anne, Clare, Catherine, Teresa, Thérèse, Faustina and Bakhita … nudging me this way and that, as our wisest friends always do.

Let me paint for you a specific scene: In the ICU, my septic patient is there, lying on an air-filled mattress. Beside her is a continuously cycling ventilator, pushing air into her lungs, and her kidneys are being supported by the spinning dialysis machine. She looks up at me, and we connect.

I recognize God in her eyes, and I think of the witness of Dr. Molla, who reminds me to care for my patient as a mother would. As she said, “Physicians have opportunities that a priest does not have. … We doctors touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients.” Dr. Moscati reminds me that my role is to see the full person. Together, they direct my mind to God, knowing that in helping the patient I am serving Him.

E. Wesley Ely, M.D., MPH, is a professor of medicine and critical care at Vanderbilt University and president of the Nashville Guild of the Catholic Medical Association.

Comment

A Physician’s Prayer

Lord
Thou Great Physician, I kneel before Thee. Since every good and perfect gift must come from Thee, I PRAY: Give skill to my hand, clear vision to my mind, kindness and sympathy to my heart. Give me singleness of purpose, strength to lift at least part of the burden of my suffering fellowmen, and a true realization of the rare privilege that is mine, Take from my heart all guile and worldliness, that with the simple faith of a child I may rely on Thee. Amen.

Comment

Prayer for a Parent with a Pierced and Restless Heart

Ely EW, Linacre Q. 2014 May;81(2):115.

Dear Lord,

When my heart is trampled and tired because my child has committed or suffered sinful things, help me to embrace my role as an earthly parent without growing weary.

Help me to love the unending vocation of parenthood, while at the same time recognizing my limitations and relinquishing the outcome to You, my child’s True and Heavenly Father.

In moments of desperation, I confess that our family is empty and has only one true recourse: to be held in Your hands. Grip us tightly, Father, for there is no place we’d rather be.

Protect me from seeing things in black and white, which favors conflict over unity; instead, Holy Spirit, instill me with humility to pave a path for deeper participation in the life of my child.

Help me to avoid self-trust in favor of complete trust in You, bringing all my worries to the altar of prayer so that in daily life my actions will be rooted in Your will rather than mine.

As a parent, I often find myself living with a pierced heart that joins me to Your Passion. Help me, Lord, to travel the Way of Calvary offering my wounds joyously and lovingly to you, Jesus.

Doing my meager best, I pray that my happiness as a parent will be found in knowing that I’ve handed over to You all results of parenting in complete faith that Your Will be done for my child.

Help me to take hold of Our Mother’s hand, Lord, so that when I am blind to Your Grace, Blessed Mary will guide me back to You and ensure that my parental actions will be positive and loving.

Emblazon in my mind the image of the prodigal son’s father, so that I may be forgiving of both my child’s and my own errant ways, for in so doing, I will remain closer to You.

Then Lord, when you have my attention, in the midst of my restlessness as a parent, I pray that you make my pierced heart into one devoted to your service – patient, meek, and ready for today.

Comment

Promise of the Catholic Physician

As a Physician, I solemnly promise:
  1.  To continually improve my professional abilities, in order to give my patients the best care I can.
  2. To respect my patients as human persons, putting their interests ahead of political and economic considerations, and to treat them without prejudice arising from religion, racial, ethnic, socio-economic or sexual differences.
  3. To defend and protect human life from conception to its natural end, believing that human life, transmitted by parents, is created by God and has an eternal destiny that belongs to Him.
  4. To refuse to become an instrument of violent or oppressive applications of medicine.
  5. To serve the public health, promoting healthful policies respectful of life and the dignity and nature of the human person.
  6. To cooperate with the applications of just law, except on the grounds of conscientious objection when the civil law does not respect human rights, especially the right to life.
  7. To work with openness toward every person, independently of their religious beliefs.
  8. To donate part of my time for free and charitable care of the poor.
In order to achieve these goals, as a Catholic Doctor I also promise:
  1. To recognize the Word of God as the inspiration of all my actions, to be faithful to the teachings of the Church and to form my professional conscience in accord with them.
  2. To cultivate a filial relationship with God, nourished by prayer, and to be a faithful witness of Christ.
  3. To practice Catholic moral principles, in particular those related to bio-medical ethics.
  4. To express the benevolence of Christ in my life, and in my relationships with patients, colleagues and society.
  5. To participate in the evangelization of the suffering world, in cooperation with the pastoral ministry of the Church.
Approved by the Executive Committee of the Fédération Internationale des Associations Médicales Catholiques (FIAMC – The International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations) and by the Pontifical Council of the Pastoral for Health Care Workers.
Comment

Jesus My Patient

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Dearest Lord, may I see you today and every day in the person of your sick, and, whilst nursing them, minister unto you. Though you hide yourself behind the unattractive disguise of the irritable, the exacting, the unreasonable, may I still recognize you and say: “Jesus, my patient, how sweet it is to serve you.” Lord, give me this seeing faith, then my work will never be monotonous. I will never find joy in humoring the fancies and gratifying the wishes of all poor sufferers. O beloved sick, how doubly dear you are to me, when you personify Christ; and what a privilege is mine to be allowed to tend you. Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience. And O God, while you are Jesus, my patient, deign also to be to me a patient Jesus, bearing with my faults, looking only to my intention, which is to love and serve you in the person of each of your sick. Lord, increase my faith, bless my efforts and work, now and for evermore.
Amen<

Comment

What I am learning about You, Jesus

A year ago, while on a train travelling home from a medical conference, a chance conversation with a man of faith awakened memories. As we chatted across the corridor of the carriage, he commented on my name, and then he spoke of Mary, the Mother of God, and her mother, St Anne. It was then, somehow, that my heart and mind opened and I remembered them both, realised the meaning of my name and remembered who I was meant to be. We left the train at the airport and parted ways, yet a loving presence remained with me. During the long flight home, that which I now know to be the grace of a call, led me to know that I needed God, and I asked Him for His help. Back home again in the swing of family and nursing work, I started praying the Rosary each day; within weeks I was opening the little metal gate into the grounds of our local church presbytery and knocking on the door. That is how I returned, with surprise, certainty and joy, after a 28-year absence, back into the welcoming arms of the Catholic Church. Since then, everyday encounters with others, such as sharing a meal with my family, caring for a patient, speaking with someone on the street, have become sacred, love-filled. Having Jesus in my life does that.

During the time of conversion following that train ride, my faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, in Him as my Lord and Savior was at first recalled, and then deepened. Yet it is only in recent months that I began to more fully know Jesus in His humanity. I suppose it has taken this time of intense learning about who He is and, in my first adult year of faith, to become again as a child. As a child now, I am looking around at the world, at Him, and to eternity with wonder and trust; valuing the simple and the small; and fully devoting myself to Mary, who is our Mother too. Through the grace of her being so, her Son has become my loving brother, my friend who accompanies me. It is in this beginning to know Him, of the essential ways He lived His full humanity, and of His glorious divinity, that He is teaching me how to live. So now, I write to Him this letter:

Dear Jesus, this is what I am learning about You:

You were born at night, in a cave. You loved Your Father and Mother and earthly father Joseph, and were completely obedient to them. You prayed always to Your Father. You created beautiful, functional furniture and homes that helped people in their daily lives. You were humble, patient, gentle. You loved to share a meal with Your family and friends and You made it a sacred time. You were funny, quick witted, capturing the point of truth in the Annmarie Hosie October 2014 2 moment. Your humor was never unkind. You read and fully understood the Scriptures; and Your mind was brilliant. In Your early life, You stayed close by Your family; later, You travelled, for the work of the Father.

Immediately after Your baptism, You heard even more powerfully just how much the Father loved You. You were tempted by all of the things that we are tempted by, yet You never sinned. You loved Your friends and all others: kind and tender to children, women, sick and disabled people, sinners, those looked down upon in society. You experienced grief at the death of a friend; You cried with those who were grieving. You forgave sin, and You healed people. You talked easily to strangers. You were tough: You fasted, rose early, worked hard, never complained about physical discomfort like cold or heat, hunger or tiredness. You walked long distances. You often retreated to be alone to pray. You did not care nor worry about money or possessions. You lived moment-to-moment, day-to-day: perfectly in the moment and yet with a clear consciousness of eternity. Sometimes You were exasperated, because of our obtuseness, our misunderstanding of truth and love. Rarely were You angry, and only when it was right to be angry. Your anger did not hurt others. You always spoke the truth: sometimes simply, in a straightforward, crystal clear, brave way; and at other times through creating and telling abstract, puzzling stories, stories with many pieces. You taught by what You did and said. You knew when to speak and when to be silent. You were deeply loved by many and hated by others, and often misunderstood by most, as now. You challenged people in positions of power, in points of truth and justice. You challenge us all, everyday.

You gradually prepared Your disciplines for Your coming suffering, chiding them when they resisted this. You foretold too of the eventual suffering of those who loved You. Towards the end, You suffered beyond words: physically, to the depths of Your whole being, Your soul. You accepted this completely, for love and because it was the will of the Father. On the Cross, bruised, thirsty, naked, You bled and struggled to breathe. You forgave us. Your last words were to give us to Your Mother, Your Mother to us, and Your Spirit to Your Father. You breathed out, and died. You gave Your whole life for us, that we might have new and eternal life, as the beloved children of our Father.

And then: You raised Yourself to full life, blood flowing and eating fish and bread on a beach with Your brothers. You were physically present and gave them Your peace, exhilarated their faith and prepared them to teach God’s kingdom. You promised Your Mother and disciples that You would always be with them; and You ascended to heaven to sit rightly with God, our Annmarie Hosie October 2014 3 Father. You saw Your disciplines praying with Your Mother, and You poured down Your Holy Spirit, filling them with Your Truth and Love and the courage to speak of You to others. By the Spirit in them, You opened the hearts, eyes and ears of many and Your Church began and reached out to all the peoples of earth.

You form us. Without You, we can do nothing. Thus You remain with us, wholly present in Your Word, the Eucharist, our hearts. You speak to us softly and surely in our prayer to You. You arm us for the daily battle in our hearts and this world. You heal us when we turn back to You in sorrow for our sin. You arouse us to heal, comfort and love the people we serve. You are with us in every birth and death, joy and suffering, and all the times in-between. You shine brightly from the eyes of those who love You.

Dear Jesus, this is how it is that you can receive my letter, because You are here, now and always.

With love, Annmarie

Comment

Just Rising, a prayer for the morning…

It is morning, and the sun is just barely rising today. The sky is trying to decide if it wants to become blue. The stars are scattered, puckering good morning “kisses” on you and me, while at the same time it’s clear they are toying with leaving. Trees are showing off their majestic outline high into the newly illuminated distance. Birds have awoken and are beginning to sing, and the dogs are wandering around looking for food. Houses have wafts of smoke puffing out of chimneys and there is frost on the ground. All around me I can feel there are people scattered, some nestled in their beds dreaming contentedly, while others are struggling to stay warm over a city grate of warm musty air. Some are up baking bread, while others are running down a hospital hall to a code blue. And I… I am kneeling, thanking the Dear Lord for His many gifts, the least of which is me, here to adore and serve Him. How might I make my Father proud today? I confess I need lots of help if I am going to do this well. How might I use the full spectrum of what the Paraclete is offering me, so that others might hurt less and smile more? For sure, I can find this path more quickly and surely by staying near Christ’s mother, the Blessed Virgin, in thought. She will keep me staring at Him, listening attentively instead of turning my head away. So I will ask her to guide and coax me along a more graceful path than I would otherwise choose. Heaven knows I am surrounded as well by the likes of Saints Joseph, Francis, Aquinas, Ignatius, Padre Pio, and Damien, not to mention Anne, Clare, Catherine, Teresa, Therese, Faustina, and Bakhita…nudging me this way and that as the very best and wisest friends always do. I’m going to make this my active prayer today – to follow Him more closely, every moment. I will live this prayer as life itself and in His service in the roles of son, husband, father, friend, physician, and scientist. Yet it wouldn’t be the same without you there at my side. Every soul counts. Won’t you help me find the way?

AMDG, Wes

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