White Mass underscores the intertwine of faith and medical profession
FORT WORTH — Pouring rain hampered attendance of the Oct. 15 White Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral, but the 30 or so physicians, nurses, and medical students who attended described the Mass as a refreshing renewal of purpose and community.
Our Mother of Mercy parishioner Trinity Kilmurray, a nurse at Medical City North Hills Hospital, called the White Mass a welcome reminder “that the medical profession is a calling.”
“We develop a special gift and need to continue developing that gift every day and continue to see the humanity with our patients and with each other,” Kilmurray said. “It's a reminder of the big picture and how faith drives all that.”
So named after the hue of the coats worn by medical professionals, the White Mass honors doctors, nurses, students, researchers, and other medical workers.
“From its inception, the medical profession has been understood as a healing profession, a way in which Christ's work continues on earth,” according to the Catholic Medical Association, an organization closely tied to the Mass' development in America.
Diocese of Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson during his homily stressed the relationship between science, faith, and common sense.
“It's not simply providing better health for patients,” Bishop Olson said. “It's important for doctors, nurses, or anyone involved in the medical arts to be people of faith just as much as they are people of science. For people of faith understand the beauty of science. They understand that science and faith are two ways by which we come to knowledge of the truth.”
Such truths highlight the value of humanity.
“We come to understand patients not as just a body and system of functioning organs but rather the body as inherently part of the human person that is infused with a soul,” Bishop Olson said. “We come also then to know and understand, as we learn more about science of medicine and the human body, the awesome design that is created by God.”
Medicine also involves the art of refining patient interaction with those of different sensibilities, and, at times, struggling with the responsibility of imparting frightening and unpleasant news.
“That too is anchored most clearly in the paradox that is the cross,” Bishop Olson said. “That our eternal life and hope for eternal life comes not simply from longevity of years but through the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“His death and suffering have meaning for all of man because it is through the resurrection by which we know death and even sickness do not have the final word. And so physicians and nurses really do attend to the mystery of the death and resurrection of Jesus on a daily basis in the incarnation of their patients' lives.”
Finally, Bishop Olson advised that medical professionals should always remember their work is a calling and ministry originating from God. They must champion the dignity of the person over the philosophy of medicine as mere practice.
St. Bartholomew parishioner Susan Krause serves as a nurse at Texas Health Huguley Hospital.
“The Mass for me was really a blessing to know that the Church is behind me,” Krause said. “I believe that anyway, but it's always good to be reminded.”
Krause concurred that healthcare is a ministry.
“I know my hands are being used by the Lord every single day,” Krause said. “But that knowledge comes prayerfully of being open to being used, and the Mass, for me, was a confirmation of my feelings and what I do every day.”
St. Rose of Lima Church in Glen Rose parishioner Megan Acuncius, also a nurse at Huguley Hospital, reflected on the role her Catholic faith plays in her professional life.
“It's almost like they're intermingled so they aren't really separate at all,” Acuncius said.
This year marked Acuncius' third White Mass.
“You get the blessing and the affirmations, but it also gives you that sense of community,” Acuncius said. “It's refreshing for your soul.”
The Catholic Medical Association of Students hosted a reception after the Mass, which also saw attendance by several medical students from the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine at UNT Health Science Center.
“It's nice to have a Mass dedicated to healthcare students, practicing doctors, and professionals,” first-year student Ellen Gaudet said. “For me tonight was a reminder that everyone I'm going to be treating is a valuable life, not just another case or number. That they're someone to show love and compassion to. I hope my faith will remind me to bring that care to everyone I treat in the future.”
Second-year medical student Sophia Tran said she appreciated Bishop Olson's thoughts on healthcare as a calling.
“We get so busy studying, learning all the details of the human body, that it's good to be reminded that we need to keep faith as a big part of our lives and include that with our medical training,” Tran said.
Second-year student Jonathan Lopez, a 2009 graduate of West Point, described himself as a non-traditional student and said his journey to medical school proved one of detours and challenges. Events such as the White Mass supply reminders that his faith provides the fortitude necessary to continue that path, Lopez said.
Third-year student R.J. Cruz said he's attended the White Mass each year of his studies.
“I believe God has blessed [medical professionals] with the ability to heal people and I feel blessed to be able to partake in that gift God has given me.” Cruz said. “I think of it as I'm more a conduit. Something that, as I receive so much grace from God, it's my duty to pour that out to others. What better way to serve others with the love I get from God than to try to heal them at their most vulnerable times of need?”