Meet a Christlike Doctor

Book Pick: St. Giuseppe Moscati: Doctor of the Poor

St. Giuseppe Moscati

Doctor of the Poor

By Antonio Tripodoro, S.J.

Ignatius Press, 2015

181 pages, $16.95

To order: ignatius.com

 

Giuseppe Moscati was a doctor who chose a life of celibacy in order to give himself completely to God and, most particularly, to those in need. He was a renowned physician in Naples, Italy, in the early decades of the 20th century.

He worked full days teaching and practicing medicine and also spent hours caring for the poor — at no charge.

Even before his death, many people claimed that he drew on divine assistance in diagnosing and treating some of his cases.

He was beatified by Pope Paul VI in 1975 and canonized by Pope St. John Paul II in 1987. His canonization miracle involved the healing of a worker dying of leukemia. The worker’s distraught mother received a dream of a doctor in a white coat. Later shown a picture of Dr. Moscati, she recognized him as the man in her dream. Her dying son was cured.

A few years after he earned his medical degree, he organizing the evacuation of a hospital during an eruption of Mount Vesuvius (the hospital roof collapsed shortly after he removed the last patients). At 31, he assisted many of the sick during a cholera epidemic. Shortly after this, in his early 30s, St. Giuseppe made a private vow of celibacy and, for a time, thought he had a vocation to become a Jesuit. The Jesuits he consulted discerned that God intended him to remain in the world as a doctor.

St. Giuseppe cared for the wounded and dying soldiers in the Italian army during World War I. With them, as with all his patients, he practiced medicine with the general philosophy that there was a close link between body and soul and that bodily health was linked to the soul’s being in a state of grace. He told one of his former 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.”

Besides employing the highest standards of medicine at the time, he would pray for his patients and try to persuade those away from the faith to seek the sacraments. Before examining someone or entering into his medical research, he would place himself in the presence of God.

In addition to practicing medicine, St. Giuseppe was a researcher who oversaw the local Institute of Anatomical Pathology. In the autopsy room, he installed a crucifix with a Latin inscription taken from the Book of Hosea: Ero mors tua, o mors (“O death, I will be thy death,” 13:14).

He died suddenly, at the age of 46, after a morning spent in his usual routine of daily Mass and hospital rounds.

St. Giuseppe Moscati united in his life and example the ideals of a good doctor and a holy man of God. A daily communicant, and deeply devoted to the Immaculate Conception, he practiced evangelical charity to a high degree and once said to a student, “Not science, but charity, has transformed the world.” 

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