Fighting ‘Truth Decay’
Dentist Works for Imperishable Crown
For 30 years outside of the Catholic Church, Dr. Valdemar Welz sought after the truth, and, for 30 years, he was disappointed. He did find helpful bits and pieces here and there, but not enough truth to bring peace to his soul. That would only come when he reconnected with the Church through prayer, reading St. Faustina’s Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul and going to confession.
Now, the dentist, who attends the annual conferences of Healthcare Professionals for Divine Mercy, loves to share the truth with anyone who will listen.
Honesty about his own status as a sinner is presented with humor and hope. For those searching for happiness, the 63-year-old Bostonian offers a simple solution: Get right with God.
In fact, Welz attributes his own zest for life primarily to daily Mass and Eucharistic adoration, along with weekly confession. He also recommends a dietary component — namely, vegan fare. He says this regimen gives him the energy to work on patients all week long, including those who are unable to pay for his services. About one-third of his patients (primarily priests and religious) receive dental work for free.
Welz, who does his part to fight what he calls “truth decay,” spoke with Register correspondent Trent Beattie in time for the Feb. 9 feast of St. Apollonia, patron of dentists and those with tooth problems.
You have a lot of energy. Where do you get it from?
I feel so great, it’s beyond human comprehension. There are two dimensions to this — one dietary, the other spiritual. The dietary dimension is that I eat much better than I used to. I started a vegan diet four and a half years ago and have lost 45 pounds. Now, my knees and back don’t hurt, and I no longer have allergy problems. The spiritual dimension is that I go to Mass every day and also spend an hour in Eucharistic adoration. Then I go to confession once a week.
You grew up Catholic but haven’t always been as devout as you are today, right?
That’s right. I grew up in Poland and came to America in 1959, when I was 8. I went to a Catholic grammar school, but was sidetracked when deciding which high school to attend. I wanted to go to Boston College High School, but my grammar school’s principal (a nun) said I could save my parents $500 per year if I went to Boston Latin School, a public institution. I did go there — and got a worldly education.
I started CCD classes in my freshman year, but so aggravated the teacher (a priest) with my persistent questioning that he actually stormed out of the classroom. Questions such as “How can we have free will if God knows what we’ll do tomorrow?” were not adequately answered for me by the Church — at least, not by the representatives of the Church I came into contact with.
For decades after the CCD incident, I replaced Catholicism with independent research into the meaning of life. I read numerous science, psychology, philosophy and religion books and found some truth, but also a lot of falsehood. The world is full of lies, and, many times, these lies are subtle twists of the truth rather than complete reversals of truth.
The major problem with my quest for truth outside the Church was that I looked for fulfillment where it cannot be found: in other human beings and their ideas about life. Every human being will fail you at one time or another, and you, being a human being too, will inevitably fail other people.
That’s when Divine Mercy changed your life?
Yes, it dawned on me, in late 1994, how important forgiveness is. Every one of us is imperfect and in need of healing; therefore, forgiveness is all-important. This was made plain as day in Luke 6, especially Verse 37, where we are told in direct terms that, if we forgive, we shall be forgiven. That’s God’s deal with us: We will be given from him what we have given others.
Around this same time in life, I had a hygienist named Christine who was a Divine Mercy devotee. She explained to me and my wife, Elzbieta (the Polish version of Elizabeth), the message that was entrusted to a nun in early-20th-century Poland. She was known as Blessed Maria Faustina Kowalska in 1994 and was canonized not too much later [in 2000 by John Paul II].
I read this nun’s diary (my first of around 28 readings), and it all made so much sense. I had reasoned my way into knowing the centrality of forgiveness, and, now, my thoughts were being spiritualized and completed by the message given by Jesus to this Polish mystic. My thirst for truth was being satisfied, and my life changed for the better.
I started praying more and, in 1995, while attending a conference on [the alleged apparitions at] Medjugorje, I got the courage to go to confession for the first time in 30 years. I was unsure of exactly what to do, but the priest made it easy for me. Instead of trying to remember everything I had done wrong over the past three decades, he asked me a series of questions about specific sins by going through the Ten Commandments, so I was able to say whether I had committed them and how many times. I was so relieved to be forgiven like that, just as Jesus instructed his priests to do in John 20:23.
Now, I love to go to confession. I even ask my wife and kids if they know of any sins I may have forgotten, so that I can make a complete confession.
How many kids do you have?
My wife and I have three kids, all adopted. We had been married for 19 years at the time we re-entered the Church but hadn’t been able to conceive. Once we both went to confession, we thought of ourselves as Catholic newlyweds because it was then that we were both really with the Church. And, like any good Catholic newlyweds, we found ourselves with three kids in three years. I rejoice at having them in my life. I also say that if my wife and I had started earlier, we would have adopted nine more kids.
The oldest, Nika, is a senior in high school now, and the two younger ones, Max and Tosia, are juniors. I hope I’ve given them a good picture of what the Catholic faith is all about. I try to spread the message of Divine Mercy at home and in the office.
I placed a holy card of St. Apollonia, the patron saint of dentists and people with tooth problems, above my lab bench. The story of how she became associated with teeth is amazing. She was tortured and martyred in third-century Egypt. One of her tortures was having her teeth pulled out or crushed with pliers. And you think you’ve had problems at the dentist?
I’m looking into getting a St. Apollonia portrait for my office, and I already have many Divine Mercy ones up. I also wear a Divine Mercy pin on my shirt and make St. Faustina’s Diary and other good books available to patients. The way the diary is organized can be kind of tough to take in, so there’s also the book called Trust: In Saint Faustina’s Footsteps, which may be more palatable for some people.
One of my favorite books is a very small one called Guidebook for Confession. In it, St. John Paul II is quoted in his 1983 ad limina visit with American bishops, when he told them to do everything possible to make the administration of the sacrament of confession a primary aspect of their ministry and the ministry of priests.
You see a link between confession and dentistry — and the medical field in general.
There are many connections. Here’s one: What would people say if a doctor decided he was only going to heal patients one hour a week? Here’s a man who went through years of intricate and expensive education, and he’s going to utilize it in so miserly a manner? What can be said, then, for the parish priest who hears confessions for only one hour a week?
Now, it is true that there are other duties a priest has, and he can heal in other ways besides the sacrament of confession. However, the bulk of his time should be spent where it is needed most, and that happens to be in the confessional, for all the souls who are seeking Divine Mercy. Jesus literally died to give this unfathomable gift to us, so we need to have it heartily endorsed and made far more available than it has been. How much more peaceful a world we would have if this was the practice of the Church.
Not everyone can go to confession on Saturday afternoon, so every parish should have the sacrament available before every Mass, all week long. I don’t hesitate to tell priests this directly. I would even tell bishops and the Pope, if given the opportunity. If the Church is not dispensing the mercy of God, it is neglecting its fundamental mission.
After a Polish priest visited here for a week, he told me he knew what was wrong with the Church in America: Everyone goes to Communion, but no one goes to confession. He only needed a week to see that, but some of us still don’t see it, despite being here many years.
You’ve also spoken of the connection between gnashing of teeth and the Bible.
Well, I say that dentistry is mentioned more times in the Bible than prostitution or tax collecting. Teeth are in there around 55 times, and the specific of “gnashing of teeth” (what we dentists call bruxism) is mentioned seven times. The context for wailing and gnashing of teeth is not good, but the remedy is easy: Get closer to God. The practice of jaw-clenching, which is natural to all of us, is very symbolic of a lack of acceptance of divine truth, just as wailing is. Someone who is habitually sad or angry is someone who does not have his will united to God’s.
When St. Faustina completely gave up her own will, which is described in No. 374 of her diary, she heard the Lord say that, from then on, she would not be judged. This is the polar opposite of someone who pursues his own will and does not accept God’s will, described as wailing and gnashing of teeth. In other words, when we give up our own schemes, we enjoy the peace that comes from self-surrendering to God’s unconditional love.
Communicating with the God who, out of boundless love, created us and sustains us in being is the whole purpose of life.
Another way you’ve said this is that truth is what we yearn for.
God is truth, so the more we know God, the more we know truth. Truth can seem like an abstract idea, but it’s very up close and personal. Jesus didn’t say he has the truth; he said he is the truth. When we’re honest about our own identities as sinners, a certain relief comes over us, and when we progress a step further and humbly accept the mercy of God, we’re profoundly set aright with our Creator. Despite the inevitable problems that still arise, there’s an undercurrent of peace that abides in us.
The truth is also found in science, but it’s a lesser form. I tell everyone to eat a plant-based diet because it will help them become healthier. At the same time, I also say that it will only help to postpone heaven, hell or purgatory for 10 to 20 years. We all have to die, but if we accept everything from God’s hands as he sends it to us, we go right to heaven after death.
There’s a lot of “truth decay” in the world today, but I try to fight it. On the natural level, I try to help people have better teeth and overall health; on the supernatural level, I try to help people think of the resurrection of the dead, where, yes, we will have resurrected teeth. Some might even say we will have, in addition to imperishable crowns on our heads [1 Corinthians 9:25], some imperishable crowns on our teeth. Yet I know that the resurrection will take care of any and all deficiencies, disabilities or deformities we might have had here on earth.
writes from Seattle.