Health Care’s Attention to “Human Dignity and Eternal Destiny”

Health Care’s Attention to “Human Dignity and Eternal Destiny”

My grandfather was accidentally stabbed in the leg by his sister when he was around seven years old.  His family for many reasons, including lack of funds and lack of trust in medicine, did not take my grandpa to the hospital until an infection has spread too far. 

When he was finally taken to the hospital, my grandpa was then separated from his family and stripped of his clothes. To replace his possessions, they provided him with one of those hospital gowns, cause you and I know how helpful those are to withhold the little human dignity you have left.  And to make matters worse, they put him into a ward full of other boys with dissimilar ailments. 

They did save my grandfather’s life, but they did not save his leg.  Till his last day, my grandpa was not too fond of the medical field.  But can you blame him? 

Imagine you had a traumatic injury, an injury that would put you up in a rehab hospital.  Then after being stripped of your ability to walk, or care for yourself, you are then stripped of your privacy and put into a room full over other people to observe you in your physical, emotional and spiritual pain. 

In a similar way, my grandfather was stripped of his human dignity.  It is the role of Catholic health care to work to restore as much dignity as possible to each patient it sees.

The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare Services (ERDs) state: “Catholic health care has the responsibility to treat those in need in a way that respects the human dignity and eternal destiny of all” (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2018).

Human dignity is obviously restored through the physical treatments that Catholic health care provides patients.  Treatments that give a patient their life and autonomy back.  But there is a deeper call in this statement.  A call to be attentive to the eternal destiny of all.  To the fact that we are not merely physical, but have a soul, and spirit to attend to as well.

How are you attentive to “the human dignity and eternal destiny of all”?

What is one easy thing you can do to increase your attention to the full reality of a colleague, friend or patient this week?

Picture Citation: Photo By Daan Stevens on Unsplash

When a Butterfly Flies in Your Path: A Reflection on Happiness

When a Butterfly Flies in Your Path: A Reflection on Happiness

When a Butterfly Flies in Your Path: A Reflection on Happiness

I have a friend who very much enjoys other’s company.  He is incredibly hospital and is always making sure that you feel at home.  He will typically go up to people at events or programs that he is participating in or hosting and ask them “Are you happy?” He was telling me about the interesting responses he usually received.  Many of which were watered down to “This is great event/program” or “I am having fun,” etc.

What would your response be if I asked you right now; “ARE YOU HAPPY?”

I presume you would have trepidation at that question as well.  There are many good reasons for that!  1) You do not want to jinx yourself and make things worse.  (Because you know we all are thinking that…) 2) You may also think, “How can I be happy in a world where there is so much suffering in the world?”  3) Maybe you think that if you say that you are happy, you are saying that you are content with where you are and what you have?  OR 4) You truly are not happy…

When I reflect on this question I fall somewhere between 3 and 4, I do not say that I am happy because I have been made for more.  As Augustine wrote, “You have made us for You, O God.” 

Father Julián Carrón commented on this quote from Augustin, saying, “We have been made for a destiny that is so boundless, that we cannot reach it by our own strength, we cannot respond to the need of fullness that constitutes us.” 

If I were to cut off Father Carrón’s quote right here, you would say that it is a cruel trick for God to make us this way.  For God to make us insufficient to attain our own happiness.  And it is true, there are few verdicts or punishments that would qualify as worse than that.  But Father Carrón continues:

“This is why Christ came, because without Him we can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to respond to our thirst for happiness, for destiny.”  Christ came so that we can attain the happiness that we were made for, so that we can satiate the thirst in our hearts for love by being in the presence of Jesus Christ, who fulfills our deepest desire. 

The work we must undertake is sensitizing ourselves to His presence among us here and now.  That is the journey to happiness, to be aware of God’s contemporaneous presence, to be aware of Christ who is with us always.  Here is an example of what that looks like:

A colleague was telling me about her busy workload.  And then reflecting on her week, she mentioned that just the day before, when she was speed walking to get one more thing done before the hourglass ran out, a butterfly flew right in front of her face. 

A little startled, she stopped and watched the butterfly gracefully float in the air and gently land on the grass.  Captivated by the butterfly softly flapping its wings, my colleague knew one thing, that Jesus was using that butterfly to remind her of Him.

What are the butterflies in your life that God is using to remind you of Jesus’s presence? 

If you cannot think of one, what is causing you to run so fast that you miss the butterflies flying in front of your face?

The Gift of My Many Flaws

The Gift of My Many Flaws

I am a big fan of letters.  It is a lot of fun to share some stories in my life and read about how things are going in my friend’s lives.  Occasionally, I get a message that makes me step back and reflect.  I received such a message this week when my friend wrote the following to me; “I sense that there are a lot of things that you are unsure about, and there is a confusion about your direction.  And I also sense it has been that way for a while.”

My immediate reaction was – YOU ARE TOTALLY RIGHT!

I do not know have everything figured out.  There is always a lot going on, I am always being pulled in many directions, always not certain about what is the correct action, nor which path to follow…

I reflected upon this for some time.  Reflecting on my needs and how I stumbled around to fulfill them.  In my own abilities, in my work, in my relationships, etc.  And the more I became aware of my most essential needs, the more I realize I cannot fulfill them.  I realized how truly powerless I am. 

Coming to grips with how insufficient I am is a life long journey.  It is incredibly hard to look into the mirror and know all of my faults and all of the ways I fall short in life (especially when people’s perfect lives seem to be broadcasted in front of my face at all times…).  Experiencing the genuine reality of my many faults is when honesty hits home.

But this powerlessness is far from a curse.  Understanding I am not a self-sustaining entity makes me realize how much I need support. Reflecting on my daunting needs makes me recognize how much I need God, who is at the heart of my deepest desire, who is my desire, the source and summit of everything that is sustaining in my life!

Powerlessness drives me to the recognition of how much the encounters with Christ mean to me.  How much having a relationship with God is the only thing that fulfills me. 

I am not saying that human relationship is not helpful to figure things out.  I mean, if you could get another mind trying to help you hold off the entropy in your life, that is 100% more brainpower than only one person.  But doubling a penny for your thoughts is still only two pennies…  And two pennies do not spend like they used to…

Relying on God for everything trusting him with everything, that is the goal.  The journey of attempting to put our lives together so that we can follow Christ fills God with joy.  And in turn, it fills our life with meaning and love.

I close this reflection with a confession, and a realization.  My confession is that I do not have everything figured out, but my realization is that that is okay.  Thomas Merton wrote a wonderful prayer that speaks to my journey and I trust it will speak to yours:

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.