Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Dr. Giuseppe Moscati, saint (1880-1927)

"Not often is someone with a professional degree from a modern secular university declared a saint. Moreover, it is positively earth-shattering when an internationally acclaimed scientist becomes a certified miracle-worker."

Saint Giuseppe (Joseph) Moscati could've easily been one my own professors. Just look at the picture! But he's no ordinary man: he's holy, he's faithful to prayer, a daily communicant, and an excellent professional, devoted to the duties of his state in life.

But he is a little known saint, so my finding him was probably another of God's attempt at humouring me today.

Dr. Moscati graduated with honours from the University of Naples. He then joined the Hospital for the Incurables and eventually became an administrator. This dedicated doctor worked day and night tirelessly for his patients, he also trained interns and conducted medical research. He was highly accomplished; his research on cholera was used by the city officials to properly manage an outbreak. In total, he wrote 27 scientific publications from the time he earned his degree in 1903 to the year 1916.

Dr. Moscati understood the need to bring Christ into his daily work. Christ was intimately linked to his calling as a doctor. He paid close attention to the state of his patient's soul as well as his body, sometimes even bringing the patient back to the sacraments. The Catholic understanding of body and soul clearly informed his understanding of illness and medicine. He saw Confession and Communion as the "first medicine". To help the poor, Dr. Moscati often donated his medical services or paid for his patients' prescriptions.

There were witnesses to Dr. Moscati's miraculous works. Some said that he could accurately diagnose and prescribe for any patient merely by hearing a list of his symptoms, and that he was responsible for impossible cures.

Dr. Moscati was known to place a certain crucifix at his autopsy room, a crucifix inscribed with Hosea 13:14, "Ero mors tua, o mors" (O death, I will be thy death).


In the busyness of clinical training, and all the office politics involved, it's very easy to lose the bigger picture. It's easy to lose the sense that you're serving a Higher Purpose; instead, you feel like you're just another pawn, another robot, in a world that does not know Christ. And if you're a medical student, whose status is practically below the hospital's garbage-man, it's even more difficult to constantly see yourself as a disciple-in-training by Christ Himself.

Dr. Moscati is a relevant example of living in the world but not of the world, of being holy but still being yourself, in your world, doing your career. I need to be reminded of this because oftentimes I feel like I'm leading a life that doesn't look very saintly; the med student's life can be very mundane, full of confusion, and at times rather degrading. I don't feel heroic at all. I don't feel mystical. I don't feel divinely surreal. Heck, I'm buried in piles of notes and journals, and none of them is otherworldly at the slightest! No sign that points to God, and believe me, you can easily lose the belief that you're still working for Him.

Danielle Rose---what an amazing musician!---has something to say on the issue:

Oh I thought I'd be heroic and inspiring.
I wanna do all for you, the greatest sacrifice.
Like all the saints who've gone before me,
I tried to prove my love for you,
And so to gain the prize.
I thought I'd be a martyr like Cecilia
I hoped I'd disappear like St Therese
Or wear a hidden crown of thorns like Rose of Lima
To heal the sick and raise the dead.

When you hung upon the Cross looking at me,
You didn't die so I would try to be somebody else,
You died so I could be the saint that is just me.

Thank you, Dr. Moscati, saint, for showing us how to imitate Christ by being the best of ourselves, according to our callings.

"Charity changed the world, not science... very few men are remembered because of science; but anyone can be an everlasting symbol of life eternal, where death is nothing but a step, a metamorphosis towards a higher place, if they will dedicate themselves to good."
-St. Giuseppe Moscati

This year both frightens and excites me.

2013 is looking like a long hallway full of doors and windows. They are all closed at the moment, but I have the master key. It is up to me which doors, which windows, I am going to open, and it is not impossible that beyond each door and each window there will be another similar hallway with yet more doors and more windows.

I am talking about opportunities. 2013 is the year in which I will graduate from med school. But it's not the part of being a doctor that I'm getting anxious about; rather, it's the fact that suddenly I will have SO much time at hand, and, suddenly, I am free to do whatever I want. If you think it should be a liberating experience, yes I'm sure it will be, but I can't help considering about how these exciting things I have in mind will affect my future, either directly or indirectly. You never know how the divine providence plays in your life, right?

Below are some of the little life detours I have ready for 2013:

Learn a new language.
In the not-so-distant past, I've taught myself some French and I'm happy to say that I can at least read, form simple written sentences, and understand spoken ones (mostly song lyrics). I'm not yet an active speaker, and French is starting to frustrate me in this department. Boy, speaking French is hard! I'm [pleasantly] jealous with a few friends who are fluent. They sound so... well, sexy.
My mum suggests that I take a formal French course so that I can learn it more systematically, and with other people to boost my communication skills. But I've fallen out of love with it, and instead I get captured by another language: Japanese. I'll talk more about it later, but all I can say for now, Japanese is the language which I seriously look forward to become proficient in. God willing!

Learn to make and manage a website.
In the 8th grade, we have learnt to make a simple HTML website using Ms FrontPage. The designing part is not a problem, but I want to be more proficient in the coding system, especially CSS, and maybe also to get familiar with Dreamweaver. I want to design a website for my mum's clinic; it's got quite well-known in my hometown and it has hosted a few lectures already, so I think a simple yet elegant website is warranted. I already have a vivid image of how the website should look like, it's only a matter of time until its execution. God willing!

Learn to dive.
If there is one part of the planet that I have never explored during all my previous travels, it is the underwater world. Which is a shame since the Indonesian archipelago has so many wonderful diving sites, and getting intimate with water is pretty much second nature to us Indonesians. I certainly don't want to miss it!

Get serious about devotion to the Blessed Sacrament.
I have felt a strong calling to devote myself more to the Blessed Sacrament. Remember the cheesy old saying that "Love needs no reason"? Well that's that: I don't know why this particular devotion attracts me. I don't think I have a reason, at least not an immediately apparent one. It does feel a lot like falling in love though: I suddenly see this Sacrament anew, I suddenly want to get to know it more, but I want to do it carefully, I want to do it right, I want to savour all the experiences. The Year of Faith is just the right time to start :)

Shadow a plastic surgeon.
It now looks more and more like I'm going to specialize in plastic surgery, although I still can't say for sure (I always have a teeny wee problem about announcing things like this, because I don't want to get ahead of time, but at the same time I don't want to sound completely aimless. Ah the art of being me!). However I do notice that I get increasingly interested in the field; for example, there's this suturing workshop coming up in 2 weeks, and I realize that I've been making sure to avoid any other events or meetings so that I can attend the full workshop. To be honest, never before I get so curious and so committed to a specialty, so you know guys, this could be it!! *hopeful* Let me grab a plastic surgeon, get a recommendation letter from him or her, and let us see, okay? God willing!

Travel more.
I have an insatiable hunger for visiting new places. In my country alone, there are so many wonders I want to see. There are several in Nusa Tenggara - the Gili Islands, Komodo National Park, Kelimutu, Mount Rinjani. I'm also thinking about taking a language travel program again; the EF Education First has so many delectable destinations to choose from. Go check them out. Right now I spy Malta and Cape Town. God willing!

So how are YOU planning to spend 2013?

Monday, 14 January 2013

I'm fine.

I realise I've been M.I.A. through the last chunk of 2012, and for that I'm soooo sowwy! (Although I'm not sure how many of you actually cared or noticed :p)

I'm in the 8th week of Ob/Gyn, which means I only have 2 remaining weeks before Forensics. Ob/Gyn was never my favourite subject during pre-clinicals, and this apparently does not change even now. This is complicated by the rather strange environment I'm working in.

[Warning! Rants ahead] In Ob/Gyn, med students are expected to do everything. When I say everything, I really do mean everything, to the point that  this department is sure to shut down if there's no med students. We do all things from the purely medical like following up on patients, Doppler-ing, assisting in surgery and labours, making presentations, consulting attendings during night shift; to the downright technical like registering outpatients, writing pre-op consultation letters to different specialties, and undressing and re-dressing patients for surgery. And not to mention that we will be blamed for doing things incorrectly (because, see, there are things that are hospital-specific or even department-specific, things that you will never know unless you are there yourself). Starting from day 1 of our 10-week duration, we were already expected to work as efficiently as someone who has worked there for years.

My friend even had herself told to feed a patient once by one of the midwives. Another friend had to suffer angry complaints from nurses because he abandoned writing discharge notes in order to attend an academic lecture (we were reminded from the beginning that we must always prioritise academic activities). The attending who delivered that lecture reminded us, blatantly, that we need to remember our place, that we're going to be future doctors, not future nurses or future midwives, let alone future friggin secretaries. That we should not let ourselves be bossed around by nurses and midwives, especially when we clearly have other academic activities that we need to attend to.

Easy to say, sir. Tell them that yourself.

Spiritually speaking, this condition is a golden opportunity to grow in humility. It is SO wrong at almost every corner. But sometimes (okay, often) I get tired. I get frustrated. I want to stand up for the correct thing. I want to tell them that it's their FRICKEN job. That it would be ridiculous if we finish our Ob/Gyn rotation not with Ob/Gyn knowledge and skills but with paperwork knowledge and skills.

Deep in my heart, I still believe Ob/Gyn was supposed to be fun. But in my case, it does not turn out as well as it could have been. Sigh. At least I got plenty of chance to do my own ultrasound and tocography, and to see abnormal pregnancies like ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, and blighted ovum, which is pretty cool. And I get an excuse to do some research on NFP, although it is difficult to share what I found because most doctors and people would just dismiss it as one and the same with the unreliable rhythm method. [Waaahh I need backup!!!]

[Rants end]

My Christmas, on the other hand, was beautiful. I'm not sure why though. Was it because I got to celebrate with my family? But I almost always do. Was it because we managed to grab the good seats inside the cathedral? Probably, but it didn't amount to the level of peace and joy I felt. Was it due to the Christmas gift by a special person all the way from the Dark Continent? It certainly added to the whole effect. Was it because I did a good preparation during Advent? Well it could've been a lot better, but maybe.

I still have a hard time trying to pinpoint a single tangible factor as the cause of this peace and joy. But perhaps they were not worldly peace and joy after all. They were not the kinds that send you jumping all around, clapping your hands, and shouting: "Praise the Lord my awesome God!" No. These were the kinds that make you fall silent. You close your eyes and you close your mouth, you try to shut out any external sensations because you can't afford losing those heavenly feelings in your soul.

Which was why I didn't get too excited about New Year. Of course I joined the barbeque and firework fiesta that my parents set up. Yet my cup was already brimming with Christmas. Everything else became much less important.


Today is the fourteenth day of the first month of the thirteenth year of the twenty-first century.

The sun still rises. I'm still breathing. Jesus is still my Saviour. Mary is still my mother. I'm fine :)