In January, I felt as though my heart had been moved, urging me to more fully connect with my Catholic faith. I can’t really explain the sense of urgency I experienced to become more devout. Since then, I celebrate Mass at school in addition to at home and pray nearly every evening. I have a stronger relationship with my parents, who helped coordinate my baptism as an infant. I also work harder because I feel more compelled to pursue my calling in medicine. In hindsight, I really do believe God had a hand in this rather sudden transition.
Over the past few months, I’ve been all over the place in identifying which demonstrations of the faith are most relevant and meaningful in my life. Initially, I utilized prayer as a mechanism primarily to obtain solace and comfort. As I met members of the parish community, I grew to appreciate the fellowship of likeminded people and how I felt unconditionally accepted regardless of my appearance, successes, and ambition. Now, under a new set of circumstances, I’m left a little confused as to how I should incorporate prayer, fellowship, discipline, and more into my routine.
Before, I had too intimately associated particular tenets of Catholicism with the absolute definition of morality. I had concluded that prayer, confession, and bible study were the keys to eliciting the virtuousness from people. There was consistency, direction, and stability in performing these external duties. And I believed that we as Catholics would naturally develop a greater love for our neighbors and a greater desire to serve the community at large.
This view was actually quite myopic, because adherence to ritual does not make you a better person. Going through the motions while expecting change in perspective and attitude from others and yourself is sorely idealistic. You have to work at being kind, nonjudgmental, generous, and unconditional in every single word you say and act you carry out, apart from everything else your religion demands of you.
Ethical dilemmas involving religion and medicine–and siding with the secular medical opinions–have made me realize the prevailing need to be kind, nonjudgmental, generous, and unconditional above all else. I am a channel to deliver love and grace to every individual I encounter. God’s grace is a favor that should always be received with gratitude. We are granted life on Earth to make our physical world more beautiful than it had been previously. We need good health in order to fulfill this mission. Strict maintenance of good health and wellness can mean getting an abortion, starting on contraceptives, prohibiting exemptions to vaccination, etc. While these interventions clearly oppose strict Catholic teachings, I think it’s more important to recognize the apparent conflict, appreciate the forgiveness of God and others, and work towards achieving the best health outcomes. Good health is the single greatest fortune we have in this life. It is humbling to help others regain this blessing and to work toward renewing human dignity in the most basic sense.