Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J











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Catholicism is often regarded as a burden, a burden that people more or less willingly suffer here in order to avoid a much heavier burden hereafter. This is a caricature of
Catholicism and a gross injustice to God. Catholicism is, in fact, the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual health, and happiness here as well as hereafter.

For a long time medicine has known about the psychosomatic: how the body and mind are interdependent. What happens in one affects the other. Catholicism teaches us that there is a third element, the spirit. The pneumapsychosomatic is the interdependence of the spirit, the mind and the body. It is called the medicine of the person, or holistic medicine. We are realizing more and more that the spirit affects the mind and the body, and the mind and the body effect the spirit. Someone has said that the physician who does not take into consideration the spirituality of his patient is a veterinarian. More and more we are becoming aware of the danger of reducing human problems to either the body, or the mind, or the spirit. Human problems must be solved in a holistic way, in body, mind and spirit.

Catholicism also teaches us the importance of preventive medicine. For too long we have had unreal expectations of expensive late-stage intervention and neglected the relatively cheap early-stage prevention. We spend too much time, money and technology on crises-management, when many of these crises could have been prevented by a simple Catholic life-style.

Catholicism fulfills our basic human needs. We all have a basic need to love and be loved. Love is the essence of Catholicism: the love of God, the love of self and the love of the neighbor. There is only one love, the love of God. We are not creators we are only receivers and transmitters of the love of God. And we transmit only as much as we receive. Therefore, we must be open in prayer to receive this love, let it permeate our whole being and overflow to others.

We all have a basic need to forgive and be forgiven. Human beings cannot live together very long without having to forgive and be forgiven. Nothing can destroy us faster and more completely that the refusal to forgive, or accept forgiveness. The Sacrament of Reconciliation enables the Catholic to fulfill this need. We can forgive others because God has forgiven us more than we will ever have to forgive. And we can forgive ourselves because God has forgiven us.

We all have a basic need to have a meaning and purpose in life. “He who has a why to live for can endure any how.” The Catholic knows where he came from, where he is going and what he is doing here. Jesus gives meaning to the life of a Catholic. “He is the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus not only gives meaning to our life but gives us also the power to live it.

It is estimated that 50% of illnesses is emotionally induced. Emotions are a physical effect of a mental attitude. Catholics avoid many of these emotionally induced illnesses by having the attitude of Christ. “Let that mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Phil.2:5) And by “Keeping Our Eyes Fixed on Jesus.”

We all have a basic need to have principles to live by. The Lord said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. In other words, God has commanded us to do only those things which are necessary for our well being, our health and our happiness. “Good moral is good medicine.” Think of a new car owner’s manual. Those who made the car know what it needs to operate efficiently. So they give you these instructions not to limit the use of the car but to get the most out of it. The owner, of course, is free to disregard these instructions, but he will not get very far.

Catholics have a great respect for the body. The body plays a very important role in the spiritual as well as the intellectual life of a person. The body is the source of all of our knowledge, even the most abstract and spiritual. Nothing is in the mind that did not come in originally from one of the five senses. The body is also the instrument of communication of knowledge. People cannot read our mind. So we must communicate our thoughts to them through the faculty of speech and body language. We also receive grace through the body. The Sacraments, the channels of grace, are all received through the body. The body, as St. Paul tells us, is also the temple of the Holy Spirit. We pray, worship, witness to our faith and exercise the apostolate through the body. The body is also the instrument of pleasure and pain, and the very vehicle of life. We live as long and as well as the body supports the spirit. The body is a remarkably complex mechanism which has a resident physician and a built-in pharmacy, which we call the immune system. Catholics practice preventive medicine by taking food and drink in moderation, exercising regularly and getting sufficient rest. During the seasons of Advent and Lent they fast and abstain from meat. Their life-style is simple and wholesome.

Catholics also have a great respect for the mind. Jesus Christ is the greatest psychologist and psychiatrist ever to walk the face of this earth. He who made the human psyche surely knows how it works. Most, if not all, of the laws for mental health can be found in the Bible. Isn’t it strange that we can be unimpressed when we hear these truths from the pulpit and then be so impressed when we hear the same thing from scientists?

Much sickness comes from worry; worry about the past and about the future. The Catholic knows that the present moment is the only reality. Yesterday is history and tomorrow may never come. The Catholic has contrition for the past, and plans for the future, but no worry about either. He commits the past to the mercy of God, the future to Divine Providence and has the grace of God for the present moment. He doesn’t know what tomorrow holds but he knows WHO holds tomorrow. By living today he makes a beautiful dream of the past and a wonderful hope for the future.

Loneliness is the most common complaint today. You don’t have to be alone to be lonely. It is the existential loneliness of the creature for the Creator. The Catholic is never alone; he has the Indwelling of the Blessed Trinity. And he has the greatest support group in the Communion of Saints. Every Catholic is remembered many times every day in the thousands of Masses said throughout the world.

Being a Catholic, of course, does not mean that you will never get sick. We are not immune to germs, bacteria and viruses. We are not exempt from accidents, or from being a victim of crime. Our bodily organs do wear out. And the older we get the more frequent and more impressive are these intimations of mortality.

But Catholicism is also the best prescription for these illnesses. Love, which is the essence of Catholicism, is the great healer. It heals both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it. Then there are the Sacraments: the Anointing of the Sick, the Rite of Reconciliation, and the Eucharist. Just as the contemporaries of Jesus sought him out to be healed we too have the same opportunity. The Sacraments are the actions of Jesus. The priest is simply an instrument. He uses the very words of Jesus: “I baptize you...I absolve you...This is My Body...My Blood.” If someone could be cured by the touch of Jesus’ hand, or simply by touching the hem of his garment, what healing must take place when we receive the Body and Blood of Jesus in the Eucharist?

But in spite of all the preventive and remedial power of Catholicism we all have to die. And that is the great human dilemma. With all the fibers of our being we want to live and yet we know we have to die. Catholicism also gives us the answer to that dilemma. Jesus came on earth not to tell us that we will die. We find this out sooner or later for ourselves. He came to tell us that we will live. “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies will live.” He came not just to tell us he came to prove it. He suffered died and then rose again on the third day.

The resurrection is the viewpoint from which the Catholic sees all of the events of his life. This puts things in perspective and gives us a hope that nothing can destroy. “So we do not hold on to this life too tightly. We take it as a gift. We enjoy it and cherish it while we have it, and we let go gracefully and gratefully when the time comes. The gift of life is great. But the Giver is greater still and in Him is a life that never ends.”

Catholicism is the greatest prescription ever given for physical, mental and spiritual health and happiness here as well as hereafter. And if we all did live as Catholics we would do more for the National Health and for Medicare and Medicaid than anything that will ever come out of Congress or the pharmaceutical corporations or out of medical science.



© 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J. all rights reserved