Two thousand years ago, the apostles went out into the world and spread the message of Jesus Christ everywhere.
“Christians” did not exist at that time, and nobody had really heard of Jesus Christ, much less the idea of the “Son of God.” One of the early converts to the faith was St. Luke, a physician and close companion of St. Paul in his apostolic travels.
Christ himself was known for the physical and spiritual healing of souls — so it makes sense that He would call doctors and those in the medical profession to follow Him.
Not long ago, I had the unique privilege of accompanying a nonbaptized medical professional on his path to Catholicism. Al Damavandy, a dermatologist on the East Coast, shared that the road to his Catholic faith began nine years ago — “when I met my wife as we were both training to become physicians,” he told me. “Through attending Mass, undergoing spiritual direction, praying, and receiving the sacraments during my baptism, I have come to learn much of the message and meaning of Christ.”
Over the course of nearly two years, this bright young man worked his way through the catechism of the Catholic Church; he was interning at the University of Pennsylvania during that time and had no formal preparation in the faith, so we started from scratch. But he was an extremely fast learner and often challenged me, as his mentor, to effectively explain the faith.
His loving wife, Florencia, had a huge impact on his journey, as did other family and friends. Al particularly appreciated and respected the connection between faith and his medical profession.
“Although faith and medicine may seem at odds with one another at times, in my experience they are complementary,” he told me. “My fellowship director taught me that I had embarked on one of the most humbling professions in medicine. He advised me that the key to a successful career lay not simply in expert technique, but in a humble, patient-focused, and growth-oriented mindset — exactly what my Catholic faith helps me maintain.”
He added, “Reading the Gospel and considering Jesus’ example of humility reminds me never to rest on prior successes, and to never take for granted that each of my patients is a human being and not simply another ‘case.'”
Al Damavandy was personally baptized and received into the church by Pope Francis himself last Easter at the Vatican. Al was seated along with 11 other catechumens from all over the world as his family and friends witnessed his path to faith.
As Al himself noted, “I have witnessed Pope Francis’ compassionate approach in blessing those afflicted with disfiguring skin diseases, and it struck a deeply rooted chord within me as an example of how Jesus would have encountered these individuals. The special honor of being baptized by Pope Francis has helped crystallize for me the value of compassion as I try to embody that approach as I see my own [skin] patients.”
Christ is calling all of us to spread the good news.
Now more than ever, Christ is calling all of us to spread the good news. Live it, love it — and don’t be afraid to share it.
Fr. Michael Sliney is a Catholic priest based in the New York City area and an adviser to the Lumen Institute, a professional business group.