Saturday, October 1, 2016

St. Thérése the Little Flower

Depending on how savvy Siri is on your smart phone, she would come up with St. Thérése the Little Flower or St. Teresa of Avila, maybe our newest St., St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata OR even St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross also known as Edith Stein.  St. Thérése was the model and inspiration for St. Mother Teresa.  When you look at their two lives, their simplicity is identifiable in their spirituality.

Since Oct. 1 (or October 3 in General Roman Calendar) is the date we celebrate St. Thérése of Liseaux,   it is timely that we share who she was.  Some of what I share with you, may be facts familiar to you, others not quite so.  Born as Marie Francoise-Thérése Martin on January 2, 1873, she was from Alencon Orne, France and died 24 years later of tuberculosis on September 3, 1897.  It did not take the Church long to beatify her which was done on April 29, 1923 by Pope Pius I and canonized just two years later.  If you read her life, Thérése joined two of her older sisters in the cloistered Carmelites community of Lisieux, Normandy.

St. Thérése of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, O.C.D. (Order of Discalced Carmelites, so the nuns were barefoot has been widely venerated in modern times and is popularly known as “The Little Flower of Jesus” or simply, “The Little Flower.”  She is known though as the Saint of the “little way” or simplicity and practicality which was  her approach to the spiritual life.  This models that of St. Francis of Assisi and the two are probably the most popular saints in the history of the Church
Interestingly enough, Thérése was named as “Patroness of the gardens of Vatican City” and a little known fact that she was granted the title by Piux XI “Sacred Keeper of the Gardens.”  Her Basilica of Lisieux is the second largest place of pilgrimage in France after that of Lourdes.  Although she never strayed from the Carmelite convent, she desired to give herself wholeheartedly as a missionary was and was named Co-Patroness of the Missions in 1927. “My vocation is love…In the heart of the Church, my Mother, I shall be love” Other causes for which some may appeal to St. Thérése include as HIV/AIDS sufferers, radio care-a-thons, florists, gardeners and loss of parents.  She was named Doctor of the Church in 1997.


As I was writing this information about St. Thérése, I was reminded of little humorous story from my novitiate days at our Motherhouse in Illinois.  St. Teresa of Avila was referred to as the “Big Teresa” while the “Little Thérése” was St. Thérése of the Child Jesus.  At our Motherhouse, we had only one movable statue of a St. Teresa and it happened to be the one of St. Thérése, the little flower.  One of the members of the General Council, Sister Theresa, was a stout woman who gave a warm bear hug.  It happened to be her feast day, July 15.  We Novices wanted to do something special for her name day.  So we conceived an idea of moving the bigger than life statue on a dolly to the middle of the dining room.  So—in the dead of night—we moved her into the dining room, with a sign that said, “Is this Teresa big enough?” Happy Feast day!  Of course all the Sisters wondered who did this but there the statue remained until our Infirmarian, Sr. Mary John, hit her head on Thérése’s outstretched hand and statue needed to be restored to her original location and thus ended our escapade which we thought was a very funny and a creative way to celebrate Sister Teresa.

There are many stories circulating about St. Thérése being identified with roses, remember, she is patroness of the gardens!  While I don’t have a specific story to share with you, it is said that when someone prays to St. Thérése, a rose is sent as a sign.  “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.”  Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, contains unedited manuscripts and poems and will give you a more in depth picture of St. Thérése that Pope Pius Xi called her “the greatest saint of modern times.”  Indeed, she has been a significant model of sanctity for Catholics and others because of the practicality and really the simplicity of her spiritual life.  May your answer to prayer come in the form of a rose.  

Sister Christine Bowman, O.S.F.
Is a Franciscan Sister of the Sacred Heart since 1969: I’m a former nurse with a missionary heart. I responded to an invitation to join the Board of Directors of the Mission Doctors Association in 2013. Currently minister at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA as Director of Cathedral Relations.   

Friday, September 30, 2016

Jesus the Missionary


Jesus was a missionary. As the Word of God, he is the light of all nations. As the Word made flesh, he brought God's own life into our midst. Before returning to the Father, he sent the Church to continue the mission given him by the Father and empowered her with his Spirit: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20:21).

The entire month of October is World Mission Month!

During this special month dedicated to the missions, we are invited to recommit ourselves to the Church's missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. Together we help to ensure all people receive help and the hope that comes from knowing the love of Jesus Christ.

Mission Doctors exhibit the love of Christ through the witness to their faith; by their compassionate care; by their sacrifice to serve.


I often tell the story of when Tim Cavanagh, MD was in Zimbabwe and a patient was in his consultation room and saw on his desk the photo of the Cavanagh’s four adult daughters.  Tim was asked ‘Are these your children’ and Tim said that like any proud father he sat up and said ‘Yes these are my girls!’  The patient then asked him ‘Then why are you here?’  Tim said he paused for a moment and said ‘Well I am here because there are people in the United States who love you and who have sent me to be here.’

"As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (Jn 20:21).

Missionaries do not go – they are sent.  Mission Doctors are sent by you and me to bring hope and health; to serve as living witnesses to the love of God. 

This month we are reminded that we are all called to be connected to the missionary effort of the Church. 

How will you connect?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Jubilee for Workers of Mercy

Mercy does not just mean being a good person… 
It is the measure of our authenticity as disciples of Jesus.   
                                                                        -Pope Francis

For the many times we strive to follow Christ's invitation to live for others and not just ourselves we are "Workers of Mercy"

"Do we visit the prisoner, the sick, help people understand their lives?  We are workers of mercy and Pope Francis invites us to celebrate our Jubilee of Mercy in Rome Sept. 2 - 4th to say thank you!"  
            •    Daughters and Brothers of Charity
            •    Members of the Catholic Workers Movement
            •    Ordained priests, Religious communities of men and women
            •    Lay people bringing Communion to the sick
            •    Teachers in classrooms
            •    Family members caring for elderly parents
            •    Mission Doctors who leave the comforts of home, the security of jobs, family and
                 friends...all are "workers and volunteers of mercy"....

.... and Pope Francis wants to thank you.



The culmination of this celebration will be Mass on Sunday Sept 4th with the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Square - the canonization of Blessed Mother Teresa, the epitome of a life lived for others.

Yet it is not only her life of service which stands as a witness but her deep faith when her faith was all she had: Mother Teresa of Calcutta


Be kind and merciful.  
Let no one ever come to you without coming away better and happier.  
Be the living expression of God’s kindness.             
                                                                         -Blessed Mother Teresa


While we can’t all be in Rome, we are invited to be together spiritually during this special jubilee.
A time to remember our call to be authentic disciples of Jesus.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I love my job!

Before breakfast today I was on Facebook messenger with Dr. Martha Coda in Cameroon.

With my coffee I went back and forth on messenger with Molly Druffner, in Tanzania with her husband Dr. Mark Druffner and their family.

Even before I got on the freeway I had emails back and forth from Dr. Marc Tunzi and Dr. Danielle Acton in Ecuador, and Drs. Paul and Terese Bauer who are in Tanzania with their five children. 





The lifesaving work of these doctors and the faith of their families making these long and often difficult journeys continues to inspire me.  Though August marks 35 years of working for Mission Doctors for me, I am always grateful to be witness to their service and provide whatever support I can – even if it is long distance.

I love my job!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Re-entry

Back at the Mission House, where they took part in the four month formation program in 2013, Mission Doctor and Lay Mission-Helper families have come together this week to connect, to share, and to pray.  These returned missionaries have served in Africa and Latin America and this re-entry workshop provides the opportunity to reflect on their time in service in light of returning to the United States, and a space to share the joys and challenges of their time in mission.
 
 

This has been a time of laughter, and shared tears; of story telling, and meeting 4 babies born since 2013!  During the workshop, at Mass, and over meals, we find the commonality and unique aspect of each journey. 

Tom and I returned from Thailand in 1981 with three young children and I see much of our experience in what has been shared. How we are changed by the experience, how we return and live and make an effort to hold on to the best of our time, striving to live each day with deep gratitude.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

World Hepatitis Day


There are many medical problems which present dramatically.  Think of broken legs, of the various types of infections, etc.   Often, the tests and x-rays done just confirm what both patient and physician already knew.  Other diseases can affect a person quietly and progressively, such as occurs in certain forms of chronic hepatitis.  This can potentially lead to problems including liver failure and liver cancer.  We are fortunate in our country to have the availability of ways to diagnosis and follow chronic hepatitis.  Many of the tests are part of routine healthcare and help to diagnose hepatitis at an early stage when treatments can be most beneficial.  In resource-limited countries, such diseases can progress insidiously to a serious and advanced stage in the absence of any way to diagnose them. 

Today is World Hepatitis Day.    We are blessed in our country with a long list of ways to keep hepatitis from harming us.  There are vaccines to prevent some types, knowledge of how the various types of hepatitis are spread and how to avoid contracting it, as well as a growing number of medical and surgical treatments for those who develop hepatitis and it's complications.

So what do physicians in mission lands do about hepatitis?  What do you do to deal with a disease you can not diagnose early?  How do you prevent hepatitis when vaccines are not available?   How do you treat people with hepatitis when specific medical treatments and surgery are not available?  You take the time and effort to educate your patients well about how hepatitis is spread and ways to avoid contracting it.  The best, and often the only, way to not be harmed by hepatitis in resource-limited countries is to not contract it.


The World Health Organization has established concrete goals for reduction in the transmission of and death from hepatitis in coming years.  Until hepatitis takes its place in the museum of diseases which once afflicted humanity, prevention remains the best and often the only medicine.

oday's guest blog post is contributed by Dr. Tim Cavanagh. Dr. Cavanagh is a veteran Mission Doctor.  Tim and his wife Sheila served for three years in rural Zimbabwe and continue to serve on short-term missions in Africa and Latin America.  Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Peace


“Peace firstly means there are no wars … but it also means that there is friendship between all that every day a step ahead is made for justice, so that there are no more children who are hungry, that there are no more sick children who do not have the possibility of receiving healthcare. Doing all of this means making peace. Peace involves work, it is not about staying calm and doing nothing. No! True peace means working so that everyone has a solution to the problems, to the needs, that they have in their land, in their homeland, in their family, in their society.”
Pope Francis
Audience with children of the Peace Factory
May 12, 2015



There are times that the news – both things happening around the world and things closer to home can make me want to pull the covers over my head and hide. 
 
But Pope Francis said this so well --- Peace involves work!  We must all find the work we are called to do to bring peace, hope, and solutions to problems we know need to be addressed.
 
The Mission Doctors caring for the child in rural Cameroon or along the Napo River in the Amazon Region of Peru know this – it is work, hard work.  But for the child and their family receiving healthcare it can be life changing. 

Together we work to bring these solutions to these problems.   

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

It is a calling


Being a doctor is a calling.  For Catholic Doctors this calling is also a reflection of their faith.
While the challenges of being a doctor are known to many, they include; many years of education; often followed by large debt;  followed by long hours in a residency program; and then seeking a way to utilize their education and gifts.  The greatest challenges usually come when all that they can do is still not enough. 
For some on the outside it may seem like a great way to make a living – but for most doctors it is much more about helping people live, and live their lives to the fullest.
If you have ever listened to a surgeon gleefully recall a challenging case with a good outcome; or an OBGYN whose smiling face says that she has delivered yet another new life into the world; or an Emergency Room doctor at the end of his evening, both exhausted and exhilarated; or seen the pediatrician who seems to glow in the presence of the newborn, and who still wakes in the middle of the night because a parent is meeting her at the hospital, or the dentist who volunteers his time every chance he gets… then you have met a doctor who is called.
Mission Doctors Association believes it is important to recognize a Catholic Doctor whose faith informs their professional life.  For some it has been activities in their own community, for others it has been through their international mission work. 
2015 Catholic Doctors of the Year, Fr. Jack McCarthy, MD and Fr. Maurice Schroeder, MD
We invite everyone across the United States to consider the Catholic Doctor they know and nominate them for the 2016 National Catholic Doctor of the Year.   Help us recognize the unique qualities that are witnessed when a Catholic doctor not only applies their education and gifts, but does so in light of their Catholic faith.
Applications are being accepted now.  You will find the form on our web site.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pentecost

For many people Pentecost is one of those ecclesial celebrations which seems odd. Okay, we know from the Acts of the Apostles that Pentecost reminds us of the Church’s beginnings with a small group, praying and in fear of Jewish officials. Yes, we also have heard Pentecost referred to as the ‘birthday of the Church’. But are either of these worth celebrating: a group cringing in fear or  a birthday?

While Pentecost can be seen as the beginning of the Church (thus, a ‘birthday’) its real importance is deeper and very relevant for us today. It points to uncertainty and fear by early followers of Jesus with an unexpected result. This gathering did not produce a strategic plan for evangelizing the Jews nor a policy statement on the importance of Christianity. In fact, what is memorable about Pentecost is not the result of any human action at all- except prayer and open hearts. During this time of fear and uncertainty, the Holy Spirit appears, giving courage to this motley crew of people from a variety of nations. It is the Holy Spirit who created something new- the Church in order to continue the mission of Jesus. 

The Pentecost story also draws from rich Old Testament imagery. The Spirit hovering over this confusion creating something new (in Genesis Chapter One we hear of wind [an image of Spirit] blowing over chaos to create). This creation is not an abstraction, a ‘creation of Church’, but a uniting of believers of different races. And, through the action of the Holy Spirit, different languages are no long a barrier to communication between peoples (a lovely parallel to the Old Testament story of the Tower of Babel).


Pentecost then reminds us of the ongoing, active presence of God among us even at times of fear and confusion. We have a God who can surprise us at times of God’s choice. Furthermore, that through the Holy Spirit we can discover in others, regardless of race, language or age, brothers and sisters Christ. While we must work for God’s glory and love of others, it is God who  can remove seemingly immoveable barriers (think of the Resurrection accounts where a stone was moved to reveal an empty tomb) or convert the heart of the deadliest foe (remember the conversion of Saul!). Now that is something to celebrate!

Mission Doctors Association makes us aware of our brothers and sisters in Christ who need medical care. Through this fine organization we can assist its mission financially as well as in prayer. Please let us do so to help make the Spirit present to others.

Today's guest blog post is contributed by Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Even the Apostles didn’t get it

(And this is what puzzled them) "A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.” (From John 16:16) The Apostles clearly did not know what Jesus meant. Even when the Ascension happened, “As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. And in Acts 1: 1…we read that the Apostles were “looking intently at the sky as he was going up” suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” After all Jesus had invited them to go about as he did to be “witnesses to the world.”



Or another time when Philip asked Jesus to “show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (John 14:6…). At this Jesus must have been exasperated with these men: “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me/” These references are just a few examples of Jesus trying to teach his Apostles.

Well, if even the Apostles, who had the benefit of Jesus’ physical presence and instruction, did not believe or understand his words, how can we? Or how do we fare in our own journey of faith? Well, it is really the coming of the Holy Spirit that will make all the difference.

The mysteries of our faith are illumined by the bright light that is Christ. We ought not to be hard on the Apostles. We have the benefit of Jesus divine life within us in the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who speaks out on our behalf. The Ascension of Jesus into heaven provides the glow of joy and wonder across our human endeavors. (Excerpt from C. Stuhlmueller) So as we contemplate the Ascension, let us boldly undertake the mission of being Christ’s witnesses to his promises “Behold, I am with you until the end of the world.”

Sister Christine Bowman, O.S.F.
Is a Franciscan Sister of the Sacred Heart since 1969: I’m a former nurse with a missionary heart. I responded to an invitation to join the Board of Directors of the Mission Doctors Association in 2013. Currently minister at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown LA. As Director of Cathedral Relations.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Monday, April 25, 2016

World Malaria Day


It seems odd to feel optimism when the subject of malaria arises, but it is necessary this year on World Malaria Day.  Year after year you could write that one child dies each minute in the world from malaria, a preventable and treatable disease, but this year is different.  The death rates and infection rates for malaria are falling because of increased worldwide efforts at control of this deadly disease, efforts which include mosquito abatement, protection of residences and mosquito netting for beds, improved diagnostic tests for malaria, and improved treatment options.   There were still a staggering 214 million cases of malaria in the world last year with 438,000 of those people not surviving their illness, but progress is being made.  Hopefully the ambitious 15 year World Health Organization goals including reducing malaria cases and deaths by at least 90% can be attained and maintained.

Those who serve in mission countries have a second reason to feel optimistic.  In addition to the blessing of seeing the improved health and life expectancy of those they serve, they know that these efforts also decrease their personal risk of acquiring malaria.  It is one of those times where those who reside in mission lands and those who come to serve share common risks and common personal concerns.  Hopefully malaria in mission lands will one day be like rotary phones; something you tell your children once existed as they stare back at you in disbelief.

Today's guest blog post is contributed by Dr. Tim Cavanagh. Dr. Cavanagh is a veteran Mission Doctor.  Tim and his wife Sheila served for three years in rural Zimbabwe and continue to serve on short-term missions in Africa and Latin America.  Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

World Health Day

This is what we are about, and have been about since 1959.

Striving to improve the health of men, women, and children in rural communities around the world.  Mission doctors provide direct patient care for people of all faiths. They provide training for health care workers to improve sustainability.  Doing so in response to their own Catholic faith. 



Today mission doctors are serving in areas impacted by malaria, TB, HIV, often exacerbated by extreme poverty. Areas with less than one doctor for every 10,000 (by contrast the US averages one for 400)

Please visit our web site to sign a prayer card for one of our doctors serving in Africa or Latin America, and learn how your can become involved.

Sunday, April 3, 2016


Divine Mercy Sunday is a recent addition to the Roman liturgy as it was added by St. John Paul II in 2000 after his canonization of Sister Faustina Kowalska, a Polish sister whose visions of Christ as Divine Mercy led to this special devotion.

The mercy of Christ is for everyone- a theme which is central to this Year of Mercy- which we cannot be reminded about too much. It is not an abstraction Christ is merciful not just to humanity but to each of us individually (God loves me!).

Mercy is not just a Christian topic but a quality much admired and wanted by everyone.  Sometimes it is helpful to review what others say as a starting point for reflection.




What have others said about mercy?

· Abraham Lincoln: “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice.”

· William Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice):  “The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes….
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.”

· Graham Greene (Brighton Rock): You cannot conceive, nor can I, of the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God.”

· St. Augustine: “Every day my conscience makes confession relying on the hope of Your mercy as more to be trusted than its own innocence.”

· Jon Sobrino (famous Central American theologian):  “…it is mercy that stands at the origin of all that Jesus practices.”

· Joyce Meyer (famous TV evangelist): “Mercy is the stuff you give to people that don't deserve it.”

· St. Francis of Assisi (Letter to the Faithful): “Let those who have received the power of judging others, exercise judgment with mercy,  as they hope to obtain mercy from the Lord. For let judgment without mercy be shown to him that doth not mercy. Let us then have charity and humility and let us give alms because they wash souls from the foulness of sins.”

· Pope Francis: “In the past few days I have been reading a book by a Cardinal ... Cardinal Kasper said that feeling mercy, that this word changes everything. This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient. ... Let us remember the Prophet Isaiah who says that even if our sins were scarlet, God's love would make them white as snow. This mercy is beautiful.”



Are we ready to be merciful to others? 
Do we choose to accept the overwhelming mercy from God for us? 
To help Mission Doctors Association show mercy to God’s poor through free medical care?

Today's guest blog post is contributed by Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.


Sunday, March 27, 2016


“He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.”

Do we believe?

If so how does this belief impact our lives?

Jesus suffered a painful and brutal death.   He died.  But that was not the end. He told his friends it would not be the end, but how could they have understood?  How could they believe?

I’ve imagined being one of the women headed to the tomb ready to prepare his body, overwhelmed with sadness, exhausted, walking in the dark even before the sun has broken through the night.

The earth quakes – the stone has been moved.  What has happened?  Did someone do this?  Certainly, given the circumstances of the past few days in the fractions of seconds I am immediately angry, confused – this is some further insult - some conspiracy.  Where is his body? What have they done? Some of the women run back to the disciples.  Some look into the tomb. I stand frozen in place in the cold morning air.  Yet there at the entrance of the tomb there is a man, (could it be an angel?) who is so calm, and he tells us not to be afraid. He tells us to go tell the others that Jesus has risen – as he said he would – and he has gone before us to Galilee. 



I’ve wondered - after I had heard he was not there – he was risen – how would I react?  Would I be joyful?  Skeptical? Uncertain? Afraid? What would I feel I should do?  Should I go tell everyone? Should I go hide?  And then I remember.  He raised his friend Lazareth from the dead – and he did say something – what was it? He would suffer – I heard that he said he would suffer and even die.  But, yes he did say that he would be raised on the third day.

Suddenly I am awash in joy. It springs up in me so that I do not feel my feet are touching the ground.  I feel that I am breathing quicker, my heart is raising.  Could it be true?  Is it true?  Of course it is true! I feel the tears start to run down my face and I turn and run to join the others.  Some believe right away – some don’t.  Everyone is trying to remember exactly what he said.  But I do remember he told us not to be afraid. 

Today – in 2016 if I believe Jesus rose from the dead what does that mean for my life.  


It means that what has been the end – what has frightened man since he could understand his mortality – is nothing to give us fear.  Jesus conquered death, therefore we will not experience death as an end –we will live beyond this life and if we truly believe this, there is really nothing to be afraid of, and if there is nothing to be afraid of we are free.  Free to live lives of joy.  Free to live lives of service to each other.  Free to love.  If I can pause and really consider the true joy of the resurrection how can I keep from singing! 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Vigil


It might seem hard to separate Easter from the delights of chocolate, colored eggs and going to church (for some the one time during the year :)). This is a perfect time of year for celebration, yard parties and enjoyment of life blossoming everywhere at the start of spring.

Nonetheless, Easter is more than parties or chocolate but a celebration which proclaims victory and new life. The readings for the Easter Vigil recount key themes from the Old Testament to show that the life, death and Resurrection of Christ is the pivot point of history. Why is that? Christ’s death on Good Friday seems to us tragically like business as normal, a good, prophetic man who is unjustly killed by the powerful to silence him and stop his uncomfortable message. We have seen this repeatedly in every country throughout human history- what is the American expression ‘only the good die young’. But Easter shows a reversal and one which turns history and normal power politics on its head. Death does not have the last word! Injustice does not silence Christ’s message but, through power of the Spirit, Jesus is resurrected. Death has no more power ultimately and we are given a promise of hope that we too share this life- eternal life with Christ in a state beyond human suffering, limitations and fears. Easter not only shows the power of Christ over death and gives us hope but also gives us courage. Evil must be confronted in our own lives as well as in society- we need not cower but have courage to speak truth with humility. Power is Christ’s and we are called to act for love, justice and Christian values.



So celebrate life today with family and friends as well as with those who allow us to rejoice in small medical victories over death made by the doctors of Mission Doctors Association. Happy Easter!

Today's guest blog post is contributed by Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday

Here we are finally at Good Friday - a somber day with no Mass and a liturgy which reminds us of the Passion of Jesus. If ever there is a day for serious reflection on God, life and death, then this is the day.

Many years ago I met a very adventurous man who was preparing to be a bush pilot in Angola, shuttling UN peacekeepers around that large country. One day we had a discussion about religion and he offered his view that Christianity is a ‘religion on death’ rather than life. He pointed to the crucifix and the elaborate Good Friday liturgies as proof for his claim. Interesting and perhaps some of us would agree with him?

Life is a mystery- we are born, grow, live and eventually will die at a time, location and hour not under our control. We live with an awareness that someday the world will go on without me. Life is a mystery, which we can either choose to embrace with trust and love while accepting our limited time, or pull back and live in fear. For Christians, life is be lived-  in fact, Irenaeus, a famous second century theologian, wrote ‘the glory of God is in a person fully alive’. Life is for living not in the sense of ‘doing my own thing’ but as an opportunity to grow, learn, love and spend ourselves in service to others.


So, why the Cross and Good Friday? While death should not be the focus of our lives neither should it be ignored. It is a reality and one which we naturally fear and question, especially when we see the young or innocent die (How can God allow this person to die?). All the theological rationales (e.g. death as a rupture caused by the first sin) seem pale when confronted with the ugly void left by the death of a loved one. What is the Christian’s answer? The answer is the Cross- not a rational explanation of this evil but a radically holistic one (but who needs reason when grieving!). God chose to answer death and the unjust killing of innocents not through a violent revolt but through acceptance in order to prove to us God’s power. A God who underwent voluntarily the horror of death to show His love and closeness to us!

Death will yield to the power of God, but not today (but on Easter :)). On Good Friday we take time to ponder our mortality, the tragedy of death, the suffering of so many in the world slaughtered by modern governments, and the pleas of the poor for mercy.

Death is a part of life but many die prematurely due to a lack of medical care. Let us today pray for doctors who bring healing to the poor, allowing them to live a ‘life fully alive’.

Today's guest blog post is contributed by Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

World Tuberculosis Day

--> Today is World Tuberculosis Day, recalling this ancient disease which remains a top infectious disease killer in the world.  The World Health Organization reports that over 95% of these deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.  Hope for elimination of this once-incurable disease came with the development of effective antibiotics but waned as the disease recurred with the spread of HIV and the development of resistance to medications commonly used in it's treatment.  Efforts toward eradication of tuberculosis are again moving forward, though.

Tuberculosis is an insidious disease.  It slowly takes health from a person, and it's cure requires persistence and attention by medical personnel over many months.   It is also a disease spread through the air and can infect people who do not realize they had been exposed to the illness.  Lastly, this infectiousness necessitates that there be a place for people with tuberculosis to stay until their initial treatment has rendered the infection incapable of being transmitted to others in their family and the community.

The MDA physicians who work in resource-limited countries see tuberculosis each day and know well the long time course of effective treatment.  There is another group of dedicated people who are important in the treatment of tuberculosis, though they may not be fully aware of the role they play.  St. Martin de Porres Mission Hospital in Njinikom, Cameroon, is blessed with a new building high on the hill which is used in part to care for people in isolation with tuberculosis treatment until they are no longer capable of spreading the infection to others.  The generous donors who have given to the Dr. James C. Carey Memorial Fund through Mission Doctors Association to make this essential facility possible can feel a bit of well-deserved pride today knowing that they are a vital part of the struggle to return people with tuberculosis to their families, and to finally make tuberculosis a disease of distant memory.


Tuberculosis Ward
Today's guest blog post is contributed by Dr. Tim Cavanagh. Dr. Cavanagh is a veteran Mission Doctor.  Tim and his wife Sheila served for three years in rural Zimbabwe and continue to serve on short-term missions in Africa and Latin America.  Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Holy Thursday

Holy Thursday, the beginning of the Triduum (i.e. the three days until Easter Sunday), a liturgy filled with readings on the Exodus event (where Yahweh leads the Jewish people from enslavement in Egypt to the Promised Land) and the Last Supper. It might seem like a peculiar combination but, in fact, it is central. As God wished the best for the Jewish people and led them to freedom so Jesus, through His life, death and Resurrection, can lead us to freedom.

The Gospel of John gives us a version of the Last Supper which differs from Matthew and Luke. For John there is no focus on bread and wine but on Jesus’s washing the feet of his Apostles. These accounts are not contradictory but complementary as Gospel writers focus on different aspects of Jesus’s last dinner. In John we get a radical view of not only a Servant King (as we saw in Palm Sunday) but a King who is so humble as to take on the filthy task of washing feet (this was a time when people wore sandals on roads which were dusty and muddy- thus feet which were very dirty!). It shows that we have a God who humbles Himself out of love to cleanse us from sin and lead us to freedom, if we choose to accept His love.


This is the God which Christianity preaches! Not a cruel distant tyrant but a God who is with us (especially through the Eucharist) and loves us as individuals far more than we can ever realize.

Are we too possessive of our status, position or titles?
Are we afraid to ‘get our hands dirty’ for others?
Do we see our life as one of service (to our wife, husband, children, relatives or friends) or power?

Mission Doctors get their hands dirty daily as they bring healing to God’s poor in the Third World. Perhaps you can help them through prayer and donations?

Today's guest blog post is contributed by Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

World Water Day


I am standing at the sink in the early morning light with the water running, waiting for it to get cold enough for me to drink.  At the same time, my shower water is running, waiting for it to get warm enough for me to have a comfortable shower.  Today is the United Nation's Annual World Water Day.  Today, there will be water for my coffee, to brush my teeth, to wash my dishes and clothes.  We, with few significant exceptions, will have no concern for the safety of our water today.  Situations of water shortage or unsafe water in the United States are considered serious occurrences that warrant national concern and news coverage.  For most of us, our main concern with water is when the price per thousand gallons goes up on our water bill.  In terms of water, I am a rich person.



On the other side of the world today, a woman will get up long before the sun does to walk with a bucket on her head.  She will scoop ground water from a river or pond into the bucket and start the long trip back up to her home.  There will be water to drink and for cooking thanks to her efforts, but she will give it to her family wondering if it will make them ill.  Water needed for hygiene, washing clothing, etc., may not be available without additional treks with the bucket.  Water to wash your hands after a trip to the outhouse is often a luxury.  Boiling water to make it safe to drink is also often a luxury involving the gathering of scarce firewood.

The World Health Organization notes that diarrheal illnesses are the 3rd leading cause of death in low-income countries.  Every physician who has worked with Mission Doctors Association in these countries has spent much of their time caring for severely dehydrated children related to inadequate clean water.   Some of these children will be so ill that, despite every effort, they will not live to see next year's World Water Day.


Today, I resolve to drink my water warmer, to take my shower colder.  I will think before I turn on the water tap and keep in mind the millions of women walking today with millions of buckets.  I will try to understand the global issues related to clean water and continue to support Mission Doctors Association in it's work of caring for those in resource-limited countries ill because of inadequate and unsafe water.

 Today's guest blog post is contributed by Dr. Tim Cavanagh. Dr. Cavanagh is a veteran Mission Doctor.  Tim and his wife Sheila served for three years in rural Zimbabwe and continue to serve on short-term missions in Africa and Latin America.  Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Palm Sunday

We are beginning Holy Week and nearing the end of Lent. 

Just think almost time once again to enjoy that chocolate or beer, which you ‘gave up’ for Lent. 

Hopefully, it is also a time to reflect on what we have learned about the importance of prayer, our relations with others and giving to the poor. But why ‘Palm Sunday’?  Palms are nowhere mentioned in today’s Gospel reading? Why not Carnation Sunday or Cloak Sunday (Luke’s Gospel reading from today at least mentions cloaks)?

 
We in California are used to seeing palm trees as decorative and symbolic of the year round sunshine which we enjoy. It was different in the first century when the Romans used palm branches to welcome home rulers after victory in war. Palms had symbolism not just for Romans but also the Jews who used them ceremoniously at the Feast of Tabernacles. In the Gospel of John there is another account of Jesus’ final entry into Jerusalem where the people greet Him with palm branches; He is the victorious King (also conjuring up images of King David’s entry into Jerusalem while riding a donkey as a sign of humility). Jesus is welcomed by an oppressed people (Jews were very much under the colonial rule of Rome) as a king who would free them. However, Jesus is not the king which the people expected, namely one who would lead a violent revolt against the Romans but rather a king whose rule is marked by love and service. This Servant King will be publicly rejected by the His own people, condemned to die and be crucified on Good Friday. Because of the association of palms with Jesus’ last days of public ministry the early Church later made palm branches also a symbol of martyrdom.



Palm Sunday points not to lush trees on a California beach but to a King who suffered rejection by his people but did not lash out in anger or revenge. How hard it is for us to forgive slights or hurts? How easy it is to judge others in the worse possible light while seeing ourselves as without fault? Do we see leadership as not only getting work done but also as a service to others and seek the best for those who work under us?



Palm Sunday shows how a simple tree can be a potent symbol of service, love, forgiveness, and love if we take time to reflect upon it. Perhaps we might also take time to reflect on our brothers and sisters in the Third World who are being helped by the servant-doctors of Mission Doctors Association.


Today's guest blog post is contributed by Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mercy

Who hasn’t felt like giving up?

Who hasn’t felt the sting of someone who acts ‘holier than thou’ and judges unfairly?

These are common human experiences from which we can either become bitter or take as life lessons in how to act.

The Gospel account of the woman caught in adultery could be used for a Broadway play. In fact, a former professor interpreted much of John’s Gospel as being used in that way by early Christian communities. The scene in this story is well known. Jesus is preaching on the Mount of Olives (a foreshadowing of Holy Thursday night) and some Pharisees drag before Him a woman caught in adultery. The question is clear and direct ‘Should we follow the Law of Moses and stone her? You can feel the tension mount and maybe a drum roll. However, Jesus didn’t engage in an argument but started tracing something on the ground causing the Pharisees to drift away until no one remained. At the end Jesus does not condemn the woman but calls her to go and sin no more. A God, who we know will judge us at the end of our life and history (Matthew 25), but one who goes out of His way to show us mercy not to excuse sin but so that we can change. Not a judge who lords it over us but one who wants us to convert to become better.

The first reading from Isaiah begins “Thus says the Lord who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters…” Not only a good God of mercy but one who can help us move through times of our life when we feel like we are drowning, overwhelmed, alone and ridiculed. He can help us, if we ask.
God is a God of Mercy who gives us time to leave sin behind and is able to empower us to do so.

That is Good News!

During this Fifth Sunday of Lent perhaps we can ask how much mercy we show to those in our family, our co-workers, and the poor who are suffering in the Third World with inadequate medical care. The Mission Doctors Association acts to enable Catholic doctors to put into practice mercy through healing bodies broken by disease and poverty- this fine organization can always use our prayers and help.


Today's guest blog post is contributed by Brother John Kiesler, OFM is a member of the facility of the Franciscan School of Theology in California. Brother John is a member of the Formation Facility for long-term missionaries through Mission Doctors and presents at the Annual Retreat Seminar on the theology of mission. Additionally he serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Mission Doctors Association.