Moscati as Doctor, Researcher, Saint - 2
Prof. Antonio Marcucci
The Great Zeal at Invalidsí Service
Moscati, a man projected onto the future, without denying the past, considered careful clinical observation as his categorical imperative. "Have you seen the patient? Come back and see him again!" He gave himself completely up to patientsí humanity, finding in it the most beautiful creation made by God. He was really impressed by it, so that he considered the invalid as "Christís image."
[photo: Cav.Vittorio Di Cesare]
The fascination operated by this man, people call "the holy doctor," comes from this way of thinking, that he chose as guideline for his job. He never let other people notice his tiredness, even when the continue requests of visits made him very tired. He actually made gentle his generally irritable character. Such a great care was the cause of his sudden death.
Concerning this point, Moscati wrote: "pain shouldnít be treated as a darting or a muscular contraction, but as the cry of a soul, whose help a brother, I mean the doctor, rushes to with love and charity."
His day became very short, because it was kept completely busy by his job as head physician of a hospital ward, by teaching medical art to young people and by the continue studying. He often said: "itís necessary to cultivate and revise our knowledge every day, since the progress doesnít stop criticising what we learnt."
Moscati has always been helpful towards his patients, and, in a time when mutual assistance was still a utopia, he felt the duty of visiting poor people for free, giving them most times money for paying for medicines.
He didnít accept a reward from a young boy who, suffering from stomach cancer, came to him. In exchange for his performance, he asked him "to be in Godís grace." A working man he had help recover from a serious disease, asked him about his fee, so he answered him serenely: "if you want to pay me, confess to a priest, because itís God who saved you".
His colleagues couldnít understand why he refused the fees offered by the patients he had healed and assisted spiritually. He was used to explaining "the best reward is having converted a soul". And when in Amalfi he refused the reward offered him by the several patients he had visited, he said in a friendly manner, as for justifying himself: "theyíre people who workÖ what a trouble it would be, if I didnít use the gifts God has given to me." After having visited a poor man, he would make some money slip under his cushion. Joseph Moscati knew every inhabitant of the lanes and alleys in the ancient Naples. There were so many diseases and so many troubles. Toward each of them, he tried to use all his scientific knowledge and his charity, and he was happy when both succeeded in their purpose, that of recovering or alleviating a pain.
Rest, luxury and worldly life were unknown to him. He thought that the real happiness tasted like the long hours he spent in silent meditation, when he felt so close to his Lord.
Sometimes it has been emphasized that Moscati often suggested to his patients to approach Confession. If considered in itself, this request can perplex, because it seems that the doctor goes beyond his particular role to encroach on one in which he has no authority. Such behaviour was accused of "bigotry". However, if we read with attention his wide epistolary, we discover that Moscati joined a high psychological insight to medical art. For this reason, he was able to distinguish very well what medicines could heal and what needed a spirit cure.
As a real believer, he was used to going to the heart of the matter. He knew that it was useless to face a problem without getting to its root. He knew the therapy of the spirit well, for this reason, he prescribed it clearly without hypocrisy, even though he was aware that this could sometimes awake discontent and murmurs, especially at this time, when the psychoanalytical theories, based on the Freudian concept of the instinctual human nature, were dominating.
Moscati was used to repeating: Aim at the eternity of life and soul, so orientate yourself in a much more different manner than simple human considerations would suggest you".
It is emerging the figure of a Moscati keen of new generations. Still today, he reminds us that the real progress respects the past and that the relationship between the doctor and the patient is essential for medicine. In fact, the patient is the only one who can help the doctor to understand the pathology affecting his body, whose close connection with the spirit should never be forgotten.
Prof. Moscati was opened to every scientific acquisition, he studied to learn them, he weighed them, trying to apply them in clinical practice. In the preface of an eugenics manual, he condemned "the cowardliness of abortion, the wickedness of infanticide, the selfishness of Malthusianism." A good lesson for those doctors who believe in the legitimacy of manipulating human life freely, as well as destroying it at its first stages, or annihilating it at its last stages.
Although at his time artificial fecundation, sex planning, or genetic manipulation were not widespread, itís easy to imagine that his thought as scientist and believer, even though he appreciated the scientific progresses in these fields, would have surely warned researchers to acknowledge the mystery of life and to be able to stop before it.
His Last Earthly Day
On 12th April 1927, shortly after 3.00 p.m., a sudden piece of news seemed to paralyse life in Naples: "Prof. Moscati has died!"
What caused such a quick death? It has been much discussed, since it seems impossible that a man can be struck down at the age of only forty-seven so quickly, while he is in full health and performing his activity.
A dear friend of his, Sen. Prof. Alberto Marghieri, at the farewell moment, affirmed: "Science will say that he had got the germ that killed him, but we will think that just the work, the daily work he performed at every time of the day, without a break or rest, exhausted his strength, killing him so soon."
As years went by, science itself, after having analysed Moscatiís personal clinical story, has stated that it was very poor and, most of all, without elements of risk. He did not smoke and ate in a simple manner: He worked too much and without rest, often for 10-12 hours, with just a very short break for meals.
People who knew him personally agree in affirming that he generally tired himself beyond his strength. Certainly, he was not eager for money or nor was he a work maniac. He had a deep sense of duty, which became stronger because of the continued and never disappointed requests by patients, in particular when the patients were poor people. Now, considering modern cardiology knowledge, we know that sudden death can also affect apparently healthy people. Therefore, Moscati can be part of this category. Analysing his lifestyle and considering that he did not suffer from any particular disease, so that people thought he was totally healthy, it appears to us a heart dominated by a very deep love, that, following the "all or nothing" principle, gives everything and in every circumstance, until it suddenly stops beating.
Science can now confirm that Sen. Marghieri was perfectly right: "the work, the daily work he performed at every time of the day, without a break or rest, exhausted his strength, killing him so soon."
It is obvious that, especially today, the example given by this holy doctor is particularly modern. It can concretely and strongly demonstrate the strength and the delicateness expressed through the love of a man, who, having forgotten himself and his own interests, consumed simply and humbly, in perfect silence, at his suffering and needy brothersí service.
Note: Prof. Antonio Marcucci is Head Physician of General Surgery at Copertino hospital (Lecce). The following text is based on the discourse he held in the occasion of a public event organised by USL LE/3 of Copertino in honour of St. Joseph Moscati. Essay published on Gesù Nuovo, July 1989.