Friday, May 11, 2012

End of First Year makes me glad I'm Catholic

Only a few hours ago, I finished the last exam of my first-year coursework!

Before the exam began this morning, some of my classmates behind me were talking about how much of medical school we'd finished. I started to think about it, and the result was this pie chart. (The percentage occupied by each thing is the result of an inexact formula dependent on stress and clocked hours.)

I could look at this chart and groan, "boy, I've got a long way to go" (especially if I consider that I didn't add a pie slice for residency). But on the other hand, I've already got the whole heart of the pie, every day! This, I feel, is the best part of becoming a saint: accepting grace at and for the present moment. We don't have to wait for the fulfillment of our work to arrive! I am already living a complete life; I am already living as I want to live for the rest of my earthly days and (with some inevitable eschatological differences) as I want to live for eternity.

Thoughts like these help me see stressors and grades as appropriately small.
Ever since I discovered (after Exam I of our first block last fall) that I was not going to be the last in my class, grades have been a self-esteem stimulant. But Neuroscience is going to see a letter grade I haven't gotten since Organic Chemistry 101.

This provides several things:
  1. An opportunity to turn to Christ for the comfort I used to get from grades! More surrender.
  2. An extremely difficult task, and therefore...
  3. A chance to discover how NOT virtuous I am. (According to Aristotle, good acts are habitual and easy for the virtuous man!)
  4. Another glimpse of what it is to be a Catholic: the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a hall of fame for Aristotelian ideals.
Finally, I remember something a spiritual director told me while I was at TAC. I had asked what perfection was, because I was in complete despair about eradicating all my sins and faults. He explained that perfection is not the cessation of sinning, but the absence of any desire other than that for God will. Similarly, a pastor once homilized about peace: it is "not the absence of war, [but] the fullness of God's grace."

So, might a saint might have appetites or small accidental sins (cf. 2 Cor 7-10), if he is completely given over to God in intention and lives each moment to love Him and be with Him? If so, sign me up: it sounds fulfilling if difficult, without worry if arduous, real if invisible.


  1. Beautiful is your comment about the Church being a hospital for sinners. Thank God for there is a bed there for me!

    1. I heard that comment from a Norbertine chaplain at TAC. It is a wonderful thing to remember! It's a great analogy, too, the more I think about it. There are thousands of illnesses and there are different levels of healing (ICU beds, CCU beds, ERs, ORs, recovery rooms, observation floors...).

  2. Hi there,

    I have no idea where you are in the world, although I suspect either the US or Canada. I'm in Canada. I've just finished second year medical school and am also looking forward to consecrated life in the Church. I appreciate your reflections - they are similar to my own, especially around anatomy. God Bless.

    1. Anonymous, thanks for reading. Congratulations on finishing your second year and good luck on the wards! I would love to hear more from you, but I know you're in a busy time. God reward you and keep you, especially in your vocation.