(Died: April 12; Feast: November 16)
Born July 25, 1880 Benevento, Italy, Joseph (Giuseppe in Italian) was the seventh of nine children. As a boy in school, he had a great spirit of perseverance, so that his professors held him up as an example to his classmates. He was of gentle and kindly disposition, deeply sincere and serene, even though he was sometimes too outspoken.
He attended medical school at the University of Naples, studying rigorously and frequenting daily Mass. He suffered much grief when his beloved father died during his first year in medical school. He pressed on and graduated with a degree in Medicine and Surgery, summa cum laude, when he was only 23 years old in 1903. Joseph wrote, “The beauty and the enchantment of life pass away. Eternal love remains surviving in us, which is our hope and religion, for love is God. The grandeur of death is not the end, but the beginning of the Sublime and the Divine, in whose presence flowers and beauty don’t have any meaning.”
Dedicated to Service
In 1906, Mount Vesuvius erupted. Doctor Moscati heroically saved many patients who could have died in the hospital as the roof was collapsing. He also was known to have saved many during a cholera epidemic in 1911. Later that same year, he gained the Naples University Chair in Chemical Physiology. Around 1912 or 1913, he made a vow of chastity, consecrating himself to a life of celibacy. He wanted to become a Jesuit priest, but the Jesuits felt that God’s will was for Dr. Moscati to remain in the world as a physician. (St. Moscati is now considered patron saint of those rejected by religious orders and of bachelors.) Dr. Moscati practiced medicine at the Hospital for Incurables in Naples and taught courses in general medicine at the university. Soon, he became a hospital administrator. He demonstrated extraordinary skill in diagnosing his patients.
“There was no development in medicine that he did not know thoroughly,” said his colleague, Professor Piazza, “because there wasn’t even the slightest detail of research he was not familiar with. He was used to following in journals of different countries the new developments in science. As he had lived for many years in scientific institutes and in the wards of the Hospital for Incurables, devoted to the scientific studies and to invalids, everyone was astonished to see this young man of only 36, who in such a short time was reaching the head of the whole medical world in Southern Italy.”
Body and Soul
“Remember,” he once wrote to a young doctor, one of his former students, “that you must treat not only bodies, but also souls, with counsel that appeals to their minds and hearts rather than with cold prescriptions to be sent in to the pharmacist.”
Dr. Moscati’s philosophy for medical practice was to save souls by caring for the body. He believed that the health of the body depended upon the soul remaining in the state of grace. He is quoted in saying that “one must attend first to the salvation of the soul and only then to that of the body.” Through his practice, he helped many lapsed Catholics to return to the Sacraments. His favorite patients were the poor, the homeless, the religious and the priests-all from whom he would never accept payment. He actually went as far as secretly leaving his money within a patient’s prescription or under a patient’s pillow. One day he even refused payment from all his patients saying, “These are working folk. What have we that has not been given us by Our Lord? Woe to us if we do not make good use of God’s gifts!”
Doctor Moscati went to Mass daily and had a great devotion to Our Lady, the Immaculate Conception. He always kept a Rosary in his pocket.
On April 12, 1927, after doing his normal hospital rounds and visiting the poor and examining patients in his home, he felt ill, stopped work, went to his room, sat in his chair and died. He was 46. This physician, medical school professor, and pioneer in the field of biochemistry, was canonized in 1987 during the synod of bishops on the laity by Pope John Paul II. He is the first modern medical physician to have been canonized.
Saint Joseph Moscati, pray for us – that we would learn to hear God’s voice and respond generously with our whole selves!