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St Richard Pampuri
O.H. (entered heaven on this day, 1930)
From the tone of your last notes, I gather you are falling prey to a disease they don’t teach you about in your pre-med curriculum: egoism. Let me explain.
Go back in your mind’s eye to the first time you ever thought of becoming a doctor. What attracted you to the possibility? Was it the money, the prestige, the science? Not at all, it was the mission of helping people in need. You loved the idea of being able to heal wounds, to restore health and vigor to people who were suffering.
Now, reflect for a moment on what you and your fellow medical and pre-med students talk about most of the time. Is it about the ideal of helping as many sick people as possible, or is it about the excitement of research, the salaries of specialists, the relative comforts of different institutions, the prestige of medical schools, and the dangers of lawsuits?… So, do you see what I mean about the dreaded disease of egoism? Maybe taking a look at today’s saint will help cure you.
Richard too was popular and talented. He, like yourself, lost both his parents by the time he was ten years old. He also shuffled from boarding school to boarding school. He ended up in Pavia (northern Italy) and decided to study medicine at the reputable university there. World War I intervened. He served first as a sergeant, then as an officer in the medical corps, where he was sickened at the sight of so much unnecessary suffering caused by human greed and stubbornness.
He finished his studies after the war, graduating at the top of his class. Two internships later, he began practicing on his own in Milan (northern Italy), all the while keeping up a healthy prayer life and a deep involvement in parish activities. He strove to remember that Jesus himself was present in each of his patients, and he treated them accordingly. When his heart drew him to consecrate himself totally to serve Christ 24/7, he left to join the Hospitaller Order of St John of God, an Order where he could combine religious life and medical practice. Everyone he worked with – patients, orderlies, nurses, fellow practitioners, and hoards of poor people whom he had served free of charge – vocally regretted the loss and begged him to stay on. But God was inviting him to greater intimacy, and, wisely, he accepted the invitation.
As a religious brother he only lived for three more years. But in those years he continued growing in sanctity and putting all his love and talent at the service of others, whether his brothers in religion, his patients, or the poor. When his own health took a turn for the worse, at the young age of 33, he was called home to the Father’s House.
That, my talented and wise niece, was a doctor. Keep his sentiments close to your heart, and, if God wills it, you too will become a true, Christian doctor, in whom, as St Richard put it in a letter to his sister (a missionary), “neither self-indulgence nor pride, nor any other evil passion, [will] prevent me… from seeing in my patients Jesus who suffers, and from healing and comforting Him.”
Your devoted uncle,