Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday word, 23 Jun 2008

Francis Picklow, M.D., funeral (23Jun2008) Jb 19. 1, 23-27; Ps23; 1Jn 5. 1-5; Mt 9. 6-13
Homily of Rev. Paul D. Panaretos, S.J.
An Older and a Younger Physician

On behalf of Gesu Parish and personally, I extend our prayers and heartfelt sympathy to you, Thomas on the passing of your dear father. Because Dr. Picklow was active and able to the end that will make it harder not to have him in your life as you did; however, he will continue to be with you in different and new ways, which you will discover.

You are not alone in your grief. Both the Catholic church and the medical guild bid farewell to one their own of many years. I offer a few words to console and to strengthen you and your family and friends in your grief; to help you appreciate God’s astounding compassion by noticing that Jesus’ victorious dying and rising were present in the life of your father and in you as well./1/

I did not have the privilege of knowing Francis. I am most grateful to Thomas for introducing his dad to me, sketching him in words for me. Of the details Thomas offered two, which shaped my reflections with you: “old time doctor” and “faithful.”

I am old enough to remember watching the weekly TV show, “Marcus Welby, M.D.” What is more important is that I was old enough to intuit that the opening of the show reflected and confirmed an aspect of life many of us here can remember. Let me refresh your memory, if anyone’s memory is dimmed.

As that shows opening credits finished a white door with a shiny knocker filled the screen. At the sound of the bell the door opened inward, as if by us, and Dr. Welby, portrayed by Robert Young, medical bag in hand, stood with a smile for whoever awaited him and his ministrations.

The house call was synonymous with doctors into the 1960s. The practice of admitting into one’s home not just any professional but one’s physician summarized the qualities Dr. Francis Picklow possessed in daily living: he was “generous, understanding and completely dedicated to his patients, no matter what they needed,” Thomas emphasized to me. Our good fortune in ministering to Dr. Francis Picklow for the last time on behalf of the church is that his life allows us to appreciate Jesus’ reference to himself as divine physician.

One intersection is something we intuit: a physical ailment or an emotional syndrome may take us to a doctor or a psychiatrist, but we are well aware that we are more than our ailments. We expect members of the medical arts to consider our entire selves. Jesus cured diseases, but he healed people. Jesus mended bones and strengthened ligaments, but he healed people. His physical contact with people others shunned broke the barriers of isolation that people allowed to grow between them. Jesus is the divine physician because he healed all levels of human existence: physical; emotional; social; and spiritual.

Another intersection with Dr. Welby is apt. Dr. Welby was the older of the two physicians featured in that television drama. The younger Dr. Kiley practiced medicine in a textbook manner. This difference drove the plots of the weekly shows. The plots of the gospels are driven similarly, although the age of the characters is reversed. Jesus, the young rabbi, was opposed by the orthodox religious professionals of his day. Age isn’t the point; fidelity to life, learning and experience is. The religious professionals of Jesus’ day were so concerned about their observances that they neglected God’s holy longing: I desire mercy not sacrifice.

That is the second detail connecting Dr. Francis Picklow with the mystery of our crucified and risen Messiah Jesus. Dr. Picklow was faithful. Fidelity is a matter of the heart. We humans are reasoning and reasonable, and we are fully human when we engage our hearts and minds together. Dr. Picklow embodied that in his complete dedication to his patients. His fidelity to them was doubtlessly motivated by his fidelity to God. His fidelity to his family, of whom Thomas remains, was similarly motivated by his fidelity to God.

Thomas, you succeed your father as a physician in times and circumstances very different from his. In your father you have a model of a practitioner of the art of medicine. You also have a model of fidelity. When your heart longs for your father, your heart will reach also for Jesus, the divine physician. Making Jesus’ aim yours, I desire mercy not sacrifice, will make you a more compassionate physician and a more faithful Catholic.

To practice compassion, whatever our paths in life may be, is the way to become more healed and whole human beings. Privileged to have known in person or by story Dr. Francis Picklow, who has begun to share in Jesus’ full healing, will give us a share in our own healing, which will be completed when we are reunited with him, Irene--his wife, whom he loved so much--and all who have gone before us and pray for us who pray for God’s kingdom to come.
/1/ Cf. Order of Christian Funerals 27.
Wiki-images of Jesus' raising the daughter of Jairus and Grunewald's Resurrection are in the public domain.

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