Saints of today and forever: St Joseph Moscati, the holy doctor

Por: Juan Manuel Galaviz, SSP

After the eruption of Vesuvius

In April 1906, one more of the dreaded eruptions of the Vesuvius volcano near Naples was recorded. Health authorities sent José Moscati to Torre del Greco, six kilometres from the crater, to evacuate the hospital where numerous elderly and paralytics lived. The envoy went out to keep that grieving population safe and did not interrupt his work until he was able to date the last sick man. At that moment, the roof of the building collapsed miserably. The inhabitants of Torre del Greco have since seen Dr. Moscati as a “heroic doctor”.
José Moscati was born in Benevento, Italy, on July 2, 1880. His father, Francisco Moscati, was a prominent jurist who held important positions in courts of several populations; her mother, Rosa de Luca, was a cultured and sensitive woman belonging to a noble family. Nine children were born from his marriage to Francis, the second of whom was Giuseppe, the Joseph we are dealing with.
Premature deaths and other circumstances left to the Moscati family, who in 1884 moved permanently to the city of Naples. Between Joseph and his brother Alberto there was a very close relationship of affection, which had a lot to do with Joseph’s decision to study medical science. His brother Alberto, while serving in the military, suffered a heavy fall from the horse. As a result, he suffered until the end of his life spasms and epileptic seizures. He died on 24 June 1904. On August 4 of the previous year, José Moscati had finished, with honorable mention, the medical career. His father had died in 1897, the same year he enrolled in the Faculty of Medicine.
The setbacks of life never weakened the will of José Moscati, whose strength at all trial was sustained by a reluctant and mature spirituality.
As soon as he finished his medical career, Joseph successfully faced the trials that candidates for auxiliaries and assistants at the United Hospitals for Incurables should pass. Thus, with the envy of few and the admiration of many, Dr. Moscati took charge, for more than five years, of “incurable patients”.

The value of minutes
José Moscati’s activity was always intense. He would get up very early in order to arrive in time for the Eucharistic celebration and receive “the bread of the strong”. Before going to his ordinary medical work, he visited the sick in the slums of Naples at home; he was then on his way to the Hospital de Incurables. In the afternoon he cared for the sick who came to his private office. Consultations were free for poor patients; the neediest used to leave his studio with a “help” that he discreetly put in the recipe. On one occasion, a tbberculous woman, discovering with the medical prescription sheet a valuable ticket, wanted to thank her aloud, “to the Neapolitan”, but he prevented it: “Please, ma’am, don’t say any of this.” The woman disobeyed the recommendation, and that’s how the episode got to us.
Another memorable anecdote starred in Dr. Moscati and a sick old man he used to visit in his modest home. One day the doctor invited the old man to accompany him at his frugal breakfast, which he made in a café near the church where he participated in Mass. The invitation became daily, and when it happened that the old man did not arrive at the appointment, the doctor worried and went immediately to look for him at his poor home, to make sure that his friend did not have any severe discomfort.
It is surprising that this charitable physician found time for his religious practices, for his works of mercy, for the fulfillment of his strict professional duties, for his sa-nitarian research and for university teaching; and maintain a usual serenity and smiling kindness in dealing with everyone.

Giussepe Moscati
Giussepe Moscati

His intense service during the war
During World War I, Dr. Moscati did not enlist in the ranks of the fighters, but served the even more valuable homeland. With the appointment of Director of the Military Department, in the period 1915-1918, he organized a hospital to care for the war wounded. In the corresponding archives, it is known that there he served 2,524 soldiers. Both in these services and in others he provided as a doctor, he did not miss the opportunity to insinuate in his patients and interlocutors the thought of God. When he served as supervisor at the Institute of Pathological Anatomy, in the autopsy room he installed a Crucifix with a Latin inscription taken from the book of Bone Osses: “Where are your scourges, O death?”
His teaching experience at the university level began in 1908, when he won the contest of ordinary attachment for the chair of Physiological Chemistry. He began his teaching service, which soon extended to his laboratory activity and scientific search.
In 1911 a cholera epidemic occurred in Naples; He was then entrusted with public health inspection. He did his job excellently and, in terminated him, gave the health authorities a relationship about the actions he deemed indispensable for the city’s sanitation. That same year he was sent to Vienna to participate in the International Congress of Physiology. He was already a prominent figure in the field of medical inves-tigation.
In 1922, when insulin production for the treatment of diabetes began, Dr. Moscati was one of the first to prescribe his use to patients who needed it. He was a man of progress with an ever-eyed view on the good of others; He was convinced that the gifts received by the Creator should be used for one’s well-being and for the progress of humanity. He was also aware that scientific research should not set limits, but remain in constant search. To one of his students he wrote: “Progress is in continuous criticism of what we learn. One science is unwavering: that revealed by God, the science of the afterlife.”
We have already pointed out that for Dr. Moscati the practice of charity was an unconditional imperative, not an occasional requirement. It should be added that its charitable action fulfilled it with such naturalness and discretion that, although it was recognized, it was not the subject of fanatical acclamations or accessions. It was only on the occasion of his death – on April 12, 1927 – and his funerals, that people crowded and followed him to the cemetery to hail: “The holy doctor is dead! The poor doctor is dead!”
There was a time when Dr. José Moscati was reflecting on the option of becoming a Jesuit; but it was his own counselors in the Society of Jesus who convinced him that God’s project for him was his sanctification and his apostolate in his laymanship, serving as a physician in the troubled world of the sick, to give them hope and give them relief from assistance.
José Moscati saved many lives and healed many “incurables”. In his process of beatification and canonization, the testimony of patients and colleagues who had direct knowledge that he prayed for his sick and invited them to pray was gathered; that he prayed before starting a medical investigation. In this area of scientific search, his brilliance and acuity earned him prestige inside and outside Italy. He rejected several academic proposals that would have given him greater celebrity, but which would have forced him to decrease or completely interrupt his direct service to the sick.
Those who know in more detail the life of José Moscati, realize a virtue that he had and that is not often found in other professionals: he was able to harmonize his identity as a layman committed to his character as a doctor; and in the field of health, combine well the direct exercise of your profession with scientific search and teaching. As an absolute priority he chose charity and thus wrote, “It is not science that has transformed the world, but charity.”

José Moscati was beatified in 1975 and canonized in 1987. It is a model for all doctors and especially for those who study anatomy and pathologies.
In 1907 a film about the life of this holy doctor was produced in Italy. The director, Giacomo Campiotti, found it right to headline her: José Moscati, the love that heals; in the Spanish version the title was changed: José Moscati, the doctor of the poor. Both titles are right, for José Moscati will rightly be remembered as the doctor who healed with love and had a predilection for the poor. Ω


Dear St. Joseph Moscati, exemplary physician
that, in the exercise of your profession, you cured
body and strengthened the spirit
of your patients, listen to the pleas
of those of us who turn to you with faith in your intercession. We pray you to obtain from Divine Mercy physical and spiritual health,
so that we can serve generously
and efficiency to our brothers.
Get relief from those who suffer;
comfort to the afflicted,
hope to those who have lost it.

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