Father Joe is a life long friend of mine. He’s been a general surgeon for over thirty years. With a specialty in
hemorrhoids, Father Joe is the best anal surgeon in the country.
I say that Father Joe is the best, because by special permission, he continues to practice medicine and perform surgeries. But there was a time when he wondered if he’d ever see an operating room again.
Joe gets a strong call from above
Fifteen years ago, Joe took a good look at his life. Somehow, he felt there was something missing. At the time, he was 49.
He’s always been a devout Catholic, and Christian. As he was going through these feelings of uncertainty, he read every spiritual book he could get his hands on. He also talked about his feelings with a few people, the right people. One of his friends was the priest where he attended Mass on Sunday. Another friend was the Archbishop of the Southern Archdiocese where Joe lived.
Notice I called him Joe. At this time, he was not Father Joe yet.
Joe’s peace of mind
Joe knew that a major change was about to occur in his life. In one way, he was not happy about this because of his love of surgery and the practice of medicine. On the other hand, he knew he needed to make a change. Otherwise, his life wouldn’t have been fulfilled, and he would have questioned himself the rest of his life.
“What do I need to do?” is the question Joe asked himself for months. Joe didn’t want to give up medicine. But his faith was strong, and he knew that he was being called to make a major change in his life.
“If I become a priest, I’ll have to give up surgery. I don’t want to do this. If I continue practicing medicine, I’ll do what I love, but my life won’t mean a thing to me.” This is what Joe wrestled with for months. Of course, he knew there was no guarantee he’d become a priest. Many are called, but few are chosen, so they say.
Joe gets advice from his priest
Joe went to see his priest again, hoping he’d talk him out of it. The first thing the priest said to him was, “Joe, I think you should give it a try. You might make it, but you might not. At least you have something to come back to. You’ll never know unless you try.”
Joe then said, “This is not going the way I expected it to go. You’re supposed to talk me out of it. Are you by any chance getting a kickback on this?” As he said this, both the priest and Joe laughed.
Joe was aware that the priest knew what he was talking about, having been through this himself in the past. Joe couldn’t fight it anymore. Less than 24 hours later, he called his priest and said, “I’m going to do it. Unless I do, I’ll never have peace of mind again, as long as I live.”
Joe becomes “Ex surgeon turned priest”
This was in the Spring. In the following fall, Joe entered the seminary. Almost five years to the day he entered, his Archbishop and friend ordained him to the Catholic priesthood.
To the newly ordained Father Joe, this was a bitter / sweet moment. He knew that he’d love being a priest. But he also loved to practice medicine, and believed he’d never be allowed to do again. But would he? Could Father Joe have his cake and eat it too?
From surgeon, to priest, and back to surgeon
Joe was a general surgeon, performing all types of surgery. His specialty was anal surgery.
Father Joe was a priest for about six months, when the Archbishop called him and asked to see him. When they met, the Archbishop got right to the point.
Father Joe meets with the Archbishop
Archbishop: “Joe, I have a proposition for you. You don’t have to give me an answer now. You might want to sleep on it. But this will be your decision. Would you like to practice medicine again, and performing surgeries? “
Fr. Joe: I don’t have to sleep on it. I can give you my answer now. Yes I would, Sir, very much. Am I still going to be a priest, and perform priestly functions?”
Archbishop: “Joe, once you’re a priest, you’re always a priest. Priests have assignments, like people in other professions. But before you give me a final answer, listen to what I have to say. You may not want to do this. You’ll be a regular priest, in a Church, but, you’ll also be the Doctor and Health Care Specialist for the Archdiocese. Occasionally, a sickly member of one of our Churches may have serious health problems, and can’t afford to see a Doctor. Also, many of our priests who are getting up in age may have health problems. In addition to being a priest, you’ll also be the physician who cares for these people. I realize this is a step down from what you’ve been accustomed to doing in the past, but think of the people you’ll help.”
Fr. Joe: “Your Excellency, I’ve finally gotten an answer to a question that has stuck with me for the last 6 years, ‘Why am I doing this?’. I finally understand the reason. I accept your proposal, Your Excellency. Now, I can enjoy the rest of my life, and do the two things I love most.”
Fr. Joe’s first surgery as a priest
The next day, Father Joe was happy that he’d be able to save lives. However, a thought occurred to him. “My specialty is hemorrhoid surgery. It’s very rare for someone to die from hemorrhoids. They don’t kill you. They make you wish you were dead.”
Two weeks later, Father Joe was outside the Operating Room, scrubbing for surgery. “Feels like old times!”, he thought. One of the elderly priests in the Archdiocese was suffering from hemorrhoids, something fierce.
The surgery went like clockwork. To Father Joe, it was like riding a bicycle. You never forget. The elderly priest fully recovered within three weeks.
All in all, the surgery was successful. However, there was one problem.
Father Joe forgot what he was doing. At the end of the operation, he didn’t know if he was performing surgery or SAYING MASS!