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A message from Fr. Angel Aparicio, O.P.

Ecclesiasticus 38:1-16; Luke 10: 25-37

Compassion.

There is a discipline of the religious life that explains the longevity of institutions like the Dominican Order (800 years), the University of Santo Tomas (410 years), the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery (150). It is by obedience that the commonality can be kept in the midst of differences, and the vision of the founders can be sustained despite the conflicts of times.

I am here by virtue of obedience. Of course, obedience is not arbitrary. Both in Greek and in Latin (upakuo; obedire) it means to listen, to hearken, to give ear. One has to trust the good judgment of the superiors and the voice of the Holy Spirit.

I thank our rector, Fr. Richard for giving me this opportunity to express my gratitude, our gratitude to our doctors of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

In the first reading, we have heard the advice of Ben Sira which is engraved on the façade of the Medicine building,

Treat the doctor with the honor that is his due, in consideration of his services, for he too has been created by the Lord.

In the gospel, we have heard the parable of the Good Samaritan which  aptly describes the services of the doctors: Doctors are good Samaritans.

A lawyer asked Jesus about his neighbor. Who is my neighbor? We know who our neighbor is; the lawyer also knew it. So, - you may say, why did he ask? Did he want to trap Jesus? No. The lawyer was faced with the same dilemma that we, priests, doctors, all of us find ourselves when we try to put compassion into practice. Up to where? -Until it hurts, -we answer. But seldom do we go that far, do we? With the example of a Samaritan, an alien, an enemy of the Jews, Jesus shows to the lawyer, and consequently to us who are not, how far one can go in helping others.

This is a lesson in compassion. Compassion is the third component in the University equation of values: Competence, Commitment, Compassion.

Dean, Dra. Maria Lourdes Maglinao, will talk about the first two. As a Regent, it is my duty to focus on the third.

But before I do it, I have to ask myself.

Am I compassionate? O, Yes, You are passionate, some will answer.

To be passionate is one thing, to be compassionate, is something else.

Personally, I must admit that I see myself better represented by the priest and the Levite of the story than by the Samaritan. I find myself wanting in compassion.

What is compassion?

Compassion is not a simple feeling as when we are moved to tears by a television drama or by the growing numbers of people infected by the COVID, or of the Palestinian children killed in Gaza by  Israel’s bombs.

That is sentimentalism.

Compassion is not to exonerate a medical student from the demands of a career he has freely chosen and whose challenges he has been properly informed about.

That would be unctuousness, not to say corrupt.

True compassion is to suffer with, to take others’ sorrows on ourselves. To assume all our personal responsibilities. To humbly own our failures.

Saint Thomas says that compassion is the last interior effect of charity in the soul of the individual, a grief which impels man to help those in distress…

And Pope Francis asks this question:

Do I feel compassion toward these people, toward the people who are close to me? Am I capable of suffering with them, or do I look the other way, or do I say: they can fend for themselves?

Perhaps some examples will better illustrate it:

  1. Miguel de Benavides.

Many marvelous things have been said about the founder of our university, Miguel de Benavides. (He learned Chinese, he was passionate for justice and peace, and he took care of the sick immigrants in the hospital).

On the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Santo Tomas, this last detail is very revealing: He took care of the sick immigrants in the hospital. What hospital?

Upon their arrival in the Islands in 1587 the Dominicans set up a small hospital, first in the Parian, where the General Post Office is now. Later it was transferred to Binondo, with the name of San Gabriel. This hospital lasted 200 years, but it disappeared in the 18th century, long before the foundation of the Faculty of  Medicine and Surgery.

We read in the Chronicles of the times:

Fr. Miguel de Benavidez, who later became archbishop of Manila and Fr. Juan Cobo, his companion, transferred to a small nipa house and noticing that some of them were sick, started to bring them to their house. And I heard  Fr. Cobo say: “now that Fr. Miguel has gone to Spain we can say the following, that having in his room the sick, he lay on the floor and placed the Chinese on his bed. Seeing that many people came to them, the said Fathers built a  small hospital. (This is the testimony of Fr. Pedro Rodriguez who was assigned to minister to the Chinese in the Parian).

To a cursory reader, these words may look irrelevant. But in the context of what we are commemorating today, they have a tremendous importance.

The Faculty of Medicine was established in 1871. Many things have taken place between the foundation of the University in 1611 and the establishment of the Faculty of Medicine in 1871. But, believing as one does that God writes straight in crooked lines, one can find a thread that connects Benavides with USTFMS. Compassion.

The same compassion that Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order showed to the people of his own time. There is a thread that weaves the tissue of historical institutions like our University. Without compassion, I am afraid, UST would not be what it was intended to be. (Yesterday, they were Spanish Dominicans. Today, they are Filipino Dominicans. Those distinctions count little in God’s eyes. A Dominican without compassion, be Spanish, American, Japanese, Filipino, Chinese … is not a true Dominican.)

Saint Dominic, Benavides, following the steps of Jesus, teach me, a Dominican, teach us Dominicans a lesson in compassion.

  1. Dr. Antonio S. Galleta, UST Medicine Class ‘64.

It is interesting to note, writes the late Dr. Norberto de Ramos, the University Chronicler for 40  years, that the idea of establishing the Medical Missions, Inc. had been born in the mind of Antonio Galleta, an American, then a third year medical student, in a trip he made in April 1961, to Kiangan in Ifugao to view the rice terraces.

He offered his medical services to the Saint Joseph’s Infirmary and Rest House, a charity clinic. Back to UST, he recruited a medical team to go to Kiangan in the coming semestral vacation. The UST Faculty of Medicine and Surgery -the UST Medical Association to be exact -responded favorably, and the incorporation papers were prepared.

I recall, it was Fr. Guillermo Tejon, Dr. Antonio Gisbert, and others, who brought the document to me for notarization. It was registered in the Securities and Exchange Commission on October 9, 1962. (Dr. Norberto V. de Ramos in his book, I walked with Twelve UST Doctors).

The rest is history: 58 years of medical services throughout  all the corners of the Philippine Archipelago. I have been blessed to participate in several of these missions and can testify to their immense service to the poorest of the poor. Salamat UST Medical Missions! (Doctors, Nurses, assistants, etc.). Yours has been a practical lesson in compassion.

  1. Dr. Simon Lao (not his real name).

-          What can we do for our Alma Mater? -Dr. Simon asked Dr. Ivan.

-          Aware of Simon’s generosity and financial capabilities, Ivan answered, “Give back.”

This dialogue took place a few years ago between former classmates of the Faculty of Medicine. The proverbial mustard seed was planted in rich soil. As of today, it has already supported 20 financially challenged students: a scholarship covering all their expenses, fees, food, transportation, housing, pocket money. The first five are graduating this June: Patricia, Charles, Cloie Ann, Carmela, Jochebed,   Congratulations!

What moved Simon and Ivan to help their Alma Mater? Simon says that he was a beneficiary of the University. The compassion of his Alma Mater motivated him. He has never forgotten.

But he is not the only one. Many others are beneficiaries of the generosity of their Alma Mater, the USTFMS.

Miguel de Benavides, Antonio Galleta, Simón Lao, Ivan Rodríguez… are true Samaritans. They have stretched themselves to reach to the other side of the road, they have stopped on their way to approach the man lying at the side, they have compassion, a tremendous compassion.

Do not get me wrong, though. These are not the only ones before whom I bow in reverence.

I have learned compassion from my Dominican brothers. Despite my original reluctance, former Rector, Fr. Herminio Dagohoy O.P., trusted me to serve in the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery. I did not know what for.

Through the years, I have discovered it. Here I have seen at close the compassion of the doctors. There are many good Samaritans in our midst.  Compassion cannot be measured; it is not countable. It is felt even though it is not seen.

Anywhere I have been, in and out of UST campus, when people know that I am connected with the Faculty of Medicine I hear of the uniqueness of Thomasian Doctors.

-          What is it? -I ask.

-          Something special,-people answer.

-          Is it compassion?

Thomasian doctors look at Jesus, the Great Physician.

Jesus is the true Samaritan. He got down to succor humanity that had been badly wounded (by sin); He cured our wounds with soothing oil (patience), and wine (meaning love); He bandaged them, confided us to the innkeeper to take care in His absence, and departed for His business, promising to come back and pay the expenses.

Brothers and sisters, one does not know how far he/she can go in sharing compassion. Like the lawyer of the parable we ask, who is my neighbor? Jesus tells us: You’ll find him on your way, on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho.

Once more, the present pandemic has shown that Doctors are Good Samaritans.

I heard somebody crying (by Raul Zurita, Chilean Poet)

Where is God?

My god does not wake up.

My god doesn’t feel.

My god does not bleed.

My god does not come

My god does not exist.

Thomasian Doctors!

You show the whole world the face of God!

-          150 years of existence,

-          Close to 40,000 medical graduates

-          The cradle of health education in the Philippines

-          The mother of a large tribe of Samaritans

-          The Faculty of Medicine and Surgery of the University of Santo Tomas has earned a gesture of gratitude from our fellow Filipinos.

Dear Father Rector:

-          With uttermost humility, yes, but with genuine dignity, you can carry the flag of UST anywhere in the land and in the world.

-          We are here today not to collect a debt, not to distribute dividends.

-          We are here to thank God for the Faculty of Medicine and Surgery.

-          We implore Him to continue showering us with

HIS UNENDING GRACE.

Dear Thomasian Doctors, make yours the sesquicentennial motto:

 

Continue, Challenge, Conquer with compassion.