Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 67(1) February 2017
Great Medical Lives
St Luke - Patron Saint of Doctors
Feast day 18th October
Unfortunately, we know little of the life of Saint Luke (the Evangelist) although we are able to benefit a great deal from his writings (i.e. his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles). It is believed that he is “the beloved physician” from Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and, as a result, he is the patron of physicians and surgeons.
It is thought that Saint Luke was born in Antioch, Syria and that he
lived a long life, dying at the ripe old age of 84 in Boeotia, Greece
(believed to be where he chose to settle so as to write his Gospel).
However, there are other accounts claiming he was martyred.
Whether he was a slave is another point of contention. Certainly, it was possible for a slave to be a physician. Indeed, it was desirable for wealthy families to have a slave educated in the art of medicine so to guarantee the best care for their family members.
From various passages in Saint Paul’s letters we gain an impression that they were frequent companions and certainly there is a strong suggestion that they laboured together spreading the Gospel and enjoying a special relationship (e.g. “Luke alone is with me.”) Indeed, it is entirely reasonable to assume that Luke gave Paul medical assistance during his missionary work, especially when he was beaten, stoned or nearly drowned during his apostolate.
Through Luke’s gospel we gain an appreciation for a fastidious writer, depicting events with great precision and making key distinctions so as to ensure clarity. Luke’s gospel is also filled with many stories of forgiveness and mercy granted to the penitent. For example, we hear the story of the prodigal son and the woman washing Christ’s feet with her tears.
We also gain an understanding of the importance of prayer through the parable of the persistent widow. Saint Luke also gives us wonderful accounts of the graces bestowed upon us through the Holy Ghost. For example, Simeon is informed that he would not die before seeing Christ in the flesh and is even directed to the Temple at the time of his presentation, whilst Elizabeth pours out the most inspired blessing upon Mary when addressing our Divine Mother at the visitation, and Saint John the Baptist is filled with the Holy Ghost from the moment of his conception. Saint Luke shares with us many details about Our Lady and other important women. It is because of the detail in his writings that we possess two incredibly beautiful and powerful prayers: the ‘Hail Mary’ and the ‘Magnificat.’ Interestingly, some speculate that he may have consulted Our Lady as a source for his Gospel.
For these and many other reasons, my soul proclaims the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. For I am truly blessed to have been so wise (at such a young age) to have chosen Luke as my Confirmation name. For I have, and always will, rely heavily on his example and intercession on my behalf in Heaven. Help me always to be the best doctor I can be, to give unceasingly to my patients and to bring hope and love where none exists.
First published on the Catholic Medical Association of England and Wales Facebook page. The article was written by a recently qualified doctor.