October 2000, Volume 6, Issue 3

Saint Of The Month


We know Saint Luke intimately, from reading the third of the Four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, which he also wrote. Saint Luke was a non-Jew, and Jesus' life was spent almost entirely among Jews, but Luke reminds us that the Saviour once told his apostles and followers that people will come from east and west and from north and south, and sit at the table in the kingdom of God.

Whenever Jesus has dealings with, for example, Syrians, or praises a Roman centurion, Luke tells us about it. But he also shows Jesus' special friendship with the outcasts in society. He shows Jesus caring for the poor, and even pointing to the poor as specially blessed. These elements are found in the other three Gospels too, but Luke above all loves to stress them. He shows us Jesus caring for the black sheep of society. And in a way that no other Gospel does, Saint Luke's depicts a Jesus who cares for the status and salvation of women quite as much as he does for men. The status of women in those days was usually low. But Luke -who may well have learned much about Jesus from the Virgin Mary herself- brings to the fore those parts of Jesus' life and teaching which raise and enhance women.

We learn from the letters of Saint Paul that Luke was a doctor of medicine, and that he was with Paul in Rome. Luke continued the story of the beginnings of Christianity by writing the Acts of the Apostles as well as his Gospel. He was a fine and careful historian. But he also had been an eyewitness himself of some of the events he describes in the Acts of the Apostles.

Later church tradition adds that Saint Luke was also an artist. He has thus been made patron saint of artists as well as of doctors and surgeons. We have no record of what happened to the saint after the time he was with Paul in Rome; but traditionally he is said to have died well into his eighties, somewhere in Greece.

From A Calendar of Saints, The Lives of the Principal Saints of the Christian Year.

Hippocratic Oath

The Hippocratic Oath is one which varying versions have been taken for 2000 years by physicians entering the practice of medicine. At one time the oath was thought to come from ancient Greek physician Hippocrates, but modem research has shown that it most probably originated in a Pythagorean sect of the 300s BC. In its original form, the oath prohibited participation in surgery or abortions. At the height of Christianity, most European physicians accepted both of these prohibitions. Many contemporary medical schools impose a revised and modernized version of the oath as an admonition and an affirmation to which their graduating classes assent.

I swear by Apollo the physician, by Aesculapius, Hygeia, and Panacea, and I take to witness all the gods, all the goddesses, to keep according to my ability and my judgment the following Oath:

To consider dear to me as my parents him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and if necessary share my goods with him; to look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art if they so desire without fee or written promise; to impart to my sons and the sons of the master who taught me and the disciples who have enrolled themselves and have agreed to the rules of the profession, but to these alone, the precepts and the instruction.

I will prescribe regimen for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my art. I will not cut for stone, even for patients in whom the disease is manifest; I will leave this operation to be performed by practitioners (specialists in this art).

In every house where I come I will enter only for the good of my patients, keeping myself far from all intentional ill-doing and all seduction, and especially from the pleasures of love with women or with men, be they free or slaves. All that may come to my knowledge in the exercise of my profession or outside my profession or in daily commerce with men, which ought not be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal. If I keep this oath faithfully, may I enjoy my life and practice my art, respected by all men and in all times; but if I swerve from it or violate it, may the reverse be my lot.

- Hippocrates of Cos