A model for today’s Catholic doctors

By Fran from Colorado on 7/5/2010
4out of 5

St. Giuseppe Moscati, Doctor to the Poor, is one of the best of the current genre of saint movies. It not only tells the story of this modern-day saint, but it does it artistically. This movie has it all—romance, rivalry, drama, tragedy, but above everything, it introduces the viewer to a real-life hero and saint, who did much to alleviate the suffering of the poor of Naples.

St. Giuseppe Moscati, Doctor to the Poor, picks up his life as an outstanding medical student. It is immediately apparent that Giuseppe’s book-knowledge is not the secret of his success, however, but rather it is due in large part to his empathy with his patients and a sixth sense about what causes disease. He is very aware that many of the problems he sees are caused by poverty—poor diet, contaminated water and poor living conditions.

After graduation he is assigned to the Hospital for Incurables. Despite his high-born past, Giuseppe’s (Giuseppe Fiorello) concern is solidly with the poor, and he proves to be a dedicated doctor, unconcerned for his own welfare. After a riot in the Spanish sector, he brings a former friend and woman of low repute who has just given birth into his home, which proves too much for his sister Nina. However, the presence of this woman, Cloe, softens Nina’s heart and helps her come to grips with her own loneliness. While Cloe is dying she makes a request of Giuseppe that he will honor before he himself dies. Nina becomes a partner in treating her brother’s patients. Many of the prescriptions written for those poor people are for food, and much as the hungry in Egypt were told “to go to Joseph,” the patients are told to go to Nina to have them filled.

The love interest in the film is the Princess Elena (Kasia Smutniak), and adds that element of romance to a story which would stand well on its own even without it. The one-sided rivalry with Dr. Piromallo demonstrates the different paths one can take in fulfilling his medical vocation. Dr. Moscati loves his friend without reservation and helps him to pass his exams. Even though Dr. Piromallo has no interest in the poor and prefers his high-class clientele, he always feels somewhat inferior to his friend whose choices have not led to the same material wealth he himself enjoys. He is painfully aware that he isn’t half the doctor that Moscati is.

Dr. Moscati’s faith is lived through all the drama of this film without being preachy. He demonstrates charity by the way he interacts with his patients and manifests the joy that should accompany deep faith. He always treats his friend/rival with respect, and he willingly gives up his material possessions to treat the poor, of whom he says, “My patient’s smiles are worth more than any painting.” His sanctity is evident while he goes about his daily work, and he works miracles even as he lives.

This movie is available here.