Today we honor William W. Mayo, Charles F. Menninger and their sons. The Mayo family name is probably the most familiar to us. They built the first general hospital in Minnesota. In 1883, when a devastating tornado hit, the Episcopalian Mayos joined the Roman Catholic Sisters of St. Francis to respond to the disaster. Their work together developed a new type of patient care that emphasized the whole person – spiritually as well as physically. Building on the vision of doctors working as a team with other medical professionals, not just as solo diagnosticians, the Mayo Clinic eventually emerged as a model for integrating person-centered medical care with the best in cutting-edge scientific and medical research.
The Menninger family were pioneers in establishing a new kind of psychiatric treatment facility in Kansas in 1925. They helped transform the care of the mentally ill in ways that were more medically effective and more humane. They were involved in advocacy and public policy development to support the needs of the mentally ill. One of the sons, Dr. Karl Menninger, wrote a book in 1973 about how recognizing sin, within us and among us, is a key component in personal and relational health. Both the Mayo and Menninger families’ work was transformative because of their commitment to treating the whole person – physically, emotionally and spiritually.
It is most appropriate then that today we read from Ecclesiasticus a passage honoring physicians. The first time I heard this passage was at a funeral for a doctor. I thought the blessing of physicians was a bit odd at first – why out of all the professions should they receive praise? Certainly Jesus had an affinity for healing, and we have all been blessed by some medical professional at some point in our lives – truly we would be lost without our doctors. But I think of all the other, professionals and vocations that are also blessings and wonder why physicians? Once I was at an airport and saw a large group of those serving in the military returning home. All those in the airport stopped what they were doing and clapped. A friend near me wondered aloud, why we do not honor others in the same way – why no standing ovation for teachers, social workers, sanitation workers, and stay-at-home parents? What would our world look like if we could praise each of us for the ways we actively live into God’s call in our lives?
That is really why we celebrate the Mayos and Menningers today. Not because they are physicians, but because of the way in which they are physicians. Their respect for the dignity of every human being is more to be commended than anything. That is what the Mayos, Menningers, and our lesson invite us into today – to live more fully into our baptismal covenant and to our calls. Amen.