Integral ecology

Vicente Aparicio: "The meaning of pain must be discovered by each one of us".

On Saturday, October 21, a conference on "Notions of medicine for priests" will begin at the Clínica Universidad de Navarra, in Madrid, with the theme 'Suffering and pain', solutions provided by medicine, and how to accompany the sick. The next sessions will focus on a variety of topics. Omnes interviews Vicente Aparicio, chaplain of this clinic in Madrid.

Francisco Otamendi-October 21, 2023-Reading time: 5 minutes

Vicente Aparicio has promoted in the University of Navarra ClinicIn Madrid, a conference called 'Notions of medicine for priests', and this is already the fourth edition. "The idea is not for priests to act as doctors, but to make it easier for priests to act as what we are, but with more training in complicated issues that we often face," he explained to Omnes.

On the first Saturday, the content focuses on suffering and pain, a universal issue, with Dr. Francisco Leal, director of the Pain Unit of the medical center in Madrid, and specialist in Anesthesiology and Resuscitation; Agustín Martínez, specialized in the same subject; and Borja Montero, from the Pain Unit of the Palliative Care of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra.

On November 11, therapeutic incarceration will be addressed, and on December 2, the pathologies that can affect married life, and what medicine can contribute there. We spoke with chaplain Vicente Aparicio, a geologist by profession before being ordained a priest, and chaplain of this Clinic of the University of Navarra since 2017.

First, some personal information. Where you were born and where you studied.

- My family is from Valencia, although I was born in Cartagena. I studied Geological Sciences in Madrid. I practiced my profession for eight years. Later on I moved to Rome, with a scholarship of the CARFI was ordained a priest in 1996.

Then, the beginnings of my priestly work were in Italy, in Naples and Salerno, while I was completing my doctorate in Theology. I spent three years in Valencia, and in 2000 I returned to Madrid. In 2017 I received the assignment of attending the Chaplaincy of the Madrid headquarters of the University of Navarra Clinicwhich began operations in November of that year. 

How did the idea of the Cycle on "Notions of Medicine for Priests" come about? Can a better knowledge of medical issues help them?

- Precisely, while attending to this work - about which I knew nothing, since I had never received similar assignments - in conversations with doctors and in my daily work, when I consulted them about some doubts and also received their consultations, the idea came to me. I am fortunate to be able to count on so many professionals of good ethical criteria and great professional stature, who can clarify medical questions for me, in order to be able to deal with so many moral questions that come to us priests, and not only to hospital chaplains.

It is not a question of priests acting as doctors, but of making it easier for priests to act as what we are, but with more training in complicated issues that we often face. It would be a pity if, when we are asked important questions, due to ignorance, we do not give importance to something that is important, or give the wrong advice and, therefore, we would not be helping those who, in need, come to us. I thought that I could share this fate with other priests who have this concern. If you look at the previous editions, you can see that these are topics that we should know, at least, have some "notions". 

Tell me some of the topics covered.

- For example, what do fertility clinics offer; how to help people suffering from certain psychiatric illnesses; the world of addictions, depression, etc., and how it changes the moral evaluation of their actions; men and women: differences for a balanced marriage project; the problems derived from a broken family in the formation of the personality of children; the development of affectivity in adolescence.

Let's talk about suffering and pain. I ask you about the meaning of suffering, probably difficult to explain if you are not a believer, and even for believers.

- Suffering and pain are realities present in everyone's life. Sooner or later we encounter them in the soul. But there are also very subjective aspects, especially in suffering. I have met people who were devastated by the possibility that their illness might have a negative prognosis; and also people who approached death with joy, like someone approaching the date of a great desired event: they knew they were going to Heaven, to a meeting with God, with the Love of their life...; and I am talking about different people, some single, others married and with children; but it was God who really gave the deepest meaning to their lives, the meaning that gives meaning to everything else. 

Of course, those who do not believe in eternal life, or trust only in themselves, feel anguish when they realize that nothing is really in their hands or that life is coming to an end. But those who trust in God can admit that, as St. Paul says, "for those who love God, all things work together for good" (Rom 8:28), that God is a wonderful Father, that no one loves us more than he does,

I think that the meaning of pain is something that each person must discover personally; that is why I dare to say that the perfect book does not exist, although there are some very good books that provide great ideas. In my opinion, by contemplating and meditating on the Passion of the Lord, the teachings of the Gospel and the reality of life, each one will be able to find the meaning of his existence and his pain. Of course, non-believers have it much more difficult.

Accompaniment as a chaplain. With the sick who are suffering, and with their families, do they understand the pastoral offer of a chaplain?

- Yes, patients and their families, in general, understand and appreciate our presence, our visits, the spiritual accompaniment of a priest close to the family and the patient. Naturally, we meet some people who politely reject it, but in general, they are grateful and take advantage of it.

In the first session of the course Notions of Medicine for Priests, this Saturday, there will be a lot of talk about accompaniment. Dr. Agustin Martinez has done a very interesting study on what the medical journals say about the presence of the chaplain in the ICU. The conclusions are very encouraging. Dr. Montero, a specialist in Palliative Care, is a master in this difficult art of accompaniment and I am sure he can give us very useful advice. 

For now, I only dare to give one piece of advice: if you want to accompany, do not be in a hurry: try to dedicate time to them, both to the patient and to the relatives. These are conversations in which, little by little, everything that each one carries in their heart will come out.

A brief commentary on the November 11 and December 2 sessions

-In the second session, on November 11, we will deal with "therapeutic incarceration". It may seem an almost closed subject: we all have a minimum criterion about "extraordinary means"; but when we come to the reality of medical practice and, therefore, to the real situation of a sick relative or parishioner, things change; it is no longer so easy to find the right measure of things. 

In the last session, on December 2, we will face a very widespread and silenced problem: the pathologies that can condition conjugal life. In both men and women, there are pathologies that make it uncomfortable, painful or impossible to have sexual relations. 

Logically, it is an important problem in marriage. First of all, it is necessary to understand the problem and its consequences; but also to know what solutions are offered by Medicine; and in this field - as in almost all - much progress is being made. It is very sad that some married couples have frequent disagreements and tensions because of this issue without being able to understand each other, and without going to the doctor who can help them and, perhaps also, to the priest who can understand them.

The authorFrancisco Otamendi

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