He used to perform abortions. Then he returned to his Catholic faith. Now, Dr. John Bruchalski's mission is to help spread the message of Divine Mercy through his medical practice. His powerful conversion story is why planners for the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy have invited him to give his witness for the historic Nov. 14-15 event.
First, he founded the Tepeyac Family Center in 1994. The obstetrical and gynecological facility in Fairfax, Va., combines the best of modern medicine with the healing presence of Jesus Christ. Then, in 2000, he founded Divine Mercy Care, a non-profit organization performing spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Dr. John Bruchalski shares with us how he got to where he is today:
The Tepeyac Center is named after the hill in Mexico where the Blessed Mother appeared to Juan Diego in 1531. Why "Tepeyac"?
In 1987, I was studying medicine and I was trying to discern about residency programs when a friend of mine invited me down to Mexico City. At the time I was being a typical gynecologist. I believed that contraceptives would liberate women. When I visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I very distinctly heard the words "Why are you hurting me?" It was an internal voice. It was a woman's voice — very loving, very non-threatening. It was very clear, but I didn't entirely understand it. I believe that voice was Our Lady of Guadalupe trying to make me see what I was doing. But it would be years before I fully understood the message.
In my residency, I was working at an invetro-fertilzation center. It was also a contraceptive research and development center. While I was there, my mother took me on a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Yugoslavia, and there it became very clear to me during quiet time what I was doing. And so when I came back home, I joined a pro-life practice in Maryland. But they didn't go far enough. They didn't serve the underserved. I said, "There's got to be a better way to do this," and so I started the Tepeyac Family Center in 1994. And I put Tepeyac in the name to remind me why I was doing this. I need daily reminders [laughs].
Clearly, you yourself have been touched by Christ's mercy.
I've built contraceptives. I went to university where we built IUDs [intrauterine devices, to prevent pregnancy], we did abortion services. The reality is that He can save any one of us. None of us are too far away. None of us are too lost.
Yes, Jesus' mercy affected me. Christ doesn't look back on my past. I have been forgiven. "Repent and believe." The Chaplet [of The Divine Mercy] is so important to me — I have to say it over and over again for me to believe it.
We can all learn from mercy. We can all learn from the Diary. We can all learn from the Chaplet every day how to deepen our trust. Remember: the Holy Spirit does the hard work. I know that if you take time and engage Christ, He will speak to you. If you take the Diary of St. Faustina, Christ is speaking to you even though He is speaking to St. Faustina.
How did you first learn about the message of Divine Mercy?
I grew up in a great Polish family, and every morning we said a decade of the Rosary for the conversion of Russia, and it just so happened that Jezu, ufam Tobie!, the Polish version of "Jesus, I Trust in You," was a common phrase around our house. I always believed that faith and action go together. And so as I got older and came back to the Catholic Faith, I found it to be incredibly powerful and beneficial that when you try to give your life to Christ in a more radical way, the conversion of the heart passes right through the phrase "Jesus, I trust in You." In fact, that phrase conceptualizes, for me, everything I wanted to do in my personal and professional life.
Please explain why in your professional life you emphasize Divine Mercy.
The reason we emphasize Divine Mercy is because society is in the slop. Pessimism, skepticism, relativism, and cynicism are abundant everywhere you look. Think about the political world: Terrorism reigns throughout the political world. On a national level: We're looking at a bad economy, the rising China, gas prices at $4 a gallon, more than $100 for a barrel of oil. Enron has stolen away our trust. You're finding more CEOs getting multi-billion-dollar buyouts while the average person is getting hammered. In our music, in our movies, in sports with the steroids — everywhere, we're in the slop.
And in medicine, what are we finding? In my profession of OB/GYN, they want you to push contraceptives on kids and hormones to older women. They want to put IUDs into teenagers. They want us to abort children. They want us to selectively reduce twins and triplets to get them to single babies because of the risks of in-vitro fertilization. We are truly in the slop.
But once I began reading the Diary of St. Faustina, it was very clear to me that the answer to today's society is mercy, and mercy involves justice and the dignity of the human person. Divine Mercy gives us hope. And when you're in the slop, you need hope. I would encourage everyone to take quiet time. Use the Chaplet. Learn the message of Divine Mercy. Then transform into a language you can use on a daily basis and that you can use in your professional, private and family life. We have to integrate mercy into whatever we're doing. We [at Divine Mercy Care] just have happened to do it in medicine.
So how does this translate for you into practice on a day-to-day basis?
As an obstetrician/gynecologist, mercy was very easy for me to do. I didn't want to go on a week-long mission. I wanted to be a missionary every day in my practice. I wanted to be more like the "widow's mite" (see Mk 12:41-44, Lk 21:1-4): I wanted to give everything I had, rather than give of my surplus. Divine Mercy and St. Faustina have explained everything for me.
So, we treat the person body, soul and spirit here at the Tepeyac Family Center as well as in the Divine Mercy Care. As we say, Divine Mercy Care is where medicine meets justice. At that meeting point is mercy: excellent medicine, following the teachings of the faith, and serve the underserved.
When treating patients, you are not hesitant to speak about God?
Absolutely not. About 40 percent of our patients are Catholic. I would say about 40 percent are evangelical. A good 20 percent to 25 percent are agnostic, Jewish, Muslim, crystal worship — we get the full spectrum. What we try to do is to meet people where they are. What we do is we try to encourage people if they are not praying or meditating, they need to do that, to get them in touch with that higher power. You can't slam them over the head and talk to them in a language they don't understand. Over time, God does the hard work. Remember: We're clay, He's the potter. We bring it up. "We'll pray for you." Everybody appreciates that.
Many of the people in our practice have been on the other side of the fence before. We've used contraceptives. We've done abortions. And so we don't throw stones at anyone. In fact, it's God's mercy that brings people around. We grab their hand and say "Let's just say a little prayer before we go a little further." We'll say something like, "Dear Father, we ask you to be with us. Give us the wisdom and peace we need for healing — body soul and spirit. In Your name we pray..." If they're Catholic, we might pray a Hail Mary. But we do try to engage the heart of that person. Sometimes we say no words at all. It's just silence.
When you were practicing "mainstream medicine," what attitudes did you find most troubling?
I encountered four basic attitudes. The first was fear — fear in the patients and fear in the practitioners of medicine. Remember, fear is a learned behavior, and fear is not of the Lord. We have a fear of "safe sex," fear of getting pregnant. The child is often seen as a sexually transmitted disease. The fear of too many people in the world — that it's causing global warming. In society, we're not looking at the problem; we believe people are the problem. With doctors, there's the fear of being sued; the fear of not paying back student loans; the fear of not making enough money. There's also the fear of those in the Christian community — you know, "if I follow my faith, am I going to have patients?" So what happens is, science and medicine have literally confined faith into the realm of private experience. And by making it private, it deprives the world of hope. The answer to fear is "Jesus, I trust in You."
The second thing is conscience. We began to see conscience as what we feel and not what is true. If we think something is right, it is in fact "right," especially if no one else is hurt. And so therefore, I began to see conscience as being internally formed rather than formed through consulting with an objective agency such as the Church. As we read in Matthew 28, "Teach them to carry out everything that I have commanded you, and know that I will be with you till the end of time." If you are a Catholic, the Church is a teaching entity; it explains things to you. Divine Mercy helps you see that.
The third thing I saw in society was the arrogance toward human life. People became objects. Think about it: Michael Vick and dog fighting received more press time than the partial-birth abortion debate. Embryos are being pitched around in scientific experiments. They're being tested. They're being frozen. And yet, there's human life there.
The last thing I saw was that health was not integrated any more. It was fractured. Even though they've expanded health to include psychological and social factors, they left out the religious factor.
Those are some of the things we wanted to fix through Divine Mercy Care. We wanted to banish fear, or minimize it so you can deal with it. We wanted to establish conscience on a more firm foundation. We wanted to increase the dignity of the human person. And we wanted to treat health in a more integrated way — body, soul and spirit.
What happens in medicine is that science and technology bring progress; they don't bring redemption. The only person who brings redemption is Christ. So if you can't tie the two together, you're lost.
Learn more about the upcoming North American Congress on Mercy, to be held in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 14-15, including how to register.