One of the many beliefs Christianity sustains from our Jewish roots is that precious disclosure in Genesis, at the opening of the Torah, that man is created in the image of God. How mind-bogglingly powerful this is! The Creator with infinite irrepressible love allows us to participate in his divine identity.
The belief is not without misinterpretation, for rather than understanding it as the liberating apotheosis of man, many of us perceive it as the anthropomorphization of God. Instead of seeing in ourselves the unlimited reality of the imago dei we ascribe to God the human limitations of the imago hominis, the image of man.
The world is blessed, though, with many souls who not only have been taught this belief but comprehend it in its correct and certainly more noble sense, namely that because we are created in the image of God we can do Godly things.
A community of such individuals can be found in that ancient, strife ridden land some call Palestine and some call the West Bank. There in Bethlehem (how significant is that?) the Daughters of Charity and the Order of Malta have restored a hospital which had been established in the late 19th century by the Daughters and then closed down during the Israeli/Arab conflicts of the 1980s. Under the joint international sponsorship of these two religious Orders, the Holy Family Hospital (HFH) is not only the readily accessible (and only) center of succor for pregnant women but also a vibrant center of hope for both the regional community and for the world at large, for its mission is to provide “quality care for women and infants, without regard to religion or national origin and …. continuing education as a means of ensuring quality patient care for the Poor and Sick” (www.holyfamilyhospital-Bethlehem.org). And, it carries on despite the growing religious and political tensions in that turbulent area.
As of this writing, since 1990 over 60,000 children have come into the world at Holy Family. In addition to maternity care, the hospital recruits and trains native-born doctors and nurses. It is recognized by the European Board and College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, by the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in London, and by the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland for the training of specialized doctors.
Around 100 committed individuals operate HFH, including native and international doctors, midwives, nurses and paramedical staff. Its programs include gynecological, neo-natal and paramedical care, and in addition to in-patient care, it has a mobile clinic serving the area spread between Jerusalem and Hebron. And, admission is not denied to those women unable to pay for the service.
That more than 80 percent of the populace in this stretch of land in Moslem – and therefore the great majority of the women patients at the hospital – is irrelevant to the hospital staff and to its Catholic international board of directors.
They see in the women and in the impoverished community from which they come the imago dei. As important, they see it, albeit humbly, in themselves. Surely, what encourages them is that exemplary calculation all of us should consider: Why be held back by imago hominis when imago dei is a true option. The people at Holy Family Hospital do Godly things. They see the horizon to which the Kingdom is advancing.
Dana Robinson is chair of the board of trustees of the National Catholic Community Foundation.