Sacred Bodies: The Anatomical Theater in Bologna

More thoughts about God from my recent trip to Italy:

Visiting the famous anatomical theater at the University of Bologna, I was impressed by how the entire room was made of spruce wood. This place — one of the first places in the world where medical school students could officially dissect human bodies — looks so distinguished that I wondered whether the choice of wood was just for the sake of elegant design.

Not so, my tour guide told me. The reason was for the wood was quite inelegant: wood was the best material for absorbing the stench of decaying bodies in an age before refrigeration was invented.

Well, that bit of information was less than inspiring, but what was tremendously exciting to me was learning about how carefully the medical school staff and students sought God’s wisdom when they were trying to figure out how best to handle the bodies they studied. Prayer was a vital part of their process. They recognized that the bodies weren’t just objects to be treated thoughtlessly; instead, they were sacred objects that should be treated with the utmost respect.

Now med school students have been dissecting bodies for centuries, but we’ve entered a new frontier in medical research: genetics. The knowledge and technology we have now empowers us to delve deeply into human DNA — for better or for worse. I hope that prayer remains a high priority for today’s medical researchers, and that they always keep in mind that what they’re dealing with is sacred stuff.

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