8 October 2009

Fr Damien, Apostle of the Lepers

On Sunday, Pope Benedict will canonise Father Damien, Apostle of the Lepers, in Rome. I read the report in today's ICN report, here. It has been a while since I read about Fr Damien, so I decided to do a little research and came across the New York Times report of his imminent death. It makes for stirring reading. Now I don't know about you, but I tend to think of leprosy as a biblical disease with little relevance to us, here in the UK. In a way, I suppose, I tend to look at Jesus' cure of those with leprosy as, somehow, symbolic. A sign of something deeper. How wrong could I be.

We read, in Fr Damien's own words, just how terrible this disease is. It's not some ancient problem, but just as much relevant today as it was 2,000 years ago. There can be a danger that we read scripture and look for sign and symbol where there is none. It can be taken to be a literal meaning, too.

To read more on this amazing saint, click here.

The Apostle of the Lepers

From the London Tablet

We regret to hear that the Apostle of the Lepers of Molonai is beginning to pay the penalty of his heroism. Shut away from all civilized and healthy humanity, Father Damen has for years been a willing prisoner in the island, in which are collected and confined the lepers of all the neighboring Sandwich group. For a long time, though cut off from the outward world, Father Damen continued in good health, though alone among the dead. But the stroke has fallen at last. In a letter written recently he says: “Impossible for me to go any more to Honolulu, on account of the leprosy breaking out on me. The microbes have finally settled themselves in my left leg and my ear, and one eyebrow begins to fall. I expect to have my face soon disfigured. Having no doubt myself of the true character of my disease, I feel calm, resigned, and happier among my people. Almighty God knows what is best for my sanctification, and with that conviction I say a daily good Fiat voluntas tua.” Where is the heroism which will vie with this?

© The New York Times, Published June, 12, 1886

St Damien, pray for us.

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