Sunday, May 10, 2015

IN THE SANCTUARY OF OUTCASTS: ST. DAMIEN AND THE LEPERS



Happy Mother's Day.

Here's the beginning of this week's arts and culture piece.

"May 10 is the feast day of St. Damien (1840-1889). As a young priest, Father Damien made his life among the lepers at the colony of the Hawaiian island of Molokai — then contracted, and died of, leprosy himself.

He was canonized in 2009, and is also the unofficial patron of those suffering from HIV and AIDS.

“Not without fear and loathing,” Pope Benedict observed, “Father Damien made the choice to go on the island of Molokai in the service of lepers who were there, abandoned by all. So he exposed himself to the disease of which they suffered. With them he felt at home. The servant of the Word became a suffering servant, leper with the lepers, during the last four years of his life.”

Then and now, disfiguring diseases makes us uncomfortable. They bring us face to face with our mutilated hearts. They reveal to us how very little we are willing to suffer ourselves.

Books and films about those with Hansen’s Disease, as leprosy is now known, abound"...

5 comments:

  1. I always love how Jesus and other saints were never afraid to touch the lepers. Sacrifice didn't scare them. Wow, I never knew it was now called Hansen's disease.
    Anyway, thanks for the history lesson.

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  2. Replies
    1. It was a shutterstock photo The Tidings ran with the piece--beautiful, right, but I don't know where it came from, Colin!

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  3. Did you ever read Robert Louis Stevenson's Open Letter to Dr Hyde? Hyde was a Protestant minister in Honolulu who said Damien got leprosy because he was having sex with the lepers. Stevenson, a lay preacher in the Presbyterian Church who had been a guest in Dr Hyde's home, flayed the minister in print. It is not only a masterful defense but a true cri de coeur from a truly great Christian, writer and human being. You can read it in one sitting.

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