the saint of the outcast…a martyr of charity

“Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who
seek to please Him.
His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures
as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations,
to tell Him of your miseries, fears, worries, of those who are dear to you,
of your projects, and of your hopes.
Do so with confidence and with an open heart.”

St. Damien of Molokai


(two images of the priest, now saint, Damien of Molokai—images both with and without leprosy)

Are you aware that one of the most dreaded diseases, a centuries-old disease,
that being leprosy, continues to affect people around the world to this day?

At least 150 people yearly, just in the United States alone, are still diagnosed
with Leprosy otherwise known as Hansen’s disease.

Did you know that there are actually 700 functioning leper’s colonies still in operation
in India alone?

Are you aware that there actually remains a leper’s colony in Hawaii?

Yes, on those beautiful tropical islands of Hawaii there is actually an active leper’s colony
which has existed for the past 145 years.

There was a time, much like with the plague, when those affected with leprosy were
forced to wear warning bells announcing their proximity to others…
Upon hearing the bell, all those within ears reach, knew to avoid the oncoming individual.

Leprosy, being highly contagious, eventually forced officials to isolate those afflicted—
hence the colonies of the lepers.
Yet thankfully today, caught early, Leprosy is treatable and is even curable.

Today’s quote is by a man who spent his entire adult life caring for those afflicted
individuals on the island of Molokai who were suffering from the ravages of this horrific
disease.
Not only did they suffer physically, knowing death would be slow, deforming and painful,
they also suffered from the social stigma that went along with living with leprosy…
that being a life of total isolation and expulsion from society.

Father Damien offered those who suffered a sense of belonging,
importance and unconditional love.

Looking past the fear, the deformity, the stigma…
Fr Damien offered the gift of humanity as well as dignity back to those who had been
looked upon as less than.

There is no greater pain to a human being than to be stripped of one’s humanness.
To be regarded as less than…even less than that of an animal.

Father Damien saw past the disease and saw human beings…who were hurting.
He brought back to these individuals the gift of hope…

After 11 years of caring for the colony, Father Damien also contracted the disease.
Yet despite his growing illness, Fr. Damien worked even harder on behalf of his
charges procuring recognition by the Hawaiian government to provide basic
services for the colony.

Father Damien died at the age of 49.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II and was later canonized by Pope Benedict 2009

He is honored to this day not only by the Catholic Church but also by the state of Hawaii
for his service to her people.

Father Damien reminds me a great deal of Mother Teresa…a woman who also spent a life
of caring for and tending to those with leprosy as well as other debilitating
and isolating disease.

These two saints took the example of Jesus literally by living and giving their lives
to the service of those in the deepest of need.

And so it only seems natural during this season of gifts and of giving that we recall those
who have given their all for the betterment of others…

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
John 15:13

Saint Damien de Veuster of Moloka’i’s Story

When Joseph de Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, few people in Europe had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy, Hansen’s disease. By the time he died at the age of 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him. They knew that human compassion could soften the ravages of this disease.

Forced to quit school at age 13 to work on the family farm, Joseph entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary six years later, taking the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr. When his brother Pamphile, a priest in the same congregation, fell ill and was unable to go to the Hawaiian Islands as assigned, Damien quickly volunteered in his place. In May 1864, two months after arriving in his new mission, Damien was ordained a priest in Honolulu and assigned to the island of Hawaii.

In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government’s leper colony on the island of Moloka’i, set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people’s physical, medical, and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.

Soon the settlement had new houses and a new church, school and orphanage. Morale improved considerably. A few years later, he succeeded in getting the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by Mother Marianne Cope, to help staff this colony in Kalaupapa.

Damien contracted Hansen’s disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien’s body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on October 11, 2009.

Reflection

Some people thought Damien was a hero for going to Moloka’i and others thought he was crazy. When a Protestant clergyman wrote that Damien was guilty of immoral behavior, Robert Louis Stevenson vigorously defended him in an “Open Letter to Dr. Hyde.”
Franciscan Media.

Later in 1889 Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his family arrived in Hawaii
for an extended stay. He had tuberculosis, then also incurable,
and was seeking some relief.
Moved by Damien’s story, he became interested in the controversy about the priest
and went to Molokaʻi for eight days and seven nights.
Stevenson wanted to learn more about Damien at the place where he had worked.
He spoke with residents of varying religious backgrounds to learn more about Damien’s work.
Based on his conversations and observations,
he wrote an open letter to Hyde that addressed the minister’s criticisms
and had it printed at his own expense.
This became the most famous account of Damien,
featuring him in the role of a European aiding a benighted native people.
(Wikipedia)

vigil

Sleep my child and peace attend thee,
All through the night
Guardian angels God will send thee,
All through the night
Soft the drowsy hours are creeping
Hill and vale in slumber sleeping,
I my loving vigil keeping
All through the night.

1st verse to an ancient Welsh folksong

“And, in the end
The love you take
is equal to the love you make.”

Paul McCartney

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(the little Ga Tech bear that sits vigil at the foot of Dad’s bed)

There’s a lady in our town who makes teddy bears.
The premise is that you can bring her an old blanket, shirt or some other piece
of clothing, from either a growing child or even a departed loved one,
and she will make a bear using the blanket or fabric of said loved one…
she calls them “remembrance bears”…

Just before Christmas, when I was picking up a prescription at my pharmacy,
I saw this Ga Tech bear sitting on a small stool at the end of an aisle.
I asked the pharmacist if this particular bear was for sale or merely a display.
She informed that it was indeed for sale as her mom was now making collegiate bears.

“Well”, I excalimed,
“I know just the perfect person for this particular bear”…

And ever since this little black and gold bear has been sitting at the foot of dad’s bed,
or in the nearby chair…
keeping a steadfast silent vigil throughout these days and nights
of both waxing and waning….

and right now the days and nights are waning.

I was meet this morning by both nurses…hospice and the care service.
Dad had had a bad night, throwing up repeatedly, resulting in them having to administer
an anti nausea drug from the “emergency” hospice kit.

This emergency kit was provided when Dad was first placed on hospice care.
It’s a little brown box that was to stay in the refrigerator
as it had the emergency morphine for when pain got really bad…
as there may not be time to quickly order new meds.

It’s a little brown box I pushed way in the back of the fridge…
hiding it behind the eggs and milk…
as I didn’t want my stepmother to mistakenly throw it out,
and I didn’t want to see it,
I didn’t want to be reminded of it,
and I prayed we wouldn’t have to use it.

They started using it about three weeks ago.

The hospice nurse was also giving him a good going over….
from head to toe…checking the catheter, his vitals, etc…
When one is terminally ill, dignity is the first casualty.

Later my nurse friend came into the kitchen where I was waiting
and told me that she really didn’t think it would be much longer…
Maybe a week at best.

I reminded her that we said that two weeks ago…
yet I was very aware that we both knew the deal…
that no one can ever predict time in these sorts of matters…
however I also knew that she’s ridden in this little rodeo before…
her knowledge and intuitive skills certainly surpass mine in these sorts of situations…

And so after running to the grocery store and doing some errands for the
maintaining of their household…
I went back to sit with dad.

His speech was slurred, his eyes fluttered open and shut…
but he did have his cable news turned on and was attempting to go through
the motions of reading over the newspaper.
It is from Dad that I get my keen interest in all things news, political, football and history.

His legs were twitching back and forth,
As he told me that a former caregiver had died.

She had not died and is actually alive and quite well.
His mind is working hard to sort reality from that of dreams.

And as I sat with dad, watching news story after news story concerning the complete
idiocy of this nation of ours, I was suddenly and tragically aware that there were countless
other families doing exactly what I was doing…
and that is keeping vigil over a loved one.

The furtherest thing of importance that should be on our radars are these
ridiculous demonstrations, protests and marches.

When you cut away all the minutia of life…
all of the pettiness,
the bitterness,
the anger,
the tantrums,
the selfishness,
the lies,
the hate,
the lunacy…
you will see what is truly important…

And that is simply living,
as well as dying,
and most importantly the love that it to be found in each of those human functions.

Damn to pink hats, to rock stars, to actresses all performing for the mania…
those who now only live for the “will he or won’t he” that is gripping the minds of the hysterical,
It all matters not one iota when you find yourself slowly losing either your own life
or slowly losing the life of one you love…

It is the love found in that life that really only matters.
The love given, the love demonstrated, the love received…

May you open your heart not to the maelstrom of the mania that is currently
roaring past you…
but rather may you seek and find the love in life…
that one lasting piece of each of us that really truly only matters…

because in the end…it is only the love that will remain…

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers,
nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height
nor depth, nor anything else in all creation,
will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-38

Life lived in squalor and the healing power of music

“American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash–all of them–surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered in rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use.”
― John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”
Unknown

” A person does not hear sound only through the ears; he hears sound through every pore of his body. It permeates the entire being, and according to its particular influence either slows or quickens the rhythm of the blood circulation; it either wakens or soothes the nervous system. It arouses a person to greater passions or it calms him by bringing him peace. According to the sound and its influence a certain effect is produced. Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance. This shows that the same energy which goes into the form of sound before being visible is absorbed by the physical body. In that way the physical body recuperates and becomes charged with new magnetism.”
Hazrat Inayat Khan, Mysticism of Sound

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(an image of a small portion of the trash mountains which forms the base of Paraguay’s small city of Cateura)

As a veteran high school art teacher, I was constantly familiar with the ebb and flow of budgets.
In the lean years of the Economy–be it local, state, National, or all of the above–Educational systems would attempt their hand at creativity when it came to maintaining and offering a quality curriculum.

With losses in revenue, be they local, state or federal, activities and courses which were considered “non essential” to the learning process were always up for discussion as the yearly conversations would drift toward funding and budgets. Those programs being the initial proverbial lambs led to the slaughter of the chopping blocks were most often the Arts, Foreign Language, as well as Health and Physical Education.

One thing I always told my kids was that it has been and always will be the Arts— be it music, performance or visual, which have always given man his humanness—hence these being considered “The Humanities of Academia.

It is the Arts which makes us, man, civilized.

I could go on all day espousing the benefits of keeping the Arts in our schools. I could jump on my orator’s soap box, speaking to man’s responsibility when it comes to the Arts, as in understanding that there are parameters to creativity which are to be explored as well as respected—but I will allow a recent story as seen on 60 Minutes to speak for me and of the innate and essential relationship man has to the need for creativity–in this case, the making of music.

Sunday evening, the televised news “magazine” broadcast a story that had originally aired earlier in the television year. A story that I had originally missed.
It was the story of unspeakable poverty.
The wastefulness of man.
The creativity of Man.
As well as a story of the healing power found in both the creative process as well as in the making of music.
Hope in a sea of hopelessness.

The Recyclers: From Trash Comes Triumph
(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/recyclers-from-trash-comes-triumph-2/)

Once again it was the correspondent Bob Simon who shared the story of Paraguay’s unimaginable poverty and of the hope which rises up from the massive trash heaps–hope for the children who call Cateura, Paraguay home.

The story opens with shots of the acres and miles of trash which this small South American town has unimaginably grown up around. A city which emerged literally from the trash. Cateura is not far from the capital city of Asuncion and is the dumping ground for much of Paraguay.

As the camera panned the landscape, there was nothing but trash for as far as the eye could see. The buzzing sound of a legion of flies, off set by the sound of hundreds of birds, all looking to capitalize on some morsel from this sea of waste, was nerve racking.

And then I, the viewer, notice them—there amongst the mountains of garbage were hundreds of people, young and old, who were rooting throughout the trash, as say a pig might root through garbage, in search of anything salvageable to resell—be it plastic, glass, rubber, metal—anything that could be resold.

I, the viewer, was spared the unbearable stench but I knew it existed as many of those “digging” wore rags across their nose and mouth.
Let’s not talk about the health risks to such an endeavor. Let’s not talk about the generations of families who have made this sort of work their means of survival. Let’s not talk about how the children literally walk along narrow canals filled with feted waters and littered with trash as they navigate their way to school or anywhere for that matter. Let’s not talk about the city’s only source of water being highly toxic and contaminated. . .

It is almost incomprehensible that people live in Cateura.

And then the camera takes the viewer to a school with the unmistakable sound of orchestral music, albeit a bit out of tune, rising up from the dirty open courtyard. Suddenly we realize that the musical instruments the children are playing are not typical of what one would find in a school’s collection of instrument. These instruments give new meaning to the concept of “homemade”.

Rubbish instruments

These unlikely instruments were born from the creative thought of an environmental technician, Favio Chavez, who having come to Cateura, was amazed observing that the children of Cateura not only lived amongst the sea of trash, but they played here as well, just as other children world wide would play.

Next, meet Don Colá Gomez. Señor Gomez is a carpenter as well as a “trash digger” –but Señor Gomez digs not only for items of resale value, but he digs for something much more valuable. He digs and scavenges for items he can transform into musical instruments.

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I was amazed watching Señor Gomez cutting and shaping scrapes of metal and plastics, fashioning them into violins, guitars, cellos, clarinets, flutes, drums, etc. The tuning pins could be a broken wooden rod, a dirty and discarded hair brush. The strings stripped from pieces of plastics. Drums from x-ray plates, clarinets from old rusted pipes. A factory made violin would cost more than the average home in Cateura. Ingenuity truly having to be the mother of invention in Señor Gomez’s workshop.

The children gather in the dirty school yard each Saturday to learn to play an instrument. The older children, those who have already been playing for a while, teach the younger children. Favio Chavez explains to the reporter that “music teaches the kids respect and responsibility, not common commodities in the gang-ridden streets of Cateura.”

I imagine that the music making of which Señor Chaves explains is something much greater than that of teaching children various attributes of character but rather that the music and the orchestra is a life line for these children—connecting them to the very core of human dignity.

Señor Chavez is actually taking the children of Caturea’s orchestra on tour. There is even a documentary being put together about this ragtag orchestra “Landfill Harmonic” complete with a rather viral trailer available on YouTube.

I will leave you with the words of Mirian Rios, one of the children’s grandmother. . . “I would say it’s a blessing from God. People used to humiliate us and call us “trash pickers.” Today they are more civilized, they call us the “recyclers.” So I feel that this is a reward from God. That our children who come from this place….can play beautiful music in this way

May we all learn to play such beautiful music

Members of the Orchestra of Recycled Instruments of Cateura pose for the audience during a concert in Asuncion

“The lady’s not for turning”

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I cannot allow this day to slip away without noting a significant passing on the world stage.
Baroness and Lady, Prime Minister and mother, wife and world leader Margaret Thatcher, quietly departed this world today at the age of 87.

I admired Mrs. Thatcher tremendously. She was a woman who dared going where no woman had ever trod. She dared speaking her mind in a male dominated world and stood by her convictions, never wavering. This is not a forum for those who do not agree with Mrs. Thatcher’s politics or her leadership style. This is not a forum for disparaging remarks towards democracy or those who ardently fought to maintain (or those who continue to maintain) that of a “free” world.

Yes I know there are many who disagree in my stopping to take notice of this once very powerful world figure and the loss of her this day— and that’s ok. I know there are many who would tell me that I have no idea what I’m talking about as I am not British and did not live in England during the time she was Prime Minister. I did not live in England during WWII, nor was I even born at that time, but that has not stopped me in my deep admiration and appreciation for Sir Winston Churchill and the gift of freedom I take for granted today because of his non-tiring efforts in preserving my very freedom. A freedom that Margaret Thatcher continued fighting for.

I appreciate Mrs. Thatcher for a myriad of reasons but the most obvious is for the way she carried out her leadership style– doing so with grace and dignity. She let other woman know that they could lead, still be a woman, a wife, a mother, have strong convictions and beliefs all the while maintaining a graciousness of self.

So it is on this day that this one woman offers her appreciation to another woman for a job well done. Good show MT

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