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)

human

“Do you know what the definition of insane is?
Yes.
It’s the inability to relate to another human being.
It’s the inability to love.”

― Richard Yates


(Leonardo’s Vitruvian man / 1490)

So last night, as I sat flipping through a bit of television, I stopped to catch a bit
of the reality singing competition The Voice.
I don’t like watching much that is offered on television.
I find most everything to be repulsive, in poor taste, vile, overtly violent, offensively
borderline pornographic, or plain silly, dumb and insulting to one’s intellect and moral code.

So I took my chances with people singing who were wanting to win a singing competition.
Relatively benign…that is until the judges open their mouths.

One of the guy contestants chose to sing the song Human and made the comment that
he was all about love and none of the current hating mindset ravaging the country…
what with all the full blown contempt everyone seems to have for those who may differ
in opinion than, say, their fellow man….

His particular song of choice has been around a while with a myriad of remakes.

Maybe I’m foolish
Maybe I’m blind
Thinking I can see through this
And see what’s behind
Got no way to prove it
So maybe I’m blind
But I’m only human after all
I’m only human after all
Don’t put your blame on me
Don’t put your blame on me

It’s a nice enough sentiment I suppose.

As in I’m just human….
full of vulnerability, foibles and obviously error prone.
So don’t blame me…..

But herein lies the rub….or at least the problem.

It’s that whole “don’t blame me” sort of mentality that currently has us in
the worst of trouble.

It’s the passing of the blame.
It’s the “I’m right, you’re wrong” tit for tat, back and forth we go mentality.
It’s the lack of stepping up to the plate of responsibility.
The whole deferring to taking responsibility for ones actions.
Act like a bafoon one minute then maybe apologize later if you get caught.
“I didn’t mean to, I’m only human”

It’s the “uh oh—it seems that when I got mad and decided to go join the protest,
getting caught up in the excitement of the destructive moment and threw that brick through
that bank’s plate glass window then helped overturn the police car, lighting it on fire…
well, your honor, I’m only human and didn’t really mean it….

For you see, that sort of mindset does not hold water….
and yet sadly that is the mindset sweeping through our land.
I’m really not responsible for what I do because as a human, screwing up is just part and parcel…
Add all those thinking along the same lines and you get….
Irresponsible manic mania.

Is it not enough that there is a sweeping lack of moral conviction,
humankind irresponsibility or a total lack of understanding for those who
actually believe in taking the higher ground…
but now we simply blame it on our humanness.

Contrary to popular belief,
we are called to stand up and be accountable to not only ourselves but to our fellow man.
We are called to be responsible for our actions.
We are called to be respectful to ourselves as well as to others.

The code for living that was delivered to Moses was pretty simple…as well as clear cut.

Recently I caught an interview over on Fox News with their chief Religion correspondent,
Lauren Green….
She has a new book out, Lighthouse Faith: God as a Living Reality in a World Immersed in Fog

Lauren explains the title of her book as being based on the concept of the Ten Commandments.
She notes that “here you have a seminal point found in the very first commandment…”
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Lauren goes on to explain that by breaking commandants 2-10, you will always have broken 1.
As number 1 is the pinnacle that everything else descends from.
A very academic and legal approach to looking at how we are to be living our lives…

So yes…we are only human—
perfectly formed and lovingly made—
by an awesome and Omnipotent God who knew, that in our vulnerable humanness,
we would need a set of rules to live by—simple and straightforward…
yet as only as we humans could…we messed up simple and straightforward—

And so now enters the One who takes that humanness of brokeness and error
and brings both healing and Grace…

This is love: not that we loved God,
but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4:10

tradition

“The great movement of apostasy being organized in every country
for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas,
nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions,
and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity,
would bring back to the world (if such a Church could overcome)
the reign of legalized cunning and force,
and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer…
Indeed, the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries, nor innovators:
they are traditionalists.”

Pope Pius X

The importance of tradition and traditionalists as it and they relate to innovations
and innovators as to progress and progressivism, as to development and developmentism and
so forth and so on…
As it and they are not either deterrent nor stumbling block as so often smugly assumed…
but rather the very lynchpin to the essence of our humanness….
Sever it from man and you take away his humanity…

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort,
with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure
sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers
to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening
to the truth and wander off into myths.

2 Timothy 4:2-4

Humbling encounters

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.
Henry David Thoreau

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(a wee field sparrow visits the yard / Julie Cook / 2015)

It often borders on the spiritual. . .
Magical moments
Brief encounters
Hushed observations
It is when Nature is at her best with the local, and not so local, residents known as
Wildlife.

Most often times, these intimately captured moments and / or encounters
are much more sublime than wild.
These are the marvelous moments which. . .
soothe our nerves
slow us down
and wow our senses. . .
We take on the role of voyeur with our indirect interactions stealthily from afar.

To be so close, yet to go unnoticed as to allow “their” life to go on as it normally would, without our interruptions, our disturbances, our infringing, our alarming, our misguided desire to be closer than we should. . .
We see them as they are. . .
Free
Uninhibited
Reckless with abandon
Just simply happy to live
To eat
To fight
To play
To exist. . .
Uninhibited and unhindered. . . without our intervention and interaction—
Allowing those so fortunate a brief and tender taste of the Divine, just by merely being in close proximity.

We are humbled, being taken out of ourselves for but a brief moment.
Mesmerized
Content
Honored
Awed
We reconnect a part of ourselves to them.
A natural order seems to return to the world which otherwise is frustratingly spiraling out of our control.
There is a harmony and rhythmic accord which sweetly slips back into balance. . .
Which leaves us feeling forever grateful.

We may exhale and rest in the tiny window afforded us, a sneak peek into God’s masterful order
Be it quick,
Be it brief
Be it short lived
We regain our humanness
Our sense of wonder
Our decency. . .
For the quickly passing precious secret moments of observation, as well as for their presence in our lives, helps to make our existence happier, calmer, more joyous and seemingly better. . .

But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this?
Job 12:7-9

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