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We lepers…

2015-09-07 07:18

Damian of Molokai was fantastic!  He not only chose to leave “normal” society in order to live with and care for, an isolated colony of people with leprosy, but identified with them to such an extent that, one day, he was able to stand up in church and say, “We lepers”. 

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In caring for his flock, he had become so completely identified with his people that he became one of them. 

From that moment in time, his whole relationship with the residents of Molokai changed.  Beforehand, he had bathed and dressed his patients’ wounds, both physical and spiritual, but from that morning onwards, they were able to return the favour.  Suddenly they were able to exchange remedies and solutions that might make life more bearable.  Suddenly Damian discovered what it was like, not to choose to live amongst the rejected and the despised, but to be forced into the situation of himself becoming one of the rejected and despised.  Hitherto he had fought on behalf of others.  Now, he was only able to fight at a distance, because he could no longer be admitted into the homes and haunts of the “healthy”.  Suddenly, Damian learned what it was like, not only to the helplessness of being unable to struggle on behalf of others, but to experience the utter helplessness of also being able to do anything for himself.

Before Damian contracted leprosy himself, he was a very holy, very good man. His conduct once he was ill made him a saint.  Not everybody can identify with someone who is so utterly selfless that they are able to care to levels beyond the capacity of most human beings. However, most of us know what it is like to struggle, to feel helpless, to be ill, to need support, to suffer to a degree that can seem unbearable.  That was Damian’s greatness.  That was Damian’s identification with the people of Molokai: he not only loved them.  He became so completely one of them that, suffering with their own pain, he lived and died as one of them.

In today’s world, there are many who are suffering for one reason or another.  There are many who have lost a baby, have a disabled child, have a friend or relative injured or killed by some tragedy, face financial ruin, have someone they know and love who is imprisoned, are made redundant, know that their sickness is life-threatening, and so on. Anybody who has a loving heart can feel sympathy for these unfortunate people and can respond in a caring, loving way. That response is, perhaps, even greater when someone, through the personal experience of that pain, grows through it and offers the insight and compassion learned through identification and sharing.

“The only wasted experience is the one where nothing has been learned.”

Perhaps my pain can be used to alleviate the pain of others.  Perhaps I can lighten their burden by walking alongside them.  Perhaps my own helplessness can actually be a source of strength and healing.  Perhaps, like Damian, like Jesus, my own suffering is redemptive.

Why not try Saints for the Sick by Joan Carrol CruzSaints for the Sick is a book that reinforces our Catholic faith and gives renewed hope to those who are dealing with bodily struggles. Moreover, it puts us in touch with heavenly intercessors who will gladly help us for they know exactly what we are going through on earth.

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