Damien the Leper

I read a lot of books. As a book addict, I take them from any place I can get them. Goodwill stores are a good, inexpensive source. So I picked up a few books there a couple of weeks ago. 

Damien the Leper I couldn't resist just because of the summary on the back of the book. 

     "For the Sandwich Islands- Damien de Veuster." So began,        
      nearly a century ago in a quiet, low-ceilinged library, the
      great adventure of Damien the Leper - the magnificent
      story of courage, devotion and sacrifice that has become a
      living legend throughout the world. 

I read that and thought, "Living legend throughout the world? Why haven't I read this?" So I scooped it up. 

I took it up a couple of days later and, after not too many chapters, put it aside again. It is a very Catholic book - not that there's anything wrong with that - but it moves a little slowly in the beginning and covers a lot of things not terribly interesting to Protestant me. 

Now here comes the crazy part. 

About a week later I am in Flagstaff, AZ touring an historic mansion, and we step into the library. Obviously my favorite room in the house, I stooped down to look at some of the titles. Noticing my interest, the tour guide mentioned that there was one book in the collection she really wants to read. 

Wait for it. . . . . Damien the Leper

No joke. I was startled, and let her know that I had just been reading that book after having purchased it in a Goodwill store some 450 miles away. Unbelievable. 

So, knowing that my God is a God of detail, I decided to take it back up as soon as we got back home. 

And I'm sooooooo glad that I did. 

God addressed two of my ugliest sins through this book: self pity and being critical. 

Father Damien devoted his life to living on an island caring for lepers. The Hawaiian Islands were hit hard by leprosy, and not knowing a better solution, they used quarantine. They shipped all lepers to an isolated island, where the conditions were deplorable. I will spare you the details, but when one of the lepers escaped and made the horrors more widely known, the Catholic church leaders in the area decided to do something. God bless them for it. 

Father Damien, who was serving in a parish on another island in Hawaii,  30 years of age and in excellent physical condition, volunteered to remain on the island for the rest of his life, and undoubtedly die of the disease. 

What a hero. He was an incredibly brave, amazing man. 

I was so inspired. His selfless sacrifice, all in the name of duty and wishing to share the love of God with these poor, suffering people, left me awestruck. 

Putting others first does not come easily for me. I never knew how selfish I am until I became a stay at home Mom. Being at someone else's beck and call takes a toll. 

And I get to care for healthy people that I love and am related to, unlike Father Damien.

No more whining. No more self-pity parties. I am not my own. It is a privilege to care for the ones I love most in the world. And a joy to be able to. 

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 
For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body." I Corinthians 6:19-20

Next week, I'll share with you from the letter written by Robert Louis Stevenson in defense of Father Damien that changed my perspective on being critical. It is powerful. 

No comments:

Post a Comment