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The Liturgical Calendar: The Church Remembers

Today the church remembers Damien, Priest and Leper, 1889, and Marianne, Religious, 1918, of Molokai.

When Jozef de Veuster was ordained a priest in the Roman church, he begged to be sent abroad as a missionary. Initially, he was refused, but when his brother, a fellow priest, fell ill, the newly named Fr. Damien was allowed to take his place. He arrived in Hawai"i in 1864. Soon after arrival, however, he found himself drawn to a further mission: tending the colony on Molokai of native Hawai"ians stricken with leprosy.

Damien volunteered for the assignment to be chaplain and priest to the lepers" colony. He had to plead again, when the bishop of Hawai"i hesitated to send someone to live there because of the mortal danger of infection. Damien, though he was well, went and lived as one of the sick: saying prayers, building houses, tending crops, and, when necessary, building coffins. Six months after his arrival, he wrote to his brother back in Belgium: “I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.”

Damien broke through the physical and spiritual isolation, and he brought God"s allencompassing love and care for people who had been abandoned. He was a physical sign of Christ"s light abiding with them, even as the rest of the world seemed darkened.

He died of leprosy in 1889, sixteen years after his arrival in Molokai.

Compassionate God, who sent Jesus to live as one of us, help us to embody your love for all who are outcast. Amen.

Read the Wikipedia article here.

God of compassion, we bless your Name for the ministries of Damien and Marianne, who ministered to the lepers abandoned on Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands. Help us, following their examples, to be bold and loving in confronting the incurable plagues of our time, that your people may live in health and hope; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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