Damien of the lepers

damienWhen Joseph was a boy, he had a dream.

He wanted to become a priest.

Even better, Joseph had someone to share his dream with – his brother. The two of them decided to do something incredible with their lives. As young men do, they dreamed big. Not only would they be priests, they’d be missionaries. And since they were brothers, they’d follow two holy brothers to give them inspiration – the sainted twins Cosmos and Damian.

Things went well for the duo at first. Both eventually began studying for the priesthood. Soon Joseph’s older brother was ordained. But things didn’t go so well for Joseph. He had a problem with Latin, and you know what that means. The superiors of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary didn’t feel he had the proper education to become a priest. So, Joseph watched his brother become a missionary priest, while he was left behind.

But God still had a plan for Joseph.

He became a brother, taking the name Damien. Everyday he prayed before a picture of St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission. His brother was assigned to the Hawaiian Islands as a missionary, but became ill. Damien, even though he had not yet been ordained, stepped out in faith and asked to replace his brother.

When he received permission, Damien set off for the islands. What greeted him was certainly a lush and beautiful site, extraordinarily exotic to the young Belgian. But Damien was a missionary, not a tourist. After spending nine years in Honolulu, he felt called to request a perilous assignment. He wanted to go to Molokai, the Island of Lepers.

He must’ve been crazy.

Why would he do such a thing? What man in his right mind would ask to be sent to such a horrible place, a place filled with suffering, hopeless people – people who have nothing to offer but a highly contagious horrific disease????

Why?

Damien sought to bring hope. He had the peace that no man can give, the peace that no man can explain – the peace that comes from a relationship with Jesus. Eager to share that with those who suffered, he willingly gave his life to the people of Molokai.

Damien was instructed to not touch the lepers. This request he did not obey. He was told to keep his distance. He couldn’t follow that advice either. He touched the lepers, dressing their wounds. He embraced them, bringing them close to his heart.

You know by now that of course Damien became a leper. Eventually he died there on Molokai with his people, and was buried with two thousand other lepers near St. Philomena’s Church.

Throughout his life, Damien sought to follow the will of God, and to serve his neighbor. Last Sunday, he was canonized a saint.FatherDamien

The PIME Missionaries join the international Catholic community in celebrating the canonization of missionary priest Damien De Veuster. Inspired by his example, may we do the impossible, the outrageous, the unbelievable thing for God.

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try this on Sunday

manPrayingIn parishes around the world there always seems to be a line after mass of people who want to speak with the priest.

Many of these people do something that sort of bugs me. They ask the priest to pray for them, their family, a sick friend, a lost job, every little medical issue and/or a million other things.

Now do not get me wrong, it is good to ask people and priests to pray for things in our lives all the time. But this being the Year of the Priests and all I think we need to start something a little different.

Instead of giving the priest our laundry list of prayers we should ask the priest if there is anything he needs prayers for. Or simply say to him, “I am keeping you in my prayers.”

Our priests need support to be strong holy men of God. We need to be the ones to lift them up so that they can come back down and give us Christ. Let these men in your life know that you are praying for them.

Giovanni Vitale, II
Outreach Coordinator
outreach@pimeusa.org

charity in truth

“People of good will” – wake up. Our Holy Father has words for you.

The long-awaited papal encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” – Charity in Truth – has been presented to us as a guide for interpreting the virtue of charity and its role in forming Catholic social teaching.

Acknowledging the “great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized,” Benedict XVI exhorts the faithful to turn always to God’s Love and to be “illumined by the light of reason and faith.”

For those of us with a “missionary spirit,” there is much food for thought in this letter.

Some points to ponder taken from the text:

Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine.

Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity.

Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.

Charity goes beyond justice.

To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.

The sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development proceeds, is not guaranteed by merely technical progress and relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21).

Man does not develop through his own powers, nor can development simply be handed to him.

The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase.

Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church.

One of the most striking aspects of development in the present day is the important question of respect for life, which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples.

This is what gives rise to the duty of believers to unite their efforts with those of all men and women of good will, with the followers of other religions and with non-believers, so that this world of ours may effectively correspond to the divine plan: living as a family under the Creator’s watchful eye.

Development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all.

Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer.

The PIME Missionaries are keenly interested in the development of poor nations, in feeding the hungry, and, most importantly, in bringing the Truth of the Gospel to all. These words of the Holy Father bring to life the very soul of a PIME missionary:

Thus adherence to the law etched on human hearts is the precondition for all constructive social cooperation. Every culture has burdens from which it must be freed and shadows from which it must emerge. The Christian faith, by becoming incarnate in cultures and at the same time transcending them, can help them grow in universal brotherhood and solidarity, for the advancement of global and community development.

Read the entire encyclical here.