St. Damien wasn’t a white savior, but he was like Christ

His mission wasn’t to bestow salvation on them, but to help restore them to a life of dignity that they deserved as fellow human beings, by teaching them about Christ, by helping them to take care of themselves, and most of all by becoming one of them.

Read the rest of my latest for The Catholic Weekly.

Image: By Sydney B. Swift [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1 thought on “St. Damien wasn’t a white savior, but he was like Christ”

  1. Thank you for remembering good St. Damien. I have always admired him, ever since I read a biography of him as a child. He was truly the Mother Teresa of his day, giving up a more conventual life in Belgium, to bring Jesus to the most despised and feared humans on earth.

    As you say, he got no respect from his peers or others, and had to endure false accusations attacking his reputation and the purity of his vocation as a chaste priest. Only after a period of time did the lepers learn to love and trust him.

    Because he had been exposed to the lepers, other priests did not dare to come in contact with him, even to hear his Confession in private. Occasionally, a visiting priest would hear his Confession on the deck of a boat, while poor St. Damien had to shout his sins and ask for forgiveness from a row boat alongside the larger boat, while everyone watched and listened. How many of us would endure even a little humiliation and lack of privacy in order to go to Confession?

    He worked himself into an early grave, giving up everything for his beloved lepers. He personally built homes, a church, and a school. He did the hard work of planting gardens for food, with little help because the poor lepers’ arms, hands, fingers, and legs were eaten away with disease. He suffered with them, and he brought them joy and hope through the Mass and Sacraments. And he loved them, as only a good pastor can.

    God bless us all, and pray for us, St. Damien – Susan, ofs

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