Sunday, October 25, 2009

Little Miracles

Miracles occur every day and all around us. They are so commonplace that I think we don’t even stop to notice them. I recently was inspired to write about a few of those that I have seen in my lifetime because I was motivated by the recent canonization of one Fr. Damien. In doing a little research of the good Father (Joseph de Veuster), I stumbled upon his story and that uncovered another little "miracle" for me. That it took 120 years for the church to recognize this man!

Damien was a Belgian missionary priest who left his homeland forever to minister to the Hawaiian Islands natives. Not bad duty at all. If you are going to save the heathens, then why not save them in a place like Hawaii? This was in 1863. He spent the next 10 years building churches with his own hands and, no doubt, saving scores of pagan babies.

On 10 May, 1873, Father Damien, at his own request, went to Molokai Island where the Government kept segregated all persons afflicted with the loathsome disease of leprosy. There were then 600 lepers. For a long time, Father Damien was the only one to bring them the help they so greatly needed. He not only administered the consolations of religion, but also rendered them such little medical service and bodily comforts as were within his power. He dressed their ulcers, helped them erect their cottages, and went so far as to dig their graves and make their coffins. After twelve years of this heroic service he discovered in himself the first symptoms of the disease. This was in 1885. He nevertheless continued his charitable ministrations, being assisted at this period by two other priests and two lay brothers. On 28 March, 1889, Father Damien became helpless and passed away shortly after, closing his fifteenth year in the service of the lepers.

Damien spent a third of his life with lepers who, prior to his arrival and shunned by society, and lived in miserable conditions. Under his leadership, basic laws were enforced, shacks became painted houses, working farms were organized and schools were erected. At his own request, and that of the lepers, Father Damien remained on Molokai. President Obama recently praised Damien who “gave voice to the voiceless” and dignity to the sick.”

The Catholic Church does nothing quickly or often logically. Damien was sainted over 120 years after his death based on the evidence of two separate events that occured over one hundred years apart and half a world distant. The miracles, in his case, were that two women suffering hideous illnesses would pray to him, a non-sainted priest. One had a horrible intestinal disease and the other was growing fist-sized tumors and had lung cancer. Both were inexplicably cured after interceding with Fr. Damien through prayer. Whether Damien had anything to do with the cures is really irrelevant. I submit that he earned his sainthood here on earth. It's a shame that it takes so long for his church to recognize it as well.

It’s a another miracle in itself that there are people among us like us. Those that give up everything for what appears to be nothing in it for them or worse. Pat Tillman comes to mind. Mother Teresa. Mohandas Ghandi. Jack Bauer. Well, maybe not Jack.

But there are so many more that we never hear of, or hear of just for a moment in time. On January 30, 1994, Aris Espinosa, a 13-year-old boy from Lanao del Norte, Philippines, did something for his friends. A grenade on the ground was about to explode near the children, Aris quickly jumped and covered the grenade with his own body. The children were saved by the courageous and unselfish act.

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