Have you heard of St. Damien? This Belgian farm boy, shortly after being ordained a priest, volunteered to serve a colony of lepers on the isolated island of Molokai, Hawaii. From May 1873, until his death in 1889 at the age of 49, St. Damien worked to restore within the lepers a sense of personal worth and dignity.
Leprosy is a hideous disease. St. Damien wrote in his journal: “Many a time, in fulfilling my priestly duties at the lepers’ homes, I have been obliged, not only to close my nostrils, but to remain outside to breathe fresh air.” Their appearance was horrid, their smell putrid. Yet, St. Damien chose to remain.
Although St. Damien first took precautions to ensure that he did not contract leprosy, he knew that physical touch was necessary to communicate his love and concern. He embraced the lepers, dined with them, cared for them and anointed them in the sacraments. Demonstrating great humility and sacrifice, St. Damien offered his own life in order to save the lives of others.
What was the source of his strength, and of his inspiration? “Were it not for the constant presence of our divine Master in our humble chapel, I would not have found it possible to persevere in sharing the lot of the lepers in Molokai,” St. Damien wrote. “The Eucharist is the bread that gives strength … It is at once the most eloquent proof of His love and the most powerful means of fostering His love in us. He gives Himself every day so that our hearts as burning coals may set afire the hearts of the faithful.”
St. Damien found his strength in the Mass, the greatest prayer of the Church. Prayer was the impetus behind the generosity of this faithful servant of God, and is the fuel that ignites every heart to flame in love. If we are not dedicated to prayer, or the grace that flows from the sacraments, we are then incapable of leading lives of service and responding to God’s call!
How much time do you dedicate to prayer each day? One hour? Fifteen minutes? None at all? When pondering the three Ts of stewardship – time, talent and treasure – the component of time holds the position of greatest importance. Time serves as the fertile ground from which the gifts of talent and treasure blossom. Only by spending time in prayer each day and receiving the sacraments, are we able to consistently and generously donate our talent and treasure to the Church.
Have you considered joining a parish ministry or volunteering your talents in service? Wonderful! But before you make a commitment, be sure that prayer is your foundation. Develop a manageable prayer schedule. This may entail arising 20 minutes early each day to offer your work to the Lord, or attending daily Mass once a week. Every prayer commitment is unique and personal. Yet, no matter what, the offering of our time and our dedication to prayer are the keys to serving the Lord with faithfulness, generosity and joy.