Although Fr. Damien spent most of his days among those he served, ministering to them both physically and spiritually, he also knew that he needed time alone with God to be prepared for the work he was doing. In this way he was much like Christ, who often left even His disciples to go and seek out a quiet place to pray.
Fr. Damien, however, had a favorite place for meditation which might seem strange to some - the church cemetery: "My greatest pleasure is to go there (the cemetery) to say my beads and meditate on the unending happiness which so many of them are already enjoying." There he sat and contemplated eternal life with God, surrounded by the stillness of the whitewashed tombstones, many of which he, himself, had put in place. In the hushed silence he was able to gather the grace and strength he needed to bring life to the community of lepers whose only escape from the disease was eventual death.
Charles de Foucald once wrote: "One must pass through solitude and dwell in it to receive God's grace. It is there that one empties oneself, that one drives before oneself all that is not God, and that one completely empties this little house of our soul to leave room for God alone." Ironically, Fr. Damien found the best place to "empty the little house of his soul" was also a place he could prepare his own soul for eternity.
It's not always easy to find neither the time nor the place to be completely alone, but it is important if we want to make our prayer effective. Let's begin this week with the determination to carve out a space in each day devoted completely to our relationship with God, as St. Damien did.
St. Damien of Molokai, pray for us!