"Not without fear and loathing", Pope Benedict XVI pointed out at St. Damien's canonization, "Father Damian made the choice to go to the island of Molokai in the service of lepers who were there, abandoned by all." What gave him the strength to persevere, to face the sickness, the despair and the loneliness?
In a letter, Fr. Damien himself gives the answer: "I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Savior in the Holy Eucharist...It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine wold be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content...Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid, then, in your solitary conversations to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and an open heart."
Such a beautiful and hope-filled statement! It gives us reason to immediately want to seek out a chapel, to kneel down and pour our hearts out to our Lord! If Fr. Damien could find refuge there, have his faith and joy renewed, then we can also. We are never truly alone if we have Christ; He is there waiting for us to speak with Him. As Fr. Damien tells us, whether someone is the greatest scholar and theologian or performs the simplest menial occupation, God is capable of bestowing His blessings and love equally on all. We never have to be afraid of saying the right words, of trying to impress Him with our goodness, or of pretending to be someone we are not: we only have to trust in Christ's mercy and love for us. No amount of money, fame, beauty or prestige can make God love us more than He already does.
Fr. Damien was able to serve the people of Molokai for sixteen years before he died of leprosy. During that time he spent much time in front of the Blessed Sacrament praying for wisdom and strength in ministering to the lepers. He knew he was not able to go on without Jesus Christ. Neither are we! "What a friend we have in Jesus; all our sins and griefs to bear - What a privilege to carry, everything to God in prayer!"
St. Damien of Molokai, pray for us!