opening ourselves with the hinging daylight hours

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

cold rain on my face. ;-)

Its been rainy and cold for quite a few days now. There was ice on Sunday (today is Wednesday). Its rainy, but I am grateful to feel the water on my face, and the confluences of joy and sorrow in my life. Today we remember Bd. Damien of Molokai, a priest and leper (1840-1889). He was a compassionate man who felt called to live with the leper colony on the Hawaian island of Molokai. Damien died on APril 15th, today on tax day, 1889. Perhaps one should draw a correlation as the IRS as a modern day equivilant of leprosy, the lack of any feeling.In the rain today Lenny, one of the junior farmers, and I made our own rain barrel cacthment system for a house gutter. We filmed the whole process, we are going to finish the editing and enter it into an EPA water film contest.

I am really excited about this project because we recently stumbled upon an unlimited supply of 55 gallon barrels at a neighboring factory here in Waterfront SOuth. Perhaps one day we will receive a mini-fortune in tax abatements for taking over the world with sweet rainwater catchment systems, or even better, the monies that are accumulated from war-tax resisters will gravitate to the hands of the Junior Farmers, and the homeland security of waste-stream harvesting. 

These barrels are from the waste stream. Don't let the hairy green monster fool you I live near some paper, scrap, and aluminum recycling plants, and these are some of the worste polluters of the air, water, land, and quality of life around. Even though I think the factory where these barrels come from put off a horrible oder as they compost licorice root, they are still my neighbors, and I am very excited to acquire these clean barrels and save the factory $6 a barrel, an act of love, and possibly even solidarity? Maybe they will barter with us if enough people come here for their barrels, barter and build a containment facility. The barrels had previously contained high fructose corn syrup, a substance that is considered "non-toxic." One-hundred and twenty years from now a young woman will be resarching high fructose corn syrup and she will be stunned by the direct subsidies to the corn industries, the artifically high tariffs in the sugar industry, and the fact that people ate and drink, nursed and medicated themselves HIgh Fructose Corn Syrup.

As soon as the sun comes back out again we are going to plant our poppies, and then all the seeds will emerge from the ground that we planted these past two weeks.Everything will explode this weekend, as they anticipate it being near 70 degrees F.  Tomorrow is a day whether it is wet or dry, that you can go outside and just through your (coldweather) seeds around, and they will germinate before your eyes. After reading about Bd. Damien I have come to appreciate feeling so cold. The cold rain is a blessing. It is a deep feeling. THe tragic curse of leprosy is the lack of any feeling. Lepers would not know if they placed their hand on a burning stove,  until they smelled it burning, but they would never feel it. I am so grateful for all that I am feeling, of joy and sorrow, and mostly cold and wet. What a blessing it is to be a compassionate lover feeling and waiting for the good seed to come out of t
Site of leper colony, Hawaiin Island of Molokai
he ground. I close my eyes and I can see all the turnips, peas, potatoes, radishes carrots, spinach, beets, and wildflower seed in the damp and cold earth, ready and eager to emerge ad meet me, and you, like a midnight train.

After reading of Bd. Damien I was shocked to learn that leprosy was still around in 1889. I thought that was only a curse of the Bible times. I have copied and pasted a little write-up of Bd. Damien, a saint of compassion and suffering. God bless you and may you feel again, and catch the rain of your spiritual leprosy.

Damien De Veuster, a young Belgian priest, had served nine years as a missionery in the Hawaiian Islands when he felt called to request a perilous assignment.  He asked his superiors to be allowed to serve on the island of Molokai, the notorious leper colony. (source

Westerners had arrived in the Hawaiian Islands only late in the eighteenth century, finding a native population of about three hundred thousand.  Within a hundred years the ravages of disease had reduced this number to fifty thousand.  Among many illnesses, the most dreaded scourge was leprosy.  The first case appeared only in 1840, but within thirty years it had reached epidemic proportions.  Helpless to control its spread and unable at that time to offer any remedy, the authorities responded in 1868 by establishing a leper settlement on 

the remote and inaccessible island of Molokai.  By law, Hawaiians found to be suffering from the disease were snatched by force from their families and communities and sent to this island exile to perish.

It was to this island that Father Damien was assigned.  From the beginning he sought to instill in the members of his “parish” a sense of self-worth and dignity.  His first task was to restore dignity to death.  Where previously the deceased were tossed into shallow graves to be consumed by pigs and dogs, he designed a clean and fenced-in cemetery and established a proper burial society.  He constructed a church and worked alongside the people building clean new houses.  Within several years of his arrival the island was utterly transformed, no longer a way-station to death, it had become a proud and joyful community.

As part of his effort to uplift the self-esteem of his flock, Damien realized from the beginning that he must not shrink from contact with the people.  Despite the horrid physical effects of the disease, he insisted on intimate contact with them.  When he preached, he made a habit of referring to his flock not as “my brothers and sisters,“ but as “we lepers.” 

Old Fr. Damien of MolokaiOne day this reference assumed a new meaning, as Damien recognized in himself the unmistakable symptoms of the disease.  Now he was truly one with the suffering of his people, literally confined, as they were, to the island of Molokai.  Despite the advancing illness, which eventually ravaged his body, he redoubled his efforts, working tirelessly in his building projects and his pastoral responsibilities.

In his last years he suffered terrible bouts of loneliness, feeling keenly the lack of a religious community of support, and even the opportunity to receive absolution.  On one occasion a visiting bishop refused to disembark from his ship.  Damien rowed out to meet him and suffered the humiliation of shouting up his confession.  Because of fear of contagion he was even forbidden to visit the mission headquarters of his order in Honolulu.

Damien died of leprosy on April 15, 1889.  By that time his fame had spread widely throughout the world.  He was beatified in 1995 by Pope John Paul II.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

this is beautiful, andrea. i am sitting in an office on a 5th floor in north philadelphia, watching the sun pour down over layers of rowhomes. im wondering how my beet, carrot, lettuce and radish sprouts are doing.
peace to you. -joel