85,000 people who gathered in a football stadium in Brussels, to celebrate the centenary of Blessed Damien the, leper priest (beatified by Pope St, John Paul II, in 1995). Father Damien had lived for sixteen years in a remote corner of one of the remotest
islands in the Pacific. He worked with lepers and, like Jesus in today’s Gospel, word spread about him far and near. He was written about in newspapers from England to Australia.
The day of our gathering was a national holiday in Belgium. The king and queen attended. The whole country was en fete. And all for one man who spent sixteen years working at the back of beyond, but working in Jesus’ name, and doing his work. (It coincided –
with the centenary of the birth of Adolf Hitler; and there were no celebrations.)
Blessed Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI, October 11, 2009; his feast day is celebrated May 10. There is a beautiful song by Marilla Ness called “He Touched Me.” It has a haunting melody, and the words are powerful and moving.
“He touched me and oh, the joy that fills my soul; something happened: now I know: he touched me, and made me whole.”
Today’s Gospel describes how the healing touch of Jesus made a leper whole.