On Sunday, October 11, in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI canonized Father Damien of Molokai. This Belgium priest went as a missionary to the Hawaiian archipelago at the end of the 19th century. He spent his life on the island of Molokai, totally giving of himself to those with leprosy, dying himself of the disease in 1889 when he was only 49 years old.
In 1995, Father Thierry de Roucy, founder and chairman of Heart’s Home, suggested Father Damien of Molokai as a dynamic model of compassion for the first permanent members of Heart’s Home. That’s why many were present in Rome for this event.
We went with seven other Heart’s Home members to Rome for the canonization. During this trip we took the opportunity to visit Naples, a city where Heart’s Home has been growing and making deep friendships since 1998.
In discovering Neapolitan life in the very center of the Afragola neighborhood, or exploring Rome, these three days were totally exciting for us. Starting our trip in Tremelo, a small village in Belgium, we passed through Kalawao in spirit, and arrived in Rome to behold the impressive painted image of Father Damien fluttering above the 20,000 people in Saint Peter’s Square, gathered for the canonization mass.
The followind day, at seven in the morning and before the crowds invaded Saint Peter’s Basilica, Father Raphael (one of our 5 priests ordained in June) celebrated Mass for us inside the Basilica. From my point of view, the architectural and artistic majesty of this place, expressing 2000 years of history, exceeds human understanding. Afterwards, we visited the tomb of John Paul II.
Despite all these awesome experiences though, we still seem to be somewhat deaf and blind to the mystery of God’s revelation: Nevertheless, thanks to the Church, we could, from Simon Peter to John PaulII, knee in reverence before history, which reveals the mystery of God made flesh.