That’s Me – Father Damien

I sometimes play a very childish game. I read the description of a product off its packaging and say, ‘That’s Me’. It started years ago when I had some Bournville plain chocolate that was described as ‘Rich, dark and really rather smooth.’

Yesterday the Cheddar cheese was ‘extra mature’ and the wine was ‘full-bodied and vibrant’. That’s me.

The story of Father Damien seems relevant in the current pandemic.

Born Jozef De Veuster in Belgium in 1840, he became the Roman Catholic Priest, Father Damien. In 1873 he went to care for 600 lepers who lived in socially-isolated medical quarantine in Hawaii. He introduced himself to them as ‘one who will be a father to you, and who loves you so much that he does not hesitate to become one of you; to live and die with you.’

He identified with the lepers. ‘That’s me’ – whatever the cost.

He built houses, dressed ulcers, made coffins, dug graves, providing medical, emotional and spiritual support. After 12 years, inevitably, Damien contracted leprosy. Over the next four years he became increasingly disfigured. Despite physical deterioration, he wrote: ‘I am calm and resigned, and very happy in the midst of my people. The good God knows what is best for my sanctification. I daily repeat from my heart, Thy will be done.’

My people’that’s me…He died in 1889.

Musing on St Paul’s words – at the end of 2Timothy, his final letter: ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.’ I aspire to be able to say, ‘That’s me’.

As we approach Advent, Christians remember a God who became man. By the mystery we call ‘incarnation’ God identifies with mankind saying ‘that’s me’; and we identify with Jesus saying ‘that’s me’.

…Let me know if you play ‘that’s me’ today – or is it just me that’s childish?

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