Father Damien was a preist in the late 1800s who served the exiled leper community in Hawaii. He went and lived with them. He served them as the Lord called him. This is a Hymn called “Leper’s Song” sung during mass by the colony’s inhabitants. It was composed by a native poet.
When, oh when shall it be given to me
To behold my God?
Oh when shall the captivity of my wretched soul
Cease in this strang land where night and day
Weeping alone is my portion;
When oh when shall I leave this valley of sorrow,
Where the only bread I eat is my continual tears?
When, oh when shall I see my well-beloved Lord?
Prince of the heavens is he,
Guardian of my soul, my Hope, my savior,
Saint Damien’s final days as recorded by his confrere: “Saturday, the thritieth, he prepared for death. I twas truly edifying to see him. He seemed so happy. After I had heard his general confession, I made my connfession to him. Then we renewed the vows that bind us to the congregation. The following day, he recieved the holy viaticum. During the day he was bright and cheerful, as usual. ‘Look at my hands,’ he said. ‘All the wounds are closing, and the crust is turning black. That is the sign of imminent death. I am not mistaken, for I have seen many lepers die.’
He died of leprosy.
The hymn reminds me of the great hope that is Jesus Christ. Those who are dying, but dying slowly and painfully sing out that He is their Hope, He is their Savior, He is their All! Jesus is a penetrating force.
The last words of this man are challenging. God has called us all, into different circumstances and different places. That we would be filled with joy and peace as we lay dying is worth striving for. As this man lay dying, looking at his hands he knew his time was near because he had buried so many with the same disease, he knew he risked everything coming to serve them, he knew it was his calling, he knew God was with him and had used him. Peace and Joy at the end.