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Leaving like Damien

Today we celebrate our brother, Damien. What a change it must have been for him to leave Leuven for Paris and even more Paris for Hawaii! In this fundamental action of leaving, Damien accepted that it entailed ruptures and conversions from the God he had known to the God yet to be known. In his first letter to Father Euthyme Rouchouze, the Superior General, Damien shares with him what this "leaving" meant, likening it to a second "missionary" novitiate, and very different to the novitiate in Louvain or Issy: "In place of a tranquil and retired type of life, missionary life is traveling as much by sea as by land, on horseback as on foot; in place of keeping silence it is necessary to speak all sorts of languages, and with people of every background; in place of being directed, one has to direct oneself and what is often the most difficult to conserve in the midst of a thousand annoyances and miseries, a spirit of recollection and prayer.” (Damien's letter to the Superior General, Euthyme Rouchouze, Hawaii, November 1, 1864).

The God that Damien came to know during his time of formation in Louvain and Issy continued to accompany him in these new lands. But Damien had to seek him and discover him with new eyes: in a different culture: in his encounters with different people, in making him known in 3 different languages, in new ways of praying, in the midst of worries and miseries. How his image and his relationship with God must have changed! May Damien inspire each one of us to enter into a new missionary novitiate, disposing us to seek and listen to the living God, even in his sometimes long silences.


Alberto Toutin sscc

Superior General