I’m in the middle of interviews and research for two stories I’m working on about human tragedy that have particularly touched my heart.
The first story is on the plight of albino people in Tanzania. I learned about it from a Tanzanian nun to whom I gave a ride one evening after the Mass at the Schoenstatt Marian Shrine in Milwaukee. She’s working to raise funds to help these people and alerted me to the severity of their situation. You see, in Tanzania there’s a superstition that albino body parts can be made into potions and other oddities that will bring health and good fortune to the bearer. So, vigilanty groups go around whacking off the body parts – arms, legs, heads – of any albinos they can get their hands on. This is done while the person is still alive. If this disgusts you, good. It should.
The other story is about the people who contracted Hansen’s disease (leprosy) and were banished to a desolate area of the Hawaiian island of Molokai. The angle of the story is the upcoming canonization of Father Damien de Veuster, Belgian priest who gave his life in the service of these people during the latter half of the 1800s. Hansen’s patients were considered unclean -yes, like in Biblical times – and sent to a secluded Molokai peninsula and kept there away from family, friends, civilization. Of those who married, some of them refrained from having children. For those who did have chilren, the child was taken immediately after birth and brought to the other side of the island where someone else raised him/her. Things have changed since the 1800s and we now know that the disease is curable and patients can lead normal lives within society. However, remnants of the original leprosy colony still reside on that remote side of Molokai and no one under the age of 16 is allowed to visit that area of the island. Childless seclusion has become a way of life for them.
These two stories keep playing over and over in my head. So deeply have they impacted me that last night I dreamed that a scourge had hit our country and children were dying left and right. A government agency was going around grinding the bodies into “hamburger” and forcing the parents to cook and eat it. Gruesome, I know. But it’s a symptom of the effects these two stories have had on my soul. In reality, the abortion practices that are running rampant and the proposed health care reforms in this country aren’t too far off from my dream. These should be affecting all of our souls deeply. We must never allow ourselves to become immune to tragedy.
Whenever I find myself overwhelmed by things I can’t control, whenever I’m shaken by calamity or heartbreak, a verse from a prayer in my Schoenstatt prayerbook comes to mind:
“Whatever was too earthbound in our thinking
and too human in our giving of self
God desired to direct upwards
and anchor entirely in himself.”
This was written by a holy priest – Father Joseph Kentenich – in the throes of the starvation, degredation, and inhumanity of the Dachau concentration camp during WWII. It’s a reminder to me that we need to do two things even in the darkest of times. First, we must endlessly give of ourselves as Christ would give to sanctify the world around us. Second, we must direct all upwards to the Father, acknowledging him as the All-Powerful One and allowing him to exert that power even if it makes no sense to our human minds. Faithful prayer, heroic sacrifice, dependence on grace, and boundless trust. That’s what it will take.
We can’t let our own humanness trap us in “hamburger” dreams.