Monday 28 January 2013

World Leprosy Day 2013

During yesterday's Audience in St Peter's Square Pope Benedict said:

"We celebrate today the 60th World Leprosy Day. I express my closeness to the people who suffer from this disease and I encourage researchers, health workers and volunteers, especially those who are part of Catholic organisations and the Association 'Amici di Raoul Follereau'. I entreat the spiritual intercession of St Damian Veuster and St Marianne Cope, who gave their lives for leprosy patients."

Sponsored Walk
 Members & friends of the Grand Priory took part in a Sponsored Walk to raise money for SUROL, the Sri Lankan Leprosy Charity supported by the Grand Priory. Walks took place in various places including Clydebank, Carfin, Derbyshire, Stockport, Wallasey, and Malta!

The largest walk took place in Lancashire where 18 friends & a dog walked through Cuerden Valley where the previous day's snow had mostly melted away and the sun had come out. Some of the ponds were still frozen and the younger walkers found a fascination in finding images in the ice - having been pulled back from its edge after confidently asserting, "Oh yes, it's thick enough to walk on!" Walkers were welcomed back by those who were unable to walk by hot soup and plenty of other food and beer!

Thanks to everyone who took part or sponsored us. If you would like to support our fundraising efforts please contact us.

Lancashire Walkers
The discovery of a heart shape in the ice (honestly!)

And a bird -
- and the ice is apparently cold to hold without gloves on!

Saturday 26 January 2013


Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski
President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
Sunday 27 January 2013
A ‘fitting occasion for intensifying the service of charity’(1)

On 27 January 2013 we will celebrate the sixtieth World Day for the fight against leprosy, a malady that is as old as it is grave when we consider the suffering, the social exclusion and the poverty that Hansen’s disease involves. This event constitutes for all Christians, for institutions and agencies providing aid and help, and for men and women of good will, a valuable opportunity to relaunch their efforts in favour of those who are directly afflicted by Mycobacterium Leprae or are indirectly affected by it, such as family relatives, promoting a renewed drive for the social integration of those people who bear its marks. According to the most recent data of the WHO, about 220,000 people – men, women and children – contracted leprosy in 2011 and many of these new cases were diagnosed when the disease was at an advanced stage. These data demonstrate the continuation – notwithstanding the praiseworthy action of international and national, governmental and non-governmental, institutions, such as the WHO and the Raoul Follereau Foundation and the Sasakawa Foundation – of a still insufficient level of access to centres that offer diagnoses and of a lack of education as regards prevention in communities that run the risk of contagion, as well as the need for specifically designed medico-hygienic initiatives. All of this is fundamental in the case of leprosy, which by now does not lead to death if it is suitably treated, as it is the case, to a greater extent, of the other ‘neglected diseases’ which taken together every year continue to cause hundreds of thousands of victims through deaths, grave forms of disability, or anyway the permanent compromised state of health of adults, adolescents and children, in disadvantaged countries. These are pathologies that constitute authentic scourges in some parts of the world but which do not receive sufficient attention from the international community; amongst these pathologies we find dengue fever, sleeping sickness, bilharziosis, onchocerciasis, leishmaniasis and trachoma.
In the face of such a health-care emergency, in the light of the Year of Faith as well, and with the wish to commit ourselves increasingly intensely, as Catholics, to carrying out what Jesus requested by his commandment ‘Euntes docete et curate infirmos’ (Mt 10:6-8) and by our baptism, I wish to renew my invitation to work to ensure that this Sixtieth World Leprosy Day constitutes a new ‘fitting occasion for intensifying the service of charity in our ecclesial communities, so that each one of us can be a good Samaritan for others, for those close to us’.(2) May the example of Saints, Blesseds and people of good will, such as St. Damian of Molokai SS.CC. and St. Marianne Cope O.S.F.; the Blessed Jan Beyzym S.J. and the Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, the founder of the Missionaries of Charity; the Servant of God Marcello Candia and Raoul Follereau, the one hundred and tenth anniversary of whose birth also takes place this year, inspire us and sustain us in bringing help and comfort to these sick brothers and sisters of ours, to the least and the most marginalised!
I thank divine Providence that I was able personally, last year, to visit both the island of Molokai, where St. Damian and St. Marianne worked, and Madagascar, where the Blessed Jan Beyzym worked. These are places rich in humanity and faith where I was able to meet people afflicted by leprosy and I was able to pray for all of you sick people and for the people who are close to you.
An equally important role should also be played by all those people who are victims of leprosy, who are called to cooperate in the establishment of a more inclusive and just society that will allow the integration of those people who have been cured of leprosy; in spreading and promoting its forms of diagnosis and treatment; in stressing the need to receive therapies so as to be cured, thereby contributing to a weakening of the disease; and in spreading in the contexts to which they belong those medico-hygienic criteria which are indispensable in hindering its further propagation. As a Christian, a person who has been afflicted by leprosy also has the possibility of living his or her condition in a perspective of faith, ‘finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love’,(3) praying and offering up his or her suffering for the good of the Church and humanity. In awareness that what has been emphasised is certainly not easy, and requires charity towards themselves and their neighbours, hope, courage, patience and determination, I would like to observe, employing the words of St. Paul, that none of us ‘received a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear’: we ‘received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!"’. And, ‘if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him’ (Rom 8:15-17). Even in the most adverse situations, a Christian is certain that ‘nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Rom 8:39).
Lastly, while thanking all those who have striven so much, and strive so much, in the fight against leprosy, I address my most fervent prayer to the Virgin Mary, Salus Infirmorum, so that all suffering people may find relief and support in their relationship with God and in the action of the very many people who dedicate their lives to them.
With my nearness, prayers and blessing.
+Zygmunt Zimowski
 President of the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers
(1) Benedict XVI, Message for the XXI World Day of the Sick 2013, n. 4
(2) Ibidem.
(3) Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, n. 37.


Wednesday 16 January 2013

Habit of the Order in the 16th century

Ancient Habit of knights of the Order of St Lazarus in the sixteenth century.

Tuesday 15 January 2013

World Leprosy Day 2013

Sunday January 29th marks the 60th World Leprosy Day.

World Leprosy Day was created in 1954 by French journalist and philosopher Raoul Follereau “so that people affected by leprosy could be cared for like all others who are ill and so that that those in good health could be cured of their absurd and often criminal fear of this disease and those who are affected by it”.

Since its foundation the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem has cared for those suffering from leprosy. Indeed it began by welcoming knights from other Orders who had been stricken by this disease. Those suffering from leprosy, or Hanson's Disease as it is now known, have always been at the heart of the mission and prayers of the Order and the Grand Priory of Great Britain continues to help those who suffer from this disease in our present age through our partnership with SUROL.

At the Canonisation of St Damien De Veuster, the Leper Priest, the Holy Father said:
"Let us remember before this noble figure that it is charity which makes unity, brings it forth and makes it desirable. Following in St Paul's footsteps, St Damien prompts us to choose the good battle, not the kind that brings division but the kind that gathers people together. He invites us to open our eyes to the forms of leprosy that disfigure the humanity of our brethren and still today call for the charity of our presence as servants, beyond that of our generosity."

The Holy Father urged us all to pray and help those involved in the battle against leprosy and "other forms of leprosy that are due to lack of love because of ignorance and cowardice".

As members of a noble Order of chivalry let us all recommit ourselves to that "charity which makes unity, brings it forth and makes it desirable" and let us continue, with the help of St Lazarus and St Damien, "the good battle" "that gathers people together".

St Damien of Molokai,
pray for all those afflicted by leprosy
and for the Order of St Lazarus.

Monday 14 January 2013

Blessed Peter Donders

Today is the feast of Blessed Peter Donders, a priest who spent his life ministering to lepers in South America.  

Peter Donders was born in Tilburg, Holland, on 27th October 1809 of Arnold Denis Donders and Petronella van den Brekel. Because the family was poor, the two sons could be given little schooling but had to work for the support of the home. From an early age, however, Peter had formed the desire of becoming a priest. Eventually, with the assistance of the clergy of his parish he was able at the age of twenty two to commence study at the Minor Seminary.

In due time he was ordained priest on 5th June 1841. While still engaged in his theological studies he had been guided by his superiors in the seminary towards the missions of the Dutch colony of Surinam. He arrived in Paramaribo, the principal city of the colony, on 16th September 1842 and applied himself at once to the pastoral works that were to occupy him until his death. His first duties included regular visits to the plantations along the rivers of the colony, where he preached and ministered the Sacraments mainly to slaves. His letters express his indignation at the harsh treatment of the African peoples forced to work on the plantations. In 1856 he was sent to the leper station of Batavia; and this was to be, with very few interruptions, the scene of his labours for the rest of his life. In his charity he not only provided the benefits of religion to the patients, but even tended them personally until he was able to persuade the authorities to provide adequate nursing services. In many ways he was able to improve the conditions of the lepers through his energy in bringing their needs to the attention of the colonial authorities.

When the Redemptorists arrived in 1866 to take charge of the mission of Surinam, Father Donders and one of his fellow priests applied for admission into the Congregation. The two candidates made their novitiate under the Vicar Apostolic, Bishop Johan Baptist Winkels, and they took their vows on 24th June 1867. Father Donders returned at once to Batavia. Because of the assistance he now had with the lepers, he was able to devote time to a work he had long wished to undertake. As a Redemptorist he now turned his attention to the Indian peoples of Surinam. He continued with this work, previously neglected through lack of manpower, almost until his death. He began to learn the native languages and to instruct the Indians in the Christian faith, until failing strength compelled him to leave to others what he had begun.

In 1883 the Vicar Apostolic, wishing to spare him the heavy burdens he had so long carried, transferred him to Paramaribo and later to Coronie. He returned, however, to Batavia in November of 1885. He resumed his previous occupations until weakening health finally confined him to bed in December of 1886. He lingered for two weeks until his death on 14th January 1887. The fame of his sanctity spreading beyond Surinam and his native Holland, his cause was introduced in Rome. He was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 23rd May 1982.

Blessed Peter, Pray for us.