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Helping the Lepers

alec vanderboom

Last night I headed out of my maternal cocoon for the first time in ages to head to a Women of Prayer committee meeting. Under the agenda list of "Plan Holocaust Museum Trip" and "Find a Lenten Speaker" was this simple entry: "knit bandages for lepers."

In my post stomach flu haze, I kept thinking that I must be reading the word "leper" wrong. There were no lepers left in the world, right? It must be a misprint. We must be knitting hats for shut-ins or lap rugs for nursing room residents.

At the end of the meeting, our president announced causally, "Oh, the youth group needs some people who know how to knit to volunteer to teach students in the cafeteria at 6:30 on Monday night. You don't need to commit to making anything, the youth group is going to take care of everything, we just need some women to be there to give lessons."

"What are they making?" I asked.

"Oh, a Vietnamese leper colony is requesting some bandages. The Youth Group is totally excited about it," a women answered with rolled eyes.

Out tumbled this fantastic story. Someone knows a priest who has a sister who is stationed as a missionary in a leper colony. The Communist Government won't let any medicine into the country to treat leprosy. So somehow these handknit cotton bandages, which are even better for keeping the Gangrene off stumps of limbs, is needed to made in order for a nun to sneak them to the leper colony in her suitcase.

"That is so cool!" I said, mirroring the Youth Groups enthusiasm.

"Abby, you have no idea how complicated this knitting project is. It uses special medically treated cotton on size 2 needles. Each bandage takes 18 HOURS to make!"

"18 Hours! That is awesome."

"Yeah, the bandages have to be 4 feet long. Each one is going to take forever. . ." The woman stopped talking when she realized that I was shaking my head "yes" instead of "no!"

I'm totally on board with the impractical notion of sending real lepers knitted bandages. I mean, the lepers are all over the Gospel. Knitted bandages, it just seems like a page out of Little Women. I got this warm feeling of these teens struggling over snagged cotton on their knitting needles during hours of TV watching.

So anyway, next Monday, I'm appearing in the Cafeteria on Mary's Holy Day eager to share my grandmother Jean's knitting advice.

I'm expecting the lesson to be a little rough.

For help I looked up the story of Blessed Father Damien, a Catholic priest who served a leper colony in Hawaii. I found out that he's the only Catholic priest to be memorialized in the Statuary Hall of the US Capitol Building. I figure some prayers to Father Damien will help us preserve when the going gets tough.

Many hopes that you also find inspiring Advent charity opportunities!