Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Friday, July 1, 2011

Magnify your calling: The Story of Father Damien

In the church we have a great phrase "magnify your calling" or for the men we often say "magnify your Priesthood".  Of course many of us have used a magnifying glass to look at things.  For example my Dad used to have a good magnifying glass to look at coins when he was trying to determine the value of a coin.  A coin's value is determined by it's condition which typically means how worn it is.  The less worn, then the more worth.  The more worn the less worth.  So a magnifying glass helped a collector be able to see the coin more clearly and determine, based on certain criteria what the worth of the coin was. 
Parable of the talents
In a way we might be able to determine how valuable the Priesthood is to us by seeing what condition our Priesthood is in.  When we see that we use it rarely and don't try to understand it or maybe even pretend we don't have it, then we can see that it has little value to us.  Reminds me of the parable about the talents--the man who buried his talent to "protect" it learned that wasn't the point.  Similarly we should use the Priesthood.  If the Priesthood is magnified then it is enlarged or improved--similar to the other recipients of talents in the parable.  They increased their talents which was what the Lord wanted them to do.  Do we magnify our Priesthood?  Do we use it every chance we get?  Do we ask others if we can use it on their behalf.  In the case of the Priesthood the value may not come in what we do to or for the Priesthood but rather what we allow the Priesthood to do with us.  If we grow, mature and purify ourselves that may be how we magnify the Priesthood, by magnifying our righteousness. 

In October 2010 conference Pres. Monson said: "The priesthood you bear is a special gift, for the giver is the Lord Himself. Use it, magnify it, and live worthy of it."  I think magnifying is to find ways to use it and to make it of worth to others and also when we allow the Priesthood to inspire us to put forth the effort to purify and better ourselfs--the bearers of the Priesthood.

I've wondered about this "magnify" in this context in the past.  I've wondered if the danger wasn't that we would make too big a deal of it, or rather think we are great because we have it.  That we might try to do things that were not part of our responsibility and try to take over other people's responsibilities thinking to enlarge or magnify our calling.  So when I heard the following phrase by Kathleen Hughes back in 2004 I understood her concerns and appreciated what she taught us. 

"I, like many of you, have had numerous callings in the Church. Some have been easier for me than others, but I have tried to magnify each one. But does the phrase “magnify your calling” ever make you nervous? It has worried me! Recently I read a talk in which President Thomas S. Monson said on the subject: “And how does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it” (Kathleen Hughes, “Priesthood Power,” Liahona, Jan. 2000, 60; Ensign, Nov. 1999, 51).

In other words, don't bury it or do nothing with it, or avoid opportunities to use it but do the service that is part and parcel with it.  When we magnify the call then we call upon God to magnify us as Henry B. Eyring mentions in the following quote: "Just as God called you and will guide you, He will magnify you. You will need that magnification. Your calling will surely bring opposition. You are in the Master’s service. You are His representative. Eternal lives depend on you. (Oct. 2002 Conference)  So we get magnified when we accept and follow through on the responsibility. 
I recently heard and then read a little about a man who surely magnified his call.  He was not a member of the church but rather was a Catholic Priest from Belgium.  Father Damien was a young man who was a priest like his older brother.  Father Damien wanted to be called to be a missionary and prayed for that regularly.  However, his brother received the call to be a missionary to Hawaii.  At the last minute his brother was sick and Father Damien was asked to go in his stead.  It seems his prayer was answered. 
Eventually Father Damien volunteered to serve the 816  lepers who were quarantined and not allowed to mix with the population who didn't have the disease.  The place where the lepers lived had become a real ghetto with "drunken and lewd" behavior becoming the norm.  He arrived and turned things around.  In addition to building a church and helping the lepers recognize they needed to keep their morals despite their disease, he served the lepers by dressing their wounds, building houses and beds for the lepers, and coffins and buried them when they died.  He returned a cooperation and the rule of law to the group and his encouragement led to schools being built and started to educate the lepers.  Surely he must have thought frequently about the story of the Master healing the ten lepers and wished he could do the same. 

Something he wrote to his brother in 1873 showed the seriousness he took in his work with that population.  "...I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ."  Doesn't it sound like something Paul would have said?  Eleven years later, Father Damien, did indeed contract the disease and five years after that died at the age of 49 literally having taken on the illness of those he had served. 

In a later year Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a letter chiding a detractor of Father Damien:  "But, sir, when we have failed, and another has succeeded; when we have stood by, and another has stepped in; when we sit and grow bulky in our charming mansions, and a plain, uncouth peasant steps into the battle, under the eyes of God, and succours the afflicted, and consoles the dying, and is himself afflicted in his turn, and dies upon the field of honour - the battle cannot be retrieved as your unhappy irritation has suggested. It is a lost battle, and lost for ever. One thing remained to you in your defeat - some rags of common honour; and these you have made haste to cast away."
Maybe we could learn from Father Damien to jump in and do the service that is required for our calling and our Priesthood.  Even if it requires our energy, our effort and even our life.  And then maybe we could share our gratitude with God for the opportunity.
Ten healed lepers, one of which expresses his gratitude.

1 comment:

  1. i haven't really thought a ton about the phrase "magnify your calling". i've heard it plenty, but i guess i just figured it means do your calling. i like your magnifying glass studying coins analogy to help give that phrase more meaning. i suppose there isn't anyone who wouldn't benefit from looking closely at the way they perform their callings and do their duties, and searching for a way to be a little better :)


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