December 1.  World AIDS DAY.  A story of Francis and a leper taken from The Little Flowers of St Francis by Brother Ugolino.  Although Francis had been disgusted by leprosy earlier in life, after his conversion he was willing to serve the lepers himself, and he wanted all the brothers of his Order, to serve them for the love of Christ who, for our sake was willing to be treated as a leper.

“It happened once that there was a hospital for leprosy and other infirmities, served by the brethren. One of the patients was a leper so impatient and so insolent, that many believed that he was possessed of the devil (as indeed he was) for he ill-treated with blows and words all those who served him. What was worse, he blasphemed so dreadfully our Blessed Lord and his most holy mother the Blessed Virgin Mary, that none was found who could or would serve him. The brethren, to gain merit, endeavoured to accept him with patience but their consciences would not allow them to submit to the blasphemy, so they determined to abandon this leper. This they would not do until they had signified their intention to St Francis, according to the Rule. On learning this, St Francis himself visited this perverse leper, and said to him: “May God give thee peace, my beloved brother!” To this the leper answered: “What peace can I look for from God, who has taken from me peace and every other blessing, and made me a putrid and disgusting object?” St Francis answered: “My son, be patient; for the infirmities of the body are given by God in this world for the salvation of the soul in the next; there is great merit in them when they are patiently endured.” The sick man answered: “How can I bear patiently the pain which afflicts me night and day? The friars do not serve me as they ought.” Then St Francis began to pray, interceding most earnestly for him. He turned to the leper and said: “I myself will serve thee, seeing thou art not satisfied with the others. Whatsoever thou wishest I will do for thee,” The leper said, “I will that thou wash me all over; for I am so disgusting that I cannot bear myself.” Then St Francis heated some water, putting in many odoriferous herbs; he then undressed him, and began to wash him with his own hands, whilst another brother threw the water upon him. By a divine miracle, wherever St Francis touched him with his holy hands the leprosy disappeared, and his flesh was perfectly healed.  The leper, seeing his leprosy beginning to vanish, felt great sorrow and repentance for his sins, and began to weep bitterly.

While his body was being purified externally through the cleansing of the water, his soul internally was purified from sin by the washing of tears and repentance; and feeling himself completely healed both in his body and his soul, he humbly confessed his sins, crying out in a loud voice, with many tears: “Unhappy me! I am worthy of hell for the wickedness of my conduct to the brethren, and the impatience and blasphemy I have uttered against the Lord”; and for fifteen days he ceased not to weep bitterly for his sins, imploring the Lord to have mercy on him, and then made a general confession.

St Francis gave thanks to God, and set out for a distant country for, out of humility, he wished to avoid all glory, and in all his actions he sought only the glory of God, and not his own. The leper, who had been healed, fell ill of another infirmity and having received the sacraments died a most holy death.  His soul on its way to heaven appeared to St Francis and said, “Blessed be thy soul and thy body and thy holy words and works, for through thee many souls are saved in the world.”

Scripture: You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isa 26:1-6.  Pope Francis:  A particular serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor. Every day unsafe water results in many deaths and the spread of water-related diseases.  LS 29   For Reflection and Sharing. As family members share on how you respond to diseases, in particular to HIV/AIDS, COVID-19 and TB as well as others..  

  DECEMBER FOCUS “Family –  Hope for the Future” is built into the Advent booklet LOVE CAME DOWN AT CHRISTMAS TIME.