To know me, is to know how much I love the gospel story of the 10 lepers healed by Christ (Luke 17:11-19). I love it so much I named my graphic arts enterprise "Tenth Leper Press." And now I have discovered this enchanting painting by Mormon fantasy artist James Christensen. I am reproducing it without permission, so maybe if I link to his gallery where you can buy a copy, they will forgive me.
The story obsesses me for many reasons. One is the rough mathematical accuracy (in my experience) of "one out of 10 lepers says thank you." The story acknowledges the pain of all unthanked healers and givers ("Were not all ten cleansed?" Christ asks, a question that always pricks my heart.) It also reflects how often we cut and run after fate seems to deal us a break; sometimes, you just don't want to be reminded of your old self, or how bad things might've been. The Tenth Leper, who comes back and "falls on his face," does more than thank; as Mark Lane, C.O. of the Oratory of St. Boniface has pointed out, this guy must now grapple with a new identity as a healthy person, and (as happened in Monty Python's Life of Brian), he may now be out of a perfectly good job begging piteously. Healing can be scary; it brings a whole bunch of new expectations.
But gratitude is something we can get right even when we're too dysfunctional to accomplish much else. If you are blessed with a human healer in your life, let them know. (For an awesome tale in that vein, see below.) Here is a prayer that channels the Tenth Leper. I honestly don't know where it came from.
The Prayer of the Tenth Leper
Jesus, Master, have pity on me.
Touch me in my isolation.
Heal me of my afflictions.
Free me to serve you with a glad heart,
And draw me back always to thank you
For your infinite mercy and love. Amen.
The Grateful Patient: An Uncanny Tale
In a previous post, I posited only half-kiddingly that my dad, a Catholic convert with a bottomless heart, was a bona fide saint. Here is, perhaps, a bit of evidence for his "cause" (as Catholics call the project of getting a saint canonized): When my dad died of leukemia in 1985, the hematologist/oncologist who had cared for him, and all of us, with great compassion was unfortunately traveling in his native Italy on medical business. We stumbled out of the hospital in a fog of grief, and I never got a chance to thank that physician for all his care. I meant to call, really. Years passed. Twenty years, actually, and then some. One day, on a guilty whim, I googled the doctor, who was still in practice, and e-mailed him a note of thanks.
The doc promptly replied, saying he was touched (if, I suspect, a bit puzzled) to have gotten such a note so long after losing his patient. He admitted that he did not recall my father individually after all these years, but vividly recalled the week following his death; when he was to have flown back to New York, he changed his flight on an inexplicable, strangely persistent hunch. Doing so, he recounted, may have saved his life, since a terrorist attack tore through the terminal from which he would have departed, killing 16. I learned two things from this interchange: (1) Yeah, Daddy's first miracle, and try convincing me otherwise. (2) Cool things can happen when you swallow your pride and say thank you, even when it's ludicrously overdue.