|4th International Day of Prayer, Amsterdam 2000|
Veronique, the Leper
Veronique is a leper, whom we met at a nursing center in Europe. We want to tell something about her life, for she is one of those exceptional people who through their sickness come to holiness by accepting their terrible ordeal in total abandonment to God and by transforming it into a sacrifice for humanity.
But there is such an improvement in her health that she can go to Sorbonne University in Paris. But there a new ordeal awaits her. Confronted with modern science, and with certain philosophies and atheistic ideologies, Veronique looses the faith of her childhood and becomes a militant atheist.
Veronique has a great thirst for love. Yet, she turns away a marriage proposal, for deep within her she feels that human love cannot quench this thirst. Tirelessly she searches for the absolute and she recklessly throws herself into the studies of the different religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam … But nowhere does she find the fullness of life she is searching for.
Finally, when she is thirty-five years old, something occurs which turns out to be of decisive importance for the rest of her life. She feels an irresistible urge to go to confession. She herself says about it: “This was the beginning of a great love. I felt such happiness that day. I was overflowing with joy. It seemed to me that I had finally started to experience that great love which had been my passion all my life.”
But Veronique is still suffering from leprosy. The illness unrelentingly progresses, provoking in her body a negative reaction, an allergy against every medical treatment. “The whole tragedy of my being a leper is that the treatments I received against leprosy caused as many sufferings as the leprosy itself.” Her whole life she has to endure regular and long hospitalizations.
More and more Veronique understands that Christ wants to associate her with his sorrowful Passion. This starts with the loss of her fingers and with total insensitivity in her hands so that she feels nothing when she immerses them in boiling water.
“The most gruesome suffering was the loss of my eyesight. No words can describe what I had to bear. Terrible pains. I thought I would go mad. With both my hands I had to hold my head, because of the pains. My eyes were dark red and hard like iron. My throat was completely swollen. My glands were burning. My jaws and my skull were on fire. My temples were throbbing. And in my eyes I had the burning feeling of acid … It was horrible. I really thought I would go mad during this crisis, in which my eyes got so infected that I became completely blind.”
Those fifty years of her life, fifty years of leprosy, make only sense to Veronique through her meeting with God. God alone could quench her thirst for the absolute. And God came to her. He looked for her to cherish her, to make her His Veronique, she who had become an object of disgust in the eyes of the world.
She never chose to be a leper. She never wanted this allergy that made her leprosy even more grievous. In every new crisis she made the prayer of Christ her own: “Father, if it is possible…” But as Christ she submitted herself to the Father.
Veronique experiences suffering and joy at the same time. A gruesome suffering. A supernatural joy. Without constraint, she gives God thanks for all she has received, for her life as a leper.