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4th International Day of Prayer, Amsterdam 2000

Contribution of
the Priest brothers Raymond and Pierre Jaccard,

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.

Who is Veronique?
She was born in the Caribbean after World War I. When she was two- years-old, a spot appears on her back. The diagnosis is quickly made: leprosy. Through shock therapy this vicious spot quickly disappears, but three years later spots reappear over her whole body. Accompanied by her uncle she goes to Europe for treatment. For the little five-year-old girl this means exile: “On that day I experienced death in my soul. During all the years I have suffered from leprosy, I never suffered as much as at that moment.”
For Veronique it means the beginning of a life full of suffering.
After some examinations she is sent to a leprosy hospital. There she goes to school and proves to be a good student. One day, she is then fourteen years old, a treatment is tried out on her with terrible consequences. Her whole body becomes one festering wound. She has no strength left. Her mother comes to see her and deems it better for her to spend her last days in Paris. Her mother remains there with her. This is what Veronique only seems to have waited for, for against all expectations she regains her zest for living. However, during four and a half years, every six months the wounds start to fester again.

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.”
“Now I look horrible. I am ugly, repulsive. I fill people with fear. Fortunately I don’t have to walk on the Champs-Elysees! Everybody would keep away from me.”

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.
Veronique has strongly experienced this divine presence in her life. But it never made her blame God for her illness, God who came to visit her, who came to console her.

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.
“My life has been beautifully filled. I don’t regret anything. For me the days are always too short (for praying). I would prefer to shorten my night rest, especially in order to pray.”

Veronique’s prayer:
“ Lord, you came and asked everything from me and I gave you everything.
I loved reading and now I am blind.
I loved walking through the woods and now my legs are paralyzed.
I loved to pluck flowers in the spring sun, and  now I don’t have hands anymore.
Because I am a woman, I liked to look at the beauty of my hair, at my fine fingers, at the grace of my body. Now I am almost bald, and all that is left of my beautiful fingers, are some stumps of rigid wood.
Look, Lord, how my graceful body has been destroyed.
But I am not revolting.
I give you thanks.
For all eternity I’ll give you thanks.
For if I ‘ll die this night I’ll know that my life has been extraordinary meaningful.
By living in Love, I was filled with more than my heart could have wished for.
O, my Father, how good you have been to your little Veronique.
And this evening, o my Love, I pray to you for the whole word. I pray to you especially for those who through moral leprosy get desperate, mutilated and downcast.
Those I love especially.
And I offer myself for them in silence.
For they are my brothers and sisters.
O my Love, I offer you my physical leprosy so that they will no longer know the disgust, the bitterness and the coldness of their moral leprosy.
I am your little girl.
Take me by the hand, as a mother leads her child. Press me to your breast as a father presses his little child to his breast. Immerse me in the abyss of your Heart and grant me to stay there with all my beloved ones, for all eternity.”

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