The Young Man and the Leper

There is a story from the Middle Ages that has always touched my heart. The grown son of a rich merchant was walking down the road towards his home after visiting friends. As he neared a curb he heard the ring of a leperís bell coming from the other way. At that time Leprosy was a highly contagious and incurable disease. Lepers were not allowed in the towns and were forced to ring bells and warn others of their approach as they walked the roads. Before the young man could leave the road the leper rounded the curb and was suddenly face to face with him.

The leperís face and body had become horribly disfigured by the disease and when the young man saw him he drew back in disgust. As the leper lowered his head and began to walk on, however, the young man felt his heart breaking for the man. He quickly caught up to the leper and apologized for how he had acted. Then he gave the leper all the money he was carrying and hugged him. The leper looked at the young man with tears in his eyes and said that was the first time anyone had touched him in many years. That blessed moment began a change in the young manís heart and started him on a different path that would also affect the whole world. You see, that young man would later become Saint Francis of Assisi.

There are many types of "lepers" in our modern world that could use our love, help, and hugs. The homeless, sick, poor, disabled, elderly, and mentally handicapped often have to wear the "bells" that society forces on them. Many of them go through life either avoided or looked down upon. Like that young man, though, we can make a difference in their lives with just one gesture of caring and love. Like him we can let Godís love shine through us to touch their hearts and souls. And we may also find as he did that their love can touch and change us for the better as well. Remember, in Godís eyes there are no lepers only children needing and deserving love.

Joseph J. Mazzella [email protected]

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