Brother Damian

Our community members on Holy Island joined the throng at the funeral of the island's former vicar, Brother Damian, in Alnwick. Damian offered his financial expertise as a trustee of our community's few small Lindisfarne properties and helped us in other ways.

The community seeks to relate to each branch of the universal church in whatever way it offers. The Anglicans invited us to become an Acknowledged Community. I write in this month's Holy Island Times how in order to clear the way for this I was due to meet the Bishop who chairs the Advisory Council for Bishops and Religious Communities. Damian was a member of this council and offered to meet with us. On the way he stopped to help someone, got lost, and arrived two hours late. Mercifully for me he and the Bishop were fellow Franciscans!

Carol, our community secretary, was once behind Damian at a supermarket check-out. The cashier asked Damian why he had three knots in the rope around his brown habit. 'The first knot means I have no money', the smiling Damian explained, 'the second means I can't marry, and the third means I do what I'm told'. An irate cashier said to Carol 'How can he possibly be so happy if he lives like that? It's not right!' Carol had the golden but delicate opportunity of explaining how being detached from things frees you to enjoy what cannot be bought.

I recall Damian gathering the few of us who took turns to lead mid-week church services at times when visitors crowded in throughout the day. 'If you have just one minute with a visitor, how can you best support them?' he asked us. He himself had a vocation to give up his bed to any visitor who found all the hotels full. He slept on the floor of his office.

Brother Samuel , the Minister General, told us at the funeral that the ukulele playing Damian clocked up more miles, got more speeding tickets, and bounced more than any other brother.

Damian once told me, when someone who campaigned for the right to end their life before it had run its natural course was in the headlines, that dying is a process that we need to be present to. When he knew that he had a fatal brain tumour he trusted himself to God with joy, and refused artificial life-prolonging treatment so that he could fully embrace 'brother death'.

Posted at 01:05am on 3rd February 2016
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