Ruth Pfau

Ruth Pfau was a German medical student. Inspired by a concentration camp survivor who dedicated her life to promoting forgiveness, Ruth converted to Catholicism.  In 1957, she joined the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a medical missionary order.  In 1960 she visited a leper colony in Karachi, Pakistan.  Struck by the site of the inhabitants, she made the decision to remain in Pakistan and serve the lepers.  "Not all of us can prevent a war," she said, "but most of us can help ease sufferings of the body and the soul."

Ruth would go on to treat over 50,000 patients over the next 35 years. Her work in Pakistan was finally over when, in 1996, the World Health Organization declared leprosy in Pakistan to be 'under control.'  Ruth did not ease into retirement, however. She migrated on to Afghanistan, where she tended to victims of land mines and other disabilities.  "Leading a life committed to service does protect the soul from wounds," she wrote. "These are the workings of God." 

When Ruth Pfau at last passed to her eternal reward in 2017, she was given a state funeral and hailed as a national hero in Pakistan. 

There are parallels we can make between this modern-day Ruth and the Ruth of the Bible.  When Ruth's husband dies and her mother-in-law Naomi returns to Bethlehem, Ruth accompanies her, though the land is foreign to her.  Ruth will literally labor in the field, alongside men, to provide for Naomi.  The owner, Boaz, notices Ruth and her virtue, and marries her.  They will be the great-grandparents of King David, and the ancestors of Christ himself. 

The name 'Ruth' means 'companion.'  These Ruths, like the Blessed Mother who inspired them, brought God's comfort to many souls. 

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