So what does all this have to do with leprosy? Plenty! One word describes it all, fear.
Over eight centuries ago, a young man from an obscure Italian town in central Italy was riding his horse on a country road. He was the son of a wealthy merchant who could have anything and everything should he choose. He yearned to be a great knight one day, seeking glory and valor along the way. He seemed fearless and was very popular. But he had one great fear, lepers.
In those days, leprosy, a disease that is viral in nature and eats away at the flesh, was feared more than anything else and the unfortunate victims of this horrible ailment were treated as outcasts. Their rotting flesh emitted a foul odor. They were mostly dressed in rags and had to go about with a device that warned people that they were in the vicinity. They were banned from cities, often living outside the municipality gates, begging from door-to-door for their daily food.
In the noon day sun, the young man was lost in his own dream world as his horse trudged along the road. Suddenly, he was shaken from his slumber by a sound that was all too familiar to him, the clap-clap of the leper's warning device. He panicked. He could bear almost anything but a leper. They repulsed him so much that he nearly gagged at the thought of his encountering one of them.
He quickly opened his eyes and spied a lone figure on the road ahead moving in his direction. The clapper sounded once again as was required by law. The young man had nowhere to go for this stretch of the road was flanked on either side by deep ravines. Realizing that he had no choice but to meet the leper on the road, the young man nervously dismounted his horse, approached the leper, and instead of rushing him off the side of the road, embraced him and kissed him on the lips. It took great courage to do this since the smell of rotting flesh must have been overwhelming.