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A Parish of Lepers [Bl. Damien Joseph de Veuster of Molokai] ^ | 01-02-07 | Mary Kochan

Posted on 01/03/2007 2:48:37 PM PST by Salvation

Mary Kochan  
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A Parish of Lepers

January 2, 2007

January 3, 1840, was the birthday of Joseph de Veuster in Tremelo, Belgium.  Joseph was the son of farmer.  He and his brother were both training to be missionaries and Joseph's brother was assigned to go to the South Sea Islands. When his brother became ill, Joseph insisted on taking his brother's place as a missionary. He was ordained a priest, Father Damien, at Honolulu, on May 24, 1864.

Of all the districts he visited on the islands, the plight of the leper colony on the Island of Molokai most deeply affected him. During the 1800s, people in Hawaii with leprosy were dropped off by boat at a reef near the colony, by literally being thrown overboard, along with the cage that had contained them on board the ship, and a barrel containing a box of their possessions and food. If any of the lepers tried to get back on board, the crew would shoot them. On May 10, 1873, Father Damien, at his own request, and with the permission of his bishop, arrived at the settlement of about 600 lepers to become its resident priest.

Before Father Damien came to Molokai, the leper colony lived in a place where there were little resources and food was hard to come by. The lepers acted like animals, often killing each other for clothing and food. They lived in wretched conditions.  The smell in their huts was so overpowering that Father Damien took up the use of tobacco to mask the stench.

 After a bad storm wrecked many of their dwellings, he moved the leper colony to a better location.  By tending to their spiritual needs and exercising moral leadership, he got them to cooperate together to make their lives more civilized and regain their sense of humanity. Of this time, he related:

Previous to my arrival here it was acknowledged and spoken of in the public papers as well as in private letters that the greatest want [here] was a spiritual leader. It was owing in a great measure to this want that vice as a general rule existed instead of virtue.... When once the disease prostrated them, women and children were often cast out, and had to find some other shelter. Sometimes they were laid behind a stone wall, and left there to die....

As there were so many dying people, my priestly duty toward them often gave me the opportunity to visit them at their domiciles, and although my exhortations were especially addressed to the prostrated often they would fall upon the ears of public sinners, who little by little became conscious of the consequences of their wicked lives, and began to reform, and thus, with the hope in a merciful Savior, gave up their bad habits.

Kindness to all, charity to the needy, a sympathizing hand to the sufferers and the dying, in conjunction with a solid religious instruction to my listeners, have been my constant means to introduce moral habits among the lepers.... [M]y labors here, which seemed to be almost in vain at the beginning, have, thanks to a kind Providence, been greatly crowned with success.

Father Damien nursed all the lepers on Molokai.  For many years, he was the only person servicing the medical needs of the lepers, dressing wounds and bandaging ulcers.  He created a crew to lay a pipe system to bring in fresh water and to cooperate in building homes. He also built four churches, two of which still remain.  By 1882, Father Damien began to suspect that he had caught the disease himself.  He lived with leprosy for 7 years, before dying on April 15, 1889.

His body was buried on Molokai, which was his wish, but his home country wanted him back, so his body was transferred to Belgium. Father Damien is the spiritual patron of people with leprosy, outcasts, and those with HIV/AIDS, and of the State of Hawaii where Father Damien Day is recognized each year on April 15. There is a bronze statue memorializing him at the United States Capitol.  A full size replica stands in front of the Hawaii State Legislature. On December 1, 2005 the Belgian newspaper, Het Nieuwsblad conducted a vote to discover the greatest Belgian of all time and Father Damien was chosen.

Father Damien was beatified in 1995 with the official title of Blessed Damien of Molokai and his Feast Day in our liturgical calendar is May 10.

TOPICS: Catholic; Charismatic Christian; Evangelical Christian; Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: catholiclist; hawaii; lepers; service
Father Damien was beatified in 1995 with the official title of Blessed Damien of Molokai and his Feast Day in our liturgical calendar is May 10.

For your information and discussion

1 posted on 01/03/2007 2:48:40 PM PST by Salvation
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To: Salvation

I remember reading Michener's "Hawaii" as a teenager and this was one of the most memorable sections of that big book.

2 posted on 01/03/2007 3:09:51 PM PST by Argus
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To: Argus

I must admit that is something I have not read. I have never visited Hawaii either.

3 posted on 01/03/2007 9:38:55 PM PST by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
American Catholic’s Saint of the Day

May 10, 2007
Blessed Damien of Molokai

When Joseph de Veuster was born in Tremelo, Belgium, in 1840, few people in Europe had any firsthand knowledge of leprosy (Hansen's disease). By the time he died at the age of 49, people all over the world knew about this disease because of him. They knew that human compassion could soften the ravages of this disease.

Forced to quit school at age 13 to work on the family farm, six years later Joseph entered the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, taking the name of a fourth-century physician and martyr. When his brother Pamphile, a priest in the same congregation, fell ill and was unable to go to the Hawaiian Islands as assigned, Damien quickly volunteered in his place. In May 1864, two months after arriving in his new mission, Damien was ordained a priest in Honolulu and assigned to the island of Hawaii.

In 1873, he went to the Hawaiian government's leper colony on the island of Molokai, set up seven years earlier. Part of a team of four chaplains taking that assignment for three months each year, Damien soon volunteered to remain permanently, caring for the people's physical, medical and spiritual needs. In time, he became their most effective advocate to obtain promised government support.

Soon the settlement had new houses and a new church, school and orphanage. Morale improved considerably. A few years later he succeeded in getting the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse, led by Mother Marianne Kope, to help staff this colony in Kalaupapa.

Damien contracted Hansen's disease and died of its complications. As requested, he was buried in Kalaupapa, but in 1936 the Belgian government succeeded in having his body moved to Belgium. Part of Damien's body was returned to his beloved Hawaiian brothers and sisters after his beatification in 1995.

When Hawaii became a state in 1959, it selected Damien as one of its two representatives in the Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol.


Some people thought Damien was a hero for going to Molokai and others thought he was crazy. When a Protestant clergyman wrote that Damien was guilty of immoral behavior, Robert Louis Stevenson vigorously defended him in an "Open Letter to Dr. Hyde."


During the beatification homily, Pope John Paul II said: "Holiness is not perfection according to human criteria; it is not reserved for a small number of exceptional persons. It is for everyone; it is the Lord who brings us to holiness, when we are willing to collaborate in the salvation of the world for the glory of God, despite our sin and our sometimes rebellious temperament."

4 posted on 05/10/2007 9:47:26 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All

Blessed Damien de Veuster, SS.CC.

Apostle of the Eucharist

Young Father Damien

Father Damien, known the world over as the priest of the lepers on the island of Molokai, was truly an apostle of the Eucharist. This love he had for the Eucharist was transmitted to the lepers. He brought them to closer union with their Maker through the beautiful liturgies he organized, frequent Benediction, and Eucharistic Processions.

It was when he set up numerous adoration chapels that he experienced the depth of the lepers' faith and devotion. Related to the establishment of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration on the island, Father Damien wrote to his provincial in 1888, "This is the fifteenth year we observe night adoration..., all of us lepers."

Father Damien lived for the Eucharist. It was this strong apostleship that filled the lives of the lepers. Their Eucharistic adoration was an edifying homage to the Lord. He wrote to his brother, "Without the constant presence of our Divine Master, I would never be able to cast my lot with that of the lepers."

5 posted on 05/09/2008 9:14:47 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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To: All
Vultus Christi

May 9, 2008

Father Damien, A Priest Adorer


I find my consolation in the one and only companion who will never leave me, that is, our Divine Saviour in the Holy Eucharist. . . .

It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength necessary in this isolation of ours. Without the Blessed Sacrament a position like mine would be unbearable. But, having Our Lord at my side, I continue always to be happy and content. . . . Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the most tender of friends with souls who seek to please Him. His goodness knows how to proportion itself to the smallest of His creatures as to the greatest of them. Be not afraid then in your solitary conversations, to tell Him of your miseries, your fears, your worries, of those who are dear to you, of your projects, and of your hopes. Do so with confidence and with an open heart.

Blessed Damien de Veuster, SS.CC.

A Priest–Icon of the Suffering Christ

The saints, all of them, are living illustrations of the power of the Holy Spirit. The saints are the masterpieces of the Divine Iconographer who, in every age, writes in souls the whole mystery of Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Finger of God’s Right Hand tracing on hearts of flesh the likeness of the Heart of Jesus. In Blessed Damian of Molokai the Church sets before us a priest fashioned by the Holy Spirit in a special way into the image of the suffering Christ, “despised and rejected by man, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3).

The Entire Plan of God

Father Damien could have said to his beloved people of Molokai what Saint Paul said to the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus : “You know how I lived among you the whole time from the day I first came . . . I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me . . .. I did not shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I earnestly bore witness . . . to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus . . .. Yet I consider life of no importance to me, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace . . .. I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God” (cf. Ac 20:17-27).

Eucharistic Adoration

The words are Saint Paul’s but the sentiments — all of them — are those of Blessed Father Damien of Molokai. Where did Father Damien discover “the entire plan of God” (Ac 20:27) or, as another translation has it, “the whole counsel of God”? In the contemplation of the Heart of Jesus. And where did he contemplate the Heart of Jesus? In the adoration of the Eucharist.

Knowledge of the Pierced Side of Christ

The full title of Father Damien’s religious family is a very long one but it expresses completely the charism given them: “The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.” Father Damien’s compassionate devotion to those suffering from leprosy was the fruit of his intimate knowledge of the riches hidden in the pierced Side of Christ. That knowledge came to him in long hours of adoration before the tabernacle.

Lepers Adoring the Hidden Face of Christ

It is a little known fact that Father Damien laboured to established perpetual adoration of the Eucharist among his dear lepers. In this there is something astonishingly beautiful; the sight of lepers adoring day and night the Suffering Servant who, disfigured in his Passion, became, “as one from whom men screen their faces” (Is 53:3), the “Lord of Glory” (1 Cor 2:8) whose face is "all the beauty of holy souls” (Litany of the Holy Face).

The Prayer of the Sacred Heart to the Father

It was in Eucharistic adoration that Blessed Father Damien found himself drawn into the priestly prayer of Christ given us in the seventeenth chapter of Saint John. That prayer did not end with the Last Supper in the Cenacle. It is the prayer of the risen and ascended Christ who stands all-glorious in the sanctuary of heaven, showing the Father the wound in His side, the opening made by love, never to be closed. It is the prayer of the priestly Heart of Jesus in the sacrifice and sacrament of the Eucharist. It is the prayer that, from the tabernacle, rises ceaselessly like incense before the Father. Only those who linger there know this prayer; it becomes their prayer, inhabits them, changes them, and impels them to imitate the self-giving love of the Sacred Heart.

6 posted on 05/09/2008 5:02:41 PM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
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