Feast of the day

St. Damien of Molokai Priest (1840-1889)

10/11/2020 12:00:00 AM

St. Damien laid down his life when he left his Order and the whole world to serve victims of leprosy in their colony on Molokai, Hawaii. He contracted the disease after over a decade of serving them. His earthly pilgmage culminated in the sacrifice of his own life.

        Born in Tremelo, Belgium on January 3, 1840, St. Damien was christened Joseph. When he was twenty, he joined the Sacred Hearts Fathers and received the name Damien. In 1864, he was sent to Honolulu, Hawaii, where he was ordained. For the next nine years, he worked in missions on the big island, Hawaii.

        In 1873, St. Damien went to the leper colony on Molokai after volunteering for the assignment. He cared for lepers of all ages, but was particularly concerned about the children segregated in the colony. He announced he was a leper in 1885 and continued to build hospitals, clinics, and churches, and some six hundred coffins. He died on April 15 on Molokai. He was declared venerable in 1977; and Pope John Paul II declared his beatified on June 4, 1995.

        On February 21, 2009, the Vatican announced that Father Damien would be canonized. The ceremony took place in Rome on October 11, 2009, in the presence of King Albert II of the Belgians and Queen Paola as well as the Belgian Prime Minister and several cabinet ministers.

        "Not without fear and loathing," Pope Benedict underlined, "Father Damian made the choice to go on the island of Molokai in the service of lepers ... The servant of the Word became a suffering servant, leper with the lepers, during the last four years of his life. ... To follow Christ, Father Damian not only left his homeland, but also staked his health. So he, as the word of Jesus in today's Gospel tells us, received eternal life."