- Father Damien
Saint Damien of Molokaʻi
Saint Damien de Veuster was a Roman Catholic missionary who ministered to lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokaʻi.
Saint Born January 3, 1840
Died April 15, 1889(aged 49)
Kalaupapa, Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi
Honored in Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Catholic Churches; some churches of Anglican Communion; individual Lutheran Churches Beatified June 4, 1995, Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Koekelberg), Brussels by Pope John Paul II Canonized October 11, 2009, Rome by Pope Benedict XVI Major shrine Leuven, Belgium (bodily relics)
Molokai, Hawaiʻi (relics of his hand)
Feast May 10, (universal); April 15 (in Hawaiʻi and E.C. USA) Patronage people with leprosy
Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai, SS.CC. (Dutch: Pater Damiaan or Heilige Damiaan van Molokai; January 3, 1840 – April 15, 1889), born Jozef De Veuster, was a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious order. He won recognition for his ministry to people with leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease), who had been placed under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokaʻi in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.
After sixteen years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, he eventually contracted and died of the disease, and is widely considered a "martyr of charity". He is the ninth person recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church to have lived, worked, and died in what is now the United States.
In both the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, Damien is venerated as a saint, one who is holy and worthy of public veneration and invocation. In the Anglican communion, as well as other denominations of Christianity, Damien is considered the spiritual patron for leprosy and outcasts. As the patron saint of the Diocese of Honolulu and of Hawaiʻi, Father Damien Day is celebrated statewide on April 15. Upon his beatification by Pope John Paul II in Rome on June 4, 1995, Blessed Damien was granted a memorial feast day, which is celebrated on May 10. Father Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday October 11, 2009. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him "the Apostle of the Lepers", and elsewhere he is known as the "leper priest".
Damien was born Jozef ("Jef") De Veuster, the thirty seventh child and fourth son of the Flemish corn merchant Joannes Franciscus ("Frans") De Veuster and his wife Anne-Catherine ("Cato") Wouters in the village of Tremelo in Flemish Brabant. He attended college at Braine-le-Comte, then entered the novitiate of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary in Leuven, taking the name of Brother Damianus (Damiaan in Dutch, Damien in French) in his first vows, presumably in reference to the first Saint Damian.
Following in the footsteps of his sisters Eugénie and Pauline (who became nuns) and brother Auguste (Father Pamphile), Damien became a Picpus Brother on October 7, 1860. His superiors thought that he was not a good candidate for the priesthood because he lacked education. However, he was not considered unintelligent. Because he learned Latin well from his brother, his superiors decided to allow him to become a priest. During his ecclesiastical studies, he would pray every day before a picture of St. Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission. Three years later his prayer was answered when, because of illness, Auguste could not travel to Hawaiʻi as a missionary, and Damien was allowed to take his place.
Mission to Hawaiʻi
On March 19, 1864, Damien landed at Honolulu Harbor in downtown Honolulu as a missionary. There, Damien was ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1864, at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace, a church established by his religious order. In 1865, he was assigned to the Catholic Mission in North Kohala on the island of Hawaiʻi.
While Father Damien was serving in several parishes on the island of Oʻahu, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was facing a public health crisis. The Native Hawaiians became afflicted by diseases introduced to their islands by foreign traders and sailors. Thousands died of influenza, syphilis and other ailments which had never before affected them. This included the plight of leprosy (Hansen's disease). At the time, leprosy was thought to be highly contagious (we now know that 95% of the general population has immunity) and was thought to be incurable. In 1865, fearful of its spread, the Hawaiʻi Legislature passed and King Kamehameha V approved, the "Act to Prevent the Spread of Leprosy" which quarantined the lepers of the kingdom and moved them to settlement colonies known as Kalaupapa and Kalawao at the east end of the Kalaupapa peninsula on Molokaʻi. Kalawao County, where the village is situated, is divided from the rest of the island by a steep mountain ridge, and even today the only land access is by a mule track. Over 8,000 people were sent to the Kalaupapa peninsula from 1866 to 1969. The Royal Board of Health provided the quarantined people with supplies and food but did not yet have the resources to offer proper healthcare. According to documents from the time, the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi did not plan the settlement to be in disarray but did not provide sufficient resources and medical help. They planned on the inhabiting sufferers to grow their own crops, but because of the nature of the environment and their sickness, it was nearly impossible. By 1868, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia (1911), "Drunken and lewd conduct prevailed. The easy-going, good-natured people seemed wholly changed."
While Bishop Louis Désiré Maigret, vicar apostolic, believed that the lepers at the very least needed a priest to minister to their needs, he realized that this assignment could potentially be a death sentence, and thus did not want to send any one person "in the name of obedience". After prayerful thought, four priests volunteered. The bishop's plan was for the volunteers to take turns assisting the distressed. Father Damien was the first to volunteer and on May 10, 1873, Father Damien arrived at the secluded settlement at Kalaupapa, where Bishop Maigret presented him to the 816 lepers living there. Damien's first course of action was to build a church and establish the Parish of Saint Philomena. His role was not limited to being a priest: he dressed ulcers, built homes and beds, built coffins and dug graves. Six months after his arrival at Kalawao he wrote his brother, Pamphile, in Europe:
...I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ.
Damien's arrival is seen by some as a turning point for the community. Under his leadership, basic laws were enforced, shacks became painted houses, working farms were organized and schools were erected. At his own request, and that of the lepers, Father Damien remained on Molokaʻi.
Illness and death
In December 1884 while preparing to bathe, Damien inadvertently put his foot into scalding water, causing his skin to blister. He felt nothing. Damien had contracted leprosy. Despite this discovery, residents say that Damien worked vigorously to build as many homes as he could and planned for the continuation of the programs he created after he was gone.
Masanao Goto, a Japanese leprologist, came to Honolulu in 1885 and treated Father Damien. It was his theory that leprosy was caused by a diminution of the blood, and his treatment consisted of nourishing food, moderate exercise, frequent friction to the benumbed parts, special ointments and medical baths. The treatments did, indeed, relieve some of the symptoms and were very popular with the Hawaiian patients. Father Damien had faith in the treatments and stated that he wished to be treated by no one but Dr. Masanao Goto.
Dr. Goto was one of his best friends and Damien's last trip to Honolulu on July 10, 1886, was made to receive treatment from him.
In his last years Damien engaged in a flurry of activity. While continuing his charitable ministrations, he hastened to complete his many building projects, enlarge his orphanages, and organize his work. Help came from four strangers who came to Kalaupapa to help the ailing missionary: a priest, a soldier, a male nurse, and a nun.
Louis Lambert Conrardy was a Belgian priest. Mother Marianne Cope had been the head of the Franciscan-run St Joseph's Hospital in Syracuse, New York. Joseph Dutton was an American Civil War soldier who left behind a marriage that had been broken by alcoholism. James Sinnett was a nurse from Chicago. Conrardy took up pastoral duties; Cope organized a working hospital; Dutton attended to the construction and maintenance of the community's buildings; Sinnett nursed Damien in the last phases of the disease. An arm in a sling, a foot in bandages and his leg dragging, Damien knew death was near. He was bedridden on March 23, 1889, and on March 30 he made a general confession and renewed his vows. On April 1, he received Holy Viaticum and on April 2, Extreme Unction.
Father Damien died of leprosy at 8:00 am on April 15, 1889, aged 49. The next day, after Mass by Father Moellers at St. Philomena's, the whole settlement followed the funeral cortège to the cemetery where Damien was laid to rest under the same Pandanus tree where he first slept upon his arrival on Molokaʻi.
In January 1936, at the request of the Belgian government, Damien's body was returned to his native land. It was brought back aboard the Belgian sailing ship Mercator and now rests in Leuven, an historic university city close to the village where Damien was born. After his beatification in June 1995, the remains of his right hand were returned to Hawaiʻi, and re-interred in his original grave on Molokaʻi.
Order of Kalākaua
King David Kalākaua bestowed on Damien the honor Knight Commander of the Royal Order of Kalākaua. When Princess Lydia Liliʻuokalani visited the settlement to present the medal, she was reported as having been too distraught and heartbroken to read her speech. The princess shared her experience with the world and publicly acclaimed Damien's efforts. Consequently, Damien's name was spread across the United States and Europe. American Protestants raised large sums of money for the missionary. The Church of England sent food, medicine, clothing and supplies. It is believed that Damien never wore the medal given to him.
Criticism and commentary
C. M. Hyde
Upon his death, a global discussion arose as to the mysteries of Damien's life and his work on the island of Molokaʻi. Much criticism came out of the Congregational and Presbyterian churches in Hawaiʻi. It is possible that these church leaders took a stance against Damien largely because of their bias against Catholicism. The most well-known treatise against Damien was by a Honolulu Presbyterian, Reverend C. M. Hyde, in a letter dated August 2, 1889 to a fellow pastor, Reverend H. B. Gage; in it, Hyde referred to Father Damien as "a coarse, dirty man" whose leprosy should be attributed to his "carelessness".
In 1889 Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson and his family arrived in Hawaiʻi for an extended stay. While there Stevenson, also a Presbyterian, drafted a famous open letter as a rebuttal in defense of Damien. The Catholic Encyclopedia judges that in this treatise "the memory of the Apostle of the Lepers is brilliantly vindicated". Prior to writing his letter, dated February 25, 1890, Stevenson stayed on Molokaʻi for eight days and seven nights, during which he kept a diary. In the letter Stevenson answered Hyde's criticisms point by point. He sought testimony from critical Protestants who knew the man, which he recorded in his diary. The treatise included some extracts, like the following which upbraided Rev. Hyde for his fault finding:
But, sir, when we have failed, and another has succeeded; when we have stood by, and another has stepped in; when we sit and grow bulky in our charming mansions, and a plain, uncouth peasant steps into the battle, under the eyes of God, and succours the afflicted, and consoles the dying, and is himself afflicted in his turn, and dies upon the field of honour - the battle cannot be retrieved as your unhappy irritation has suggested. It is a lost battle, and lost for ever. One thing remained to you in your defeat - some rags of common honour; and these you have made haste to cast away.
In writing to Hyde, Stevenson proved prescient:
If that world at all remember you, on the day when Damien of Molokai shall be named a Saint, it will be in virtue of one work: your letter to the Reverend H. B. Gage.
Stevenson further chided Hyde for nit-picking Damien and failing to acknowledge his heroic virtue:
You are one of those who have an eye for faults and failures; that you take a pleasure to find and publish them; and that, having found them, you make haste to forget the overvailing virtues and the real success which had alone introduced them to your knowledge. It is a dangerous frame of mind.
Stevenson then comments on his own journal entries:
...I have set down these private passages, as you perceive, without correction; thanks to you, the public has them in their bluntness. They are almost a list of the man's faults, for it is rather these that I was seeking: with his virtues, with the heroic profile of his life, I and the world were already sufficiently acquainted. I was besides a little suspicious of Catholic testimony; in no ill sense, but merely because Damien's admirers and disciples were the least likely to be critical. I know you will be more suspicious still; and the facts set down above were one and all collected from the lips of Protestants who had opposed the father in his life. Yet I am strangely deceived, or they build up the image of a man, with all his weakness, essentially heroic, and alive with rugged honesty, generosity, and mirth.
The Catholic Encyclopedia further states that a correspondence in the "Pacific Commercial Advertiser", June 20, 1905, "completely removes from the character of Father Damien every vestige of suspicion, proving beyond a doubt that Dr. Hyde's insinuations rested merely on misunderstandings".
Mahatma Gandhi offered his own defense of Father Damien's life and work. Gandhi claimed Damien to have been an inspiration for his social campaigns in India that led to the freedom of his people and secured aid for those that needed it. Gandhi was quoted in M.S. Mehendale's 1971 account, Gandhi Looks at Leprosy, as saying,
The political and journalistic world can boast of very few heroes who compare with Father Damien of Molokai. It is worthwhile to look for the sources of such heroism.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI declared Father Damien to be venerable, the first of three steps that lead to sainthood. On June 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II beatified him and gave him his official spiritual title of Blessed. On December 20, 1999, Jorge Medina Estévez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, confirmed the November 1999 decision of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to place Blessed Damien on the liturgical calendar with the rank of optional memorial. Father Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI. His feast Day is celebrated on May 10. In Hawaiʻi, it is celebrated on the day of his death, April 15.
Two miracles have been attributed to Father Damien's posthumous intercession: On June 13, 1992, Pope John Paul II approved the cure of a nun in France in 1895 as a miracle attributed to Venerable Damien's intercession. In that case, Sister Simplicia Hue began a novena to Father Damien as she lay dying of a lingering intestinal illness. It is stated that pain and symptoms of the illness disappeared overnight.
In the second case, Audrey Toguchi, a Hawaiian woman who suffered from cancer, was completely cured after having prayed at the grave of Father Damien on Molokaʻi: In 1997, Toguchi was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a cancer that arises in fat cells. She underwent surgery a year later. A tumor the size of a fist was removed from the side of her left thigh and buttock. Unfortunately, the cancer spread to her lungs. Her physician, Dr. Walter Chang, told her, 'Nobody has ever survived this cancer. It's going to take you.' The Toguchi case was documented in the Hawaiʻi Medical Journal of October 2000.
In April 2008, the Holy See accepted the two cures as evidence of Father Damien's sanctity. On June 2, 2008, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican voted to recommend raising Father Damien of Molokaʻi to sainthood. The decree that officially notes and verifies the miracle needed for canonization was promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal José Saraiva Martins on Thursday, July 3, 2008, with the ceremony taking place in Rome, with celebrations in Belgium and Hawaiʻi. On February 21, 2009, the Vatican announced that Father Damien would be canonized. The ceremony took place in Rome on Rosary Sunday, October 11, 2009, in the presence of King Albert II of the Belgians and Queen Paola as well as the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, and several cabinet ministers, completing the process of canonization. In Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama affirmed his deep admiration for St. Damien, saying that he gave voice to voiceless and dignity to the sick. Four other individuals were canonized with Father Damien at the same ceremony: Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Sister Jeanne Jugan, Father Francisco Coll Guitart and Rafael Arnáiz Barón.
Damien's symbols are a tree and a dove.
Damien is honored, together with Marianne Cope, with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on April 15.
In arts and media
The one-man play Damien tells the story of Damien's life in the first person through a series of flashbacks.
In 2005, Damien was honored with the title of De Grootste Belg, chosen as "The Greatest Belgian" throughout that country's history in polling conducted by the Flemish public broadcasting service, VRT. At the same time he was placed third on Le plus grand Belge ("The Greatest Belgian") by the French-speaking public channel RTBF.
In both ecumenical religious and nonsectarian communities, Damien's ministry to lepers is being cited as an example of how society should minister to HIV/AIDS patients. Many clinics and centers worldwide catering to HIV/AIDS patients, including Damien Centers or Damien Ministries, bear his name. There is a chapel named after him, and dedicated to people with HIV/AIDS, in St. Thomas the Apostle Hollywood, an Episcopal parish.
The Blessed Damien Society, and other charities fighting leprosy, have been set up in his name. A centre for "peace for families and individuals affected by bereavement, stress, violence, and other difficulties with particular attention to Northern Ireland".
Damien is considered an important person in the history of Hawaiʻi. The Father Damien Statue on the steps of the Hawaiʻi State Capitol Building honors him, and a replica is displayed in the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol.
Schools are named after him, including Damien High School in Southern California, and Damien Memorial School in Hawaiʻi. The village of Saint-Damien, Quebec is also named after him. Churches worldwide are also named after him.
St. Damien of Molokaʻi Catholic Church in Edmond, Oklahoma, is believed to have been the first Roman Catholic church in the continental United States to be named for Saint Damien when it was dedicated in 2010. A Traditional Latin Mass church, it is operated by the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), and was authorized by Eusebius J. Beltran, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, in 2010.
- American Catholic Servants of God, Venerables, Beatified, and Saints
- Charles Reed Bishop
- Charles Warren Stoddard
- Herman Koeckemann
- Jonatana Napela
- Kalaupapa Leprosy Settlement and National Historical Park
- List of American saints and beatified people
- Peter Kaeo
- Walter M. Gibson
- St. Thomas the Apostle Hollywood
- ^ a b "Father Damien". Capitol Campus/Art. The Architect of the Capitol. http://www.aoc.gov/cc/art/nsh/damien.cfm. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ De Broeck, William (1913). "Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- ^ a b c d Tayman, John (2007). The Colony: The Harrowing True Story of the Exiles of Molokai. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780743233019. http://books.google.com/books?id=rKUaLE6s1lgC&dq.
- ^ a b "‘Apostle of the Lepers,’ Spanish mystic among 10 to be canonized". Catholic News Agency. www.catholicnewsagency.com. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/apostle_of_the_lepers_spanish_mystic_among_10_to_be_canonized/. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ a b "Pope Proclaims Five New Saints". Radio Vaticana. http://storico.radiovaticana.org/en1/storico/2009-10/324616_pope_proclaims_five_new_saints.html. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ a b c Boeynaems, Libert H. (1913). "Father_Damien_(Joseph_de_Veuster)". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- ^ a b "Saint Damien - Servant of God, Servant of Humanity". Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. http://cathedralofourladyofpeace.com/damien.htm. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ a b "Pater Damiaan is De Grootste Belg". degrootstebelg.canvas.be. http://degrootstebelg.canvas.be/dgb_master/nieuws/dgb_damiaandegrootste/index.shtml. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ "Blessed Damian De Veuster". Biography. Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. 2007-05-10. http://www.ssccpicpus.com/pag.aspx?ln=en&id=87. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
- ^ Eynikel, Hilde (1997). Damiaan: De Definitieve Biografie. Leuven: Davidsfond. p. 82. ISBN 9789061525868.
- ^ Dutton, Joseph (1913). "Molokai". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
- ^ "THE LEPERS OF MOLOKAI". The New York Times (New York: The New York Times Company): p. 13. 26 May 1889. http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?_r=1&res=9C00E7D61E38E533A25755C2A9639C94689FD7CF. Retrieved 21 July 2010.
- ^ Daws, Gavan (1984). Holy Man: Father Damien of Moloki. University of Hawaii Press. p. 162. ISBN 9780824809201. http://books.google.com/books?id=ycb1yBq7SYQC.
- ^ Edmond, Rod (2006). Leprosy and empire: a medical and cultural history. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521865845. http://books.google.com/books?id=15U9YIr1masC.
- ^ "St. Damien of Molokai: Servant of God - Servant of Humanity". St. Augustine by-the-sea Roman Catholic Church. St. Augustine-by-the-Sea. http://staugustinebythesea.com/Damien_of_Molokai.htm. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ a b "The Life of Father Damien". The Star-Bulletin (Honolulu, Hawaii). 7 October 2009.
- ^ a b c d e f g h Stevenson, Robert Lewis (1922). Father Damien- An Open Letter to the Reverend Dr. Ed Hyde of Honolulu. W. Heinemann in association with Chatto and Windus, Cassell and Longmans, Green. pp. 479–501. http://books.google.com/books?id=iWY4AAAAIAAJ.
- ^ Downes, Patrick (March 28, 2003). "Tribunal to examine Blessed Damien miracle claim". Hawaii Catholic Herald (Honolulu, Hawaii: Diocese of Honolulu,). http://www.hawaiicatholicherald.org/BlessedDamien/tabid/311/newsid916/418/Default.aspx. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
- ^ Bernardo, Rosemarie (4 July 2008). "Aiea woman excited for her saint in making". The Star-Bulletin. http://archives.starbulletin.com/2008/07/04/news/story03.html. Retrieved 2009-10-11.
- ^ "Vatican Votes To Elevate Father Damien To Sainthood". KITV Honolulu. www.kitv.com. http://www.kitv.com/news/16763324/detail.html. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ "Le Père Damien proclamé saint", Le Soir, 2009-10-11, http://www.lesoir.be/actualite/monde/2009-10-11/affluence-canonisation-pere-damien-731882.shtml
- ^ Sweas, Megan. "Obama Says St. Damien Gave Voice to Voiceless, Dignity to the Sick." Catholic News Service. October 14, 2009.
- ^ Donadio, Rachel (11 October 2009). "Benedict Canonizes 5 New Saints". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/12/world/europe/12pope.html. Retrieved 2009-10-13.
- ^ "Molokai, la isla maldita (1959)". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0053075/. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ "Father Damien: The Leper Priest (1980) (TV)". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080590/. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (1999)". Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0165196/. Retrieved 2010-07-21.
- ^ http://www.damienministries.org One example in Washington DC
- ^ St Thomas Hollywood
- ^ Damien House, Ireland "
- ^ Biography by Architects of the Capitol
- Daws, Gavan (1984). Holy Man: Father Damien of Molokai. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0824809203.
- Eynikel, Hilde (1999). Molokai: the Story of Father Damien. Staten Island: Alba House. ISBN 0818908726.
- Stewart, Richard (2000). Leper Priest of Moloka'i. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0824823222.
- Bunson, Margaret; Bunson, Matthew (2009). Apostle of the Exiled: St. Damien of Molokai. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.. ISBN 978-1-59276-610-9.
- Edmond, Rod (2006). Leprosy and Empire: A Medical and Cultural History. Cambridge Social and Cultural Histories. 8. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521865840.
- Gould, Tony (2005). A Disease Apart: Leprosy in the Modern World. Macmillan. ISBN 0312305028.
- Michaels, Barry (2009). Saint Damien de Veuster: Missionary of Moloka'i. Boston: Pauline Books & Media. ISBN 0-8198-7128-1. http://www.pauline.org.
- Kalaupapa National Historic Park – about the human and natural community of Father Damien's work
- Damiaandorp – Hometown of Father Damian
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