Tuesday, May 10, 2011

St. Damien of Molokai

“This is how God inspired me, Brother Francis, to embark upon a life of penance. When I was in sin, the sight of lepers nauseated me beyond measure; but then God himself led me into their company, and I had pity on them. When I had once become acquainted with them, what had previously nauseated me became a source of spiritual and physical consolation for me. After that I did not wait long before leaving the world.” (The Testament of Saint Francis of Assisi)

Today is the feast day of Saint Damien of Molokai (January 3, 1840 to April 15, 1889). A Belgium missionary priest, he volunteered to go out to the Hawaiian leper colony to serve the people who were under quarantine. Living conditions were poor, the lepers had lost hope, Father Damien did all he could to provide for both their physical and spiritual needs. Like St. Francis, he found them to be “a source of spiritual and physical consolation.” Eventually, he, himself, came down with the disease, and would eventually die from it.

St. Damien is an example of one who practiced “kenosis,” that self-emptying of one self for the sake of others, for the goal of living the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the fullest.

He has been one of my favorite holy persons. I have read one of the biographies of him, “Holy Man,” and have seen both a one man play on public television, and a movie based on his life. His life of service and sacrifice is both frightening and inspiring. Frightening is so much as what living the Gospel can demand of us; inspiring in so much as it shows what one person can do, with the help of God’s grace.

One final note, he would eventually receive help with his mission, among them would be a group of Franciscan sisters.

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