Saint Damien of Molokai

Views: 1501
Ratings: (0)

Joseph De Veuster was an ordinary boy growing up in Belgium, planning to take over the family farm as he grew older, until he was called to a new vocation—the life of a priest. Joseph became Father Damien and was sent as a missionary to Hawaii and, eventually, to Molokai to become a priest for those suffering from leprosy.

List price: $6.36

Your Price: $5.09

You Save: 20%

 

20 Slices

Format Buy Remix

A Close Call

ePub

1

A Close Call

The old bell clanged loudly, cutting through the quiet afternoon air. In Tremelo, Belgium, school was over. The students scattered quickly, heading for home. The De Veuster brothers and sisters and a group of their friends pushed and shoved, chatting as they walked along.

“Hey! Let’s play crack the whip!” one of the girls called out.

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. Sometimes people drive their carts down this road,” cautioned ten-year-old Auguste. The younger children hesitated a moment.

“Oh, we’ll be careful! Come on, it will be fun!” said Joseph. He was just three years younger than his brother Auguste. Joseph grabbed Auguste’s hand and started running. The others quickly followed suit, joining hands along the empty country road. The object of the game was simply to run as fast as you could and not lose your grip. It was a challenge to stay balanced and to keep up with the faster runners in the group.

“Hang on tight! I see a curve ahead!” Joseph shouted. They tightened their grip on each other and swung around the arc. This was the fun part!

 

Growing Up in Belgium

ePub

2

Growing Up in Belgium

Joseph’s close call on the road home from school wasn’t his first—or his last—childhood adventure. He loved excitement, and in the winter, when the Dyle River was frozen over, Joseph joined his friends in skating races. The competition could be fierce!

“Joseph, faster! Gerard is right behind you!” the crowd of onlookers shouted excitedly.

Joseph’s blood pulsed with excitement. He bit his lip and pumped faster and faster, flying forward in a burst of speed. The children cheered. Joseph had passed the finish line. But with the wind on his face, the exhilarating sensation of being on air, and the trees whizzing by in a blur of light and shadows, he was having too much fun to stop now!

A few of the children looked at one another in concern. “The ice is too thin out there. We never go out that far … what’s he thinking?”

“Joseph, stop! Come back!” they shouted with their hands cupped around their mouths. “Come back!”

But he was too far away to hear them. And the cold air felt so good.

 

Dreams for the Future

ePub

3

Dreams for the Future

Joseph may have only been playing at being saints with his siblings, but his family’s faith made a deep impression on him as a child. Mornings and evenings, his family prayed together. In this way, Joseph began to develop his own friendship with God—a friendship that grew stronger as Joseph grew up.

On Palm Sunday, 1850, Joseph made his first Communion. He was ten years old. (In those days first Communion was received at an older age.) Besides his knack for getting into mischief, Joseph also displayed a generous heart and was sensitive to others’ needs.

One warm summer’s morning, Mama De Veuster baked her delicious speculoos—Flemish spice cookies. She filled a little bag with the cookies, fresh from the oven and still warm, and handed it to Leonce as he, Joseph, and Pauline set off for a walk. They had finished their morning chores and were looking forward to a few hours of freedom in the bright sun. They hadn’t gone far when the tantalizing aroma wafting from the cookies began to make their stomachs growl.

 

Letters

ePub

4

Letters

It was late. Everyone in the school dormitory was fast asleep. Even those who always stayed awake as late as possible to study had put out their lamps long before. The shuffling steps of the director making his midnight rounds suddenly halted in the corridor. What was that light up ahead? It was coming from Joseph’s room! He scratched his chin. Hmmm … the director thought. There aren’t any exams tomorrow, at least not in Joseph’s class. But then this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed his light so late

The kindly director was determined to find out what was going on. Silently and slowly, he opened the door just a crack. There in the corner the young student knelt before a crucifix, lost in prayer. What kind of teenager would be praying so intently in the middle of the night? the director thought. Sure, Joseph is a good student, but I had no idea this side of his life existed. I guess only God judges the heart. In respectful silence the man closed the door again.

Since his arrival in Braine-le-Comte, Joseph had begun thinking seriously about his future. It had seemed so natural to begin working in the family business, but now Joseph was having second thoughts. His heart was being pulled in another direction. But how could he ever tell his father what he really wanted to do?

 

Call Me “Brother Damien”

ePub

5

Call Me “Brother Damien”

The Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary had been founded by Father Pierre Coudrin in 1800. Father Coudrin envisioned a community of priests and brothers who would be dedicated to a special mission: traveling all over the world to teach people about the love of Jesus and Mary. They would also be devoted to continual adoration of Jesus in the Eucharist. This was just what Joseph wanted.

He focused himself on his new way of life with all his heart and soul. There were many new things to learn, tasks to do, rules to get accustomed to. But Joseph attacked each challenge with boundless energy. And a new challenge was about to present itself!

Although Joseph had loved his studies, his knowledge of French would not help him on the road to the priesthood. In order to celebrate Mass at the time, priests needed to know Latin. Most of the other young men in the monastery had already mastered the language. But nineteen-year-old Joseph hadn’t even begun. It was suggested that perhaps he should set his sights on becoming a religious brother and not a priest.

 

An Unexpected Call

ePub

6

An Unexpected Call

Damien professed his vows on October 7, 1860, when he was just twenty years old. He then moved to Paris to study Greek, Latin, and philosophy at the headquarters of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

Once again he dived into his assignment with boundless energy. Often he stayed up far into the evening to study. “I have so much to catch up on,” he would explain to friends who urged him to lighten up.

But that was not the only reason he pushed so hard. Damien’s heart was once again full of big dreams. Damien wanted to be an apostle and join his religious brothers who were lucky enough to be sent to distant mission lands.

One night, a visiting missionary bishop from the Pacific islands spoke to the community of the needs in his distant territory. Damien’s heart was on fire after that. He wrote letter after letter to Pamphile, each brimming with excitement. “Christ died to save all people. But how many people still have never even heard of Jesus? Wouldn’t it be great if you and I could join the ranks of our missionary brothers?” Pamphile wholeheartedly agreed.

 

“Leave Your Country”

ePub

7

“Leave Your Country”

Damien looked out over the vast expanse of water stretching endlessly away. The narrow strip of land he was leaving disappeared on the horizon. His heart ached, he had to admit, but he told himself that this must be what Abraham had experienced when he left his homeland. The example of the Old Testament hero gave him courage.

“Leave your country,” God had told Abraham, “and go to a new land. I will lead you.” Damien also remembered that many of the first followers of Christ were called to leave their homes and their loved ones, too. He was in good company.

Damien stared into the sparkling blue water, still thinking about the farewell visit to his family. But it was remembering the look on Papa De Veuster’s face that made him ache the most.

“A missionary? You, my son?” Papa De Veuster asked in a choked voice. “Then I shall never see you again?” Their eyes met, and it was Damien who broke the gaze. He was usually so ready with an answer. But not now. The silence between them was painful.

 

Aloha

ePub

8

Aloha

Never before had Damien seen anything like Hawaii. As the island grew closer he was awestruck at the magnificent colors that came into view. It seemed like a dream to him. Everything was luxuriantly green. Back home he had been accustomed to willow trees and oaks. Here, it was like the Garden of Eden from the Bible! Different kinds of fruit trees were everywhere. He tried to imagine the taste of each of them: mango, breadfruit, coconut … Would he ever learn how to eat them? And the flowers—he had never experienced such colors and scents before.

The smiling people of the island welcomed the new missionaries with their characteristic welcoming aloha spirit. They draped the newcomers with leis made from exotic orchids, shiny kukui nuts, seashells, and fragrant ginger flowers. Damien was already beginning to feel at home.

Later, as he walked around with a guide, he got a better look at the terrain. “What is that beautiful flower called?” Damien inquired.

“That is a plumeria. Smell the sweetness?” his guide picked the flower. Damien took a deep breath. He had never smelled a perfume like this before.

 

Fire and Water

ePub

9

Fire and Water

“Kamiano! Kamiano! Come quickly!”

Alarmed, Father Damien—by now accustomed to hearing the Hawaiian version of his name, Kamiano—leaped to his feet. What his people dreaded and feared the most had happened! For days now slight tremors had shaken the earth. They were the first signs of an impending volcanic eruption. And today it had come: the earth split open and rivers of fiery lava began to flow through the villages, burying everything in their paths. Smoke and ash filled the air.

The earthquake caused massive tsunamis which washed away entire villages in the Kohala district. Father Damien and many of the villagers were able to flee to safety in another village. But what would they find on their return?

“Kamiano, it has been days now … My husband was near the beach when the first tidal wave hit our village. I have not seen him since. He may be hurt. What am I going to do?” a frightened mother asked. A child of three or four clung to her side.

“As soon as it is safe, we will begin searching for survivors,” Father Damien replied, trying to sound more hopeful than he felt. He had heard reports that the worst was over now. They could soon go home.

 

A Cry for Help

ePub

10

A Cry for Help

It was good to see the familiar faces of his fellow priests again and to talk with his superior, Father Modeste. The dedication of the new church was a beautiful event for both the priests and the people. In the little reception hall, all the missionaries gathered, reliving old times, exchanging news from Europe, and, best of all, sharing the work and successes of their own territories.

“Yes,” said Bishop Maigret, “we can thank God that much has been accomplished. New churches have been constructed. Hundreds of good people have been baptized. Only God knows all the good done by each of you. But one place still needs our help …”

The hall went still. All eyes were focused on the Bishop. They knew the place he was referring to: Molokai (pronounced moh-loh-KAH-ee)—the island of the much-feared disease of leprosy. This affliction was also called the “death before death” because of its terrible symptoms.

Leprosy had first struck the islands some thirty years before Damien’s arrival. Panic and fear prompted difficult and drastic decisions. Because leprosy was thought to be highly contagious, King Kamehameha V (pronounced kah-MEH-hah-MEH-hah) made a law of segregation in 1865. All those diagnosed were separated from the rest of society and sent to Molokai, far away from their families and friends.

 

Molokai: Day One

ePub

11

Molokai: Day One

Stepping onto the shores of Molokai for the first time, Father Damien prayed for courage. Setting his few possessions down in the sand, he turned to watch the Kilauea sail away, becoming smaller and smaller on the horizon. Soon it was nothing more than a speck. Listening to the gentle sound of the waters lapping the beach, Damien became aware of other sounds nearby—a rustling whisper, a flurry of movement. Instantly, the parting advice of the bishop came into his mind: Whatever you do, don’t let people think you are afraid! Damien closed his eyes and swallowed hard.

Slowly he turned to meet his new parishioners. They were hesitant, hanging back half-concealed in the bushes near the beach. They began to approach carefully, emerging silently as they surrounded their new priest.

For the first time, Father Damien felt very much alone and afraid. As he looked around he thought, This can’t be … these people must suffer so much!

The islanders surrounding him had at one time undoubtedly been strong and handsome and graceful. Now, all traces of former beauty were gone, lost to the disfiguring power of the painful disease. Some were shrunken with leprosy, others swollen with it—but all were deformed. Wounds covered their broken bodies, bandaged by scraps of fabric, testifying to the longtime neglect they had suffered.

 

Here to Stay

ePub

12

Here to Stay

Aole kanawai me keia wahi.

These words sent a chill through the young priest’s heart. They were the motto of a hopeless people: “In this place there is no law.” Many people on Molokai saw no future for themselves. Trapped on the island with no hope of escape, they began to think that it no longer mattered how they treated themselves—or others.

Father Damien was deeply concerned about this spirit of lawlessness. Nights on Molokai were by no means peaceful or silent. The heartrending wails and groans of the sick were to be expected. But the drunken laughter and wild celebrations that often filled the evening air spoke of the desperation that reigned on the island.

One evening, while trying to navigate the local terrain, Father Damien came upon one of these out-of-control parties. When the crowd caught sight of his cassock, the frightened cry arose, “Father Damien!” People scattered in all directions to avoid being recognized by their pastor. A few hid behind the trees, waiting to see what Father Damien would do.

 

The “Miracle” of Water

ePub

13

The “Miracle” of Water

The locals called Molokai the “land of the cliffs.” Its jagged gray mountains formed forbidding walls that cut off a small peninsula from the rest of the island. It was here on this isolated point of land that the two colonies called Kalawao (pronounced kah-lah-WAH-oh) and Kalaupapa (pronounced kah-LAH-oo-PA-pa) were located. There was a superintendent of the colony, a man by the name of Meyer, but he lived on another part of the island. So the burden of both the spiritual and physical needs of the people fell on the young priest’s shoulders.

Early each morning, Father Damien left his shelter beneath the pandanus tree. His strong, black-clad form could be seen at prayer for several hours in the little chapel dedicated to Saint Philomena. Then he would say Mass. He received his inner strength from this daily time with Jesus. Then he would set to work. Each day there was much to be done to improve life in the settlement.

“Michael,” Father Damien said one day, “I have an idea. But I’m going to need your help.”

 

Opposition

ePub

14

Opposition

Father Damien looked up at the neat brick building in Honolulu. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have houses like that on Molokai someday? But now he must make sure the facts were clear in his mind. Ahead was an appointment with the board of health—and only facts interested them.

It hadn’t been easy for Father Damien to get an appointment with the president of the board of health. It was sad, but here he was unpopular. Many officials in Honolulu were jealous of the acclaim given to the young priest. It made them look bad—negligent, to say the least.

He was sent from secretary to secretary and finally back to the doorman—all in the hope of confusing him. He had to sign a paper here and answer questions there. Father Damien, however, was used to overcoming obstacles. “I came to see the president,” he firmly declared, “and I will not leave until I have seen him!”

Father Damien finally got through to the president’s office, but the official was not very cooperative. He sat comfortably behind his marble-topped desk.

 

God Never Leaves His Own

ePub

15

God Never Leaves His Own

In spite of this opposition, Molokai was changing. Much progress had been made. With the new lumber, shabby huts had been replaced by small, tidy cottages. The missionary even encouraged the residents to plant gardens around their homes, trusting that even small improvements would make hope grow in their own hearts. Slowly attitudes started shifting. The people took an interest in themselves now, and as they did so, life seemed more bearable.

Reform on Molokai had changed the outlook on death, too. Father Damien, who got his strength from the thought of heaven, tried to help his parishioners understand that death was the beginning of a new and eternal life with God.

“Father,” one elderly woman confided, “I’m not so afraid to think of dying now. You said that when we rise one day, our bodies will be beautiful again.” Her eyes filled with tears. “We have forgotten what it was like to be beautiful.” Father Damien watched her hobble away.

A blend of ingenuity and concern gave Father Damien a wonderful idea. He organized a burial society. The members made uniforms and colorful banners. When a fellow villager died, they made the funeral as solemn and as beautiful as they could. They carried the person’s body in procession, singing and honoring it as a temple of the Holy Spirit. This brought hope to all the villagers.

 

Visit from a Princess

ePub

16

Visit from a Princess

The burial society, a choir, a hospital, and a boys’ home—all the improvements in Kalawao and Kalaupapa—had come about through hard work, sacrifice, and long hours of prayer.

From Father Damien’s anxious, elderly mother in Tremelo came a pleading letter: “My son, be careful. Don’t expose yourself imprudently to this disease. Don’t overwork. I love you and follow you with my prayers.”

From the eager missionary came the reply: “I love you, too, Mama. Please don’t worry. I live well. I have my two meals a day at home. For breakfast I have rice, sometimes meat, and coffee with a few biscuits. In the evening I dine on what is left over from the morning, with a cup of tea made from water I boil over my little lamp.”

Father Damien didn’t tell his mother that his noon meal was in the home of a person who had leprosy. All his life the missionary was criticized for this “imprudence.” But was it imprudence? Damien didn’t think so. Damien’s first priority was to ensure that the people of Molokai felt loved and accepted by him.

 

The Way of the Cross

ePub

17

The Way of the Cross

It was a hot afternoon in 1884. Damien was forty-four years old. No breeze came to relieve the perspiring little settlement. Not a leaf stirred. As he sat in his stuffy confessional waiting for penitents, Damien inwardly resolved to infuse extra courage into whoever would come today. A few minutes later the familiar sound of shuffling steps and thumping canes started to fill the chapel.

Father Damien had always had to remind himself to be patient when hearing confessions on these long afternoons. With the fearful he was gentle, with others he was firm, but he tried always to be compassionate.

Patiently, Father Damien listened as people shared their discouragement, their fear, their loneliness. He promised each one his prayers, assuring them that there was a heaven to hope for, something that he repeated over and over. He reminded his people that this life is like a breath compared to the eternity of perfect happiness that lies ahead and that through our suffering we share in the cross of Jesus.

 

Blessed Marianne Cope

ePub

18

Blessed Marianne Cope

The world reacted strongly to the news that Father Damien had contracted leprosy. Those who loved him were shocked, and they resolved to help him even more. Those who disliked him blamed this misfortune on his lack of caution. They said he was foolish. They said he just wanted publicity.

But a little group of religious sisters in Honolulu couldn’t have cared less what newspapers and journals were saying about the apostle of Molokai. For two years these Franciscan sisters had operated a branch hospital on the Honolulu coast for people in the first stages of leprosy. Father Damien had wanted the sisters to come to Molokai, but the board of health had blocked his plans. But as it happened, the sisters were soon to have Father Damien as one of their own patients. It was nearly two years since he had been diagnosed, and Damien was coming to try one of the new treatments for leprosy discovered by Dr. Masanao Goto, a Japanese physician who had done research into leprosy.

 

Load more


Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
2370006430612
Isbn
9780819871800
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata