Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Notes on the Memorial of Bl. Damien Joseph de Veuster.

Today the Church remembers Father Damien of Molokai, the 19th century Belgian missionary to Hawaii who devoted his life to serving people with leprosy, eventually contracting the disease himself and dying from its effects. Beatified in 1995, Damien is one of four Catholic priests whose images are included in the National Statuary Hall Collection of the United States Capitol (incidentally, two of the remaining three are Jesuits - Eusebio Kino and Jacques Marquette). Click here for a photo and description of the statue of Damien on display in the Capitol. For more detailed information about Damien's life, click here.

Father Damien and I go back a long way. I'm not sure why, but I know that I've been aware of his story for most of my life - much longer, in fact, that I've known about St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Benedict, St. Therese of Lisieux or a host of other well-known saints. In a sense, Damien of Molokai was probably my earliest model of sanctity; if in elementary school someone had asked me what a "saint" was, I probably would have offered Damien of Molokai as an example. Perhaps it's ironic, then, that I'm hard-pressed to think of any concrete way in which Damien has influenced my life - after all, when I discerned a vocation to religious life it was to the Jesuits and not to Damien's religious community, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and apostolically I feel more drawn to academia than to foreign missions. Nonetheless, in some way I still have a nostalgic attachment to Damien of Molokai, so today is a special day for me. AMDG.


Post a Comment

<< Home