St. Damien of Molokai

Friends in Christ, today is the Feast of St. Damien of Molokai He was born in Belgium in 1840, he followed his brother and entered the Congregation of the Sacred Heart; There he took the name of Damien. Now this was a missionary Order, and they had missions in the Hawaiian Islands, which were very poor in those days; His brother was supposed to leave for the missions, but he became ill, and since the preparations had been made for the trip, Damien asked to go in his brother’s place, which he did. Once he arrived in Hawaii, he began to prepare himself for his work, and a year later he was ordained a priest.
At that time in Hawaii, there was a big problem with the disease of leprosy. The government wanted to stop the spread of the disease, so it resorted to a harsh plan: anyone with leprosy would be sent to the island of Molokai; this was a quarantine. Damien’s Congregation saw the great need of opening a mission there on Molokai, and so the Bishop spoke to the men about it; he would not order anyone to go, he only accepted volunteers; this was because those who went, would be in great danger of getting leprosy. Four men volunteered, they would take turns and rotate their time there, to limit their exposure. Damien was the first to leave on May 10th, 1873. Once he got there and began helping them, he chose to stay, the others need not come.
In that place of disease, almost like a living hell, he brought hope. He gave encouragement to the sick; he was their pastor, the doctor of their souls and of their bodies. He was able to stir up the hope of Jesus Christ in the hearts of even the most pitiable of men. He told them about heaven, and that they should offer their sickness for others. He built a community where the joy of being together and the love of God, gave people new reasons for living.
Ultimately Father Damien himself contracted the disease; then he was able to say, ‘I also am one of you!’ He got his strength from Holy Mass; “In our isolation here, far from those we love, we find the strength we need at the altar.’ It was often said that Father Damien was the happiest missionary in the world. He is the patron saint of lepers and the outcast.

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