Monday, May 12, 2014

St. Damien of Molokai

Saturday, May 10, was the feast of St. Damien of Molokai, the priest and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who served the lepers of the Hawaiian Islands.  He shared their life and, in the end, he shared their illness and death.  The words of Jesus come to mind: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (John 15: 13). What was the source of Damien's love?

St. John Paul II answered that question in his homily at the time of Damien's beatification in 1995:

"Where did Damien's charity and happiness in often difficult situations come from? He drew his strength from the spirituality of his congregation: the contemplation of the Eucharist, the mystery of love in which Christ truly communicates with the one who receives Him and whom He invites to total dedication: 'I find my consolation in my one companion who never abandons me,' he used to say when speaking of the real presence of Christ in the tabernacle. The fact that the congregation to which Fr. Damien belongs is consecrated to the heart of Jesus and to the heart of His Mother is eloquent.  Between these two hearts there is an exchanged of gifts in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption. Fr. Damien drew inspiration from this exchange and he followed it to the end. 'How sweet it is to die as a son of the Sacred Heart,' he would say on the day of his death, Monday of Holy Week, 1899. In fact, a passage from one of Damien's letters which adorns his tomb recalls his true mission: 'I am the happiest of men because I can serve the Lord in the poor and sick children rejected by others.'"

Last January I visited the cathedral in Honolulu where Fr. Damien was ordained and I also saw the statue of him which is outside the capital building. St. Damien's heroism is an inspiration to all.

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