Damien High School

Faith » St. Damien

St. Damien

SAINT DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI

Joseph de Veuster, known throughout the world as Father Damien, was born on January 3, 1840, at Tremeloo, (not far from Louvain) Belgium. On February 2, 1859, he followed in the footsteps of his brother Pamphile by entering the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary; and on October 7, 1860, he made his religious profession choosing the name of Damien.

In October 1863, Damien's brother, Father Pamphile, who had been assigned to the Sacred Hearts Mission in Hawaii, fell ill of typhus. Damien, not yet ordained, begged to be allowed to take his brother's place, for which permission was granted.

Following ordination to the Priesthood on May 21, 1864, in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, Damien spent the next eight years in the district of Kohala on the Island of Hawaii. In July 1872, Damien wrote to the Father General that many of his parishioners had been sent to the Leper Settlement on Molokai; he spoke of an “undeniable feeling that soon I shall join them.”

Molokai

When Damien first arrived on the Island of Molokai on May 10, 1873, the situation, in the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, was, “a pitiful place to visit and hell to dwell in.” Lepers were sent there to rot and die, and no attempt was made to cure or arrest the disease. Lepers were outcasts from society, separated from those they loved, suffering from a disease considered loathsome and unclean, all but abandoned by the medical profession, and without even the comfort of any but the most infrequent religious services. They easily succumbed to apathy and hopelessness. Many, disheartened to the point of desperation, seized upon anything that would give them a moment's surcease - alcohol, gambling, lewd dancing, and debauchery - and their cry of welcome as boatload after boatload of new patients arrived, was, “In this place there is no law.” Damien wrote, “The Settlement absolutely has to have a priest . . . I believe it my duty to offer myself . . . I am willing to devote my life to the leprosy victims. The sick are arriving by boatloads. They die in droves . . . I become a leper with lepers, in order to win them all for Jesus Christ. When I preach, I am in the habit of saying,"We Lepers!"

For sixteen years - from 1873 to 1889 - Father Damien ministered to the lepers, bringing as much material and spiritual comfort to them as he could. His self-imposed duties included anything that would help or comfort them, from bandaging sores, making coffins, and digging graves to building churches, hearing confessions, and saying Mass. He went to considerable trouble in making a much-needed fresh-water supply available for the settlement. He ate from a common bowl, food prepared by a leper, smoked the common pipe passed from mouth to mouth and used tools which were commonly owned. Indeed he was, in the words of St. Paul, “All things to all Men.”

“From morning till night,” he wrote, “I am surrounded by terrible physical and moral miseries. However, I try to have a certain gaiety to build their courage.” In that effort, he certainly was successful. The presence of this concerned and good-natured priest completely changed the atmosphere of the settlement. The poor people quickly sensed that they had a true friend. They were no longer orphans. A wave of hope surged through the colony. They were no longer those who society had conveniently chosen to forget, because Damien has opened the eyes of the world to the needs and sufferings of millions of lepers and had thereby stirred many to the generous support of work on their behalf.

Apostle of the Eucharist

Father Damien was truly an apostle of the Eucharist. This love he had for the Eucharist was transmitted to the lepers. He brought them to closer union with their Maker through the beautiful liturgies he organized, frequent Benediction, and Eucharistic Processions.

It was when he set up numerous adoration chapels that he experienced the depth of the lepers' faith and devotion. Related to the establishment of Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration on the island, Father Damien wrote to his provincial in 1888, "This is the fifteenth year we observe night adoration..., all of us lepers."

Father Damien lived for the Eucharist. It was this strong apostleship that filled the lives of the lepers. Their Eucharistic adoration was an edifying homage to the Lord. He wrote to his brother, "Without the constant presence of our Divine Master, I would never be able to cast my lot with that of the lepers."

Death

Five years after becoming a victim of the dreaded disease, Father Damien died peacefully on April 15, 1889, at the beginning of Holy Week. On June 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II declared Father Damien Blessed and established his Feast Day as May 10.

Very few missionaries receive gratitude and high public honor for their dedication and zeal. We, the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts, are rightly proud, therefore, that not only is this high school named in his honor, but that also there stands a statue in his honor in a very exclusive gallery, Statuary Hall in the nation's Capitol, Washington, DC.


NOVENA TO ST. DAMIEN:

FIRST DAY:

Dear St Damien, you were sent away to school in a region where you didn’t speak the language and people tried to bully you because of it. We pray for those who are bullied whether at school or at work or in whatever situation. May they emulate you in not accepting it. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

SECOND DAY:

Dear St Damien, you loved your parents but you loved God more. You knew God was calling you to the priesthood and you answered that call although you knew your parents had other hopes of you. May we put God first and never refuse his call because of any other attachment. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

THIRD DAY:

Dear St Damien, you gave up family, country and language to go and evangelize, knowing that you would never see your home or family again. Accord us something of your courage and clear-sightedness. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

FOURTH DAY:

Dear St Damien, in Hawaii you worked tirelessly, giving everything to make Christ known. We pray that we can value our faith as much as you did. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

FIFTH DAY:

Dear St Damien, when you went to Molokai you were prepared to give up your life to serve others. Help us to understand this Christian love and begin to desire it for ourselves. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

SIXTH DAY:

Dear St Damien, when you first arrived in the leper colony you were revolted by the patients, but you didn’t let them see this and continued to work for them. We pray to have this spirit so we can put others first, thinking of their needs and feelings rather than our own. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

SEVENTH DAY:

Dear St Damien, you didn’t deal well with bureaucracy and often offended people by your brusqueness. You had to learn to ask forgiveness. May we never think God cannot use us because of our character, and may we too have the humility to ask pardon of those we have offended. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

EIGHTH DAY:

Dear St Damien, you suffered greatly on Molokai because you were cut off from the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation. May we understand the importance of this sacrament and have recourse to it often. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.

NINTH DAY:

Dear St Damien, you suffered terrible loneliness and turned to the Blessed Sacrament for comfort. We pray for all who are lonely. Help us to give time to anyone we know who is lonely, and to give time to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We pray especially for (mention your request).

Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory be.