Archive for the ‘St. Damien de Veuster’ Category

O God, we praise thee!

October 11, 2009

DamienIconSing a Te Deum (the traditional Catholic hymn of joy and thanksgiving) today, at least in spirit.  The Church has given us 5 new saints.  And even President Obama (who was born in Hawaii) has weighed in on the occasion. 

Here’s the President’s statement, as it appears at

I wish to express my deep admiration for the life of Blessed Damien de Veuster, who will be canonized on Sunday by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI. I also want to convey my best wishes to the Kingdom of Belgium and its people, who are proud to count Fr. Damien among their great citizens.

Fr. Damien has also earned a special place in the hearts of Hawaiians. I recall many stories from my youth about his tireless work there to care for those suffering from leprosy who had been cast out. Following in the steps of Jesus’ ministry to the lepers, Fr. Damien challenged the stigmatizing effects of disease, giving voice to the voiceless and ultimately sacrificing his own life to bring dignity to so many.

In our own time as millions around the world suffer from disease, especially the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, we should draw on the example of Fr. Damien’s resolve in answering the urgent call to heal and care for the sick.

I offer my prayers as people of all faiths join the Holy Father and millions of Catholics around the world in celebrating Fr. Damien’s extraordinary life and witness.

I’ve written a few posts on both St. Damien of Molokia and St. Jeanne Jugan on this blog before, so I’d invite you to check them out — on Damien here and Jeanne here.

Note: I’ll be talking about the new saints with Gud Lloyd on his SIRIUS satellite radio show, “Seize the Day,” tomorrow at 8 am.

Here’s coverage worth a look:

The Associated Press article includes this great quotation from the homily: “Their perfection, in the logic of a faith that is humanly incomprehensible at times, consists in no longer placing themselves at the center, but choosing to go against the flow and live according to the Gospel.”

This is cool: A newly-formed parish in the Archdiocese of Detroit (a merger of three previous parishes) is being named St. Damien of Molokai parish.

Obama’s comment on the canonization has brought more attention to it.  For example, ABC News and U.S New and World Report noticed.

The governor of Hawaii issued a formal proclamation of Damien Day.

Hawaii Magazine has much more extensive coverage, including a slideshow of some of Damien personal effects. jeanne_jugan_300

Ann Rodgers, an excellent religion reporter in Pittsburgh (I’m a western PA native), focuses on Jeanne Jugan because her Little Sisters of the Poor have a home for the elderly there.  A snipet:

The sisters who beg are better known than the James P. Wall Memorial Home itself, which many people assume is for aging nuns. It’s not, and its residents don’t even have to be Catholic.

The sole requirements are to be older than age 60 — most residents arrive in their 80s — and in financial need. Residents pay what they can afford. There are long waiting lists for the apartments, assisted living and nursing units.

In the chapel is a stained glass window of St. Jeanne cradling an elderly woman in her arms. Beneath are her words, “The poor are our Lord.” The sisters teach all staff members and volunteers to treat residents as they would Jesus himself. When in doubt, they ask “What would Jeanne Jugan do?”

 Zenit’s bio of Jeanne is good, too.  It includes some of the dramatic details of her story:

The community elected her as its first superior, a post she held for only two weeks as Father Le Pailleur decided to revoke the election. Years later the priest ordered her to live a more retired life, involved only in domestic tasks, and removed from her benefactors, a decision she accepted without protest. She lived in this way for 27 years.
“She put into practice the dictum that ‘your left hand should not know what your right hand is doing,’ to the point of disappearing into the group of which she was really the founder,” said the postulator.
Blessed Marie de la Croix, as she was called after entering religious life, died in August 1879 when the congregation had some 2,488 women religious and 177 homes for the elderly. Months earlier, Pope Leo XIII had approved the congregation’s statutes.
The future saint was recognized as the official founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor only at the beginning of the 20th century, when members of the order decided to write the history of the community, said Father Vito.
“She never rebelled against her marginalization; on the contrary, she dedicated herself more intensely to her congregation,” the priest affirmed.

 UPDATE: St. Damien and his life’s work was the topic of the lead editorial in yesterday’s New York Times.


Holiness abounds!

October 9, 2009

Canonization day is upon us.  In two days, Mother Church will offer her children a dramatic a lesson in holiness, by presenting the world with five new saints, including two with American ties. 

Damien de Veuster was a Belgian-born priest who came to Hawaii to care for the lepers at the Kalaupapa colony and died  there among them.  Be sure to visit the Diocese of Honolulu’s website, this weekend.  It’s an excellent resource.  And consider getting a copy of my recent booklet, Saint Damien de Veuster: Missionary of Molokai.  It includes a brief biography of Fr. Damien and a newly composed novena to him. 

Jeanne Jugan was the founder of the Little Sisters of the Poor, dedicated to caring for the elderly poor, an order which has several homes for the elderly in the United States today. 

We also should not overlook the three other figures who are also set for Sunday’s canonization:

Rafael Arnáiz Barón (1911– 1938), a Trappist Cistercian Oblate of the Abbey of San Isidoro de Dueñas in Spain;

Francisco Coll Guitart (1812-1875), a Dominican priest; friend of St Anthony Mary Claret; parish priest; and founder of the Congregation of the Dominican Sisters of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and

Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński (1822-1895), Archbishop of Warsaw and founder of the Franciscan Sisters of the Family of Mary. He spent 20 years in exile in Siberia.

We should also note that this Sunday’s canonization is just the most prominent of the rites being conducted in various parts of the Church this fall, all with the approval of the Pope, to formally acknolwedge the sanctity of some of her members.  Five other beatification ceremonies are also on the docket!  More on that here in the days ahead.

New Novena for a New Saint

September 16, 2009

The U.S. gets not one but two new saints in less than a month, when the Pope canonizes damien bookletDamien de Veuster and Jeanne Jugan on October 11.  Both are remarkable examples of heroic love and faith.

The booklet that I wrote for Pauline Books, Saint Damien de Veuster: Missionary of Molokai, is now available. It contains a biography of the priest, as well as a newly composed novena to him.

Here’s the publisher’s website blurb:

What compelled a young priest to volunteer for an assignment that held the risk of a then-incurable disease? Explore the life of Saint Damien and discover his great love for God and every person he met. Saint Damien became the priest to the island of Moloka’i, the Hawaiian island where those suffering from Hansen’s Disease (leprosy) were quarantined. Suffering through many difficulties along with the people on the island, Damien made Moloka’i his permanent home and cared for the people with an open heart and fearless compassion. With his long-awaited canonization, the whole world is shown an example of generous, self-giving love. Includes biography and novena. Saint Damien de Veuster includes an introduction by Father Lane Akiona, SS.CC. and is endorsed by the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Damien’s religious community).

May I humbly suggest you consider getting a copy now, in order to use the novena as spiritual preparation/celebration during the 9 days leading up to canonization day?

A St. Damien Museum in Hawaii

June 25, 2009

It’s in the works:

And artifacts are everywhere: A lock of his hair is under glass in a circular box. Damien’s vestments hang in a specially made plastic display case near the door. And in a corner case sit his personal items, including his glasses.

Some of these artifacts have never been seen by the public. Many haven’t been on display in years.

But the congregation is working to change that.

With Father Damien’s canonization just four months away and interest in his life growing around the world, congregation members are finalizing plans for a permanent Damien museum in Waikiki, which they hope to have open in about a year; working to digitize Damien photos before they are lost to age; and fielding more requests for Damien information. It’s work the tiny congregation, of which Damien was a member, is happy to do despite limited resources.

Full story here.

Also online: An interview with a 91 year-old nun who participated  in a 1936 procession as part of the move of Fr. Damien’s remains from Hawaii to Belgium.  (He had died in 1889.)  She’s planning on being in Rome for his Oct 11 canonization.

New Today:

May 28, 2009

damien%20(2)The Diocese of Honolulu has rolled out a brand new website just today, which looks like it’ll be the go-to place for all things Damien, particularly as the universal Church welcomes him as one of its newest saints.  It’s

By all means, spend some time nosing around there yourself.  But among its resources are biographical information, songs about Fr. Damien, a great set of FAQs, interesting information about the statue of him that stands in the U.S. Capitol building, an itinerary for the relic that will tour the U.S. following the canonization, and much more.   I particularly enjoyed the rich collection of prayers to Fr. Damien that is provided. 

Thanks to Sharon Chiarucci at the Honolulu diocesan offices for the heads up, and kudos to those responsible for putting it together.

More info on the St. Damien relic tour

May 26, 2009

Sharon Chiarucci, an official of the Diocese of Honolulu, responded very helpfully and promptly to my request for details about the brief U.S. tour that the relic of St. Damien of Molokai will make in the days following the Leper Priest’s October 11, 2009, canonization in Rome.  I had somehow missed the helpful information available at the diocesan website (.pdf file of itinerary as it stands now is here) in my own search. 

Basically, if you’re living at the North American College, in Detroit, San Francisco, or Oakland, you’re in luck.  If you’re in Hawaii, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spend quality time with a bit of St. Damien’s mortal remains. 

Here’s where things stand now, based on Ms. Chairucci’s email and the website:

Sunday, October 11 – The Pope canonizes St. Damien at St. Peter’s Basilica.

Monday, October 12, 6:30 am – Relic will be at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.  (No details noted about public veneration.)

Tuesday, October 13 – The relic arrives in the U.S. in Newark, New Jersey, but there is no planned stop for public veneration in Newark.

Wednesday, October 14 – The relic stops in Detroit, Michigan.  Place and time for public veneration to be announced.

Thursday, October 15 – The relic stops in San Francisco, California.  Veneration will take place at St. Mary’s Cathedral, sometime in the afternoon and/or evening; specifics to be announced.

Friday, October 16 – The relic stops in Oakland, California.  Veneration will probably take place at Christ Our Light Cathedral, time to be announced.

Saturday, October 17 – The relic arrives in Hawaii.  An extensive itinerary of places and times for veneration of the relic in the Hawaiian islands is already available here (same .pdf file linked above). 

I’ll try to keep my antennae up for developments on this and note them here.  Sure would be nice if more locations were added to this list.  But since the tour obviously can’t begin before October 13, and the plans for its presence in the Hawaiian islands are well developed beginning October 17, that leaves very little room for development in between.

Appreciative thanks to Ms. Chiarucci and the Diocese of Honolulu for providing the information!

St. Damien relics to tour U.S. — good luck finding them

May 26, 2009

A Honolulu newspaper is reporting that a relic of the newly canonized St. Damien of Molokai will tour a list of sites in the United States immediately following the priest’s canonization this October. 

The Pope will canonize Damien in Rome on October 11, 2009.  Bishop Larry Silva, bishop of Honolulu, will receive the relic on that day, and apparently take it himself to Newark, New Jersey, where the relic’s travels across the U.S. will begin on October 13.

Unfortunately, there are not many details about dates and places for most of the country, and I’ve been unable to find a more detailed schedule elsewhere on the internet.  (I’ve sent an email to the Diocese of Honolulu, asking if they have any other information about the tour, or if they could point in the direction of someone who might.  If I find out anything, I’ll be sure to note it on this blog.) 

Unfortunately (for most of us), it does indicate that the relic will spend most of its time actually in Hawaii, rather than mainland U.S.  It’ll travel from Newark to Oakland, California, between October 13 and October 17.  That’s five days in all — there can’t be too many stops in there.  Then it’ll be in various Hawaii locations October 18 through November 6 — twenty days!

[UPDATED information above.]

St. Damien next year?

October 16, 2008

Here’s an interesting article from the Associated Press that takes note of the active cause of canonization for Blessed Damien de Veuster, better known as Damien of Molokai.  This past summer, the final miracle necessary for his canonization was approved by the Vatican, and this article suggests that Damien’s sainthood may come “most likely late next year.”

I had not realized that the Kalaupapa Peninsula, the area of Molokai Island where Fr. Damien lived, ministered, and died, is still home to some leprosy patients, and it takes an approved permit to visit there, out of respect for the residents’ privacy.  The article notes that Hansen’s Disease (as leprosy is known today)

has been curable since the development of sulfone drugs in the 1940s, and people treated with drugs aren’t contagious. Hawaii did away with the exile policy in 1969.

Patients sent here before 1969 are free to leave, but many have chosen to stay because it has become their home.

The state has promised to keep the settlement open and care for patients until the last one dies. The youngest is now 67.

In related news, a local article published yesterday notes that a new church dedicated to Fr. Damien is about to be built on Molokai Island.

Damien will be a wonderful addition to the Church’s roll of the saints.  In the meantime, Blessed Damien of Molokai, pray for us!

Damien’s Miracle

August 10, 2008

Here’s an interesting article on the miracle that was recently recognized by the Vatican as attributable to the intercession of Blessed Damien of Molokai.  Ya gotta love the down-to-earth way that the woman who was healed speaks of the event: “‘I’m just a regular Joe Blow. You can tell,’ she said. ‘I still don’t know why this happened to me.'”

That clears the way for his canonization, which is expected to take place next year.