Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Father Damien? Make that Saint Damien of Molokai

From today's news:
"Hawaii celebrates feast of newly canonized St. Damien of Molokai"
EWTN News (May 11, 2010)

"On Monday, Hawaii celebrated the feast of St. Damien of Molokai for the first time since his canonization in October 2009.

"St. Damien, a Belgian missionary, served the leper colony on the island of Molokai for sixteen years and eventually ended up contracting the disease himself.

"May 10 marks the anniversary of his arrival in Molokai in 1873.

"Patrick Downes, editor of the Hawaii Catholic Herald, told Fides news agency that the feast day was 'celebrated modestly.'

"Celebrations began at 10 a.m. at the outdoor bronze statue of Fr. Damien with a ceremony of songs, prayers and lei presentations...."
Honolulu's KITV news mentioned that Father Damien is Hawaii's first saint. That's natural enough for a Hawaiian ABC affiliate:
"State Celebrates St. Damien Day"
KITV Honolulu (May 10, 2010)

"Celebrations at the state Capitol on Monday marked Hawaii's first St. Damien Day.

Pope Benedict XVI in October acknowledged Father Damien De Veuster as Hawaii's first saint.

"It has been 120 years since Saint Damien, who gave his life to comfort and care for the forgotten patients of Molokai, died from Hansen's disease, or leprosy....
What really impressed me was what came next in the KITV artilce:
"...The first miracle attributed to Saint Damien was when Sister Simplicia Hue prayed to Damien as she was dying of an intestinal illness. She appeared to be cured overnight from her symptoms.

"Audrey Toguchi is considered to be the second miracle attributed to Damien and what he needed to qualify for sainthood. After praying to Damien, Toguchi's cancer, which had spread from her hip to her lungs, healed...."

Miracles Happen

Not "alleged miracle" not "so-called miracle:" "miracle." Miracles weren't treated as a psychological aberration or mass hallucination.

The phrase "attributed to Damien" is a fairly common way of referring to miracles in American English. I don't have a problem with it: We don't know much about the nuts and bolts of how prayers and miracles are handled; one thing we do know is that whoever does the work doesn't leave a business card. However, when someone's asked a particular individual to have something 'impossible' happen - and then the 'impossible' thing happens, I think it's reasonable to attribute the miracle to whoever was asked.

By the way, variations on the 'prosperity gospel' notwithstanding, asking for divine intervention doesn't come with a guarantee that God will do what we want. I've discussed that before. People pray, and live; people pray, and die. God is just and merciful: but I don't understand why He makes the decisions He does. No surprises there. (January 20, 2010)

Father Damien, Leprosy, and a Dangerous Mission

Something that jumped out at me from the Vatican's biography of Saint Jozef Damien De Veuster was how he got assigned to the leper colony on Molokai. Today, leprosy isn't the incurable horror it was in the 19th century. Back then, sending lepers to a place where they couldn't spread the disease was a "harsh" measure: but I can see why secular authorities wouldn't want the disease to spread.

Anybody who spend any length of time in a leper colony could expect to get the disease: and so be doomed to spend the rest of a short and unpleasant life there.

That's why Damien's bishop didn't want to assign anyone to the Molokai colony. He could have ordered his priests to go - but didn't want them to go "in the name of obedience."

Translating that into perhaps more familiar terms: Serving as priest in the leper colony was a suicide mission; and the bishop wanted volunteers.

Saints and Other Holy People, used w/o permission

More, about Saint Damien of Molokai:
"St Jozef Damien De Veuster (1840-1889)"
The Holy See / Vatican.va

"St Jozef Damien De Veuster, ss.cc, was born at Tremelo, Belgium, on 3 January 1840 (see also p. 8). Jozef ('Jef') began his novitiate with the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary ('Picpus Fathers') at the beginning of 1859 and took the name Damien. He would pray every day before a picture of St Francis Xavier, patron of missionaries, to be sent on a mission. In 1863 his brother, who was to leave for a mission in the Hawaiian Islands, fell ill. Since preparations for the voyage had already been made, Damien obtained permission from the Superior General to take his brother's place. He landed in Honolulu on 19 March 1864. He was ordained to the priesthood on the following 21 May.

"At that time, the Hawaiian Government decided on the harsh measure of quarantine aimed at preventing the spread of leprosy: the deportation to the neighbouring Island of Molokai of all those infected by what was then thought to be an incurable disease. The entire mission was concerned about the abandoned lepers and Bishop Louis Maigret, a Picpus father, felt sure they needed priests. He did not want to send anyone 'in the name of obedience' because he was aware such an assignment was a potential death sentence. Of the four brothers who volunteered, Damien was the first to leave on 10 May 1873 for Kalaupapa...."
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From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

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