Monday, June 24, 2013

The mystique of St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai

[Image: 409px-FatherDamien.jpeg]

The mystique of St. Damien de Veuster of Molokai

By Jeff Danforth-Manning
The Daily Magi
October 15, 2047


Father Damien or Saint Damien of Molokai, SS.CC. (Dutch: Pater Damiaan or Heilige Damiaan van Molokai; January 3, 1840 – April 15, 1889), born Jozef De Veuster, was a Roman Catholic priest from Belgium and member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious institute. He won recognition for his ministry in the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, to people with leprosy (also known as Hansen's disease), who had been placed under a government-sanctioned medical quarantine on the island of Molokaʻi.

After sixteen years caring for the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, he eventually contracted and died of the disease, and is considered a "martyr of charity". He was the tenth person recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church to have lived, worked, and/or died in what is now the United States.

In both the Latin Rite and the Eastern Rites of the Catholic Church, Damien is venerated as a saint, one who is holy and worthy of public veneration and invocation. In the Anglican communion, as well as other denominations of Christianity, Damien is considered the spiritual patron for leprosy and outcasts. As the patron saint of the Diocese of Honolulu and of Hawaiʻi, Father Damien Day is celebrated statewide on April 15. Upon his beatification by Pope John Paul II in Rome on June 4, 1995, Blessed Damien was granted a memorial feast day, which is celebrated on May 10. Father Damien was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday October 11, 2009. The Catholic Encyclopedia calls him "the Apostle of the Lepers", and elsewhere he is known as the "leper priest".

In 1977, Pope Paul VI declared Father Damien to be venerable, the first of three steps that lead to sainthood. On June 4, 1995, Pope John Paul II beatified him and gave him his official spiritual title of Blessed. On December 20, 1999, Jorge Medina Estévez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, confirmed the November 1999 decision of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to place Blessed Damien on the liturgical calendar with the rank of optional memorial. Father Damien was canonized on October 11, 2009, by Pope Benedict XVI. His feast Day is celebrated on May 10. In Hawaiʻi, it is celebrated on the day of his death, April 15.

Two miracles have been attributed to Father Damien's posthumous intercession: On June 13, 1992, Pope John Paul II approved the cure of a nun in France in 1895 as a miracle attributed to Venerable Damien's intercession. In that case, Sister Simplicia Hue began a novena to Father Damien as she lay dying of a lingering intestinal illness. It is stated that pain and symptoms of the illness disappeared overnight.

In the second case, Audrey Toguchi, a Hawaiian woman who suffered from cancer, was completely cured after having prayed at the grave of Father Damien on Molokaʻi: In 1997, Toguchi was diagnosed with liposarcoma, a cancer that arises in fat cells. She underwent surgery a year later. A tumor the size of a fist was removed from the side of her left thigh and buttock. Unfortunately, the cancer spread to her lungs. Her physician, Dr. Walter Chang, told her, 'Nobody has ever survived this cancer. It's going to take you.' The Toguchi case was documented in the Hawaiʻi Medical Journal of October 2000.

In April 2008, the Holy See accepted the two cures as evidence of Father Damien's sanctity. On June 2, 2008, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints at the Vatican voted to recommend raising Father Damien of Molokaʻi to sainthood. The decree that officially notes and verifies the miracle needed for canonization was promulgated by Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal José Saraiva Martins on Thursday, July 3, 2008, with the ceremony taking place in Rome, with celebrations in Belgium and Hawaiʻi. On February 21, 2009, the Vatican announced that Father Damien would be canonized. The ceremony took place in Rome on Rosary Sunday, October 11, 2009, in the presence of King Albert II of the Belgians and Queen Paola as well as the Belgian Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, and several cabinet ministers, completing the process of canonization. In Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama affirmed his deep admiration for St. Damien, saying that he gave voice to voiceless and dignity to the sick. Four other individuals were canonized with Father Damien at the same ceremony: Zygmunt Szczęsny Feliński, Sister Jeanne Jugan, Father Francisco Coll Guitart and Rafael Arnáiz Barón.

Damien is honored, together with Marianne Cope, with a feast day on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) on April 15.

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