Rorate Caeli

Come, Father Damien, come!

148 years ago, Damien (Jozef) de Veuster, still in minor orders, arrived in the Kingdom of Hawaii. It was the day of his patron saint, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin. He would be ordained a priest in Honolulu on May 24, 1864.

When, in 1873, the Vicar Apostolic, Bp. Louis Désiré Maigret, asked for missionaries who could volunteer to minister to the lepers of Molokai, the Flemish priest was not afraid to offer his life. When the sick, the physically as well as the spiritually sick, are in need of priests, the priests must not be afraid of helping them, of entering their infected areas, of ministering to their needs.

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Damien was COARSE.

It is very possible. You make us sorry for the lepers, who had only a coarse old peasant for their friend and father. But you, who were so refined, why were you not there, to cheer them with the lights of culture? Or may I remind you that we have some reason to doubt if John the Baptist were genteel; and in the case of Peter, on whose career you doubtless dwell approvingly in the pulpit, no doubt at all he was a ‘coarse, headstrong’ fisherman! Yet even in our Protestant Bibles Peter is called Saint.

Damien was DIRTY.

He was. Think of the poor lepers annoyed with this dirty comrade! But the clean Dr. Hyde was at his food in a fine house.

Damien was HEADSTRONG.

I believe you are right again; and I thank God for his strong head and heart.

Damien was BIGOTED.

I am not fond of bigots myself, because they are not fond of me. But what is meant by bigotry, that we should regard it as a blemish in a priest? Damien believed his own religion with the simplicity of a peasant or a child; as I would I could suppose that you do. For this, I wonder at him some way off; and had that been his only character, should have avoided him in life. But the point of interest in Damien, which has caused him to be so much talked about and made him at last the subject of your pen and mine, was that, in him, his bigotry, his intense and narrow faith, wrought potently for good, and strengthened him to be one of the world’s heroes and exemplars.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Open Letter to the Rev. Dr. Hyde of Honolulu
[Letter by the Protestant writer in response to
the accusations of Dr.C. M. Hyde, Presbyterian minister in Honolulu]
Sydney, February 25, 1890

4 comments:

  1. It has long intrigued me that God chooses the lowly, the disfranchised, the weak, and the poor to further His cause.

    Christ was born in hay and was the son of a carpenter; that is lesson enough.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As a native of Syracuse, N.Y., I must point out that the sister in the photo with St. Damien is the soon-to-be-canonized (Oct. 21) Blessed Marianne Cope, who was Mother Superior of the Sisters of St. Francis in Syracuse. She was co-foundress and director of the first public hospital in central New York, St. Joseph's (where I was born), before going out to Molokai to help Fr. Damien. Her relics and shrine are in Syracuse.

    St. Marianne and St. Damien, orate pro nobis.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Damien is in Heaven and his vulgar critics may not make it to Heaven at all.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Maniple on the right hand or the photo is inverted?

    ReplyDelete

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