St Damien of Molokai (1840-1889)
Feast day: 10th May
Patron Saint of Leprosy Sufferers
St Damien of Molokai was an extraordinary priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary who devoted his entire priestly life to serving the lepers of Hawaii at a time when sufferers of leprosy were strictly quarantined because the disease was incurable and was believed to be highly contagious.
St Damien shunned the public stigma associated with the disease – prominent since it was first identified in ~600 BC mainly due to the significant disfigurement that many individuals suffered as the disease progressively ravaged their body. It is fitting that a priest of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary – a Holy Order inspired into being as a counter to the French Revolution – should be so willing, and consider himself to be so privileged, to work amongst those cast aside by society and so desolate. Moreover, the quarantined colony that he ventured forth so courageously to serve, was rife with dissolution and anarchy. St Damien devoted himself to his ministry of bringing them the Faith – and all of its incumbent sacraments – as well as leadership and medical care. As a result, he was able to offer dignity and hope as well as foster peace and order to all those under his care.
His example was an inspiration to many through his incredible devotion, prayer life and dedication to his priestly work in the service of the Lord. He was both courageous and resilient in the face of significant challenges. Eventually, after spending 16 years in the colony, he too contracted leprosy and died.
He is recorded as saying that “it is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation”. Let us then be inspired by this ‘Martyr of Charity’ as we go about our work in healthcare and ensure that every patient knows how precious they are in the eyes of God. Let us give ourselves entirely unto the service of Christ so in turn as to win all souls for Christ.
St Damien of Molokai, pray for us!