Sunday, June 6, 2010

St. Damien of Molokai (Jan. 3, 1840 to April 15, 1889)

In popular culture, books (and movies) like "The Exorcist" and "The Omen" have made the name Damien symbolic with the devil. Having been a child in the 1970s, for me, characters like Father Damien Karras and Damien Thorn, conjure up thoughts of Satan and being horrified to be home alone at night.
So, it's no accident that I've decided to write this on June 6, the birthday of the son of Satan in "The Omen," who was born at 6 a.m. It's time to overcome my association of the name Damien with the devil forevermore and to shine a light on St. Damien of Molokai, who was canonized on Oct. 11, 2009.
He is immediately recognized as Father Damien who took care of the lepers on Molokai, when it was in the Kingdom of Hawaii.
St. Damien of Molokai was born Jozef De Veuster on Jan. 3, 1840 in Tremelo, Belgium. He was a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.
He originally went to Honolulu as a missionary. Then, on May 10, 1873, he volunteered to go to the Hawaiian island to care for 816 lepers (although there were many more), who were there under government-sanctioned quarantine. St. Damien of Molokai established St. Philomenia parish for the lepers, dressed their wounds, built homes, and also dug graves and made coffins.
On April 15, 1889, 16 years after taking care of lepers on the island, St. Damien of Molokai died from the disease. He is the patron saint of people with leprosy, HIV, and Aids. His feast day is May 10.

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