Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Short Cuts

Author and Publisher - Catholic Online

Image of St. Damien of Molokai

Facts

Feastday: October 11

Patron of people with leprosy

Birth: 1840

Death: 1889

Beatified By: June 4th, 1995, Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Koekelberg), Brussels, by Pope John Paul II

Canonized By: October 11th, 2009, Vatican City, by Pope Benedict XVI


The man who would become St. Damien of Molokai, was born in rural Belgium, on January 3, 1840. His name was Jozef De Veuster, and he was the youngest of seven children. Growing up on the farm, Jozef was prepared to take over for his family, but he did not want the responsibility. Instead, he wanted to follow his older brother and two sisters who took religious vows.

Jozef attended school until the age of 13 when his help was needed on the family farm full-time. He aided his family until he was old enough to enter the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. He took the name Damien, after a sixth century martyr.

In 1864, Damien's brother who was also in the same order of religious, was ordered to Hawaii. But his brother became ill, so Br. Damien offered to go in his place.

The brothers worried that Br. Damien was too uneducated to become a priest, although he was not considered unintelligent. Br. Damien demonstrated his ability by quickly learning Latin from his brother. He was also devoted in prayer, Br. Damien prayed each day before an icon of Saint Francis Xavier to be sent on a mission.

Eventually, his religious brothers agreed to send him and have him ordained.

Br. Damien arrived in Hawaii in March 1864, and was ordained as a priest on the island of Hawaii two months later. For nine years, he worked on the island as a priest, leading an important, yet undistinguished life.

In 1866, Hawaii established a leper colony on the Kalaupapa Peninsula. It was still mistakenly believed that leprosy was highly contagious. This belief resulted in the forced quarantine of leprosy patients.

These people still needed spiritual and medical care, so to Fr. Damien discerned his call to serve them. In 1873, Fr. Damien made the trip to be with these people in their colony.

Upon arrival, he found the colony was poorly maintained. Anarchy reigned among the people living there. Many patients required treatment but had nobody to care for them. Other patients took to drinking and became severe alcoholics. Every kind of immorality and misbehavior was on display in the lawless colony. There was no law or order.

Fr. Damien realized the people needed leadership, so he provided it. He asked people to come together to build houses and schools and eventually the parish church, St. Philomena. The church still stands today.

The sick were cared for and the dead buried. Order and routine made the colony livable. Fr. Damien personally provided much of the care the people needed.

He was supposed to only work in the colony for a time then he would be replaced by one of three other volunteers for the work. But the leper colony was to become his permanent home. After working with the people for a time Fr. Damien grew attached to the people and his work. He asked permission to stay at the colony to serve. His request was granted.

Leprosy is not as contagious as most people of the period assumed, however five percent of the human population is susceptible. The disease can also take several years to show symptoms.

Fr. Daminen became one of those people. He contracted leprosy in 1885, after several years of work. He realized he had the disease when he placed his foot into scalding water by accident, but felt no pain. This was a common way by which people discovered they were infected. Leprosy attacks nerve endings and a victim may hurt themselves but not feel any pain.

Fr. Damien continued his work, despite his illness, which slowly took over his body. He derived strength from prayer and devotion. He often went to the cemetery to pray the Rosary or spent time in the presence of the Eucharist. "It is at the foot of the altar that we find the strength we need in our isolation," he wrote.

By all accounts, Fr. Daminen was courageous, headstrong and resilient. His personal toughness served to inspire others. He was also reportedly very happy, a common phenomenon for those who pray and work hard to serve others and the Lord.

After sixteen years in the colony, Fr. Damien succumbed to leprosy on April 15, 1889. He was first buried nearby, then his remains were transferred to Belgium in 1936. His right hand was returned to Hawaii in 1995 to be reburied in his original grave at Molokai.

He was beatified by Pope John Paul II in Brussels, Belgium on June 4, 1995. His sainthood was confirmed on October 11, 2009 by Pope Benedict XVI. His feast day is May 10.

The day of his passing, April 15, is a minor statewide holiday in Hawaii.

Saint Damien is the patron saint of people suffering from leprosy.


More about St. Damien of Molokai from Wikipedia

St. Damien of Molokai Comments



More Saints






Browse Saints by Category


Popular Saints

Rank

Saint

54.

Image of St. Padre Pio

St. Padre Pio

St. Padre Pio was an Italian priest who was known for his piety and charity as well as for the gift of the stigmata, which has never been explained. St. Padre Pio was born Francesco ... continue reading

55.

Image of St. Agatha

St. Agatha

Although we have evidence that Agatha was venerated at least as far back as the sixth century, the only facts we have about her are that she was born in Sicily and died there a martyr. ... continue reading

56.

Image of St. Jerome

St. Jerome

St. Jerome, who was born Eusebius Hieronymous Sophronius, was the most learned of the Fathers of the Western Church. He was born about the year 342 at Stridonius, a small town at the head ... continue reading

All Popular Saints

Saint of the Day

Image of St. Lorenzo Ruiz

St. Lorenzo Ruiz

Saint Lorenzo Ruiz was born around the year 1600 in Binondo, Manila in the Philippines. He was the son of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. Both were Christians and took care to raise Lorenzo ... continue reading

More Saint of the Day
September 2016
S M T W T F S
123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930

Saint of the Day by E-Mail

Saint of the Day newsletter icon

Learn about the lives of the saints and other saint resources, including a calendar, over 5,000 saint biographies, our most popular saints, and a list of patron saints. 7 days / week. See Sample


Required


Female Saints

Image of St. Catherine of Bologna

St. Catherine of Bologna

St. Catherine of Bologna, Virgin (Patroness of Artists) Feast - March 9th Born in 1413, Catherine de Vigri was the daughter of a diplomatic agent of the Marquis of Ferrara. At the age of eleven, she was appointed maid of honor to the daughter of the Marquis and shared ... continue reading

More Female Saints



Saint Calendar
Saint Feast Days
Saint Fun Facts

Angels

Image of St. Michael the Archangel

St. Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael the Archangel isn't a saint, but rather he is an angel, and the leader of all angels and of the army of God. This is what the title "Archangel" means, that he is above all the others in rank. St. Michael has four main responsibilities or offices, as we ... continue reading



Saints Fun Facts

Saints Fun Facts for St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure

St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Feast day-July 15) St. Bonaventure, known as "the seraphic doctor," was born at Bagnoregio, in the Lazio region of central Italy, in 1221. He received the name of Bonaventure in consequence of an exclamation of St. ... continue reading

Saints Fun Facts for St. Barnabas

St. Barnabas

All we know of Barnabas is to be found in the New Testament. A Jew, born in Cyprus and named Joseph, he sold his property, gave the proceeds to the Apostles, who gave him the name Barnabas, and lived in common with the earliest converts to Christianity in Jerusalem. He ... continue reading



Christian Saints & Heroes

Image of Padre Pio in death.

My Memoir of St. Padre Pio: Price of Suffering and Beatification by the Brush of Grace

By Matt Hicks

Miraculous testimony of an elite level gymnast touched by Padre Pio: 'Pio, like all the saints, is like the window-washer that scales tall buildings to clear away the muck and allow us to see His luminous rays aflame. God sends them, as He pushes us forward, to wipe ... continue reading

More Christian Saints & Heroes

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Job 9:1-12, 14-16
1 Job spoke next. He said:2 Indeed, I know it is as you say: ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 88:10-11, 12-13, 14-15
10 Do you work wonders for the dead, can shadows rise up to praise ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 9:57-62
57 As they travelled along they met a man on the road who said to him, 'I ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for September 28th, 2016 Image

St. Lorenzo Ruiz
September 28: Saint Lorenzo Ruiz was born around the year 1600 ... Read More