Today Father Damien of Molokai is becoming a saint. I learned that many don’t know about Father Damien. Let me try to help you.
As a priest, Joseph was called Father Damien. But to his friends, the people of Molokai, he was Kamiano. He lived a short but incredible life. At that time, all the lepers in Hawaii were sent to an island Molokai in Hawaii. He decided to see these people also as humans and treat them so. He wished to serve them.
Those were the days when the only cure to leprosy was death. Molokai island became the living hell of these diseased ones. The disease and fear of death made the lepers in Molokai just like animals, killing and fighting all the time. Even the dead bodies remained unburied.
It was at this time, that Father Damien’s brother, serving in Hawaii contracted leprosy. So Damien requested to allow him replace his brother and serve in Molokai. His wish was granted by the authorities and that marked the beginning of a revolutionary change in the island.
He found it hard at first even to touch the lepers. But slowly he found joy in applying medicines over the wounds of the lepers and indulging in friendly talks with them. His presence made life more and more comfortable for the diseased there. He taught them how to cultivate and do small scale businesses and live like ordinary men.
The true measure of his nature was his loving service as doctor when medical treatment and facilities were unavailable. He traveled the settlement of Kalaupapa and cleaned and dressed the wounds of the lepers, giving the best care and treatment he could provide. He spoke on behalf of those with leprosy, advocating for their rights as human beings, while the world beyond the shores of Molokai remembered little of the suffering of its people.
He contracted leprosy. But, through the pain and physical deterioration caused by the disease process, Kamiano built churches, homes, orphanages and whatever his family of islanders needed to live in dignity.
Father Damien’s life was one of courage. The romantic journey of a builder who believed all things were possible. He did not preach his journey, he walked it. He did not manage teams of workers. He was the carpenter, builder, ditch digger, pipe layer, and gentle doctor.
His was the spirit of unconditional love.
He died, surrounded by his beloved people, at the age of 49, due to leprosy. More than a century has passed but he is still Kamiano. He is still with his Molokaii.
#### In a Mass that began at 10 a.m. today in Rome, Pope Benedict recited the formal words of canonization, and in reciting the names of Damien and the four others, made them saints of the Catholic Church.